Why do we write?

by Kathryn A

(This was originally posted to <fanficwrtrs at coolist⋅com> on Sat, 1 Nov 1997)

Why do some shows inspire fanfic, and others not? It's a fascinating question.

First of all, the show has to be good enough that we like it enough to care about adding to its existence. Usually that means that the characters attract our attention, their relationships with each other and so forth. If the show it visually entertaining but not emotionally gripping, most of us wouldn't bother.

But that is only the basis for us liking the show. Why do we write fanfic at all?

  1. fixing continuity errors
  2. filling in gaps
  3. exploring the background
  4. the Further Adventures of...

(1) fixing continuity errors

This reason requires a show that is imperfect enough to have continuity errors. For things like Twin Peaks and Babylon 5, when you couldn't know if some odd thing was a continuity error or would be explained later, this reason couldn't be used. (Now I do think that Babylon 5 has continuity errors, because some things that we trusted would be explained, never have been.)
You also can't fix continuity errors in a show that doesn't have continuity; that is, in a show where each episode starts and ends at the same spot, with no change in the characters, and no continuing storyline.

(2) filling in the gaps

This is for example, following up things that get mentioned in passing, or figuring out what happened in between particular episodes. (see 1 and 3)

(3) exploring the background

This is things like delving more into the backstory of a character or figuring out the more's of an alien race, and so on. With Babylon 5, this was hard to do, because you never knew when jms would remove the ground from under your feet, by revealing something that you never dreamed about.
With something like Cagney & Lacey, the background is pretty much everyday, so there's no urge to explore.

(4) the Further Adventures of...

This is basically just writing more of the same. This requires a show which is either very episodic, so you can easily slip another "episode" in somewhere without disturbing the continuity, or a show which didn't reach a satisfactory conclusion, and therefore you can stick your new adventures after the end of it. Sometimes this is even more inspired by a conclusion which one didn't like, and therefore one is spurred into "fixing" it. For example, rescuing Our Heros from Certain Death, as in Blake's 7.

I suppose another factor is the travelling-in-company factor; that one is more likely to write fanfic for a show that other people write fanfic for, or for the show that one first discovered fanfic about, simply because it didn't occur to one to write fanfic at all, before then. But I don't think that's a very strong reason, since many of us here seem to have written fanfic before we even knew what fanfic was.

I guess the shows in question have to be good enough to like, but imperfect enough to be incomplete. I mean, I'd never dream of trying to write a Sherlock Holmes story, because it's turf I'd never be good enough to tread on, any more than I'd try to write a Jeeves story; Wodehouse is inimitable. And though I liked Star Wars, and think it is a classic of SF, I have no desire to add to it. I'll watch the next movie when it comes.

Ruby Red aka Kathryn A

"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."