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06 March 2012 @ 08:22 am
When is a raven like a writing desk?  
Or, today's pondering: when is an AU like a fanfic? And when is it not?

Ordinarily I stick to 'What if" AUs - they spin off canon at a certain point or they may be canon shifted one-reality-to-the-left, but they're still pretty similar and recognizably tied to canon. And there I try to do the work to earn any variation from the characters we know (e.g. Sam and Kara are very different in 'Black Sails' than they were at the mirror point in canon, but that's many thousands of words later and very different events happening to them, so I think it follows). My Nellis-verse AU is more AU (Modern Earth setting), but I think still recognizably them if definitely a less angsty, broken versions.

But it does seem with farther AUs that a writer runs the risk of it becoming Original Fic with no real attachment to the source anymore, or worse, making caricatures of the actual characters. I know I've read AUs in the past where it seemed only one character trait comes through, so it gets cartoony. And maybe that happens because the author fears changing the characters too much to fit with the new setting so they lean heavily on that one familiar trait, or catchphrase, or what-have-you (Kara's a bitch! Sam is nice! Roslin is stern!). And yet, that does beg the question of how much CAN you change and still call it fanfic? Well, yes, obviously authors can call it that (plagiarists often get away with changing the names from other fanfic, which tells you that a lot of fanfic isn't that specific to the source at all). It's not as if anyone will disagree, but still, it feels to me that if all you've carried across is the names and a few general relationships, what's left?

Promethean Fires - my NaNo started out as an AU, but it started to drift so much I wrote it as an original fic. It definitely crossed the line at least in my mind. But I'm not sure I know where the line is.

This is on my mind because of this Western AU I'm writing. It's still fanfic in the sense that it's loosely based on BSG, and I want to keep it as fanfic, but the characters are quite altered. They don't TALK the same, for one thing and since voice is one of the things that ties me to the characters, it feels very different. I'm still writing it, since I find it fun to write a different style, but at the same time, I admit it makes me wonder.

Where's the line for you, as reader or writer?

(and yes, that's my new icon for the fic. hee)
Galactic Cupcake: though nothing can bring back the hourlostinapapercup on March 6th, 2012 10:09 pm (UTC)
I guess as a writer and a reader I always prefer AUs with a strong canon basis, but the fics I end up loving most are always ones where I recognize the characters as much as possible despite the circumstances. If I feel like reading or writing Kara/Sam it's for Kara/Sam and not for characters with fundamentally different personalities, so I agree with you that character voice is one of the most important things to me where fic is concerned.

With themed AUs like your Western I assume I'd know what kind of AU I'm getting into when I start reading and could go in fully expecting that the characters would have to be altered just enough to fit those circumstances. They certainly can't sound exactly the same in stories like that -- to a certain extent they'll have to be products of whatever environment they've been put in -- but as long as they're acting and thinking along the same lines I can still get behind it.
lizardbeth: Justified-hatlizardbeth_j on March 7th, 2012 04:57 am (UTC)
Yeah it doesn't both me as a writer so much in a modern AU setting, because the characters basically speak as we do so it's easier to just lift them up and put them down. But this Western which I'm trying to write in a certain style requires a certain language, and I guess I question it a lot more. When I should probably just stop secong-guessing myself and just DO IT,.

too much thinking, not enough writing! And maybe if I clear this out of my brain I'll have some room to concentrate on more important things like remix!
Galactic Cupcakelostinapapercup on March 7th, 2012 06:40 am (UTC)
To be honest I think the fact that you have these concerns is a good sign in itself. Not that I want you to go around second-guessing, but all this implies exactly the kind of attention to character that can really make an AU work.

So, yeah. *cheers you on*
leiascully on March 7th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC)
When I was writing Lesbians On A Ranch, I was also worried about making sure they were in character even when they talked so differently and did such different things, but I think it worked out. The best part of well-crafted AUs is that the characters are still themselves at the core, no matter what else has gone on.
lizardbeth: Anders- Helolizardbeth_j on March 7th, 2012 05:02 am (UTC)
I should probably just write the damn thing and second-guess myself less, right? I think because Westerns require such a different language I feel I can make it suck in TWO different directions at once - which is efficient but not exactly what I want to do! But it's definitely good to know that it's not just me who had this worry. and it turned out okay for you! :D
astreamofstars: kara&sammyastreamofstars on March 7th, 2012 10:05 am (UTC)
I don't think you need to worry too much about the language the characters use, because that has to be different. I think, if you're looking at the essence of the characters, you need to be focusing on the choices they make? If you're writing, say, Kara in a Western AU, it doesn't matter if she doesn't talk exactly like Kara, but the choices she makes and the way she responds to people need to make sense for who Kara is? And then she's still her, regardless.

That's the way I'd look at it. If I read an AU about Laura (because she's who I know best), and she suddenly does something that I cannot imagine Laura doing in the circumstances that she's in at the time, that's when she tips over in being an OC, I think.

Edited at 2012-03-07 10:06 am (UTC)
lizardbethlizardbeth_j on March 8th, 2012 04:08 am (UTC)
True, it's all of a package, isn't it? It's still got to be 'them' and yet to be true to the changed premise it can't quite be them, and yet if it's not them it's someone else! lol I suppose i'll just write it and that's what betas are for! :D
scifiaddict86scifiaddict86 on March 9th, 2012 02:19 am (UTC)
I like all my stories as close canon as possible and so AU's fall into that too. I think as long as crossovers don't violate the rules of the verse their in like putting magic in Trek its cool. I also like stories that are more about the characters and iclude most the cast. I tend not to like stories that only take one character and put them in a new verse.