Crossing Over - Merging Worlds in Fanfiction
The sporadic fiction I post on hubpages is far from the only fiction I attempt to write. In high school and the following two years afterward I wrote three novel length stories and halfheartedly attempted to get them published. Of course now I read them and can't make heads or tails of what the hell was going through my head but I digress. This hub is not going to be about fictional stories that take place in my own worlds but rather the wonderful world of Fan-Fiction.
Fan fiction is when a writer frees his or her self to play in someone else's sandbox of ideas. There is a wealth of fanfiction on the internet, some good and some bad and some atrociously bad. In this hub I want to talk about some of my own attempts at a particular type of fanfiction, the crossover, where one fictional Universe meets another and I also want to offer some guidelines that have helped me in the writing process.
When Worlds Collide
The first obstacle in coming up with a crossover fanfiction is which two Universe's to blend. Of course it likely depends on what your interests are, what sort of shows you are a big fan. Another thing that can play a big part for some people is disappointment about something that did or didn't happen on the show. Perhaps some of your favorite characters died and you'd like nothing more than to retcon (retroactive continuity) them back to life. Or perhaps the show was canceled before it came to a satisfying end (Firefly) or ended before you could see which character ended up with which love interest.
After determining which series you'd like to see continued or altered in some way you can figure out whether or not you're suited to writing those characters. One of the hardest things for me lately is the abundance of ideas I have for Doctor Who fanfictions but the fact that I consistently fail to get beyond the idea stage. Why? Because I'm an American and writing British characters believably is a difficult thing to do when you don't have a 100% grasp on their slang and the way they interact and react to different things. It's why despite having ideas to merge Doctor Who, Star Trek and Red Dwarf in one triple Cross-Over has been a hurdle I've found impossible to jump thus far.
For some Universes it doesn't matter how well-versed you are in the show or media property you're borrowing the world of. It helps a lot to think in your head about how the characters are going to interact and try to make it believable to the audience (unless the goal is merely some basic fan wish-fulfillment on your own part). It is okay to take liberties with the source material but going too far will break the illusion that the world's you're merging fit together at all.
The How of Crossing Over Fanfiction
Once you know what you're merging and why it is also important to choose HOW you are going to merge the worlds. Which world will be dominant on the other? For example if I am going to merge Predator and Terminator which world will it predominantly take place in? Will I pit the Terminator against Arnold's character from Predator in a weird story where Arnold comes in contact with a robot version of himself from the future? Or will I have Predator and Terminator face off in Los Angeles? Or could I even have Predator come down and help liberate humanity and join forces with their former prey to hunt an even greater threat, the Terminators?
The way that the worlds you are crossing over nest within one another is extremely important for the continuity and the comprehensibility of the story. If I merge Star Trek and Jurassic Park and the beginning of the story suggests that the Enterprise crew have been replaced by dinosaurs and halfway through suddenly we're on Isla Sorna and human Jean-Luc Picard is there talking to John Hammond we have a problem, namely that I'm telling two vastly different stories.
Choosing which world to actually ground your story in and blending the words as seamlessly as possible is central to a good crossover.
Research, Research, Research
The biggest fan-fiction undertaking that I've engaged in is when I merged the world of Half-Life with the world of Assassin's Creed, two popular video game franchises. The resulting story, called Half-Life Animus, ended up the longest thing I'd ever written, at 90,000+ words with a sequel being finished in 2012 that was 100,000+ words. (it also has an unfinished 3rd installment)
One of the keys to making the world's work so well together is research. Using resources like fanmade wiki pages for the properties in question is one of the best ways to make sure that things generally match up with the world's you are using. Both before, during and even after writing your story it is a good idea to check and double-check to see if you are changing things too drastically, taking too many liberties, etc.
It can also help to ground the stories in the real world to some extent, presuming your story is taking place on Earth. For Half-Life Animus I often utilized Google Maps to better understand the distances and locations of the places, some fictional and others based on real places, that I used in the story. Even in stories that do not use Earth as a setting it can be important to set boundaries that keep the story grounded in reality. If you story takes place on a Martian colony knowing how far Mars is from the Earth and how long it takes whatever kind of spaceship you're using to cross the distance is a detail that helps keep the world consistent and believable. Making maps, diagrams and notes and planning out your story can help you stay on track and make things easier to follow for readers.
