How Do I Love Thee: A Synthesis in Three Parts

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Use fanworks to promote creative and social development while utilising the seven tools of creativity! http://j.mp/18nRu35

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In 1999, when I was fourteen, I was introduced to something called online fanfictions, which was discovered when I was surfing for webpages on animes, a newfound hobby my friends introduced to me. In one particular anime, Slayers, I discovered that I preferred the alternative pairing of Lina and Zelgadiss as opposed to Lina and Gourry, and I wasn’t the only one who thought that way. Thanks to the interwebs, I found other fans who supported that pairing, and I started to read and write fanfictions featuring that pairing. This was my first foray into the world of online fanworks, a hobby that forever changed my life to where it affected my creative and social development.

Some people may not consider fanworks to be “creative” since they are all based on media that already exist, so basically fanworks are reproduction created by fans. So some may argue that fanworks doesn’t promote creativity due to its “copying nature”, but I say it does. In fact, I want to promote fanworks as a tool to enhance creative and social development in adolescents (and even with people of all ages). It is commonly known that when children mature into teenagers, their cognitive thinking matures, they are able to think abstractly, and they began to see that the world is not simply black and white. They start thinking out of the box, and fanworks will allow them to do all that and more.

Fanworks opened a lot of new doors for me. I was introduced to a lot of writings by fellow fans — some of poor quality and some of excellent quality to where my mind would be blown away by the creator’s creativity. This exposure encouraged me to write my own fanfictions, and I also began to learn how to make and code webpages and teach myself to use graphic design programmes like PhotoShop. These activities allowed me to also communicate with other fans online where distance was a thing of the past. It was quite normal for me to have online friends in New York to Argentina to Germany to Australia, and we’d all squeal about the fandom that has brought us together. For me, Harry Potter fandom was the most influential. It was the fandom where I wrote a lot of fanfictions, participated in various online events like a writing festival (also known as “fests”), ran my own fests, helped others with their own writings by being “beta readers” (as in “proofreaders”), and befriended many like-minded fans who were there for me through my life challenges in the form of work and school. Fanworks taught me to be net savvy, to know how to be social online in ways that were very rewarding.

The world of Harry Potter allowed me to be creative through many approaches. When I think about the seven tools of creativity and how they apply to the world of fanworks, it all comes together in the end. Through CEP 818, I was given the chance to see how I could break down fanworks through these seven tools, and for the past several weeks, I’ve come to these conclusions.

Perceiving
Perceiving is the ability to use our five senses to “study” an idea or a concept that can be re-imaged or re-changed through our individual perspective. Creators who make their own fanworks are already doing that. They are taking something that already exists and are re-making and re-interpreting it into something of their own. For example, I believe that Luna Lovegood is a much better love interest for Harry Potter, but J.K. Rowling paired Harry up with Ginny Weasley. Being sorely unhappy about that outcome, I wrote fanfics that paired Luna and Harry together because in my mind, I perceived that these two are better suited for each other. That was what I came to believe in my interpretation of the original work, and that belief stimulated me to feature that pairing in my own fanworks.

Patterning and Abstracting
Patterning and abstracting are two tools that interrelate with each other — at least they do for me. When it comes to fanworks, tropes and clichés appear in works fans love. Whether it’s a movie or a book or a video game, they all have familiar tropes and clichés like the typical wise, old mentor such as Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings or Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter. Recognising these tropes help fans better understand the work, and understanding it allows abstracting to occur. Abstracting, for me, is to find the “essence” of the work, and once we find the essence in a particular movie or book or game, it will help us discern the “patterns” in the works in the forms of tropes and clichés. And from there we can create our own fanworks by deconstructing the original tropes and clichés and then change and re-pattern them into something different and familiar at the same time.

