Thursday, January 29, 2009

Editorial: To Canon or Not To Canon...That Is The Question

I started researching this article on Canon/Alternate Universe writing weeks ago, I just didn't know it. It was initially for my own attempt at an AU/Canon fic. One I thought I could dazzle my readers with. One that would be just the thing to break the monotony of my Human attempts. One that would be fantastic.

Not so much.

My Ego was killed dead before I could even apply any WD-40 to it.

Why, you might ask? Well, let me tell you why. Producing good Canon is not for the average ficster to tackle...and I am an average ficster. It takes a skill that rivals that of the original author of whatever fandom you are playing in. You are entering their world and in that world there are restrictions. Characterizations must be maintained, plot lines worked around and the basic fundamentals must be adhered to if you are going to create a BELIEVABLE alternative or addition to an established body of work.

I probably need to clarify here that I'm not JUST talking about Alternative Universe by itself here. Those stories have a bit more leniency to them. For example, let's have a look at the "Edward never came back after New Moon" fic. Now this is where I find myself taking apart a story. Authors normally take one of two roads here. Bella is an excellent example in this case because let's be honest, the majority puts Edward in that lovelorn tragic persona which is very in character for the vampire.

Bella, however, has taken on many creative incarnations. A commonality I find is that Bella is irrevocably changed after the devastating event of Edward leaving her. Some stay very in character with this portrayal. They take up the sad Bella who turns to Jacob and eventually, is just complacent with what she has, but always yearning for what she has lost. Others take creative liberty and come up with how they could possibly see Bella interpreting the situation and how she would go on with her life. By taking such

Where the Hale are Smellyia's cigs?
liberties and taking a subjective view on Bella in this case, the result will many times bring her technically out of character (OOC). When Bella becomes OOC in these cases, it becomes more of the fic author's personal vision rather than fleshing out of the original. I, personally, like either approach. It gives new dimensions to a story I like to see alternatives for and I enjoy seeing different types of creativity.

When you go the OOC route, you gain a lot of freedom. Many of the rules become your own to be made up as you go. You could argue that this lends to more creativity or even ingenuity. Perhaps. But I tend to look at Canon for those qualities because a true test to me for achieving those goals is when an author can make it their own within the already preset guidelines.

I must be honest here. I have never been a huge Canon reader, preferring to stick to AU that may or may not stay in Canon. That was probably part of my problem in developing my own story. Quickly, I saw that certain liberties I wanted to take were just not believable to the educated Canon reader. I had this whole plot in my head including where I wanted my chosen characters to go and what trials I wanted them to endure. I wanted to push boundaries with these preset characterizations, but in doing so, they became not of Ms. Meyer's original vision. For some reason, the idea that my own creative noodle was going to take me away from Canon seemed unpalatable in this case. I felt this challenge to remain true to the original work and because of that, my little story is in a constant process of retooling just the idea of it rather than moving forward with the actual production of it.

They are to be feared.
To stay in Canon and in character is no simple task, to say the least. It takes dedication, research, patience, a plausible concept and guts. Having a Canonite at your disposal wouldn't hurt either, but it takes good old-fashioned guts to do all of these things in my opinion. Venturing into new territory where the readers are a little more nazi-like than in the others is scary. You are putting yourself on the line and any small misstep can mean a barrage of PM's stating "Did you know that.....Do your research," followed by any number of links or references. You are constantly under the scrutiny and critique wielding fingertips of people who have spent their fandom time fine-tuning their assessment of the original work. Tell me that's not daunting.

But when you do Canon right, when you hit that missing moment within the timetable of the story or background that we all want and it just seems to fit, the triumph must be like King Arthur pulling Excalibur out of it's stone prison. The Canon readers sing your praises and you know that you have gone into another world and left a piece of you there. The ingenuity it takes to not only navigate such a creation that stays completely in Canon, but to do it with the approval of some of the most discerning ficsters out there, is to be respected. It's definitely not a triumph I can claim....yet.

Since I do not consider myself someone who can really speak to the creation and navigation of the Canon genre, I invited one of my TLYDF administrators, angel/edwardzukorocks, to interview her friend, Bethaboo, on her transition to the world of Canon from AU-Human. Angel has been with Bethaboo throughout the conceptualization and creation of her story Eve, The Apple of My Eye. It is an Esme fic focusing on Esme's change. It's a background story I find completely plausible and intriguing. Bethaboo has gone to great lengths to ensure it's Canon purity and has dealt with the pitfalls and triumphs of tackling this Herculean task.