Research can also uncover things about the world's you're mixing that you might not otherwise know. You might come across concept art of some enemy or character that didn't make it into the final product that you think is worthy to adapt into your fanfiction. You might find out that a deleted scene changed the outcome or theme of the movie and was left unfairly on the cutting room floor. Knowing your source material inside and out is a great way to make sure your story stays somewhat true to the original while building upon it.
Creating your Own World out of the Collision
Obviously you don't want your fanfic to be a boring recreation of some basic plot-line from either world you are mixing. Rather you want to find a unique way of telling the story or at least the hook you using to sell the story as interesting to yourself and anyone who might read your story. For example I once had the idea to crossover the Terminator universe with the dying old west world of Red Dead Redemption. The selling point of which, for me, was the idea of a skeletal terminator rising out of the desert sand to overwhelm a carriage full of people. Imagine how much harder it would be to kill the unstoppable killing machine of James Cameron's classic action-horror movie with weapons from the late 19th and early 20th century.
Adding your own spin or deviating from the accepted timelines is crucial in hooking in readers and making the story interesting for yourself to write. When you do make hard breaks from the source material justifying these and sticking to them should be a goal. You don't want to double-back or have to make too many excuses for why you made a decision to deviate in a certain way but you also want to have confidence that the deviation in some way strengthens the new material you are creating..
You should also focus on creating your own in-depth mythology that helps to both marry the world's together and build your own version of these Universe's. In Half-Life Animus there are numerous ways in which the back-stories of the characters intertwine and ways in which the Assassin's Creed Universe is inexorably linked to the Half-Life Universe which is inexorably linked to the shared concepts in both. For example in Assassin's Creed it is suggested that mankind was developed by alien beings, gods essentially, god who warned us of a coming disaster on the Earth. Making that disaster the Resonance Cascade scenario and subsequent Combine Invasion of the Half-Life Universe links the two together and having the gods play some role in the behind-the-scenes machinations of the shared Universe does the same.
Similarly the idea that the crystal which causes the Resonance Cascade that unleashes aliens onto the Earth in Half-Life is the same sort of crystal that powers the alien-tech Pieces of Eden featured in Assassin's Creed serves the same function, it is world building and world bonding.
Serious Storytelling and Balancing Nostalgia and Fan service
Many people write fanfiction just to see which characters they can make do silly things. They might make Doc and Marty in Back to the Future into gay lovers or turn Sandy from Grease into a lesbian and essentially just engage in pseudo-erotic wish-fulfillment. Others might take a similar approach but with comic intentions, poking fun at the conventions of the world in question, essentially acting to parody the work of fiction. For example someone might write a story making fun of the Mulder and Scully dichotomy on X-Files and how little it make sense for the skeptical Scully to be wrong every single episode and still roll her eyes when Mulder suggests something weird is going on.
Others might write a fanfic to see how a scenario might have played out differently or change the way a character's personality ended up.
I think that if you are writing serious fanfiction with the intention of genuine entertainment and trying to create something of your own - not merely something derivative or fulfilling of some fantasy you have about the characters – you should actively try to keep a balance between nostalgic nods to the moments you love from the source material, fan service to yourself or your audience, and make a serious attempt at story-telling.
Of course if all you are interested in is completely frivolous fanfiction have at it, you'll get no judgment from me but generally I strive to tell an interesting story that holds up on its own.
Poll about Fanfiction
Do you write fanfiction?See results without voting
Fanfiction can be a very rewarding and fun thing to write and think about. It can be very easy to have an idea about what sort of thing we'd like to see our favorite characters doing and what other world's we'd like to see them interact with. If you have dreams of fanfiction bouncing around in your head you might consider signing up for fanfiction.net, a free site for writers of fanfiction to post their stories and read a treasure trove of other people's work.
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