A Space of Our Own: Mandarin Female Fanfiction Creation [2] Fanfiction and its Uniqueness

Hi, welcome back to my blog series about fanfiction. In the last blog, I mentioned that Busse argues that concerning literary creation, fanfiction is no different except that the whole process is visible online. However, as a kind of writing with prototypes, including real people or existing characters, fanfiction has its uniqueness and need to deal with the original work/real people. In this blog, I will present my interviewees’ opinions on this uniqueness in fanfiction. Why did they start writing fanfiction, what’s their definition of fanfiction, and how do they sense the relation between fanfiction and the original work/real people.

Before we start, I’d like to make an acknowledgement. I am extremely grateful to my interviewees who spend their time answering my questions, and believe me some of these are difficult to answer. The list of the interviewees under their preferred pen names goes as follows in alphabetical order: Allen, Auretta, Bella-Illiz, Eggachingdaisy, Eliel, Lingyi, Lum, Mumu, R, Rangli, Saikofujima, Salmon, Songxiabuzhai, Xiaoxiwang, Yansengwu.

Interviewees answered questions either in English or Chinese. All the citations in [ ] are originally in English and other answers are in Chinese. I translated Chinese answers into English and correspond interviewees have proofread the translation.

To begin with, there are several jargons with fanfiction that need to be clarified:

RPS: real person slash, fanfictions based on real celebrities or real people in life.

OOC: out of characters. Fanfiction writers have their own interpretation for characters and when these interpretations deviate from the prototypes, it is called out of character.

AU: alternative universe, stories in AU are not based on the original background in the book or in reality.

Paro: stories in an alternative universe and the original universe

Why fanfiction?

There are mainly four types of answers from my interviewees: desire to express oneself, to explore more possibilities, to find emotional support, and out of the love for the characters. As we can notice, these motivations, apart from the last one, have no difference from those for original work creation. Even the last one has a connection with the former three reasons. Ultimately, the drive is always to tell a story, to express their own ideas, just like all great authors in history.

To express oneself:

Eliel: I want to write down the story I have in mind.

Allen: Probably my desire to express some ideas.

Auretta: Because of hunger (mentally). I have had a strong desire for textual expression since I was a child.

Mumu: Because no one writes the story I want to read, I have to write them myself.

Lingyi: I want to write down the descriptions of them in my mind.

R: It is difficult to find fanfiction that matches my taste, so I write and publish myself.

To explore other possibilities:

Bella-Illiz: [In the beginning, I just thought that certain characters in the Harry Potter deserved better endings … So, I was like, screw that, I’m going to write a happy ending for all the characters I love. I realized that … certain characters are meant to be the supplement of the background … But I want to create or to fill in, the story of the background characters. I also wrote Alternative Universe (AU) because the kind of story I want to tell, for example, a happy ending for Enjolras in Les Miserables (the uprising leader died in a revolution), can only be achieved or better told under certain background.]

Eggachingdaisy: I want to live a more exciting life through my writing. It’s also about making up regrets for characters and exploring the inter-character connection that is limited on stage.

Lingyi: I want to fulfil some regrets that are difficult to make up with in the original work or reality.

Saikofujima: To make up for sad stories in the original works.

Salmon: I want to change the original work and give the characters I like some possibilities for fulfilment.

Songxiabuzhai: What drives me to start writing are the flaws in the life of the characters and in the story. They give me an urge to express myself and to write my story.

Xiaoxiwang: The Lord of the Rings was re-screened in China in 2021. I saw Boromir’s death and felt sorry. I want him to have a happy reunion ending – back to White City with Aragorn.

To find emotional support:

Salmon: Now the depiction of an unrealistic world is more about the expression of emotions and opinions and gaining emotional support that cannot be obtained in reality.

Love for characters/real person in life:

Rangli: Because of my love for the original work and real people.

Yansengwu: Because I love these characters and I hope the story will go on in the way I want it to be.

Lofter(乐乎), a Chinese social platform where many fanfictions are published

Fanfiction, original work/real person, and out of character (OOC)

As transformative writing, fanfiction is deeply connected with the original work but is also different from them. Creators add in their interpretations and emotions to their works and therefore the characters in the fanfiction are naturally different from their prototypes. Thus, how to define the relation between fanfiction and their original work/person is tricky. To what extent are fanfiction original? What differs fictional character fanfiction and real person slash (RPS)? And when can works be defined as out of character? The following are the interviewees’ ideas.

Fanfiction and originality:

Eggachingdaisy: Concerning some official works that are also out of the original character (for example DC comics and films with multiple editors), I can’t tell the difference between fanfiction and original work. Sometimes fanfiction put more emphasis on emotional expression. They are a parallel universe.

R: The fanfiction is based on the extension of the existing image/plot … it’s like the difference between adding furniture and decoration to a house and starting a new house from the foundation.

Rangli: Fanfiction magnifies one aspect of real characters understood by fan creators and is tainted with the creators’ own understandings.

Saikofujima: I personally believe that fanfiction is a new story based on the original characters and settings and is independent from the original work.

Salmon: Well, I don’t think there is a necessary distinction between fan creations and original works. It can be said that all creations come from the digestion, interpretation and reproduction of real-life experience, as well as earlier literary and artistic works. To some extent, none of the works is entirely “original”. Of course, fan creation has a clearer original work/prototype. … Fan creations that meet the aesthetics of the majority may be absorbed into the original world and become the basis for subsequent readers and creators. But as I said before, all these are subjective.

