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Canon Versus Fanon: A Discussion Thread

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by The Musical Jedi, Mar 18, 2005.

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  1. The Musical Jedi

    The Musical Jedi Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 13, 1999
    I got to thinking about this based on [link=http://boards.theforce.net/Fan_Fiction_Resource/b10304/18791079/?9]meg_an2006's thread[/link].

    In writing, a huge part of the process is the characterization, which generally invovles basing ideas on the canon that already exists (which, for the sake of this thread, I'm going to qualify as the pro stuff; the books, comics, movies, etc). But a lot of that stuff requires interpretation.

    How much do you interpret into the canon when you're writing?

    Do you consciously align your canon characters to the way they're presented in the pro-fic and/or movies? Or do you go with your own theories and/or interpretations?

    And just to clarify, this is what this thread is not for:
    [ul][li]Criticizing someone's interpretation or characterization, profic or fanfic[/li]
    [li]Arguing what should be considered canon and what should not[/li]
    [li]Advertising threads with unconventional characterizations or interpretations[/li][/ul]

    Well... Have at. :)
     
  2. pokey1984

    pokey1984 Jedi Youngling star 2

    Registered:
    May 10, 2004
    How much I "interprete" the cannon material when i'm writing depends on how much cannon I have available to me.

    I wrote an Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon fic and had to interperate most of their characters b/c I've never read any JA books. The only thing I had to draw on was the movie. Well, that's not entirely accurate. I drew a lot from fanfics that I had read. I guess you could say I interpreted the fannon info. Does that make sense?

    On the reverse side, I've done some 'interpreting' on characters I knew a lot about when I was taking them into unknown territory. I wrote a piece with Luke and Leia and Padmé recently that required I do quite a bit of extropolating about their relationship as brother and sister, since the cannon material has never covered that much.
     
  3. Shadowen

    Shadowen Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    May 11, 1999
    Well, naturally, I try to keep characters in line with their broadly accepted behaviors--Luke would never lose his cool and try to kill his son, for example--and I even try to get down their little tics and peccadilloes--Lando's particular syntax--but time changes people. A story I'm writing which takes place several years after The Unifying Force has some interaction with official characters, including Luke and Tahiri. Tahiri I take some liberties with, because even as of Unifying Force she's not really pinned down. Luke I leave largely unchanged--except he seems to be really enjoying this "dad" thing.

    When you're writing an AU, you can go all-out balls-to-the-wall bats with the characterization, because this is an entirely different universe, where even the genetics of a character may be slightly tweaked. But if you're basing it on established canon, you should lock characters in. Characters won't always react the same way if you expose them to the same stimulus repeatedly--they're not droids--but their behavior should be predictable for fans of the character.

    This is why I like FCs; it's so much easier to surprise the reader without "breaking" a character.
     
  4. poor yorick

    poor yorick Ex-Mod star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Jun 25, 2002
    I have my own "alternate EU" that I prefer to use. My stories are supposed to be canon, but I often deliberately push the envelope of what we see in the films. I just like to see what I can plausibly get characters to do. My current never-ending fanfic novel started out with certain characteristics assigned to Anakin and Obi-Wan, and for the last 400 pages I've been having them switch roles. They are now about 180 degrees from where they started, and (so far, anyway) I haven't had readers screaming at me about how unbelievable my characterizations are.

    For the last several hours I've been working on a FAQ for the TFN fanfic archive which actually deals with this very question. People who write "alternative canon" characterizations often feel slighted, even persecuted, when their work doesn't reach the heights of popularity attained by people who write more "mainline" characterizations. People can become especially bitter over fanfic awards and inclusion in the archive, since the "mainline" people are generally running these things (there are more of them--duh) and they're less likely to buy an alternative characterization without "above and beyond" work done by an author.

    My advice/strategy/cunning plan is to write characters however you want, but realize you may have to do more work to get your readers to suspend disbelief in some situations. I've got Obi-Wan and Anakin in a kind of Freaky Friday situation, but it took me 200,000+ words to get there. There is (or so I hope) one heck of a suspension bridge holding up people's disbelief. If I'd started the story with the characters where they are now, people would have called me a crackpot. Not that I'm not, mind you--people just tend not to call me that. Yet.
     
  5. The Musical Jedi

    The Musical Jedi Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 13, 1999
    FCs? [face_blush] What's an FC?
     
  6. Shadowen

    Shadowen Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    May 11, 1999
    Consider: "original character" and "official character" can both be abbreviated "OC". Therefore, I prefer to use FC: "fan's character".
     