Embodied Thinking, Modelling, and Playing
Like patterning and abstracting, these tools also interrelate with one another. Fanworks in itself is a form of play. For many of us, fanworks are meant to be fun, a way for us to escape reality. As us fans imagine about alternate scenarios in fanworks, we can then model some of these concepts (through mediums like cosplaying), and modelling then allows us to use embodied thinking — meaning, as we model (cosplay), we combine our physical and emotional senses to bring abstract concepts to be more concrete. An example would be when I wore my Harry Potter costume on Halloween, a fun activity that allowed me to sense and feel to be a magical person, all the while wearing a robe and holding a wand. That experience is something that can then be translated into the fanwork I create, and by doing all that, I am having a terrific time.

Synthesising
Once we understand the six tools, we can then combine all of them into the final tool of creativity — synthesising. With fanworks, the finished product has gone through a synthesis. From the very first moment a creator perceive a particular work to finding the pattern and then abstracting them through embodied thinking, modelling, and playing — the finished story, art, costume, video, music, or any other medium of their choice are the synthesised product. Creativity itself is a complex journey, and thus a completed fanwork also goes on a long, fulfilling passage.

Breaking down fanworks through these seven tools of creativity has allowed me to see fanworks in a different light. Prior to doing these assignments, I’ve always been a proponent of fanworks as a way to encourage young people to be creative, but now I’ve come to appreciate fanworks even more after deconstructing them and applying the seven tools to further understand the concept.

Creativity is said to be trans-disciplinary in nature, where understanding arts, sciences, and maths is crucial to encouraging a well-rounded creative mindset. Fanworks itself is also well-rounded, too. Think about how many fanworks activity are done online. In order to participate in online fandoms, we’d have to be technologically savvy with computers and Internet, or at the least know how to use them to do minimal tasks. If we want to write fanfics, then we’d have to learn how to write and understand grammar and other literary devices to deliver a good piece of work. Same thing with fanarts, fanmixes, fanvideos, and cosplaying — one would have to learn the skills of drawing, song writing, video making, or sewing to create in these forms.

Creators are not just limited to being in a single medium. Many fans do multiple mediums of their choice. Some may write fanfics and also draw fanarts, and others may do cosplaying and video making. Like myself, I primarily write fanfics because writing is something I do best. I cannot draw at all, but I enjoy graphic manipulation through PhotoShop, so I can also create icons and other graphics in the fandom of my choice, and I use that skills to create graphics for my webpages that can then be a showcase of my fanworks.

Fanworks encompass many other positive attributes that contributes to one’s creative development. Online fanworks promote global and cultural exchanges. I mentioned before that I made friends all over the world, and I thank fanworks for that. My interest in animes, mangas, and video games influenced me to love Japanese culture and language, and same thing with me liking Harry Potter, which led me to adore British culture. These exposure has allowed me to experience diversity, and whatever I learn about food, the language, the culture — I can then share them in my own fanworks. Even my own location (that being Seoul, South Korea), my own experience of living in a different culture can be brought over into fanfics that takes place in South Korea, and by doing that, I share Korean life and culture with other fans who read my work.

Sharing what I know through fanworks and consuming through fanworks have been an enriching experience for me since 1999. I have seen this in many fans online, and all of these can also be done offline, too, amongst friends who share fanworks and create fanworks together in a face-to-face environment. Understandably, fanworks will not be for everyone, but it still can be something we can allow people to try. And if they do like it, then why prohibit them from expanding their creativity? Let them explore the endless boundaries of creativity. Let them discover the infinite possibilities of what fanworks and technology can offer as they use the seven tools of creativity in their own ways. And let them break down physical barriers such as distance as they “meet” fans from all over the world and become worldly in their own self-development. And lastly, fanworks is great for people of all ages. Whether they are twelve or forty, anybody can create their own works if they want!

