In my previous post, I thought about patterning as a cognitive tool. Patterning exists in both science and the arts, and it is everywhere as we humans naturally try to make sense of our world, and try and find familiar and new patterns around us. In the world of fanworks, patterning can be seen through the tropes, which are familiar elements of seen in storytelling.
TV Tropes is one place that tries to document all the known tropes that exist in our media. From literature to films to video games to online webcomic, tropes like “Luke, I am Your Father“, “Star-Crossed Lovers“, and “Action Girl” have their own pages that define the tropes and list examples from multiple mediums. Having a source like TV Tropes allows individuals to recognise and identify tropes, and once recognised, they can use these tropes when they create their own works that are completely original or are based off of an existing fandom.
That is why, if I were to use fanfics as a learning tool, I’d make sure my students are aware of the familiar tropes they’ve encountered at least once in their lives, and “re-pattern” them to create something “new”. As I mentioned in my previous entry, I focused on the alternate scenarios fanworks can take (like supposing Harry Potter had befriended Draco Malfoy instead of Ron Weasley or Hermione Granger). So we have an alternate scenario going on, and the creator has to figure out how to put it all together in a way that makes sense. The creator has to make other changes, too, such as Draco Malfoy’s character. By befriending Harry, will Draco still be a stuck-up snob? Or will he and Harry get closer and their friendship influence Draco to become a more positive person? What about Draco’s parents? Will they support that friendship? These are just some of the things the creators will need to figure out as they go the alternate route.
Not only that, but by going the alternate route, they can also subvert a lot of the more common tropes. TV Tropes put “Blond Guys Are Evil” for Draco, and while he does prove to be not very evil later on in the series, he’s still seen as “evil” in the earlier series. To subvert that trope, many fanfic writers portray Draco as someone who is blond, but who is misunderstood to be evil. Many fanfic writers in the Harry Potter fandom do just that, and they create in-depth stories where Draco gets redeemed by getting romantically involved with characters like Hermione or Harry or Ginny.
That is what I did with the Severus vignette in my last entry — we never got to read much about Severus’ childhood, so I imagined up one for him. I imagined his home life, an abusive environment filled with fights between his parents, where Severus’ own needs were neglected. Severus gets a reprieve when he visits Lily, though, where her mother will offer Severus food and warmth. And Lily also gave him the warmth he craved through their friendship. All of these came to me as I plotted and outlined the vignette, and I used tropes to bring the story together.
Understanding the tropes and storytelling elements allow future writers to understand “patterning” in poetry and prose. By understanding these elements, they can better their craft. Fanworks can be used as a great tool to help trigger creativity in young people. Encouraging young people to come up with their own stories and worlds are important. Fanworks may not seem to be entirely “new” — since they are based on existing works — but they still can be a great way to exercise creativity to come up with something new of their own.
One last thing to consider — let’s consider Rose of Versailles. This anime/manga came out in the 1970s, and it’s a historical fiction based on the events and characters leading up to the French Revolution. In a way, this work could be considered a “fanwork” since it is based on an existing “work” (the history is the work). Yet this series is now considered to be a classic in the anime/manga realm. The creator of this series brought in elements of romance, drama, and tragedy, used many tropes in the work, but at the same time still created something full of literary patterning and is still considered to be a “new work”. So yes, fanworks can promote creativity and encourage young people to find “patterns” in literary arts.