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generic tendencies #2: character & relationship development

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Sep. 23rd, 2014 | 07:52 pm

Fandom Then/Now presents research conducted in 2008 and uses to facilitate fan conversations about fan fiction’s past and future. In my past few posts I've asked what similarities/differences you see between commercial romance and fan fiction. Now, I'm going to start talking through the things that I noticed in 2008 as I read different works of fan fiction and commercial romance.

[With] fan and commercial romance authors producing so many stories each month, it is not possible to definitively map out either writing space. Instead, I decided to think about these things as tendencies within each zone of production, rather than story elements that “define” either commercial romance or fan fiction… These patterns help us better understand the role that production environment can play in the construction of erotic and romantic stories, as well as how production environments organize different communities of readers.

Here are a few core tendencies I noticed as I read:

Two: Character & Relationship Development

In [fan fictions] approach to character and relationship development, attraction often emerges out of an existing partnership rather than hitting like a bolt of lightning at the first meeting. This, in turn, opens up the possibility of shifting some of the emotional intensity of the story from one aspect of the narrative (the meeting) onto other kinds of interactions. Preexisting characters and story-worlds may also impact the ways that romantic or sexual tension is established. By shifting away from that charged first meeting and with the characters already acquainted, the author potentially needs to spend less time introducing the characters to each other and rapidly escalating their relationship.

I hesitate to go so far as to call one approach more realistic than the other. It's hard to think of Hogwarts, Atlantis or Mordor as particularly realistic settings. However, this shift away from a charged meeting may lend itself to different narrative foundations for relationships. It may also allow authors to experiment with different and potentially more mundane relationship conflicts. (For example, 'You didn't pay the electric bill!' versus 'You were kidnapped by werewolves!'.) This leads me to suspect that both the preexisting relationships/storyworlds fan fiction is typically built on and the prevalence of stand-alone stories within commercial romances are facilitating some of the variations between these two storytelling forms.

What do you think of my findings? Do you notice relationship-focused fan fiction using different types of narrative conflict or developing tension differently than a classic romance novel might? Read the full write up on fan fiction and romance here. Share what you think about this on the Fandom Then/Now website or respond in the comments section below.

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