Playing Reflection

Word Cloud

In my previous post, I blogged about how I’d introduce the concept of fanworks/fanfictions by using an online drabble generator because it would be a fun way to “play” with this concept, since playing with creativity allows room for expansive thoughts that may not occur when we’re “serious” about it. In other words, sometimes creative ideas only come to us when we’re least expecting it, and when we’re having fun playing with something, it allows our brain to “take a break” and think on something else. That is why I figured that the drabble generator would be a playful way to introduce fanfics to people who are not familiar with it, rather than do it lecture-style. Another reason I chose the drabble generator was to not daunt or overwhelm newcomers to fanworks. A 100-500 words drabble will be more doable than telling someone to write a story that’s 5,000 words long! Granted the generator writes one for the user, but the results are ridiculously humorous to the point where it is bound to leave some sort of a memorable impact on a person.

In actuality, creating and consuming fanworks are essentially playing. Many of us fans create and consume because we want to have fun, and to many of us, fanworks are our “playthings”. We take established characters and universe, and manipulate them into our own creative works, and then we share our finished products with other fans because we want to share our interpretations, our vision of the fandom we all play in together. It’s not different from a group of children playing with Legos, builds something, and then share it with each other.

I think fanworks are another way to get those who are not interested in reading, writing, and drawing to get them interested in it. I use myself as an example. I’m an avid reader, but I do not enjoy reading the classics like Wuthering Heights or A Tales of Two Cities. However, fanfictions are something I can read for fun, and I enjoy reading the ones that are beautifully written. Because I started reading fanfictions, that encouraged me to write my own. Prior to that, I did have an interest in writing, but that urge to write didn’t grow until I started reading fanfictions. Therefore, if I knew someone who saw reading and writing as a chore, I’d introduce them to fanfictions, or to fanarts and cosplaying if they are into drawing and sewing. The way I see it is that if they can have the option of creating something with their favourite characters from their favourite medium, then why not let them? After all, it is meant to be fun.

Fun and quick, that’s what drabbles are for. Fans write drabbles because it’s meant to be quick, and it is also a challenge to some to see if they can write in a concise way that presents just as much emotion in a longer piece of work. That’s why, I view drabbles as a good way to introduce fanfictions. Whether it’s in an English class or through a writing workshop, I see it as a good ice-breaking activity that allows us to play and have fun.

Playing with Fanfiction

TypewriterIf I were to introduce the concept of fanworks, more specifically the concept of fanfics, in a playful way, I’d start off with this online drabble generator. A drabble is fanfics that are usually no more than 100-words long, but some people may up the maximum word count to 500-1000. This drabble generator allows someone to input characters of their choices along with the adjectives, adverbs, nouns, verbs, and other elements. Once that’s all done, just like mad libs, the user’s word choices are then assembled into a drabble. After the drabble’s generated, each of us would share our drabble out loud and laugh at the results. Here is one I did for fun:

Draco and Neville
by William Shakespeare

Enter Draco

Neville appears above at a window

Draco:
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the computer, and Neville is the dog.
Arise, bright dog, and hug the shiny watch.
See, how he leans his shoulder upon his hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that shoulder!

Neville:
O Draco, Draco! wherefore art thou Draco?
What’s in a name? That which we call an arm
By any other name would smell as happy
Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say “like a lullaby that lulls you to an eternal slumber.”
And I will take thy word; yet if thou swear’st,
Thou mayst prove handsome.

Draco:
Swain, by yonder shiny watch I swear
That tips on a table the small chocolate–

Neville:
O, swear not by the watch, the large watch,
That eagerly changes in its strong orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise strong.
Sweet, expensive night! A thousand times expensive night!
Parting is such intelligent sorrow,
That I shall say expensive night till it be morrow.

Exit above

Draco:
Sleep dwell upon thy shoulder, peace in thy hand!
Would I were sleep and peace, so quickly to rest!
sleepily will I to my bright arm’s cell,
Its help to hug, and my happy arm to tell.

I admit, when I got this, I burst out laughing because this generated drabble is now a spoof on Romeo and Juliet, with two guys from Harry Potter, mixed in with words Shakespeare himself would not have used. Doing this activity with someone who wasn’t familiar with fanworks or fanfictions would be a fun and unique way to introduce them to these concepts.

