Modern Myths: The Active Audience, Imagination and Why I Love Fanvids

Modern Myths

Stories are alive. As long as they are read, watched, discussed, they live on in the hearts and souls of every one they have touched. Th author has little control once the tale has flown from their fingers, it grows, spreads, changes, speaks for passions not even considered by the original creator. Sometimes the tale even collides and molds with other stories. Historians of literature have watched this happen through the centuries with myths. Today, the process is faster on orders of multitude. Sometimes it is only a matter of days before a tale has taken on a life of its own, transformed by the imaginations and viewpoints of those it entrances. Books, movies, and music no longer belong singly to their creators, as if they ever have. They live through their audiences and they grow and change through them. Like the gods of old, our modern myths are both our adored heroes and slaves to the whims of our mortal fantasies.

Most writers I speak to these days are at least aware of fanfiction, one of the largest examples of original tales bending to the will of the audience. If you can give me a better term for these stories clapped between a front and back page and published by a recognized publishing house, please, give it to me. The longer I stare into the maw of history, the more I see almost every work as simple a fanfic of one before it.

Some of the writers I know have even read or dabbled in fanfiction themselves. No matter what you think of it, it is here to stay for the foreseeable future. I’ve written before about fanfiction and some of the good things I see in it, like the works of Lyn Gala and the highly entertaining Xanthe.

In acknowledgement of the other side of the argument, there is plenty of fanfiction not worth reading. I would hazard a supposition, on the side,  that it is still worth the writing for the creator and as such holds value of a limited influence. Most writers have a manuscript we will never share, lying around somewhere. We must create to learn, like children tracing dotted lines, learning to draw the alphabet. The wonders of the internet being what they are in this century, we don’t have a pause button between write and post as kids. Derision is not the answer. Move on, click on something else to read or hit Kobo or Amazon up for a read. The best will rise to the top, eventually. My own experiences in the fanfic world as a reader is that the best get recognized.

What I have not yet heard much conversation over is fanvids. And I would be remiss not to share with you. Some of these works are truly pieces of art. Consider one of my favorite works.

Together…or not at all | Amy/Rory [The Doctor] 

This piece was edited by Pteryx and posted to Youtube. It is beautiful. Please, if you just skipped over, go back and watch. Everything else afterwards will make much more sense. I’ll wait.

……

……

Powerful, wasn’t it? If you haven’t seen that season of Doctor Who, maybe not as powerful, but still, you understand. Somewhere beyond simple words.

Fanvids do something that is very difficult to do in any other medium. It takes body of work, sometimes a massive one, and distills it into senses, triggers and musical cues that creates the coffee equivalent of expresso of the heart. Sometimes it even augments the original work, adding music and highlighting underlying story lines that might have been missed by a casual viewer. Reading the comments after these vids and you will see that they touch people.

So why am I talking fanvids on a blog that usual discusses writing and genre fiction?

First off, if someone ever makes a fanvid of your book, be honored. It took them hours of work, time, and consideration to slice those frames together, find pictures and music, rip audio, whatever they used. I’ve worked with video production and editing/production is hard work, requiring effort and requires a level of skill just to use the software. A fanvid of your book also free publicity that was not generated by you. You have a FAN.

Secondly, watching fantods is an excellent way to study what moves your audience. Why do they like a character? What made them cry? What stuck with them and highlights the moment? What dialog, delivered correctly, meant everything? As a writer, what moments of fanvid gold are you creating?

“I asked you to stop being dead” 

Sometimes it’s not even dialog. Fanvids also come without it. And can still be very powerful. If there is every a way to learn how to ‘show don’t tell’ watch fantods and study what they’re showing.

This is an excellent example. I have not see the series but I can still enjoy this fanvid. It still speaks to me on a guttural level.

You call them sacrifices

It’s a touch of the fingers on the edge of the skin.

A ceiling fan twisting, round and round.

A circle in the dust.

Moments.

Motions.

Looks.

And overwhelming ‘mood’ from the underlying sound track.

And a title that anchors the entire work. Titles often mean everything because they set expectations. They also make the casual wanderer click on it.

We are watching the evolution of our modern myths. With the speed of digital media, sites like fanfiction, free blogs, Youtube, and Deviant Art, more creatives than ever, true amateurs, talented and less talented, are involved in this global conversation of what touches their hearts, inspires their minds and feeds their imaginations. Stories and universes like Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings Twilight, the Avengers, X-Men, Naruto, Star Trek, and others are the canon of our modern mythology. We’re already retelling it to each other, recycling the characters in our own imaginations, reveling in the moments that make us feel something.

Why not learn from it? Enjoy it?

As the T.S. Elliot quote goes, Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers steal.” 

Each of us has a story, a character that is more real to us than most people we meet. We are inspired by others.

I’m inspired by fanvids. What inspires you in the cross meetings of the other arts?

“Not Just Stories”

 

____________________

Credits: 

Thank you to the talented Pteryx for allowing me to use her videos in this post. Out of the fanvid artists I’ve run across online, her work is probably the largest and best I’ve seen. Not an expert here, but there are so so videos and then there are excellent ones. Pteryx falls in the latter category. You should definitely check out her channel.

Nod of the head to Joanna Penn and Austin Kleon for reminding me of the T.S. Elliot quote.

*All photo credits in the collage at the head of the article belong to the various companies by which they were produced. I only creative mixed them for full effect.

