Whose Story Is It Anyway?: Challenges, Fanon, and Injokes

Presented by Professor Celli

How do you get your ideas?

Some of my friends say that the idea arrives fully formed in their head and it's just a matter of tweaking it and adding the punctuation.

I get the majority of my ideas when someone tells me I can't do something. If you want to see me dive into a story idea, tell me it's impossible. Ask my friend Thorne, who mentioned the difficulty of writing "Alias" slash and six weeks later was presented with a Vaughn/Weiss fic for her birthday.

For many people, the idea of a formula--you have to do this, but you can't do that--is too confining. But for others, it gives them something to work with. For example, romances are boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, right? But that same formula gives us both Pretty Woman and Good Will Hunting.


Closely related to this are challenge fics. Some fandoms have more of these than others: fics where someone else lays out the rules for you. It may be as specific as what genre your story has to be in, lines of dialogue or items that must be included or, again, things you cannot do.

For a good example of a general challenge, try the Credit Dauphine challenge page** ("Alias"). For a smut challenge page, check out the monthly challenges at the State of the Union list** ("The West Wing").

A sample "Alias" challenge from the CD challenge archive**:

Challenge requirements:

And two different entries from Professor Celli that fit the requirements while being nothing alike:

Without Transgression (an angsty Vaughn POV story)

Transgression All Night Long (a fluffy, funny Syd/Vaughn story)

Challenge fics can be fun. Here's one basic idea: how many different variations on that can the writers create? They're also great if you need an idea to get you jump-started, and many have a deadline, so writers who work better under pressure like them. But don't be afraid to go back to an earlier challenge if it sparks you. Good fic is good fic.


Another fic commonality is fanon. How do I explain fanon to you...? Well, canon is something that is set in a particular universe. Vaughn's father was a CIA agent, Mulder drops his gun a lot, Dawn is both a mystical energy thingy and an irritating teenager--all those are canon in their respective universes. If you're going to write a fanfic for "Alias," "The X-Files," or "Buffy," you'd better take canon into consideration. If you're going to ignore one or more canon element, you're writing an AU (see Lizbet's lecture on that for more detail). By the way, something said on the website for a show, or in a tie-in novel, is secondary canon at best. The show's writers will often ignore that info when writing scripts, so fans will also ignore it when writing fic.

Fanon is something that is never directly mentioned on the show, but used in fanfic and fan discussion so much it takes on a life of its own and is often confused with canon by newcomers to the fandom. Some examples: