Exploring Uncharted Territory

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Exploring Uncharted Territory
by DavidEastwick

Did you know that Pukwudgies were associated with the American side of J.K. Rowling's wizarding world seven whole years before the story of Ilvermorny was posted on Pottermore?

Well, unofficially at least, and all just because a budding fanfic writer decided to put them there.

I am that writer, and I apologize in advance for this how-to being rather Potter-centric and leaning heavily on my own experience of writing an American Potter spin-off novel. It's the one and only fanfic I've ever written, so it's a little hard for me to generalize what I've learned for other writers, but I will try my best.

If you've ever wanted to write a fanfic that explores uncharted territory in your chosen universe, this how-to is for you!

Exploring uncharted territory by definition involves creating new settings, and these settings must seem consistent and believable within your fanfic's universe. To do this really well, you need to know a lot about the universe's canon, especially all the little tidbits that touch on the territory you wish to explore.

Even beyond the setting, it's essential to learn everything you can about all the canon characters, storylines and other things that may relate in some way to your uncharted territory. And, as with all fan fiction, the more you know about the people and processes behind the making of your chosen fictional universe, the easier it will be to emulate them, and the more faithful and authentic your story will seem.

The Three Big R's

I think it all boils down to three key points, each of which conveniently begins with the letter R:

    1)   Research
    2)   Retcon
    3)   Revel

All three of these ideas apply to writing fan fiction in general, but I believe they are especially critical for fanfic writers exploring uncharted territory.

In reverse order, the most important point is always to make sure you're having fun with all this stuff! If you're not reveling in your writing, it just becomes work . . . and since fan fiction is noncommercial, it's work you can never get paid for. So above all, writing fan fiction of any kind should always be fun, and if it's not fun, there are a million better things you could be doing with your time.

Always remember though, if you're not reveling in your writing today, often you just need a little break — or perhaps a long break — and when you come back, you'll find your revelry restored. I've done this many times in my 10+ years of writing fan fiction. And again, this Big R applies to all fan fiction in general, but I think it's super important for "uncharted territory" fanfics, because with these kinds of stories the other two Big R's tend to require a lot of work!

If you've ever read my first (and so far only) fanfic, Jina Dare and the Emerald Tablet, you know it's very faithful to canon — even the parts that purposely veer away from canon — but here's a little secret: this is due in no small part to me rewriting large portions of the story following the release of new information by J.K. Rowling, i.e. retconning.

And thankfully, although it involved a lot of work, it's been relatively easy to retcon new stuff into the story, largely due to the amount of research I did before Ilvermorny was ever a thing. That research helped to ensure my pre-Ilvermorny vision of the wizarding world in America (which I started building in 2008) wound up looking a lot like Rowling's official version (which was released in 2016).

Maintaining a Research Repository

Here's another Big R for you. One of the most important parts of doing any kind of research is putting all the information into an appropriate repository. Your research repository could be a notebook, a shoebox full of cards and scraps, or perhaps a digital database. The key thing is not what form it takes but just the fact that it works for you.

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