I cringe when I see this question. Why? Not because I’m worried about what might come of such a discussion or because I’m afraid of being judged as an author who more or less writes canon fic. As skins go, I’ve got a thick one and I put it to good use whenever possible.
No, what makes me cringe is that this question, phrased this way, is almost invariably not about canon fic at all. It generally refers to pairings—do you prefer Edward/Bella only, or is it okay for the occasional Bella/Jasper to creep into your world? Nearly everyone who answers this question will read it as such, and perhaps one poor confused (but actually spot-on) soul will pipe up about their preferences for fic genre: canon vs. AU.
Why has this happened? One issue we seem to run into a lot in this fandom is the use of the word “AU” to encapsulate anything that is non-AH. Typically, though “AU” is used to differentiate fics which keep the canon world but alter its circumstances—“AU” in this sense is an opposite to “canon.” It’s no secret that in our fandom, the all-human genre is still king, and probably will remain so until the fandom dies.
BlondieAKARobin, author of
Dark Side of the Moonhas some comments on why:
Just about everyone loves a good romance staring our favorite Edward Cullen, and where he is or who he is largely doesn’t matter, as long as we can connect to him and re-experience the thrill of reading his romance to Bella Swan once again. But while AH and AU may reign supreme for their ability to put us back in that heart-thudding, swept-of-our-feet courtship, what can get overlooked is the power of the Twilight world itself to drive an equally compelling story—a story told in pure canon.
The One-N Only Canon
First, let’s make sure we’ve got the terminology straight. There is no such thing as “cannon” fan fiction, unless perhaps you’re writing in the Pirates of the Caribbean fandom. I know, I know, you think this is just a grammarian’s nitpick, but bear with me here.
The one-N canon isn’t a word invented by fandom, and understanding its root definition is at the core of understanding how we use it in fic. The dictionary I have most handy (The Oxford Essential Dictionary, American Edition, 1998) gives us two relevant definitions of canon: ‘a general law, rule, principle, or criterion’ and ‘a collection or list of books, etc. accepted as genuine.’
Okay. So with canon, we’re dealing with issues of law and genuineness. This helps us spring forward a bit into the fan fiction definitions of canon.
Wikipediagives a pretty straightforward answer:
In Twilight, the definition of canon fic is relatively straightforward (I say relatively because I’ll get into
This may, of course be why it is a less popular genre in this fandom than in others—there is not as much room to experiment with the “maybe,” seeing as we’ve already got all of the “what.” Nevertheless, there’s still a LOT of room to play while writing a fic which adheres to the canon, and the ability to play with the canon and stretch its bounds a little bit is often the source of the fun.
xaipre, author of “
I’m Not Jossing You: What Makes a Fic Canon?
So where is the line? At what point is a “vamp AU” actually a canon-compliant fic?
The simplest answer is that if the fic alters anything from the canon, then it moves into AU. But then the question must be asked, what exactly are we considering as the canon, and what defines an alteration? I’ll be the first to tell you it’s slippery, but there are certainly things which mark canon as canon. So come slide down the slope—we’ll start with the clearest-cut and move to the foggiest.
Bella Who?—Alternate POV
One of the most recognizable type of canon fic is the alternate POV fic—where the narrator is swapped out for some other character. Frequently this character is Edward, because who wouldn’t want a little more of our beloved Edward? Some examples here might be
Dark Side of the Moonby
Vixen1836for book 3, and
LivesAmongTheStarsfor Book 4. Other characters can be useful for these POV switches as well, however—a great example of this is
siDEADde’sretelling of book 1 in Alice’s point of view. The hallmarks of an alt-POV are often re-tellings of scenes that we saw in the books, complete with canon dialogue and events. It’s pretty straightforward to identify these fics as being canon—they make it abundantly clear from their format that they are following the books.
I often hear from people who enjoy the genre of OOC fic that re-characterizing Edward and co. allows them to connect with the characters in their own way. However, similar sentiments are often expressed by writers of canon Alt-POV:
Justine Lark, author of “
Sunshine State” and “
Eventually, though, when you’re in another character’s head during the span of the books something else will need to be shown. So this leads us to:
She Left This Part Out!—Missing Moments
Emilie Fauve, author of
In My Power
Many canon writers, myself included, will tell you this is how they got their start—by seeing an opening, as it were, in the canon itself and writing to fill it.
“Most Dangerous Predator”imagines an important conversation between Carlisle and Bella before her change.
Often missing moments are one-shots or a series of one-shots, plugging small holes in the canon. But it’s also possible to run a multi-chapter missing moment fic. One that stands out in its creativity is “
Sunshine State” by
Justine Lark, which takes on Bella and Edward’s weekend in Jacksonville in Eclipse.