Modelling and Dimensional Thinking Reflection

CosplayIn my previous post, I introduced the concept of cosplaying as a way to incorporate modelling and dimensional thinking, which is to bring 3-D thinking and action in a creative medium. Cosplaying falls under the fanworks genre in a way that brings an old adage to mind: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Fans who are fans of a certain character, pay homage to them by becoming them. They take a 2-D or 3-D character and bring him/her/it to life.

Ergo, cosplay is a way to model and bring dimensional thinking together. When cosplayers make or put their costumes together, they study the character’s outfit and design. They look at every known drawings and photographs of their characters, and they note the most minute details of the outfit such as the colour, the doodads like buttons and buckles, the materials, the pattern — all of these are important to the cosplayers because they want their outfits to be just right. Even hair becomes important. Many characters from animes, mangas, or video games sport unusual hair colour and/or style. Some cosplayers dye their hair, but many hunt down a wig they can model after their character. Once their costumes put together, cosplayers then act like their characters. They meet at conventions to cosplay with other fans, or they come together to do their own rendition of what they are cosplaying. In fact, see how fans decided to cosplay and re-enact this Alvin and the Chipmunks video scene! As someone who’ve seen the original film, I have to say that this real-life rendition is brilliant!

Now, in my own Hogwarts Student cosplay, I didn’t go into that much details like some cosplayers do. I just had to gather five items to complete my costume. But once I got in my costume, I felt like I had become a Hogwarts Student. My experience led me to see how it feels to wear a robe, to see how a wand feel in my hand as I pretended to cast spells, and wearing a scarf and tie at the same time made me feel claustrophobic, and I wondered how anybody could stand that. As brief as this cosplaying was (I only wore it for that Halloween since I cannot find that robe anymore!!!), it has allowed me to experience what a typical Hogwarts Student may experience, and I was able to translate that experience when I am writing Harry Potter fanfics. After all, I write what I know, and if I’ve lived through something, then it’s easier to write them out!

Therefore, modelling and dimensional thinking are two cognitive tools that should be encouraged in everyone. Even people who have form-blindness like me can use these tools. As a child and an adult, I hate building things with Lego and other building materials. I think part of my dislike stems from my poor fine-motor skills and the fact that I just cannot see 3-D in games and films that support them. Instead, I’m a very 2-D person. Even with animations, I prefer 2-D designs over 3-D. However, that doesn’t stop me from dimensional thinking and modelling through words when I write. Still, though, not everyone will be like me, and those who do not suffer from form blindness, I’d encourage to use Lego and building materials to enhance their creative development. After all, why should people limit their thinking to one dimension, when they can be capable of more?

Modelling and Dimensional Thinking Graphical Depiction

Modelling and Dimensional Thinking Graphical Depiction

I am a Hogwarts student, hear me roar! These two photos show my Halloween costume from 2006, and this right here is a form of cosplay. Cosplay is where fans put together costumes of their favourite characters (or create a character within that fandom’s universe) and they wear their costumes in public (like at a convention) to show their love of that particular fandom. Cosplaying is not limited to Halloween, and it can occur anytime of the year. I chose to cosplay a Hogwarts student that year, and this took months of preparation. I bought the robe, the tie, the wand, and the patch separately online, and my awesome friend knitted me that scarf. I chose my Hogwarts House to be Slytherin because I identified myself as as that back then.

Some cosplayers are real professionals who take the time to sew their costumes from scratch, and they even purchase wigs and style them! See below a group cosplaying characters from Persona 4, a video game, compared to the original character designs. Such attention to details are commonplace for cosplayers.

persona4 Persona 4 Cosplayers

Original cosplay photo found via Platinumukatsuku’s Tumblr and character design photo found here.

Embodied Thinking Graphical Depiction

embodiedthinkingart

This graphic was made with PowerPoint and PhotoShop 7. The original art is by a dear friend, H. This picture shows how I think and empathise when I write fanfics. A lot of my embodied thinking occurs when I am on my computer, but when I am walking, I also enter what I call the “daydream mode”. It’s like when I am at my computer, I am consciously aware of what I want to think and imagine about. But when I am walking, I am unconsciously daydreaming of random scenarios that I can explore while absorbing the environment and the happenings around me. My thinking’s more orderly in front of a computer, but less orderly and more surreal-like when I am walking.

