Real talk: I have been known to write the odd fan fiction.
Stick with me here!
Skip forward with me to the part where we recognize that writing fan fiction can be incredibly healthy and fulfilling. To explore a fandom, to expand on another’s ideas in a new and creative way – to play in somebody else’s sandbox, as I’ve heard it put – can allow us to venture into unknown territory and not, perhaps, instantly fail. It helps to have the framework of the universe to work within; after all, it’s easier to try clothes on a body that already exists than to build a body to try clothes on. That’s… a bit morbid, but it works.
So let it be known, then, that once upon a time, I had a Dragon Age II fan fic in the works. Yes, I know. It was approximately three hundred pages long when I left off, and parts of it were decent. Parts of it were even pretty good. Most of it, of course, was brutally bad. But that’s okay. I forgive me.
I started off, like many folks do, by more or less rewriting the established events in my own words. They were not bad words, but when I let my then-husband read what I had so far, he pointed out that he was just reading a novelization of the game. I was a bit taken aback by this: yes, but… well. Okay then. Time to rewrite.
And I did. I aimed my brain in a different direction and started off.
(I say that so flippantly, as though it was easy.)
The first place of my own that I created within this pre-established universe was called the Ash District. It was a place where people took their dead to be cremated upon pyres, and it wasn’t there simply as a tool in a tragic story arc. This place had always been there, outside the walls of the city, between the marketplace and the halls of the wealthy. It had been built there purposefully because of weather patterns; the city was built into the rise of a mountain, and the winds of the Ash District carried the smoke and dust of the dead away from the city (except during a few days each Spring, when the city was covered in a fine layer of the deceased). The road to the pyres was called the Long Mile, and the dead were borne down this road by those who cared for them in life.
The Ash District wasn’t a big place, and we didn’t see it in the story much, but it was mine. I built it. It made sense. It had weight, and space, and light, and smell, and sound. My character went there and was affected by it. In a way, once I wrote about it, it had always been there.
I built more spaces, all within the framework of the game universe, but still, in a small way, mine. I built and built, and eventually more stories emerged that were more Mine than Theirs, and then some that were wholly mine.
By now it’s probably obvious that I really enjoy writing. It scratches an itch that nothing else touches. And one of the hardest things to do, I think, is to make something from nothing. Fan fiction helped me learn that there’s never really nothing; there’s always a bit of something, you just have to keep building. Write through the garbage, I learned. Write because you want to, Emily. Do it because it needs doing.
And that’s why I called this page the Ash District. It’s a place of change, a place for the living and the dead. A place of silence and birdsong. It’s mine, I built it, and in a way, it’s always been here.