What makes a missing moment canon, when we have nothing to go on from the books? One is consistent characterization. In the fics mentioned above, the characters keep the personalities we know from canon, and typically, this is what the author relies upon in choosing what will happen with the missing moment(s). In addition they don’t contradict the events in the books. That means that if Edward mentions that he was hit by a flying squirrel while he and Jasper were hunting, and the hunt is the missing moment? Well, then, bring on the flying squirrel.
But missing-moment fics may often tend to be short, by their very natures. What if you want to tell an epic story?
Who’s Your Daddy?—Backstory, Side-story, and Future
This is probably where our canon, in particular, gives a writer the most freedom. We really do have sort of a neat closed little package, with some hints of guiderails from Meyer about what may have happened to the characters. But there’s lots and lots of room for writers to fill in the gaps.
As of late, I’ve stumbled across some great new-ish backstories on Alice (
Mary, Full of Grace, by
LoreilD). In these, as in all good backstory fics, the authors fill in what we know from canon, while giving us a path that helps explain how the characters got to be where they are.
The canon couples, likewise, are good sites for exploration—just how did Carlisle and Esme fall in love? You might try
No Longer Alone. Jasper and Alice?
You’ve Kept Me Waiting, by
Another place ripe for canon creation are side stories, filling in the gaps of the characters who danced on the periphery of our star-crossed lovers’ story. And there were a LOT of them. The other kids at school? The wolf pack? All rife for side-story, all canon.
The last part of adding on to the canon proper is—gulp—the future. Although it may seem BD was pretty tied-up, some very fascinating stories can come out of the future of the canon—ones which provide great insight into what the Cullens look like after the “happily ever after” (and which may forever change your perspective on the-baby-who-should-not-have-been-named). There are a number of these, so I will recommend one short fic and two authors to check out:
“5 Times Renesmee Threw a Tempter Tantrum”by
FictionInReality, and a number of the one-shots by
Gleena. Future stories have no way to cling to canon for content, and so they stay canon through recognizable characterization alone. For this reason future fics are a great way to continue hanging out with the characters you loved all through the saga.
You Aren’t Who I Thought You Were—Canon as a Lie
Now, this is where I admit to being a little further out of my league, if for no other reason than given the general low numbers of people attempting of canon fic in this fandom, this particular
minisinoo, whose experience in fandoms far outweighs my own.
It is possible to write a canon story which presumes that part of the canon was a lie, or at least, which plays with things which were implied in the canon. For all intents, this is the most difficult type of canon to write, because it requires that the author build the story in such a way that the same canon which implied Situation A actually justifies Situation B.
“Beauty, Shining in Company”by
minisinoohas an unorthodox answer to the question of how Edward could be so sure he would love Bella even if she grew old.
“For My Own”by
Stridergives us a glimpse at exactly what Carlisle meant when he said, “We’ve all slipped” at that fateful dinner table conversation in Midnight Sun.
Now, opinions on this type of canon are going to vary widely, and you may very well disagree with me on calling these canon at all. But what makes them work is the narrow view we got in canon—everything coming through Bella, who thinks Edward can do absolutely no wrong. There’s actually a LOT of room there to suggest that perhaps she or Edward misinterpreted—but it must be done with care.
Jossing and Tossing
The last thing I’d like to touch on is one that is largely not a problem for our fandom—“jossed” fics, or fics which have become AU by further additions to the canon. (Yes, the term comes from Joss Whedon, who did this to his fic writers a lot.) As strange as it may seem to some of us, myself included, who hit the fandom well after the fourth book was released, there are a
First Light, by
BlondieAKARobinis a perfectly in-canon look at what Bella and Edward’s Happily Ever After might have looked like, before Stephenie Meyer stepped in with her own version.
Ruby Wednesdaylets Edward and Bella have some fun pre-BD. Such fics are generally considered to still be canon, as it’s not the author’s fault that the real author stepped in and screwed them up!
Finally, we are in an increasingly-common situation in our fandom whereby the author herself has added to the canon with extra snippets, a half-draft of a POV-switch novel, and interviews galore. There is a lot of cross-fandom debate as to whether these things can and should be considered when evaluating any given work, and there are loud camps on both sides of the debate. My not-so-humble advice on this front is—if it violates the books, you’re in AU territory. If it violates the extras…well, explain why you chose not to use them (sometimes SM’s interviews contradict the books, and that’s a great reason to throw those out).
Whew! It’s a lot to take in, right? Well, I hope it’s been an enjoyable journey through the “what” and the “who” of canon Twific, and gives some sense of how you can ferret out some good canon. Stay tuned for part II: why you might want to try writing it (gulp!) and how to go about doing so. In closing, I’ll leave you with a little bit of the why, from
Because we did fall in love with a sparkly vampire, after all.
The author would like to thank