  7. pokey1984

    pokey1984 Jedi Youngling star 2

    Registered:
    May 10, 2004
    Ah, I was wondering about htat too. Did you make it up or find it somewhere else? if it's the former, cool, I didnt' know we were allowed to make up words... :)
     
  8. Amidala_Skywalker

    Amidala_Skywalker Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 4, 2001
    To avoid confusion, I prefer to use OC for original character and CC for canon character.

    Ams [face_love]
     
  9. Shadowen

    Shadowen Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    May 11, 1999
    As far as I'm aware, I made it up, though it could be a subconscious echo from somewhere else on the 'net. I'm bad like that.
     
  10. pokey1984

    pokey1984 Jedi Youngling star 2

    Registered:
    May 10, 2004
    Spiffy, new words are always fun...

    AU does give you a lot of leeway on characterizations, but only to a certain extent. It all depends on where the Au started. If you started an AU during say, AOTC where Anakin never turned and Palpatine died before he could dismantle the Republic, then your characterizations of Luke and Leia re fair game. But, if you started the AU with, say, ANH and had Vader and the Emperor die in the Battle of Yavin, then you'd have to stick to the Cannon characters, unless the different personality was the basis of the AU. Does that make sense?

    For example, in my second scenario, turning Luke into a womanizing slob would not work, unless you could place something in his background to explain his behavoir. However, you could, conceivably, write his personality any way you wanted in my first scenario.

    Does that make sense?
     
  11. DarthDolly

    DarthDolly Jedi Youngling star 1

    Registered:
    Feb 10, 2005
    Interesting question. I've seen everything from strictly canon character portrayals to wildly OOC portrayals, and I tend to prefer somewhere in between.

    IMHO, canon portrayals of characters, in movies in particular, tend to leave out a lot of the more detailed character interactions, feelings, and thoughts (TPM novelization anyone?). So while I like characters kept "in character", I think this can be done simply by not having them do anything that the author thinks they obviously would not do in canon. Otherwise, I like to see them developed further than what is seen in canon, maybe with a slightly different take on their personality but not a huge departure. I do draw on fanfic depictions a bit as well though, I admit.

    As someone already mentioned, it's all about belivability. You can write the characters however you want, if you can just get the readers to believe it.
     
  12. Shadowen

    Shadowen Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    May 11, 1999
    It does make sense, as much as discussing the details of writing alternate universe versions of characters that aren't even ours does in any case.
     
  13. pokey1984

    pokey1984 Jedi Youngling star 2

    Registered:
    May 10, 2004
    Otherwise, I like to see them developed further than what is seen in canon, maybe with a slightly different take on their personality but not a huge departure.

    Sometimes I feel that is the entire point of Fanfiction. I know it's my favourite part. In movies, there just isn't room for the more detailed character traits. In fact, many are impossible to portray visually. Ideally the EU could go there, but for whatever reason most of hte EU authors have avoided taking us too deeply into each characters personality. Though, there have been a fewexclusions to that. (Most notably, Tatooine Ghost comes to mind)

    But in fanfiction, both readers and authors have the chance to consider more about hte characters we already like. It's like when you used to get out your toys and play makebelieve. We get to build our own adventures, without all the trouble of building out own world to have them in. :)

    But, I strayed away from my point. I think, in out writing, it's important to build on the characters we are using. Developing htem is almost a requirement. If we didn't, we could never introduce any new situations because they characters wouldn't know how to handle it. They have to grow just like we have to grow in real life.
     
  14. solojones

    solojones Winner, JCC Word Whiz star 10 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Sep 27, 2000
    I don't care much for the EU, so when I write ''canon'' I try to make sure readers know I'm writing film canon. It doesn't necessarily mean all of the EU never happened in the stories I write, but I don't wish to be constrained by character histories which I don't think fit well with the films.

    Also, at least for the characters I write the most (Obi-Wan and Anakin), I find the EU characterizations to often be incongruous with the films. I would much rather do my analysis and character researched based on the films. It's not an incredibly popular view, but it's how I write, nonetheles.

    If I were writing AU, I would still use the film portrayals as the launching point. I don't think AU is an excuse just to abandon the core personalities of characters. Rather, I view it as an opportunity to see the same characters but shaped by different circumstances.

    [hl=darkgreen]-sj loves kevin spacey[/hl]
     
  15. Alethia

    Alethia Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 13, 2005

    If I were writing AU, I would still use the film portrayals as the launching point. I don't think AU is an excuse just to abandon the core personalities of characters. Rather, I view it as an opportunity to see the same characters but shaped by different circumstances.


