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Fan Fiction Intro for Educators

Everything you need to know to get started.

Tara Garrett

on 2 March 2011

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Transcript of Fan Fiction Intro for Educators

Fanfiction: so awesome that sticking to twenty minutes may just kill me. How we're going to do this:
What is it?
Where can I find it?
General Search Tips
Basic plots, cliches, etc.
Variations on a theme: different medias
Warnings What is it? Where can I find it? Lingo General Search Tips Basic plots, cliches, etc. Variations on a theme: different medias Warnings Smut, with variations: kink, bdsm, rape, and bestiality
Torture: whatever you can think of, someone else is taking it farther

Generally: things can get pretty graphic.

You'll want to choose the fics that you give kids for examples pretty carefully, and I wouldn't just let them loose on a site; instead, I'd put together a *shudders* wikispace page with a list of fics that they can browse. That way, you aren't leading them down the primrose path... directly. According to Wikipedia, modern arbiter of everything: Fan fiction (alternately referred to as fanfiction, fanfic, FF, or fic) is a broadly-defined term for fan labor regarding stories about characters (or simply fictional characters) or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator.

In my own words, fan fiction is the creation of a work that explores another author's universe, and isn't always solely composed of the written word, but might incorporate video, music, and/or visual art.

The majority of fanfiction (at least 95%, by my guesstimate) is created by women, and these women tend to two subcategories: teenagers, and graduate students with B.A.'s. No joke. Really.

You can find fanfiction for virtually everything. I found some for the cartoon "Daria" last week, and was thrilled. Also a fan of Austen's "Persuasion" fanfics that you can find out there. Few original works are too obscure to not have any fics.
Okay, so there is a giant in the world of fanfiction, and it's fanfiction.net. I can't even take a stab at how many stories are stored on the server, but just food for thought, here are the top three earners in Books and Movies (as of 2/24/11):

Harry Potter: 504, 279
Twilight: 176, 024
Lord of the Rings: 44, 497
Star Wars: 25, 971
Pirates of the Caribbean: 18, 404
High School Musical: 18, 036

This doesn't include any of the numbers for their Anime/Manga, TV Shows, Comics, etc. Just some basic terms to get you started, in no particular order:

AU/Alternate Universe: at some point, the plot will depart from canon.
Adjective!Character: Independent!Harry, Manipulative!Dumbledore, Dark!Jareth, etc. A way of describing what's up with the personality.
OOC: Out of Character-- hilarious when deliberate, often painful when unintentional.
Lemons: smut-- lighter smut tends to be characterized as some other citrusy noun.
Fanon: details that are generally accepted within a genre, although the author may not have specified.
PWP: Plot? What Plot? or Porn without Plot
Slash: Homosexual relationship, often graphic if there's a warning up for slash.
WIP: Work in Progress
Drabble: 100 word fics, although anywhere between 50 and 500 words can be characterized as such.
Ship: short for "relationship," also, shipper, as in someone who ships a favorite pairing.
Beta: an editor
Crossover: a story that takes place with characters from two or more original universes. You can find fanfiction for just about anything. Seriously. It's intense. I ran across a story not too long ago for "The Scarlet Letter" that was about Dimsdale's feelings about Hester. Right?!

I recommend starting your first forays into fanfiction at fanfiction.net, because it's generally a user-friendly site. The one drawback is that you're going to have to wade through a lot of painfully written stories, especially if you're in a section that's got a ton of stories, like Harry Potter. If you're in a smaller section, it's not that bad. L.M. Montgomery's "The Blue Castle" only has four or five fics, by two different authors--easy to spot the quality.

A word of advice: if the story hasn't captured you in the first four paragraphs, or if there are typos or mistakes, don't bother to keep reading. You'll waste a lot of time-- because the whole story is like that! Similarly, if titles or summaries aren't well written, the story won't be, either.