So, without further ado....

An Interview with Bethaboo by Angel on Becoming a Canonite.

"Eve, the Apple of my Eye" By Bethaboo on, is a canon fiction.
"The year is 1921. Esme Platt Evenson, depressed at the loss of her son, throws herself off a cliff, and Dr. Carlisle Cullen finds and changes her. Wanting to die, she is appalled at her new everlasting half-life as a vampire. Can she ever learn to forgive him for damning her for all eternity or will she find and mold a new life away from Dr. Cullen? Pre-Twilight. Canon."

You have written two very successful AH fics and several one shots...what made you decide to try canon?

First of all, thanks for having me on the blog! I've been thinking about writing Eve for months. The story kind of stayed in the back of my mind, and I knew I wanted to do it, but with so many stories on my plate, I knew there was no way I could do it justice. I think the germ of the idea of writing Carlisle and Esme's story started when I read Mandi1's AMAZING story, I've Been Waiting for You, about the beginning of Alice and Jasper's relationship before they found the Cullens. I had also read several excellent Rosalie/Emmett stories, but had never seen anything on the beginning of Esme and Carlisle's relationship. The longer I thought about it, the more I realized that Esme, being the only Cullen besides Bella to deliberately choose death, might be upset with her knight in shining armor, Carlisle, for the act that not only saves her, but gives her eternal life. I talked to some of my favorite Twilight buddies and they all agreed, but in the books, the beginning and evolution of Esme and Carlisle's relationship, despite key dates and events, is almost completely missing. So I decided that I would try to write a story that would give Esme an interesting journey while she comes to terms with her existence as a vampire. Luckily, because there are so few details, I do have a lot of leeway with what Esme can and will do. I think a lot of readers will be surprised at some later developments I have coming up in the story.

What has been the biggest struggle writing in a canon story?

Biggest struggle? Ha—that's good. Everything is a struggle. I came to the Twilight fandom a lot later than most other writers, and I've still only read the books once apiece. I've been too busy writing ever since, though I keep saying I am going to go back and re-read. So as a canon writer, I have to work twice as hard to get the details right. The Twilight Lexicon has been an invaluable resource, as well as Angel—she is the master of all things canon. If you're going to attempt canon, I would definitely recommend you not only use a beta who can check grammar, but also have them or someone else check your chapters for canon details. In my AH fics, I'm used to having to come up with both major and subtle shifts to the characters to make them new and interesting to my readers. In canon, you've got to try to write within the narrow confines that Stephenie Meyer set.

Not only is Eve a Pre-Twilight canon fic, it's also set in 1921. This has been another huge struggle for me. The characters talk differently—a lot more formally—and I have to make sure that all the modern colloquialisms that are all over my AH stories don't show up at all in Eve. I'm careful when I'm writing but both Angel, who's my canon beta, and Twilightzoner, my grammar beta, will still find slang once in a while. In a way, this is the exact opposite of my AH fics, because in those stories, the more slang and the more modern cultural references you can stuff in, the better. It's like taking a whole different approach to writing when you combine both the canon and the time period.

Have you found a difference in the audience or readers of Eve? Are the readers different from AH? The same or a different group or type of reader?

I started to write and post Eve after I finished my long AH fic, Turning Dust into Gold. I told all my many readers of that story that Eve was in the pipeline, and not surprisingly, I had very few of those readers follow me over to Pre-Twilight canon. I've found that if you're not writing AH and even worse, if you're not writing Edward/Bella, good luck. However, the readers I have found—or that have found me—are great. My reads are way down, but my reviews are solid, and everyone is so enthusiastic and supportive. I have also noticed that the reviews tend to be a lot longer and more detailed. People really want to tell you what they think, instead of just demanding that you "update NOW."

We all know AH is very popular and your fics are both really popular in the AH universe. Clearly, a new story has less readers to begin with....but do you notice a difference in the amount of readers or hits? What about reviews?

