How to Write Good Canon-Based Bandom Fanfiction

Canon? What’s That? I’m a Pacifist.

Firstly, what is canon? It’s nothing to do with cannonballs, I assure you. Canon is just the facts surrounding your respective fandom or bandom. It includes the birthdays of individuals, the history of their life. If it’s a band, it includes accurate discography and tour dates.

I’m sure some of this information applies to other types of fan fiction, including actor fiction and even Harry Potter fan fiction, but I’m focusing on bandom.

Research is Key.

Wikipedia is a great research for basic information, however, it should never be your only source. Users can edit Wikipedia at their own will. I’ve done it myself to make Brendon Urie’s page say he was dating Ryan Ross. So if you see something on Wikipedia, plug it in to Google or ask around and back up the facts you saw.

Read primers! Primers are these amazing things on LiveJournal. Fans create a sort of ‘Band Member 101’ for people who are writing in a fandom. These tend to include birthdays, family information, and basic canon facts, as well as some you may not have known. I’ve been writing my bandom for years, but I recently read a primer on LJ and found out something I did not know. These primers are also written for things like pairings, band in general, band girlfriends, and tours (like Warped).

Read interviews with the band members. You’ll not only get information about them, you’ll get a perspective on that information as well as a feel for the way they talk. If it’s a group interview, you’ll see who talks about what most, who talks most in general, who barely talks. Is one of the members serious while another can’t seem to take anything seriously?

While YouTube isn’t the greatest place for getting factual information, it is a great place to study the personality of your character(s). Does he look at the camera when he talks? Does she have a tendency to laugh when no one else is laughing? It also helps to know what their voice sounds like. I mistakenly gave a character a soft, girly voice once when she actually had a pretty carrying vocal range.

Looking for a timeline is great. Sometimes fans will actually make a timeline and sometimes you have to make your own. If you have to make your own for a band, consider going to their website to see if they archive old tours because this will give you a time frame. If you want to write about the summer of 2006, you’ll want to know what was going on then.

Acquaint yourself with the people surrounding the people in the band. Are you noticing that you’re seeing the same guy kind of lurking in the background of a lot of pictures of the singer of your band? Find out who that guy is. Most All Time Low fans know who Matt Flyzik is and most Panic! at the Disco fans know who Zack Hall is. (Tour manager and security guard, respectively.) While they may not be a huge character in your story, if you create an accurate cast it will make your story read more “canon”. (Also, slashers, you should still know the girlfriends in your bandom.)

There are lots of other things you can research, such as how tours actually function and how a music video really goes down, but these things are not specifically related to bandom.

Now What Do I Do With All This?

Firstly, unless you’re writing a several hundred thousand word story spanning the entire life of a character or band, do not include all your information. For my NaNoWriMo story I probably used 15% of the canon information I knew. You’re not writing a textbook, you’re writing a story. Even if you don’t include that information, you have it if you need it. You also have an accurate backstory, which makes your characters more rounded out.

Do not present your information as a fact. Just work it into the story line. Do not say Gerard’s birthday was coming up. He was born April 9, 1977. He was going to be ___ years old. The reader doesn’t need to know this. They need to know that his birthday was coming up. If it’s dialogue, sure it’s fine for another character to ask and for the date to be slipped in, but nobody really gives out the year unless it’s to get a bank statement really, do they?

You want your story to read as natural as possible, like a story, so you don’t want to throw fact after fact at your reader. It comes off very dry and very show-offy. Yeah, we know you have the facts, but can you weave them into a story? The point of having this information is to help you. First and foremost, write your story. Just use the facts to make sure you’re presenting it as accurately as possible.

And remember, just because it’s not presented in canon, doesn’t mean you can’t write it. My favorite pairing in the world isn’t presented as canon, but I can still write canon-based fan fiction about it. If everything else in the universe is based on canon, it makes the things you add seem much more realistic. (And that, my dears, is how you convert people to your OTP.)

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