Okay, so every genre has its own set of re-used plots and cliches, but here are some that you see everywhere:

Time Travel fics-- awesome! People can go back and try to put things to rights, or into the future, where they get up to all sorts of shenanigans. Can be very well done. Can be basely abused. (True for all of these, actually.)
Freaky Friday fics-- the body switching opens up all kinds of possibilities for characters learning about each other's lives.
The Dreaded Mary Sue (or Gary Sue)-- the perfect version of the character, who is absolutely gorgeous after a brief vacation, has a smart tongue and smarter brain, saves the world on a regulary basis, and brushes her teeth three times a day. She's perfect.
Original character triats are overemphasized-- yes, the canon character was kind of stubborn, but he wouldn't sit in a hut on the beach while a tsunami was rolling in just because he wanted to argue with his friend, ya?
Lastly, watch out for the chocolate/cinammon/whiskey colored eyes and hair, and seeing characters described the same way over and over and over and OVER again.

There are some absolutely fabulous parodies out there that make fun of these (and many other) cliches-- some of them would be great in the classroom! In my opinion, limiting fanfiction to the written word is, well, limiting. There's a lot of creativity going on that isn't written, at least, not solely. There's a ton of artwork out there, it's easiest to search for it on Deviantart.com. Here's a couple examples: Drawings/Paintings: "By Your Side" by Celestial Soda "Hermione" by Fya Shellk Comics "Girls Next Door No 56: Birthday Psychoes"
by Pika-la-Cynique Photo Manipulations Cedric and Hermione, uncredited www.fanfiction.net
Music and/or Videos "Dreams (the Butterbeer Experience)" by hptwilighter If you're in a great big section, a good way to find quality work is to go to the upper right hand corner of the page, and click on a link that says "Communities." This takes you to a page where individuals, or small groups of people, have created collections of stories that fit their criteria. This can consist of good writing, specific ships (more often), a certain amount of reviews, or anything that catches their fancy, really.
T0 conclude: Fanfiction has some really great possibilities inherent in it for application in the classroom. It applies a lot of skills that are sometimes a struggle to teach, like:
Analyzation: you've got to be able to pull a story apart, recognize it's components, and follow a change all the way through if you want to write a credible fanfic. This goes for character, plot, and setting, especially.
Creative Writing: alright, that's not usually a struggle, but getting kids to write within a framework can be, so this is a great way of giving them a structure to stick to.
Mentor Texts: it helps to know that some of the authors that they're reading are students just like them, going to school, finding cool stuff to read and write about in their spare time. (Also ties right in with Charity's classroom publishing presentation!) Livejournal has some great communities; most of the people who post there tend to be refugees from fanfiction.net, because there is less dross to wade through, and because anything that big is going to be unwieldy. Also, fyi, the quality tends to be higher, and the smut tends to be smuttier.

There are tons of other sites out there that tend to be specific to a genre, like Harry Potter, Star Trek, Xena, etc. Some sites, like Sycophanthex, are vetted to maintain quality, but most are open submission. Anyone who thinks a story is inappropriate can flag it, no matter what site you're at, for the administration to look at (although some sites, like ff.net, tend to delete them without looking at them, which causes authors a certain amount of frustration). If you're looking for a specific genre (or pairing, like Hermione/Ron...eurgh), then Google it, cause there are tons. Twenty minutes, right? Another great way of finding quality work is, when you find an awesome story, check out the author's other works, and their favorites page. I've found that authors tend to read writing that's on a level with their own-- which means that writers who are still coming into their own tend to read stories at a similar level, as well. You can also control for the rating when you search, which is really important, since the only stuff that's really appropriate to use for students is either K or K+. On the same bar that allows you to choose for ratings, you can also choose the characters, the universe (if it's a book and a movie, or you can allow for both), whether it's finished or a WIP (or either), and the genre (romantic, gen, friendship, hurt/comfort, etc.). This can be useful if you're searching for something specific. Fanfiction.net has a basic rating system that mimics the rating system that the MPAA uses to rate films, and other sites usually have their own system that mimics it as well. For ff.net, we have:
K: rated G
K+: rated PG
T : rated PG13
M: rated R
ff.net doesn't allow NC-17 material on their site, but others do, so watch the ratings
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