I did have a lot of readers in the AH side of things. Every single story I have written until Eve has been AH. That's not to say that I'll never write AH again. I'm already working on a new AH collaboration (because I don't have enough stories already, apparently). But Eve has been an amazing challenge, and one that I am so glad I took on, so matter how tough it's been and no matter how many times I tell Angel, "I cannot do this, it is too hard," I'm glad I took the risk. Like I said earlier, hits are down (way down), but my reviews are good, and my numbers are growing slowly but surely. I think that for a new story, a reader has to go out on a limb to read and/or review, but a story that isn't the norm, that takes even more impetus to get them to read. Hopefully, the better job I do, the more readers will jump in with me. Trust me, the water's fine

Smellyia is an admin for this blog and writes for the Twilight fandom and dreams of Severus whenever possible. You can find her work on FF, Twilighted and LiveJournal.

Ange/edwardzukorocks is an admin for this blog and writes for the Twilight fandom and splits her time dreaming of Rob and David. You can find her work on FF and Twilighted.

Bethaboo is a noted author in the Human genre of the Twilight fandom. You can find her work on FF and Twilighted.


  1. LOL@They are to be feared. So true.

    I really enjoyed the insight. I have been planning a foray into canon and have found it easier to use my plot to justify the inaccuracies. I admire the ones who can't, and use the plot already given, and stick to the canon so beautifully. Bethaboo is one of them. Thank you for the insight!

  2. Hey guys, thanks for having me on the blog!

    AG, I hope I was able to provide insight and didn't just whine about how hard it was the whole time. . .hahaha. But really, I have to reiterate that so far canon has been rewarding in a way that AH wasn't for me. Probably something about how effing challenging it is.

    and yes, they really are to be feared (though, as of yet, I've been pretty safe) *Crosses Fingers*

  3. Bethaboo really has gone to great links to craft herself into a great cannon writer. I just hope that whenever I finally get to writing my cannon ideas that I can use the same level of patience.

  4. Wow, Bethaboo, I need to read you story. I've only read one of your human ones.

    Writing canon is hard.

    Hardest I think is writing canon Edward from his own POV. And Angel, I know he's not totally IC in your story, but your Edward is sooo well done. Folks, read Creature of Habit. It's mindboggingly good.

  5. I loved the images in this entry...added that bit of quirkiness I'm so addicted to.

    Canon writing, or AU keeping it within the rules set by canon, is definitely difficult, particularly for a story like Twilight, where you have to deal with characters that have near omnipotent abilities. When it's well done, it is my absolute favorite type of story to read. There is a wealth of lore and hidden pasts to explore. I'm definitely adding Eve to my 'must read' list. I'm looking forward to a different take on Esme.

  6. I've been enjoying Bethaboo's take on Esme in Eve. Esme has needed a voice for a long time, now, and I think it is fantastic that an author with Bethaboo's skill is taking on the (scary) Canon people and showing us a side of Esme we haven't seen before.

    Thanks for the great editorial & interview, ladies!


  7. Great article - you've scoped out writing in canon very well. One thing I'd like to add (if I may 8-) is the satisfaction of writing in canon.

    In some ways it's like trying to solve a Sudoku puzzle. You're given a set of facts, and a blank, bounded page to fit them into. Everything has to be placed correctly, or the puzzle falls apart. One of the things I really enjoy is searching for all those little pieces and working them into a story. That's when the reviews start to say 'Wow, that makes perfect sense, now I know why he did that in the book.'

    The frustrating thing about canon is when you find out something about a character that you can't explain. But that's a pet peeve for another day... 8-)

    I'll definitely have to check out 'Eve'. Good canon can be hard to come by, and I'm excited to hear there's some out there!

  8. blondie...really, you are my canon goddess...part of a, avalonia, siDEADde and minisinoo.

    you all are my idols.

  9. I respect all you in canon authors who do it so well. You do your research, and you get it down the way it's supposed to be. I think it would be incredible hard!

    Bethaboo- I'm going to have to go read your story about Esme! I think there's so much more to Esme than we ever get to see, so I'm excited to see you take her on, because I know you'll do it well. You write some of my favorite AH fic!

  10. I am a IC cheater...I am taking the AUness as far as i can...but even though you can not totally change everything so you can keep your characters real. I am enjoying pretending Edward followed a different path...and where would that take him.

    Bethaboo spends an enormous amount of time researching and thinking about Esme. And although so far it is not as popular (Eve that is) I am so proud of the women who take on this format like Bethaboo. Sometimes it is not about the ratings or reviews it is about putting a great story down on paper.

    But this again, is why we started this little blog.


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