Thursday 6 December 2012

The Evolution of Characters: Peter Pan

When writing an alternate-universe fanfiction, I tend to make sure that the characterisation is as consistent with the original book/series/film as can be, and the same goes for crossovers. If you’re going to change the setting, the time period and the what have you, then all that’s left for the readers to recognise are the characters; without those it wouldn’t even feel like a fanfic, just your own work with some familiar names and faces slapped on. Plus, aren’t the characters what we love the most about any given fandom? I know I do.

With that said, this has to be the AU fanfic where I’ve changed the most about the characters. Some of it is necessary to the setting – this is (almost) the real world, so Peter can’t fly and he does grow up, extremely reluctantly and resentfully. Other stuff, Ive changed just because it seemed like a cool idea at the time. I’m actually enjoying seeing how much of my own spin I can put on the characters while still keeping them recognisably faithful to Barrie’s original.

In this AU, Peter is a genius. He was always going to be a hacking and computing whiz, but after I decided that he created Tinkerbell, a sentient A.I. (as you’ve probably gathered from yesterday’s excerpt, this is the big reveal about her character that I hid for all of… a day), he couldn’t really be anything less than a genius. I’ve never known anyone who was a genius, so this aspect of his character will be a challenge to pull off. For the last week or so, I’ve switched from working on the main story to writing about Peter’s backstory, which wound up taking the form of a narrative from his mother’s perspective. In the original canon (and in all subsequent adaptations that I’ve seen or read) Peter’s parents don’t get a single look in, so this is another change that I’ve found myself navigating in this AU. I could have made him an orphan for the sake of convenience, but no, I definitely know that he had parents. And this led me to wonder what it’s like for a mother to raise a child who is a genius. Are there any support websites out there for the mothers of genius children? There really should be.

*makes a note to research that later*

As for Peter being a synaesthete, I actually can’t remember when I decided that one, but as soon as the idea struck me I knew I was going to use it. For anyone who hasn’t heard of it, synaesthesia is a condition that causes you to experience senses simultaneously. A synaesthete might see a colour when they hear a particular musical note, or they might associate a taste with the sound of a word. Research has suggested that synaesthetic experiences may be triggered by an idea rather than by another sense, but that’s a debate I’m not qualified to weigh in on. xD I’ve been fascinated by synaesthesia for years, possibly ever since I read the book Starseeker by Tim Bowler, one of my favourite books of all time; although the main character is never outright identified as a synaesthete. Anyway, I got the idea from watching BBS: The Documentary (which will get its own separate post later because it’s awesome) and hearing BBS System Operators talk about how they could listen to the sound of the modem and know exactly what the user on the other end was doing by the pattern of clicks and whirrs it made. I thought, what if Peter could do that, but he actually saw an image created by the sounds and that’s how he knows what’s happening in The Neverland? Thus the idea of “the pattern” was born. It’s become a pretty useful metaphor for, well, cyberspace; and also for Peters psyche.

But of all aspects of this character, do you know which one has been the most difficult, the most headache-inducing of them all? Whether or not his real name is Peter Pan. It was always meant to be an online handle, but when it came to writing about his offline life, I found I couldn’t refer to him as anything else. I started his backstory narrative with the line, “Peter Pan was no ordinary boy.” (It’s clich├ęd, but you’re allowed a free pass with these things during NaNo). Then after a couple of paragraphs I realised I’d been thinking of him and referring to him as Peter Pan this whole time, from his mother’s perspective, but why would she be calling him by his online handle? And if it was his real name, why would he use it on the ‘net?

Well for now, his first name is still Peter, but his surname is up for grabs. I’ll probably make it something really ordinary like Smith.


  1. Can't agree more with your views on AU fanfiction: I hate it when authors slightly shift the timing to fit their needs, erase the age difference between characters to make their writing work easier etc.
    But the curious thing about AUs is the further the setting strays from the canon, the more chances it has to become original and accepted. Just look at BBC's Sherlock.
    You appear to place the characters in another setting and let them develop there. Intrinsically, they are the same persons, but in different circumstances, so their personalities manifest in other ways. And honestly, this is what attracted me to your idea in the first place, since I read neither cyberpunk nor Peter Pan fanfiction :)

    1. Really? I never would have guessed xD Yes, being the same persons in different circumstances is exactly how I would have described it. You have a good point about BBC's Sherlock as well, which is essentially a modern-day AU.

      I can't tell you how many times I've been exasperated by an AU which is more or less well written, but with fundamental changes made to suit the author's convenience/fantasy/dream pairing, or when people use the excuse of Alternate Universe and the popularity of fanfiction to publish their own romantic fantasy with the names and appearances changed. I used to follow someone on who had great ideas for AU settings, but her characterisation was just so far off that I cringed as I read it.

      Suffice to say I swore never to let my own writing become like that. xD