Songxiabuzhai: the difference is that original works need the author’s ideas … But it does not mean that I don’t think fanfiction need a reasonable plot and character set. Compared to fanfiction, original works need to spend more time introducing the background of the story to their readers, while fanfiction readers often already know the story.

Xiaoxiwang: Good fan works expand the universe of the original book and improve the understanding of the characters.

Yansengwu: Fanfiction is only an aspect of the original work (undergone a secondary reflection), which fans love or are obsessed with.

Definition to out of character (OOC)

Allen: As long as it is not a coherent creation, it is bound to be out of character. The author themselves will also cause OOC … OOC is not a completely derogatory term and fanfiction is a parallel work. Honestly, it has nothing to do with the original book or the original author.

Auretta: I think OOC is inevitable … this is a very subjective judgment.

Bella-Illiz: [I don’t really care about out-of-character problems as long as it’s not completely irrelevant with the original work. It is normal that people, with their own experience and cultural background, have different understandings of a certain character or event, among which might have very specific or unique interpretations.]

Eggachingdaisy: I hate OOC. I am an extreme fundamentalist in fanfiction.

Eliel: Of course, fanfiction is not an authentic work, and it cannot be completely faithful to the original characters … But they should share the same spirit with the original ones.

Mumu: People are polyhedrons, and sometimes fan creation just uses one characteristic of a certain person or character and magnifies it … Use RPS for example, if a person usually behaves very naive and sweet, we will wonder if he has a different personality in private.

Lingyi: OOC is a companion creature detached from reality.

Lum: [I think all fanfiction writers are writing out of character because by the end of the day we are not the original creator of them, but I believe most writers would try their best to mimic the feeling of the original work.]

R: In the past, I thought that the author who wrote the OOC either does not love the character enough or had insufficient writing skills. Later I found that “as long as it’s different from my opinion”, it may cause the “OOC” in my eyes.

Salmon: If the fictional characters have gone through a long creative process, or the author has contradictory descriptions, or different characters appear in the creation of different editors, the fanfiction creators can easily deny some of the settings in the official work. They can only extract a certain part they agree with for reinterpretation and secondary creation.

Songxiabuzhai: It needs to be made clear whether this deviation is an inevitable OOC undergone literary selection, or it’s simply a product of instinct satisfaction – that is, a rough fusion of cliche romantic plot and all characters without thinking whether it’s logical or not.

Xiaoxiwang: As long as it is fanfiction, it is out of character. But the good works are infinitely close to the original.

Real Person Slash and Fictional Character Fanfiction:

Allen: I can’t tell any difference. They (fictional characters and real people) are all fictional characters to me.

Auretta: If it is an RPS work about Chinese domestic entertainment or domestic celebrity, you may have more scruples when creating. For example, I saw someone asking a blogger if it is possible to write terminally diseases/criminal conductions in RPS, and many people in the comment area thought it was inappropriate.

Bella-Illiz: [There are certain risks to be emotionally attached to RPS relationships–they might have real bad endings or their fans might get angry, which could lead to disastrous consequences if you know what I’m talking about…] (She’s talking about the boycott mentioned in the last blog)

Eggachingdaisy: You can never acquire real information and have a whole picture of the real personas. Therefore in RPS will be more speculations and deductions.

Eliel: Fictional characters are more flexible and can be put under various settings. When I write real person slash, I will try not to deviate too much from reality.

Lingyi: In fictional character fanfiction, I care more about how to create a story without deviating from the original characters. In a real person slash, I care more about whether the work connects with reality and can resonate.

Lum: [I don’t see any difference when reading or writing about it. I think the current debate is on where and how we should publish an RPS fan work, because it may involve real people and other fan groups.]

Mumu: I don’t take fan creations as real and thus … If you want to seek a certain distance in a real person slash, you also seek it with a fictional character … in RPS there are too many blank spaces and I am often not sure what I’m writing about. I can only create based on personal perceptions … Although many people will say that celebrities are not as good as who they are in fanfiction, for me they are the origin of these fan creations, and I would like to express my love and gratitude.

R: In a sense, RPS has more or less the characteristics of fictional characters from the moment they are gazed at … It’s like a horse being hallucinated into a unicorn.

Rangli: In a real person slash, you cannot ignore the celebrities’ personality and background and therefore the room for imagination is slightly limited. But for people who are less empathized with fictional characters, RPS is more attractive.

Salmon: RPS, especially creations about people who are still alive and live in the same era, will be more uncontrollable and changeable because of the real existence of the prototypes. The multi-faceted characteristics shown by real people are always more obvious than fictional characters and are difficult to deny … Some fan creations regard real people as fictional characters. I think this kind of secondary creation is based on a designed personality in front of the camera and is different from the real person slash I understand.

Songxiabuzhai: The latter (RPS) is more dangerous and more likely to cause a sense of guilt in the creator … here are more immoral plots in real person slashes about rock stars. But with idols or film and television actors, sometimes writers will avoid some plots out of the concern that they will affect other netizens’ perception of the star.

Yansengwu: In reality, real person slash has a huge distance from these real celebrities and with this distance, they are like fictional characters. Thank you for reading my blog.

The next post will be about the writing process and its barriers in the creation and hope you will enjoy it!



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