The above shows a cartoon version of me sitting on top of a pile of books I like. It shows me multi-tasking, and the state I am in while I am in front of a computer. I write fanfics when I am at my computer, and depending on what I am writing, I start thinking about concepts like the ones I’ve listed in the thought bubble. Things like how would I feel if I were . . . what would this be like if . . . we don’t have magic in our world, but what if magic existed . . .

I am empathising the characters in the story, and all of these also occur when I am walking, though more in a fragmented way since I get distracted by my surroundings. Yet, I discover that when I am walking, some of my best ideas come to me then. Something about being in auto-pilot mode seem to trigger the part of my brain that comes up with all the good ideas. Whether I’m at the computer or whether I’m walking, embodied thinking helps me be a better writer and a better person.

Abstracting Reflection

AbstractionTo me, the simplest way to utilise abstracting is to find the “essence” of the concept or idea at hand. From there, we can expand on that essence during the creative process. I wrote in the previous entry that I wrote out my fanfic and then planned the fanmix by abstracting the essence of the fic and its individual scenes, and then proceeded to create the fanwork in two mediums. So I thought of the concept first and then abstracted with it. However, upon further reflection, and looking over my fanmix notes, I think I am slowly remembering the opposite — I may have actually planned out the actual fanmix and its scenes, and then wrote the fic! (Of which, I am entirely not sure of since it’s been years since I’ve planned and completed this work . . . )

Infinite PossibilitiesWhich then leads to another revelation about abstracting — it’s something that can be done in any order, and the end creative work results in an infinite number of possibilities. For an example, going back to my fanfic and fanmix, I came up with a scene/song called “The Strife” where it deals with Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy in class, debating over a literary work with Dark Moor’s “Winter, Movement I” as the background song. Whether I write the scene first or plan the song and scene first, I could have ended up with something different where the “strife” could have been a boxing match, or perhaps it could have been a literary discussion at a pub, or maybe even a strife that ends with sexual activity. And why limit the scene to just that song? There are thousands of other songs in our world that could fit the atmosphere and the mood of the scene, being another instrumental or a song with lyrics that adds more to the scene.

All of these possible outcomes . . . is what draws people to fanworks. Fanworks provide an opportunity for amateur creators to seek out the possibility of different options in any medium of their choice. As long as the creator understands or seeks to understand what they are creating, they can utilise abstracting along with re-imaging and patterning mixed with their own perception of the subject matter. And I did all that in my fanfic and fanmix. My knowledge of classical music, English literature, class differences (via the military ranking system on the base I work at), digital art — all combined with some of my favourite tropes (like “Deadpan Snarker“) — contributed to this fanwork. Another example to consider are those fanworks that deal with serious issues like sexuality, mental illnesses, death of loved ones . . . fans write stories focusing on these tough subject matter, and in order to tell the story, they’d have to abstract through their feelings and understandings of tough “wordless” concepts to find the right word, pictures, art to tell their story.

Abstracting, to me, is not an easy thing to do always. Some days, ideas come to me as fast as the speed of light. Other times, like with this fanmix and fanfic, I’d spend days planning and trying to figure out the essence, the main point of the work. Abstracting may not be easy, but it is an important tool to use in a creative process, a tool that can be used in the arts, maths, and sciences, and help contribute new ways of thinking in our world.

Abstracting Deconstruction

cccdcover cccdtracklist

The two images above are the front cover and the tracklist of a fanmix I made for my fanfic of the same name. Way back in 2006 or so, I had this fanfic idea where I’d invert Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy’s social standing, and in the next couple of years, I refined that basic premise into a non-magical AU (short for “alternate universe”). Ron is a famous, wealthy model, and Draco is poorer and comes from a single-parent household (his father passing away in a car accident). The two know each other as classmates at Hogwarts University, and despite their opposite social standings, I tried to keep their personalities the same as they are in the original books. Meaning, that Ron is still a hot-headed, brash, but kind and loyal young man, and Draco remains to be prickly, snobby man with a cynical (and witty) outlook on life, and when these two meet, their personalities clash in every possible way. They eventually become friends and lovers through a series of events consisting of classical music, English literature, and tango.

