The evening of May 19th of this year was not an ordinary one for me. I had been spending the day gearing up to watch the season finale of Fox's "Bones." Not only that, I had written my second article about the show, all about the spoilers that were leading up to it.
But still, despite having deduced the conclusion ahead of the episode's airing that night, I was not prepared to watch it manifest itself. Indeed, watching Zack Addy (Eric Millegan), my favorite character, being revealed as an apprentice to a cannibalistic serial killer was not the most awesome way to start my summer. As a writer, and as someone with a junkie-like addiction to the show who had watched every available episode in a solid block of time thanks to some unemployment downtime, I knew this couldn't be right.
So I did something with my blatant denial and writing skills. I wrote what I thought happened before the episode, during the episode, and possibilities for a future episode. (By the way, don't attempt to read that whole post unless you are exceptionally strong-willed.) And then, I, along with Wendy Young of the very comprehensive Obsessed With Bones fan site, took it to the next level. We wrote full-length teleplays to expound our respective Zack theories. Sixty-plus pages in 12-point Courier font.
Oh my word. I wrote...fan-fiction.
The last time I had ventured down this sordid path was over 10 years ago, when I was not exactly pleased that the character of Randy (Jamie Kennedy) in "Scream" was killed in the trilogy's second offering. I was 17. I kind of thought I had some semblance to some form of "grown-up" by now. Why in the world am I letting my imagination go wild over a TV show?
I can't really answer that, but I do know that I'm not alone in my craving as a writer to see the characters I love do things that would never materialize on the air. There are countless fan-fiction communities online for people writing imaginary stories for TV shows (current and canceled), movies, cartoons, video games and more. And while my friends certainly considered my fan-fiction adventure the nerdiest thing I've ever done ever, I ended up with a story that will probably please several of my fellow disgruntled fans following the Zack-lash.
And therein lies the reason for fan-fiction - it's for the fans. (Aren't you glad I got a college degree so I could figure that one out?) Some fans of shows simply like to make up stories about said shows and share them with fellow fans, bouncing their ideas off each other and wondering "What if...?" It's really quite simple, and not as creepy as it is initially thought to be. Don't get me wrong, some of it is creepy. And some of it is just plain weird and depraved. A lot of fan-fiction is written to hook up characters on the show who will probably never hook up. (Slash and FemSlash, for example, are subsets of fan-fiction for same-sex hookups.) They are stories that the fans would love to see, but know they never will. Mostly because they can get really, really explicit. (Think about an episode of "Boy Meets World" written by the "Queer as Folk" writers and aired on HBO instead of the ABC Family Channel. Oh, it's out there.) Sure, most fans of shows might speculate amongst each other, perhaps over a beverage and/or snacks. But would a fan who goes so far as to express their speculation in words (in prose or script form) really have to be considered that much of a freak? What's wrong with a little creativity here and there? Is writing dialogue and prose that offensive in a Twitter and texting atmosphere?
Lindsey Patten, the proprietor of the "Bones" fan forum, the Anti-Boneyard, has been writing "Bones" fan fiction for about two years. A very involved member of the "Bones" community on FanFiction.net, she says that indeed, it provides fertile and democratic ground for aspiring writers. "There's something very satisfying about posting a story and receiving instant feedback. Young writers are given advice and encouraged to continue, others improve with every story they write." But she concedes, "yes, there is bad fan-fiction out there. Cringeworthy and appalling, it's filled with spelling mistakes, bad grammar and illogical plots." However, "there are good fan-fiction writers out there as well. Ones who can draw you into the story and keep you begging for more." And a little imagination never hurt anyone. "Fan-fiction allows fans to connect with their favorite television show, book or movie a little bit more."
And "connect" Wendy and I did. Truthfully, that season finale sent me into what can only be described as a "tizzy" over the story I was told. I wanted to see a different one, so I wrote it. And I spent the summer researching, taking pages and pages of handwritten notes, even - literally - going back to school during my lunch hour to talk with a professor. (My alma mater happens to be down the street from my current job.) It turned out to be an amazing writing exercise, as well as a script of which I'm rather proud. Of course, my relationship with the show "Bones" can now only be described as "Patty Hearstian," but still - I like what I came up with, and I think fans would appreciate it.
However, this will probably be the last time we take this route as writers. After spending the summer with Zack Addy's tortured psyche, I'm happy to be moving on to original work. Wendy feels the same way, admitting that fan-fiction "has its place and I think it's an important form of expression for fans - both those who can write and those who simply wish to see their characters fulfill the dreams that they have seen teased week in and week out on their screens." But she also feels that in fan-fiction, the interpretations of existing, beloved characters can go the way of caricature; both of our scripts were written "in canon," meaning they were as true to the characters as can be, an extension of the show, not a gross diversion. (This little ditty, for example, is not in canon.) "I found that following a more mainstream structure and format, as with the 'Bones' spec scripts, delivered a more fulfilling joy in that I could please the reader and myself by knowing I stayed true to the characters."
So, if you are a "Bones" fan and you're interested in taking a small chunk of your time to read two very different stories in episode form about how and why the most seemingly innocent squint was in cahoots with a murderer, follow the links below. Here is a major "spoiler": In one script, Zack is NOT a killer.
Requisite disclaimer: Neither Wendy nor I are affiliated with Fox or "Bones" in any way. In no way are we trying to pass these off as official scripts written for the show. We are just fans who took our fan-fiction further than most.
Follow Jamie Frevele on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jamielikesthis