Wednesday, January 13, 2010

When is Edward Not Edward?

One of my favorite things about the Twifandom is the thriving fan fiction community. I will fully admit that it took me by surprise. I didn't expect to fall in love with so many different versions of these characters. As a writer, I was thrilled for the opportunity to flex my muscles and grow, whileThere is a debate, however, as to how viable "fan fiction" would be as original fiction. Could the stories we adore on FFn and Twilighted ever truly stand alone?

I feel that with a bit of effort on the writer's part, the excellent ones could. I may have discovered them because of Bella and Edward, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't read them if they were about Sally and Jo. I say it would take work, however, because we assume a lot about Bella when we read her name in a fic. We know she's going to be average, have brown hair and brown eyes, and probably be a klutz. It has made writing about Bella easier because I don't have to go back and reiterate a lot of that. If I wrote a story about a Charlotte, however, I'd have to tell you all of that.

While discussing this very issue on Twitter, my friend Original_Audience said this:

"I think one of the nice things about fanfiction is that allows me to read a completely new story and/or a continuation without having to completely relearn the characters. It like when you finish a book that was so good that you start it over again because you feel like you would miss being in that world.

A lot of the AH stories in fanfic could stand as independent stories, but not having to relearn the characters is convenient for the reader. It's like we're all talking in the same code. "Bella" just means "female lead character." "Edward" means "Bella's eventual love interest." "James" means "bad guy" and "Tanya" means "skank." I think that a lot of the reason people in fanfic are resistant to stories that aren't B/E is because it feels like the author is not using the right code, but really they're just keeping us on our toes.

I'm really happy for the authors who have a story that is different enough from canon to shop it for publishing. Most of the time I haven't really been seeing those characters as "Bella and Edward" any more than seeing them as "Romeo and Juliet" or "Adam and Eve." The name isn't the character, it's more of a placeholder, KWIM?"

I think that's the perfect way to describe what the majority of my fanfiction experience has been. Aside from a few Canon Breaking Dawn alternatives, those are the stories that resonate with me. Those are the ones where I could take Edward and Bella out and they'd still be interesting.

So, I wanted to start a discussion: Do you read fanfiction? Do you write? What do you think? Is Edward ever not Edward for you?


  1. Hey Meadow! I write a few Edwards, and every time I write, I picture Rob Pattinson in my head. Pretty much everyone else is not defined in my mind. They sort of grow their own personality. I am pretty astonished how we can all keep track! Just goes to show how smart woman are.

  2. Hey Meadow! I also write and consider my characters OOC, but canon. IMO, no fan fiction is truly unique because it's far more than just the characters of Bella and Edward. It's how the Cullen clan, high school friends (Mike, jessica, Lauren), supporting roles (Renee, Charlie, Phil) come together as a whole. I think you can take one or two Twilight characters out, throw them in a whole new world, and get away with it. However, the second you mix them all it screams Twilight whether Edward is a 107 year old teenager virgin vampire or a 28 year old bartender.

    So for me, there isn't one fan fiction I've read that wouldn't take less than a 50% re-write to make it non-Twilight related.

  3. Elemental started as an original fic, but I put it into the world of Twilight to work on the story. In order to do that, I had to make changes such as location, character quirks and a few quotes that were from the Twilight series.

    Could it ever go back to an original work, like it was intended? Maybe, but I would have to do a lot of re-working to make it so.

  4. I agree that rewrites would be necessary and plentiful. I think that a few really good FF's, though, could act as a "first draft" for a great original fic. You can work through climaxes and villains and whatnot and catch the mistakes on the rewrite. Take Wide Awake, for example. I loved Wide Awake. And I'll read the published version someday. And I'm SURE it's going to feel COMPLETELY different.

    Does knowing that someone WANTS to publish change the way you read a fic?

  5. Spank's 2 cents. A story about Sally and Jo would do very well in The Village. Also, a fan-fic about Adam & Eve would require God to totally rewrite the Ten Commandments: Thou Shalt Do It Often; Thou Shalt Do It In The Office; Thou Shalt Do It In The Shower; Thou Shalt... well, you get the idea.

  6. Hmmm... First, Spank, you make me giggle. Second, I should be honest and point out that the only FF I'm reading right now is Meadow's Frozen Spring. (I have Elemental bookmarked though!) Anyway, IMO, I think the stories could definitely be re-worked to stand alone. I get lost in Frozen Spring to the point where I a. Forget that I actually know the person who wrote it and b. Forget that the characters are already familiar.

    Case in point (and this admission may make me look incredibly daft, but...), when I was reading FS and first came upon James' character, I didn't make the connection to James from Twilight right away. I know - daft - but my point is that I was so lost in the story that I wasn't looking for the next familiar Twilight character to appear. Thus, I didn't "recognize" him as such at first.

    If the story is good enough, it doesn't need the backbone of the familiar characters, although they are comforting. And I can't lie - I love having Emmett back in my life in fiction form. *smiles*

    Egads - I think I just wrote a novella.

  7. I'm not a writer, but I read probably way more than my share of fan fiction. I've definitely read some that I think could be considered first drafts of original fiction. I don't want to name names because I'm afraid that I'd forget someone important and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. ;) Good writing is good writing, no matter where it comes from.

  8. Wow, Meadow, this conversation is like total porn for a lit geek like me. ;) I think without a doubt that FF can serve as the beginnings for original fiction. Edward and Bella are Romeo and Juliet archetypes. So it could be argued that FF authors are often (though not always, of course) writing their own version of Romeo-Juliet stories, just like SM did, just like authors have been doing for hundreds of years.

    Of course FF will need to be revised because FF authors rely on readers' previous knowledge of the canon characters. More characterization would need to be included in an original fic.

    So this comment is all over the place, but I also wanted to say that I completely agree with Rain; if a story is good enough, I often forget that I'm reading an Edward/Bella story. Like twilightmundi said, good writing is good writing. Period.

  9. I'm a sometime reader of fanfic and I have a very hard time reading them if they're too close to the original characters or story. If there's not a distinct difference right up front, I can't keep going-I'd prefer to keep the original in my memory bank.
    But when I do read them-knowing the background really is efficient-I can just jump into the new story easily :)
    One I'm reading that could totally be its own story with it's own characters is Emancipation Proclimation. The characters could easily be Romeo and Juliet, or Edward and Bella, or Cinderella and Prince Charming, etc etc etc.

  10. Have to say I adore fanfic, and have become very attached to my reading time in the evenings. I am greatful to those who write it. I do think that some I have read could stand alone. One of these days i may get the nerve to try my hand at it

  11. wow!! this was really interesting.. a couple of my thoughts for u...
    i definitely agree with you, these stories (at least the majority i've read) have such a great theme n strong form that given the chance they will stand alone... however it does makes it easier for us as reader to have it be a "Twilight FanFic" because like u said, we already have some of the background of each character... but seeing how different some of the personalities can be (take Darkward, Jerkward, Geekward, Domward, or any other Edward) maybe what draw us all in is the fact that we have a clear picture of the characters, changing in our minds just pieces of a whole... and in some cases even shape our favorite characters and give them characteristics WE think would be better for the originals
    another thing, i have a VERY difficult time reading non-cannon couples stories... for me the reason it's simple and kind of dumb... i can't really SEE other couples together, i can't really picture it.. for example how could Bella actually love Jasper? (no offense intended to Spank).. for me these specific couples show how 2 people (vamps or otherwise) r destined to be together no matter the circumstances (doesn't mean i can't read a story that starts with B/J and ends in E/B, just as long as it does)...
    but in the end... fanfic rocks! everyone should at least read one before they say they don't like it!


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