After the fic was written, I made the fanmix, and that was where the abstraction happened. See, I cannot draw worth a hoot — however, I can use Photoshop to manipulate photos into digital art. Ergo, what I really wanted on the fanmix cover was a drawing of Ron and Draco, but that wasn’t going to be an option for me. So I had to stop and think about the story and figure out its true “essence”. Once I figured that out, I went on Google Images to find something that portrays the differences of the two blokes, but also signifies their coming together. And the photo below is what I ended up founding and loving to death, along with an Andy Warhol quote that also fit the essence of the fic.

cccdcover-original

Then came the real fun part of the music compilation. I broke down the fic into scenes, and I picked a song based on the scene’s mood and atmosphere and “renamed” the song to capture the scene. For an example — “The Strife” is a scene where Ron and Draco are first in together, and they are arguing over a literary point of view in their English class. I chose Dark Moor’s rendition of Vivaldi’s “Winter, Movement I” because the song is moody and slowly builds up until its conflict-filled melody burst at the climax. Instead of choosing the original orchestra version, I also went for Dark Moor’s more modern sound since the electric guitar takes over the violin solo, representing the AU-factor of the story. The rest of the fanmix is listed below with my notes from when I was planning it years ago!

“Proem”
Artie Shaw – Begin the Beguine (Opening where Ron strolls through the Campus, waving at people and enjoying the morning sun and the new day. He knows he’s happy, but he feels something is missing from his life and he wasn’t sure what.)

“The Strife”
Antonio Vivaldi – Dark Moor – Winter, Movement I (Ron ends up strolling around too late, walks into his English class late and has to sit next to Draco, the only seat left. The class is having a discussion some literary thing, and the two of them head butt against each other in their theories on Hemingway (whether Hemingway was gay or not?))

“Consonance and Dissonance”
Franz Liszt – La Campanella (Ron hears this in the music hallway, walks towards the source of the sounds, and sees it’s Draco performing it.)

“Whimsicality”
Yiruma – Dream a Little Dream of Me (Ron thinks about ways to get Draco to notice him and realises he likes him. At that moment he is with Pansy having dinner or something.)

“Hopelessly Zany”
Tales of Symphonia – Off-key (Ron tries to gain Draco’s attention and it rather fails.)

“Conniving Strategy”
Chrono Trigger – Delightful Spekkio (Ron goes and talk to Pansy, who’s being difficult, and eventually gives him advices.)

“Deliberation”
Carlos Gardel – Por Una Cabeza (For a tango scene. Pansy reveals that Draco likes Tangoing — while Pansy is a fan of jazz music and swing dancing, which is what influenced Ron into liking jazz.)

“Ruminative”
Kanno Yoko – Memory of Fanelia (Draco invites Ron to his place for dinner, and Ron takes in the poverty that surrounds Draco, but realises that it’s a part of him and embraces Draco’s home and Narcissa’s loving (albeit very snarky and teasing) nature.)

“Lamentation”
Junjou Romantica – Junsui Koigokoro (Have Arthur almost dies and Draco comes to comfort Ron because he lost his father years ago and can sympathise?)

“Tranquil Affair”
Suikoden V – The Night Before the Decisive Battle ~Theme of a Moonlit Night~ (Ron and Draco are walking in the park like the romantics writers did and under the moonlight share their first kiss and yadada.)

“Culmination”
October Sky – Main Theme (The pseudo-ending song for the fic. :) When they realise they do care for each other and blahblahblah.)

“Finis”
Duke Ellington – Take the “A” Train (The real ending theme for the fic . . . it’s more upbeat than the opening theme because now Ron has everything he could ask for.)