    Exactly what I believe. In my eyes, the films are cannon.I'm leaning towards considering pre ROTS EU canon-based, because from what I've heard, GL has had more of a role in developing that than in the post ROTJ EU, which I throw out the window, since I don't believe that any of that is necessarily cannon. But basically, what's in the films goes.

    When you're writing an AU, you have to ask your self several questions. Different circumstances and situations develope our characters. And you have to ask yourself 'if this happened, what would change?'

    Giving my own unposted WIP as an example, I have to write a Vader, who doesn't wear the suit. I'm forced to ask my self, what exactly has changed about his character. And it's hard to do. In some ways, I find him the same. He's still a Dark Lord of the Sith and all- but for instance, he doesn't have the necessity to stay with Palpatine, because he's dependant on Palpatine and the suit. My Vader, if he so wanted to, could kill Palpatine and take over the Empire- yet he doesn't. So why? I can't just say that he doesn't feel like it. That would be horrible characterization. Vader's pretty obsessed with power- he's not going to say 'I don't feel like taking over the Empire today, so I won't'.

    I have to take the basis of what has been given to me by the films and work my way from that. It's a constant line of questioning 'why'. Why would he do this? Why did he do that? What would change if this happens and why would it change? Would this change, or not?

    It's a lot of work, but also quite fun, in my opinion. You have to find a balance between the movies, which are canon, and your own little world. Sometimes the slightest change can make a huge difference. Think of that famous 'Butterfly Effect'...

    In movies, there just isn't room for the more detailed character traits. In fact, many are impossible to portray visually.

    Which is one reason I don't see a lot of movies. I'll admit it- I'm fairly character driven. And so if there's a movie based on a book, I have to read the book first, (usually) to let me figure out the characters before I watch the movie. And then I yell at the movies for screwing up the characters (which often happens...)

    In written form, you can read the thoughts and individual reactions of the characters. In visual form, you're left with what your eyes and ears receive. Some actors are wonderful at conveying emotions to the viewer. But it all rests on their ability to make it believeable and I hate being dependent on other people's interpretations. I like to draw my own conclusions and that's hard to do when you're forced to base them on a character portrayed virtually.

    But in fanfiction, both readers and authors have the chance to consider more about hte characters we already like. It's like when you used to get out your toys and play makebelieve. We get to build our own adventures, without all the trouble of building out own world to have them in.

    I hate building my own world. It's one of the reasons I don't ever right High Fantasy, because it drives me nuts to have to create everything. And I think it's also more of a challenge to write fan fiction than some people think. I write a lot of original stuff- short stories and novels I'd like to get published some day and while I do pay attention to my characterization, in effect, anything goes. They're my characters- I can do what I want with them. But when you're given someone else's characters, you really have to think and watch out. Just like writing a AU, (which, in a way, every fan fic is), you constantly have to ask yourself if it's in character or not. The closer you write something to cannon, the harder it is, because you d
     
  16. JadeSolo

    JadeSolo Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 20, 2002
    For the most part, I take the EU character interpretations as canon, with some notable exceptions. I don't think that Mara would ever ever use the word "crummy" (that makes me cringe so badly, you have no idea :p ). I believe her response to the shirt Luke was wearing would've been something along the lines of, "That shirt looks like crap on you." I don't think JQ Obi-Wan would've been so fixated on what Qui-Gon would've done in his place, or would've been thinking about Qui-Gon for every little thing that popped up.

    But a lot of canon characterizations from the novels, the more I think about why they've come out that way, the more I can accept them. I can accept Luke constantly telling the Jedi that they shouldn't actively seek out the Yuuzhan Vong and fight, because he was originally taught that such aggression is of the Dark Side. And so on.

    Sometimes a fanon interpretation is so convincing that after a while, I can't tell if the characterization I remember is from a fic or the film. And I think that's just great. :D I mean, not everyone is going to agree on whether the EU is canon or just professional fanon. At the same time, there are aspects from the film that I can't accept as canon - Anakin's fireplace dialogue from AOTC, for one, because I honestly don't believe that he would've expressed himself using those particular words.

