In my last post about creativity I introduced you to my imaginary friend, Fazaar. He lives in a thoroughly constructed world that I’ve been building inside my head for the past twenty years. Now what? What’s the purpose of all this detail and what are my responsibilities to this being whom, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t actually exist?
While I wouldn’t claim that any creator is obligated to share their new worlds with others, there exists the potential for a grave consequence otherwise. I asked (but didn’t actually answer) the question in my previous post: If I forget about Fazaar, does he die? Effectively, yes. If his entire existence is in my head and I forget about him or perish, his world vanishes.
But why would I let that happen? As I burn more calories and heat up more neurons forming the world in which he lives, the incentive to keep that world alive grows. My head isn’t Burning Man; I’m not about to spend excessive amounts of energy on a creation only to let it turn to ash and blow away with the wind. So how does one create a completely fictional world that can survive outside the mind of its creator?
Step Into My Wardrobe
A whole lot of us have taken vacations in the same place at some point in our lives. Show of hands: ever been to Disneyland? The Grand Canyon? The Eiffel Tower? The Blarney Stone? You’re not the only one who’s set foot on the beaches of Kauai and you certainly won’t be the last.
Now think about the fictional places you’ve visited- especially as a child, when realities were a lot easier to construct. Ever been to the Hundred Acre Wood? Middle Earth? Narnia? Yeah, me too. Been there lots of times. I didn’t make any of these worlds, but I’ve spent a considerable amount of time visiting. You and I both have had the pleasure of stepping inside C. S. Lewis’ head, even though he’s been dead for 50 years.
Here’s the creepy part: As soon as you visit these places, they stay alive inside your brain.
Aslan has outlived his creator because C. S. Lewis invited all of us into his world. Every book, comic, short story, painting, song, poem… Every human creation that describes an alternate reality has the power to seed that reality in the minds of others. Your NaNoWriMo project could become a living ecosystem that thrives for hundreds or thousands of years, all it takes is one person to carry it onward.
As soon as you turn your alternate realities into published art, you open a door through which others may enter. The doors may be singular (i.e. just a book) or they may be numerous (i.e. a 2002 musical movie, a 1975 stage musical, and a 1927 non-musical movie based on a 1926 non-musical stage play, all called Chicago).
Why Fanfic (Even Shitty Fanfic) Is Important
Fanfic, much to the horror of a world’s original creator, is quite possibly the most important form of writing ever made. George Lucas didn’t create any new Star Wars films for sixteen years after Return of the Jedi, but the world expanded both in complexity and human participation because authors like Michael A. Stackpole and countless others contributed to its existence. If thinking about an alternate reality keeps it alive, writing about it makes it grow.
Sometimes that growth leads to Fifty Shades of Grey, sometimes it leads to John Freeman. For better or worse, both the Twilight and Half Life realities have evolved significantly because of derivative works.
Fanfic is like viral marketing for alternate realities. Each new work, whether considered “canon” or not, generates its own door to the original reality. The same could be said of musical remixes, covers, fan art, etc. While the original work (the 1926 Chicago) may live forever in the minds of its fans, it stands a much greater chance if it inspires derivative work and remakes.
Take your alternate realities and create doors to invite others in. Sure, you’ll face rejection and adoration alike, but I doubt any creation is so forgettable as to vanish entirely from multiple minds. The more doors that open through sequels, spinoffs, and derivative works, the more real that world becomes. After this, I’ll cover the bittersweet phase of creating any new world: When Your Reality Grows Up and Moves Out.