Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Unleash your Imagination with Participatory Culture

This is what it says under the website title of Fanfiction is the writing of fictional stories based on the fictional world created in movies, TV shows, and books. I joined this website about 5 years ago when I decided to combine my love of writing with my love for the TV show Charmed. I always wanted certain things to happen next, or I had certain theories about what had happened, so I would write stories based on this. Fanfiction is also a great way to expand upon the world created by their favorite mediums.

In one of the largest categories of, the Harry Potter category, there are 377, 767 stories. It's possible to find many stories based on any fictional work in a variety of mediums. Some of these stories are horribly written, others can be considered masterpieces. Some stories are written by 13 year old middle schoolers, which is what I was when I started, and others are written by adults with full time jobs. The great thing about fanfiction is that it allows you to do more than passively enjoy a television show or a book. You can contribute, and participate to this medium that you love.

Fanfictions have been called by critics mere copying of an original work. Those who write fanfiction have been told they have no creativity, and they are merely stealing ideas from another writer. "The situations into which the product of mechanical reproduction can be brought may not touch the actual work of art, yet the quality of its presence is always depreciated." (Benjamin, 3) In many cases, fanfiction has little to do with the actual stories being presented, and only borrow a certain element, always giving credit to the original author. Since fanfiction by definition comes from another work, it's usually not appreciated for its own merit. Fanfiction can be considered artwork all its own, but it is always tainted with its association with the original

When I write fanfiction, I often take advantage of the ambiguous and unknown factors that are always left in television shows. If a show starts with the characters being in their 20s, I use fanfiction to explore what they may have been like as teens. If the characters speak about going somewhere, but their journey isn't actually shown, I like to use fanfiction to explore their possible journey. "This phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole has a name. It's called closure" (McCloud, 63) We perform closure when watching television for example, because certain events are left out, but we are supposed to assume that they happened. "Nothing is seen between the two panels, but experiences tells you something must be there." (McCloud, 67). That thing that must be there but is never seen is what is hinted at by fanfiction.

Audiences rarely watch or read anything passively. There is always a thought process going on. It's common to theorize what might happen next week, or to try to make sense of what had happened. Fanfiction takes that one step further. You take all the what ifs and form them into your own creative stories. Fanfiction has also formed a kind of community. It's very easy to read other peoples' stories, give them feedback in the form of reviews, and for them to in return read your feedback and make changes. It is a way to both get your writing out there, and to actively engage in your favorite fiction universe.

Fanfiction would not exist if people just watched television or movies and accepted what they see. Everyone has questions or ideas about their favorite shows, because everyone creates their own meaning from media texts. "This current theory on audience reception in media studies takes into account the individual members of the audience. It realises there is a preferred meaning in the text, but also places emphasis on the audience in the process of constructing a meaning." (Hanes) Writing stories based on media texts is just yet another way to create meaning from texts. once said "Unleash your Imagination, and Free Your Soul." This is the perfect definition for the purpose of participatory culture. Fanfiction is more than something based on an original work; it's a way to let lose all of your creativity.

Works Cited

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. 1st. New York, USA: HarperPerennial, 1994

Walter, Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"

Hanes, Philip J. "The Advantages and Limitations of a Focus on Audience in Media Studies." April 2000. 5 Nov 2008


Anonymous said...

So true. Freedom of ones imagionation to explore the what ifs in life keeps your mind fresh and always looking what is outside the box.

Lana said...

Thanks for sharing so much detail about your approach to fanfiction. I like the connection you made with McCloud's closure--that with your stories it's like you're recording that process of filling in missing information. The original requires a certain amount of thought from viewers to make it work, and you're taking it a step further and turning your ideas into new creative work. Neat-o.

Keep writing,