    In the end, I don't really make a distinction between canon and fanon. When I think of AU, I think more along the lines of events that have occurred. Obi-Wan sneaking out every night to go to a strip club wouldn't be AU to me. It might be little out of character from the view I have of him, depending on his reactions to being in such a place, but by golly that's not going to stop me from finding out why he keeps going back there! [face_mischief]

    Bascially, I try to develop my interpretation enough that the actions and thoughts of the characters are believable. Sometimes that involves pulling bits from the films, sometimes from the novels, and sometimes just making things up because I think they fit the character. Like, as far as I know, Anakin never says he ever went into a strip club. But my interpretation of him, if he did, it would be only for a mission or some other very good reason, and not for his own amusement.

    Actually, some characters are easier because they're more exposed on film - like Anakin. You see him fall in love, fall to the Dark Side, struggle with being a teenager, all kinds of things. It's much harder to see all the sides of Qui-Gon, because he's only in one film. You can clearly get certain aspects of him, but still, it's sometimes easier to take the word of Lucas and build off of that, than it is the word of she-who-wrote-the-JA/JQ-books. :p

    And that reminds me - if I don't like an interpretation in a novel, I just ignore it. Or sometimes I figure out why that person acted so out of character. [face_laugh]
     
  17. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrely Community Mod star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jul 7, 2000
    Interesting thread for an interesting topic...

    The strange thing about cannon as it is always more than just one image set in stone. We know how so many can the same movie and still get a differing idea about acharacters which means as much as we may believe we're follwoing cannon, there's usually a bit of our own emotional interpretation coming through when writing cannon characters.

    That's one reason I find the varying stories intriguing, how much our thoughts of the actor playing a character can come through... or even one small scene from a movie coloring our dislike of another. Now I know you have no idea who I may be talking about. ;) :p HOw that may also steer us to certain fanfics.

    Now this makes me questions... Is a true and honest cannon fanfic even possible?
     
  18. The Musical Jedi

    The Musical Jedi Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 13, 1999
    I guess my reply would be, depends on whether my "true" characterization lines up with your "true" characterization. :p

    My real answer would be, probably not. As you said, Leona, what I take from the canon can be completely different from what someone else takes. So, while I may make it true to what I found, it probably won't be true to anyone else.

    Besides, as was said before, it's hard to bring very much of the character to the table in the books and especially in the films. There are a lot of gaps for us to fill in.
     
  19. pokey1984

    pokey1984 Jedi Youngling star 2

    Registered:
    May 10, 2004
    Is a true and honest cannon fanfic even possible?

    I think that's a contradition in terms, Leona. :) In fact, by definition only, I'm sure it is. :) However, I know what you meant. And it really depends on what you consider Cannon. If only the movies are Cannon, then only George Lucas can write a Cannon fanfic because only he really understands his hcaracters motivations. If we include the novelizations, then we expand the range a bit more. If we add in the EU, then yeah, a lot of people could write cannon fanfics. But, it's still difficult because, as was already stated, my interpretation will be different from yours. We are different ages and from different backgrounds.

    I love watching television with my mother because we both see the same thing in different ways. For example, a commercial came on the other day that showed a guy trying to get a snack machine to take his money when a second guy walks over with a fast food sandwich. My mother said that would never happen because guys are incapably of actually taking a sandwich away from said fast food place without eating it right away. I saw absolutely nothing wrong with the commercial because I saw a cafeteria style setting where someone was sent out to buy food for all their friends. Different ages, different backgrounds.

    Sometimes a fanon interpretation is so convincing that after a while, I can't tell if the characterization I remember is from a fic or the film. And I think that's just great.

    You said it! I've ready so many fannon interpretations that I like better than the Cannon version. For example, Fernwithy's story Father's Heart shows so much insight into both Vader and Leia's personalities. It's just astounding, she's made these two characters three dimensional in a way that the cannon authors never managed. It's truly astounding and I would gladly substitute this interpretation for any Cannon source.

    Bascially, I try to develop my interpretation enough that the actions and thoughts of the characters are believable. Sometimes that involves pulling bits from the films, sometimes from the novels, and sometimes just making things up because I think they fit the character.

    Exactly! If you are trying to get even close to a cannon interpretation (another oxymoron) you have to pull from the cannon sources, but you also have to add to those. Even the novels can only go so far in building a character. They can't go everywhere we do. (Though I'm not entirely sure why...)

    I have to take the basis of what has been given to me by the films and work my way from that. It's a constant line of questioning 'why'. Why would he do this? Why did he do that? What would change if this happens and why would it change? Would this change, or not?

