Since those days, I have branched out a little, in that I am more able to take prompt ideas for fandoms I'm not really "in" and do something interesting with them: Sunshine, Star Trek, Babylon 5, other Final Fantasy games. But in all that time, I've only really discovered two new fandoms. The first was Final Fantasy XII. I played the game when it first came out, and wrote a few Kiss Battle and prompt meme stories, but I didn't get deeply into it in a fannish way until I replayed and, at around the same time, wrote three stories for the 2009 round of Final Fantasy Exchange. I was finally hooked, and I started considering myself a part of the FF12 fandom from that point on.
The second, and the first outside the realm of FF, was Dragon Age. I'm still in the first blush with this source, and I've only just started playing the sequel (about which more on another day), so it's hard to say yet whether it will last, but I have a feeling it will. Already, since finishing my first playthrough of Origins in April, I've published three stories, have several more in progress, and am devouring fic at a rapid rate. I haven't felt a creative rush like this since I first entered fandom, and it's got me to wondering: why? Out of all the games I've played since 2005, all the books I've read, all the movies and TV shows I've watched, why is Dragon Age the one that finally broke through? I've been thinking about it, looking for commonalities, and have come to a few preliminary conclusions.
1. I need a lot of compelling source material.
It is surely no coincidence that all of these canon sources are video games. And not just any games, but multi-hour RPGs, with tons of background detail, large casts, strong stories, and settings with complex history and culture. A game is many hours longer than your average movie, and unlike most TV series it usually tells a single coherent story, which I think helps me connect with the characters.
2. I need some gaps to fill.
This might seem to contradict the first item, but actually I think this is part of why games work for me as a source. Many books, especially series, will have the detail I need, but they don't leave as much unsaid, either. Games tend to elide a lot more backstory and character interaction, leaving me more room to play with the universe and the characters. I need a careful balance between Items 1 and 2, and so far games seem to hit it better than any other media. More often than not, I write a story because there's a question I need to answer. The more gaps there are, the more likely that many such questions exist.
3. I need a 'ship.
But not just a 'ship that I like. Plenty of sources have 'ships I like, even adore, without driving me to write about them. No, I need a complete and total OTP obsession, to the point that I need to know more about them, explore every facet, bring them together and split them up and reunite them and see what happens. First it was Paine/Nooj and then it was Ashe/Balthier and now it's Alistair/Warden, but the pattern is clear. (There are interesting similarities between these pairings, but that's another post, too.) This was the realization that came as the greatest surprise to me, because I write so much gen, and I sometimes look sideways at the focus of some fandoms on 'shipping. But it fits, too, because I am a character-driven writer. Even my gen tends to be character-driven. And romance can provide a lot of fascinating opportunities for character interaction. It occurs to me that, the times I've jumped into a new fandom, the romance has come first, and then as I've written those stories, new story ideas come to me: gen stories about the characters in my 'ship, different pairings, new characters. And so I branch out. It happened with FFX/X-2 and with FF12, and I imagine it'll happen eventually with Dragon Age.
So, now that I've gotten my tl;dr on, what's yours? What draws you to become fannish about a source, rather than just liking it a lot? Are there patterns, or is it more random? I'm curious to know if other people's experiences are similar, or very different.
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