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8 Responses to Modern Myths: The Active Audience, Imagination and Why I Love Fanvids

  1. mobewan says:

    I’ve never really enjoyed fan fiction, not because it’s not good – I’m sure it’s like everything else and ranges from downright ugly to pure brilliance – but because I am a real continuity freak. I can’t watch or read anything out of order. I can’t stand the thought of missing some nuance or easter egg and not ‘getting it’. It’s only got worse as TV has become more and more serialised (which I love btw). I’m trying not to think about what the new star wars films are going to do to my mind as they callously ignore all the (up to now) canon books that have been written… Guess I’ll get over it of they are good.

    But these fanvids are different. They are more like homages to great characters, great relationships, which alongside the great story lines are the hallmarks of lasting entertainment. Really, really like the Pteryx one. The music fits perfectly and the editing is spot on. Wasn’t really aware they existed up until now (although if I’d have stopped and thought about it, of course they do!), and I can only thank you for introducing me to something new (and a new procrastination of course ;-)).

    • Ciara Darren says:

      I didn’t realize the new Star Wars were not following the canon books. That concerns me. I’m rather attached to the canon storyline. I hope they’re amazing. To best the works of the like of Stackpole, Zahn and the rest, they will have to be.

      As to fanfiction, while I appreciate it as a body of work and an activity, there are certain fandoms that I will not read, such as Lord of the Rings. I like reading Harry Potter because as a reader, I did not enjoy the epilogue and much prefer some of the fan works that allow the characters to go places I would have preferred. It depends, I suppose on how attached I am to the storyline versus the characters.

      I hope you can enjoy more fanvids in the future. So glad I was able to introduce you to them. It was my hope. It is a wonderful way to procrastinate though!

  2. Great post as always Ciara. I actually just learned about fanfics last year. Well, I guess I was aware of them but just learned of the term (and the popularity of them). I do agree all works have some elements of fanfiction, or are derivative in some way. Some people take offense to that stance but it just makes sense to me.

    Okay, I suck at math so this is just an example. But I remember learning about probability as a kid and how there are so many combinations possible with just a few variables. Okay, I had to look this part up lol but:
    Probability of an event happening = Number of ways it can happen (divided by)/Total number of outcomes

    So even with the theory of there being only so many basic plot types there are SO many ways to tell a story. Fanfiction of course is meant to be an
    extension (to some degree) of an existing story. But even writers of ff strive (and can) be creative in the way in which they tell a story.

    Lastly, thanks for sharing the videos. I used to do video editing and some production too (we have so much in common:)), so it was cool seeing the fanvids. Never even knew they existed. And although I don’t watch Doctor Who (I know I know lol), the Pteryx was REALLY well done.

    • Ciara Darren says:

      We do have so much in common, it’s almost funny and kinda of awesome. You should totally watch Doctor Who and Torchwood, a spin off. The story telling and character development could span an educational program in creativity if someone wanted to write the curriculum.

      LOL, I’m not great with math either, though I can get it if I try, but yes, years ago I realized that using probability, plot lines are going to repeat themselves. For a fifteen year old, it was a troubling realization. I got over it, eventually. I tell myself its all in how you tell the story and which lines of probability you choose to follow. Some have paths have been beaten down more than others. Like your recent post of the girl and bow falling. I know I’ve read something with similar elements before but it wasn’t your story. You made all those different ideas and sensations your own. I’m sorry, I don’t remember where I read it. I think it was a mythological reference.

      What kind of videos did you work on? I did camera work for family and friends for music festivals and public events. Pteryx is just wonderful at what she does. I’m glad you enjoyed it and could recognize her hard work!

      • I definitely plan on checking out Doctor Who soon on Netflix…

        I’m glad you got the probability example (I was like am I even using this right?) lol. It’s definitely in how the story is told, even settings and character variations make a difference. So yeah, I don’t worry about it anymore either.

        Well, I started off writing short scripts then I finally shot one. So I made a couple short films but didn’t know how to edit them myself. But years ago an editor bailed on me so I decided to learn (I’m grateful to him now). I haven’t done it in a while but I was really into film at one point (even a film school drop out lol). It was a lot of work sometimes but fun. My skills def weren’t on Pteryx level but I learned a lot at the time. I just edited a video for the first time in a couple years the other day, so I plan on getting back into it (for fun at least).

      • Ciara Darren says:

        If you ever have anything you want to share, I’ll watch! ^_^

  3. Ciara Darren says:

    Your comments are always articulate and considered. Thank you. I made a comment on the post you linked to. Thanks for link. Spot on. I did wonder why you said that legally you could never read fanfiction of your own work? Why is that?

    Personally, I would probably not read fanfiction of my work because of the danger of tangling my story lines as I write future novels in the series.

  4. I once wrote a post series on my blog about fan fiction in which I came to the same conclusion as you that pretty much all writing is transformative of some earlier work or works (http://jannagnoelle.com/2012/05/26/in-sorta-support-of-fan-fiction-finale).

    As a writer, I would consider it a sign that I’d “made it” if someone created a fanwork from my source material, and am always a bit confused by writers who criticize and in some cases even sue fans. Although, I suppose the act of creating anything is intensely personal, and it can be hard to see one’s work manipulated by others, especially since so much of fan fiction is shippy and porn-ish.

    But then, as you say, “We are watching the evolution of our modern myths.” Excellent interpretation. I never thought of that way, but I think you’re right. These fan-created artifacts, along with their associated source material, is the collective archive of our society, and our legacy to future generations to help them know us and know themselves. Just as was done for us by generations past.

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