    I think some fanfic authors forget that when they are writing. Everything ins reliant on the character's... I hat to say "motivation" because it sounds so cliché, but that's why it is. It all depends on the Why. If you don't know why, you can't write the story. When i write I put this picture in my head. I build a set, put hte characters on it, and let them run. If the scene looks real to me, I write what I saw. If it doesn't, I try to go back over it and find where it went wrong. That's one of the reasons I like writing from teh OT so well. The actors did such a great job in those movies, I really have a lot to work with. I don't feel quite the same about hte PT. Everyone just feels so flat.

    And I think it's also more of a challenge to write fan fiction than some people think. I write a lot of original stuff- short stories and novels I'd like to get published some day and while I do pay attention to my characterization, in effect, anything goes. They're my characters- I can do what I want with them. But when you're given someone else's characters, you really have to think and watch out. Just like writing a AU, (which, in a way, every fan fic is), you constantly have to ask yourself if it's in character or not. The closer
     
  20. solojones

    solojones Winner, JCC Word Whiz star 10 VIP - Game Winner

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    Sep 27, 2000
    I just thought of something else that perhaps hasn't been taken into account here. I believe that whether an author is strictly a FanFiccer or if he/she also visits the Film boards could make a big difference. Because if you're only around FFers, I think you're much more likely to adopt the fanon versions of things.

    If, like myself, you frequent discussions on the film boards, you're likely to draw more on close studies and discussions of the films. Then if you're a Lit person, you'd probably be more likely to draw on the EU.

    I believe most FFers I've met are pretty strictly fanfic boardies only. That may explain how some interpretations have come about and entered into our local fanon.


    [hl=darkgreen]-sj loves kevin spacey[/hl]
     
  21. pokey1984

    pokey1984 Jedi Youngling star 2

    Registered:
    May 10, 2004
    That's definitely something to consider, solojones. And, you are probably right. I know fannon plays a big role in the way all the movies, books, etc are filed in my mind. My image of the GFFA has most definitely been altered by years of fanfiction. (I've been a fanfiction fan since I was twelve, a Star Wars fan since I was eleven) I read and fell in love with a COPL re-write before I ever read the novel.

    I do venture over to the other boards, but I don't post there. I do like to read other interpretations, just to keep me branching out and thinking. But I, like so many, are confined by my own limitations to fanfiction. IT is my favourite.
     
  22. The Musical Jedi

    The Musical Jedi Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 13, 1999
    Well, here's something else to consider (despite what I said in my first post :p): What do you think should be considered canon? Should it just be the movies? The things that Lucas has his hands in? Or anything with the official Star Wars seal on it?
     
  23. Dev_Binks

    Dev_Binks Jedi Knight star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 7, 2003
    Anything with the official seal. Except things like the infinities and certain aspects of games.

    And I take a mixture of fanon and canon when I write a character. It's all on what you see and know.
     
  24. JadeSolo

    JadeSolo Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 20, 2002
    Most of the stuff that has the official LFL seal, I take as canon. I hold a little more stock in the films, since those are straight from Lucas's head, and since he's not as involved with the novels or comics. Plus, the timeline for the novels is a wee bit messed up in a couple of places. :p It also depends on the characters. Lucas knows what he wants out of Anakin, Obi-Wan, Padme, Luke, Han, Leia - the core characters. But what about Wedge, Tycho, Mara? With those characters, you've got nothing but EU to go on, so for them I definitely hold the novels and comics as canon.

    As a big CW cartoon fan (I think those are the best things to hit the EU :D ), I take those as canon. Mostly because they're pretty close to my character interpretations. :p But I hear tonight's episode conflicts with Labyrinth of Evil. Oh well. [face_laugh]
     
  25. Juliet316

    Juliet316 Word Wiz Game Co-Winner star 10 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2005
    How timely to stumble onto this thread.

    I think its a mix of both Cannon (Lucasfilm) and the author to make characterization. I'm pretty much game for most AU's, but sometimes if there's a dramatic change in character or the charaterization feels off from what I've seen in the films and those few books I've read, I'll stop readng. I did that last night with a fic where Han Solo was revealed a Jedi. To me that's too far of a character shift in both circumstances and character. Too me the whole crux of Han's character is that he's an outsider, not force sensitive, and not believing in the Force at all in the beginning of the OT. To have him as a Jedi destroys the whole essence of the character to me. I think what was said about charaterization having to have some basis in the Saga is right on and to me, that means Han Solo is not Force Sensitive, doesn't believe in it at all and is not a Jedi.

    But like I said, sometimes the author has a different way of looking at it. I'm sure we all have things about Canon and characterization that when it's changed stop us cold.

    Like I said, I'm game for most any AU. Just don't make the Canon Characters into people I don't recognize.
     
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