So I noticed you write a lot of stories that change canon.... I've been thinking about writing a fic but I'm kinda nervous... and just wondered if you have tips for someone who wanted to write something like that? Anything new writers should know before I change something big? I don't want to make readers mad or anything! :o
That’s an excellent question, Nonny! I wrote a post about this last fall when I was working on Time is Still A-Flying, but I have a lot of thoughts on this topic.
There’s two stages of canon divergence, I think. There’s your point of departure–where does your story turn away from the canon storyline? And then there are the changes you make after that point. I’m guessing you’re talking more about the latter, so I’m going to focus on that. I’ll use examples from my own stories because I know why I made the choices I did.
Each change you make should affect the characters in some way. So your original point of departure sets them off in a different direction than canon took them, and the things they experience on this new path change them as people. Because they are different people, the next time your story intersects with canon, they might make different choices, which then give them more different experiences that change them even more.
Basically, what I’m saying is that your version of the characters shouldn’t be constricted by what the canon version did. If what happened in canon doesn’t fit anymore, change it. Don’t go making big changes just because, without character motivation to back it up, but give your characters the freedom to be who they are now, not who they would have been if your entire story hadn’t happened.
One example from Time is Not A-Flying is the Doctor’s demeanour when they meet the Daleks. The canon Doctor is, frankly, suicidal at this point. He’s lost Rose and he was already struggling to go on, and now he’s found out that he lost her for nothing. The Daleks survived, while he lost everything.
That’s not true in an S3 rewrite with Rose. Rose is standing right beside him as he talks to the Daleks in Central Park. He’s not going to offer himself up as a sacrifice like he does in canon; it just doesn’t fit with who he is now. And yet, he needed to say something to get the Daleks to focus on him and hopefully leave the rest of the humans alone.
“All right, so it’s my turn!” he shouted over the din. “What can I do to get you to stop attacking these people?”
The Dalek hovering over the group looked down on him, and the Doctor could almost feel its glee. “I will be the destroyer of our greatest enemy.”
“Well,” the Doctor drawled, shoving his hands into his pockets, “could we maybe discuss other options? Because frankly, I’d rather not die. Besides,” he added, “do you want to live in a world without me? I mean, what would the Daleks be without an arch enemy?”
It took me a long time to figure this scene out, because it’s so essential to the plot. But I wouldn’t leave it the way it was, and I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback on that change, because readers agree that the difference in situation lends itself to that change.
But… There are some changes I’m planning that I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about. I definitely understand where you’re coming from, Nonny. I’ve gone to @lastbluetardis, @rudennotgingr and @skyler10fic all on various occasions, asking them if they think people would hate me if I changed this thing.
For instance, I’m working on The Doctor’s Daughter segment of Forever and Never Apart right now, and a lot of the major conversations in this story are being rewritten with Rose instead of Donna. I know there will be people who feel like I’m pushing Donna to the side, and I’m nervous about the reaction that’s going to get.
But I have to remember, this isn’t about which companion is more important. Certainly, in the canon-verse, all the companions were equally important to the Doctor when they travelled with them. In my universe, though, Rose is not a companion. She is his wife, and that does make her more important to him than anyone else he’s ever travelled with.
It also means that conversations about their family should be between the Doctor and Rose, rather than Donna. Donna has her opinions on things and they get voiced frequently, but it makes much more sense for Rose to be the one who helps the Doctor accept Jenny as his daughter, rather than Donna. Again, it’s what makes the most sense for who the characters are now and the situation they’re in.
So, I have one final piece of advice. When you make a big change and you aren’t sure if people will like it, own it. Don’t start by apologising, or letting people see that you’re nervous. Present it like you are absolutely confident this is the best choice for this story. Most readers will be guided by your attitude. If you act like this change was questionable, they will question it. If you act like it’s the most logical choice, they will accept it.