This fanfic and fanmix holds a special place in my heart. It’s a story I’ve wanted to write and tell for a long time, so when I finally had the opportunity and the self-motivation to create it, I did. Doing this required a lot of planning and thinking on my part, and for me, abstracting is very handy when one wants to create something.

Patterning Reflection

PatterningIn 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 TropesTV 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.

Rose of VersaillesOne 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.

Patterning in a Literary Way

TypewriterBoyd (2008) wrote that “art is a form of cognitive play with pattern,” and this also apply to literary arts like poetry and prose. In poetry, “patterns” can be seen when there is a rhyming scheme and/or metrical scheme in use. Sonnets are an example where both rhyming and rhythmic patterning can be seen since certain lines have to rhyme and the sonnets are written in iambic pentameter.

In prose, patterning may not be as clearly defined or seen, but they do exist. Boyd states the following:

Stories fall into patterns of patterns, which storytellers can play with to arouse, satisfy, defeat, or surprise expectations — and no wonder that expectation and surprise drive so much of our interest in story . . .

The most powerful patterns in fiction tend to be those associated with plot: with goals, obstacles, and outcomes, with expectations and surprises . . .

Patterns in fiction, as in life, may proliferate and obscure other patterns. They can yield rich but sometimes far-from-evident implications. They may be open-ended: they and their implications often do not come preannounced and predigested. Sometimes they feed into efficient, evolved pattern-detection systems, but often they have to be discovered through attention and curiosity, and sometimes in ways that neither audiences nor authors fully anticipate.

In other words, when it comes to prose, it follows a similar format of having characters, plot, and setting. The plot will then usually consist of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and the resolution. All of these then lead to tropes. Tropes are devices in a story that are familiar to us. Examples include the wise mentor (ie: Gandalf and Dumbledore), the Bildungsroman genre (stories where characters come of age like Harry Potter and The Outsiders), and rebelling against a corrupted government (ie: Star Wars and Animal Farm).

Harry PotterAll these tropes exist in storytelling, and with those who write fanfics, they are given a chance to write stories of their own with existing characters and settings. Writing their own fanfics allow individuals to deconstruct the story and recognise tropes themselves, and then they can put a spin of their own to make a “new” story. An example of this is to re-tell Harry Potter’s own story — suppose Harry’s father was killed as in the original story, but Harry’s mother survived and raised him by herself with the support of Sirius Black and Remus Lupin? Or what if Harry had befriended Draco Malfoy in his first year at Hogwarts instead of with Ron Weasley or Hermione Granger? These alternate scenarios present a lot of path a writer can take. Adding in their own perceptions, their new stories take on even more different existing tropes.

The BeatlesAs a fanfic writer, that is what I do. I wrote a fanfic once based on Severus Snape and Lily Potter friendship from their childhood days. I wrote about how a ten-year-old Lily was a fan of the Beatles; Severus was bewildered by Lily fangirling over them, but he tolerated her obsession because she’s his friend. When the Beatles officially split up, Lily was devastated, and Severus stayed by her side and comforted her. Prior to writing this, I had to plot out the whole thing, and I thought about how I’d portray them as ten-year-olds, along with what Beatles song to feature in the fic. Some of the tropes I figured into this story are like “Severus’ dismay over at Lily acting like a girl” to “Lily acting like a pre-teen fan who’s in love with a boy band” and so forth so on. In order to make this story work in a way that follows the plot diagram, I had it be a flashback fic where an older Severus is reminiscing his childhood memory, the memory came back “alive”, and the story ended by going back to present-day Severus and his thoughts on the future.

Along with the tropes, I gathered all my storytelling elements (plot, characters, setting, etcetera), my storytelling “patterns” to write a little vignette. That is how I write fanworks.

Reference: Boyd, B. (2008). The Art of literature and the science of literature. The American Scholar, Spring 2008. Retrieved from http://theamericanscholar.org/the-art-of-literature-and-the-science-of-literature/