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The AU

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, May 21, 2022

Anyone that has written or read fanfiction knows that the AU is the Alternate Universe: the placement of a given set of characters that come from a specific IP or franchise or book or movie into a completely different setting, timeline, or even genre.

The LOTR cast might be thrown into a slice of life high school setting. Harry Potter may suddenly be in medieval or Arthurian England rather than modern UK. Characters that are adult may now be children or teenagers (usually teenagers, per the self-insert needs). And so on.

Usually, fanfiction is looked down upon. AU even more. And I can't totally blame people for the bad reputation AU can have on occasion, since it has yielded some terrible gems. On the other hand, I find it unfair because the AU presents a wonderful exercise in character building and character mechanics.

For the AU to work, its creator has to consider two things:

1. The new setting's parameters

2. What background that fits these new parameters will yield the personality and behavioral patterns that hold for each character in the original work.

If, therefore, one would set out to create a Rurouni Kenshin AU set in the present day, they'd need to consider what kind of background in a modern society would justify Kenshin:
a. Wielding a sword to expert status
b. Having a bloody past to atone for
c. Being a wanderer
d. Having connections to the police, the government, and the underworld
e. The monstrous adversaries he fights will need to be monstrous within the framework of the modern world (unless the modern world is also ‘warped’ which presents a bigger challenge).

The list goes on.

How does this help get a deeper, better grasp in character building and nuance?

Because the creator is challenged to get the same result with different (or somewhat different) variables that are dictated by the rules of the Alternate Universe these characters will now be interacting in. And by doing that, the creator basically studies how characters and personalities work. The whole cause-effect interrelations, the self vs. the environment, and the organic existence of any character in a setting so that they can feel like they are a product of this alternate setting, is exactly the practice that makes perfect when it comes to characterization.

That's why AUs and fanfiction are such perfect sandboxes to develop writing and story building skills in. So, if you wanna make an AU, DO IT.

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Kou the Mad at 9:04PM, May 21, 2022

I think about it alot. Like what if Diamond Dogs/Militaires Sans Frontiers were yeeted into Star Wars. Or Lord of the Rings. Or Age of Piracy Caribbean. Or- You get the idea, I have ALOT of this exact thought.

hushicho at 7:54PM, May 21, 2022

Harry Potter probably would have worked better in a medieval setting, especially as the modern world wasn't a priority for the author until very late in the game and that turn clearly wasn't planned in advance. With Star Trek, they did play a lot with AU-like ideas, but that's largely because they also bought a lot of experimental sci-fi scripts that were only retroactively rewritten in attempts to fit them to the characters. Sometimes they worked, oftentimes the production wasn't consistent enough to keep the characters who they were between seasons...or sometimes episodes.

hushicho at 7:51PM, May 21, 2022

I can't stand most AUs, because most of them seem unaware of what defines characters and what makes them who and what they are. I'm glad that it was mentioned a character needs to continue to have their most crucial aspects, or else they're not that same character. Taking, for example, Bayonetta and making her a regular human who works at a cafeteria and has no special powers nor any special crusade of the supernatural is just, at best, being inspired by a design. And if you're going to do that, just develop it to a point where it's no longer just "creatively distinct Bayonetta" and think more about who and what this new character is, because it's not Bayonetta any longer.

cdmalcolm1 at 10:04AM, May 21, 2022

AU is almost as tricky as time/space travel. Some believe if one could travel back in time and space it would create an AU as seen in many movies. A parallel universe that runs along us like Fringe, might look and even act like us but with very small differences like laws of the land or the sun is slightly dimmer than our own. Extreme AU would more likely be skin color or the sexes is the opposite. Females dominate over males. Or something crazy like we farm our selves to end world hunger. Or how about a Universe where there are two different species of human & each have their own races? Throwing your characters into these extreme environments could make or break them. Or what if REM sleep is a gateway to an AU? So if it happened in a dream, did it happen in an AU?

usedbooks at 5:16AM, May 21, 2022

Tbh, sci-fi series manage to do a lot of things canonically that other genres have to leave to fan fiction or spin-offs. They can give everyone memory lapses or delusions, drop people into ultra-realistic VR, or go to literal parallel dimensions whenever they want to.

usedbooks at 5:13AM, May 21, 2022

And there was a part of DS9, where Sisko and the other characters (or alternate forms of them) worked for a periodical/newspaper in the 1950s. That might be more akin to the AU feeling. It was all a dream/delusion, so it didn't stray from the world, but it still has the experimenting-with-characters-in-a-different-world effect.

usedbooks at 4:17AM, May 21, 2022

@Bravo: My comment was more about placing the characters in different settings, fish out of water stories. TOS legit visited cowboy world and Nazi world. XD TNG was a little different but they wandered around turn-of-the-(19th/20th)century London on the holodeck for a bit, and Q dropped them into Robin Hood.

bravo1102 at 4:09AM, May 21, 2022

That's akin to saying that Sherlock Holmes really did die in the fall off the cliff and everything after was an alternate universe. Star Trek is a well developed world and is surprisingly consistent and easily rationalized into one canon with the only AU being the Mirror Universe. But then I've only studied the TOS and TNG canon in detail to write a webcomic using elements of both to present my AU, so what do I know. Point of fact I'm thinking of using the Kirk commanded Enterprise in my next tribute comic as opposed to the Surprise just so I can play with those characters.

bravo1102 at 3:59AM, May 21, 2022

Really lot of the charm of Harry Potter was that it didn't have a medieval setting. Take that away and it's just another fantasy wizard school. My Star Trek tribute is in an alternate universe because the one we know was a TV show sent to a TV producer though a telepathy accident and this is supposedly the real thing. That way I could shoe horn it into my preexisting universe. Gives me a chance to do things Star Trek never touched on and that the Federation is a small fish in a very big pond dealing with powers that make the Dominion and Borg look puny.

usedbooks at 3:52AM, May 21, 2022

I feel like Star Trek TOS and to a lesser extent TNG were mostly a series of canonical fanfictions mostly exploring AU.

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