One of the primary goals of ENGL 151 is to promote an appreciation for genre fiction that extends beyond its entertainment value. Throughout this class, students are encouraged to analyze genre texts in relation to their historical and/or sociocultural contexts. Beyond that, however, they are asked to consider how and why contemporary authors and filmmakers have redeployed iconic characters and narrative motifs from classic works of genre fiction.
Building on these objectives, the final assignment in ENGL 151 offers students the opportunity to produce a piece of fanfiction that borrows directly from one or more of the texts that appear on the syllabus. In Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World (Links to an external site.) (2013), Anne Jamison defines fanfiction as “writing that continues, interrupts, reimagines, or just riffs on stories and characters other people have already written” (17). Christopher Shamburg divides fanfiction into seven distinct categories. You may wish to adopt one of the following strategies he has identified:
Missing Scenes: Produce a new scene that does not appear in the original text. Use this scene to provide information that is missing from the existing work.
Alternate Perspective: Retell the story from the point of view of another character.
Alternate Universe: Alter a major character and/or event in the original text and explore the “What If…” scenario that ensues.
Alternate Realities: Combine elements from two (or more) existing works to produce a new story. Imagine what would happen if characters from one story enter the fictional world of another story.
Sequels: Draft the follow-up to an existing text that picks up where the original ends.
Prequels: Develop a narrative that could serve as the prequel to an existing work. Use this story to address the unanswered questions that appear at the start of the original text.
Self Insert: Write yourself into a text on the syllabus by reimaging yourself as one of the main characters.
No matter what approach you take, you should aim to produce a piece of fanfiction that is approximately 2000 words in length (though you may certainly exceed this range if you wish). Your goal in this story is twofold. First, you must demonstrate your understanding of the genre you have chosen to imitate by employing the conventions associated with that genre. Second, you must offer a critical commentary on a political and/or social topic of contemporary significance. Of course, there is more than one way to meet the latter requirement. But fanfiction writers often address issues of diversity and inclusion by changing the gender, nationality, or religion of the character(s) they borrow from existing works. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas and Amy Stornaiuolo define this practice as “bending” the character in their essay on “Restorying the Self” Actions (2016).
As you develop your fanfiction, you will get feedback from your classmates, who will serve as your beta-readers. Once you have completed the beta-reading process and feel satisfied with your story, you will post it online at Archive of Our Own (Links to an external site.), one of the most popular fanfiction websites. Please remember to follow the site’s posting guidelines and to tag your story appropriately so readers know what to expect in terms of genre.
After completing your story, you will produce a short expository essay (500-750 words) that explains precisely how your work illustrates the genre you have chosen, listing the conventions you deploy and articulating the central message of your story. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that (1) you understand the conventions of the genre, and (2) you have used them to make a critical point of some kind. Given these goals, you may find it useful to consider the following questions:
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