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Tropes and Reading Motivations

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I ran across this presentation on fanfic reading and wanted to share the following graphic for discussion:

I hadn't really thought much about different motivations for reading because I agree with the opening point about how so much academic focus is put on creators and less on fans who may not be creating things themselves but are a big part of the audience for fanworks.

I tried to figure out where my own reading patterns might fit. So counter-clockwise, I'm:

-> A non-writer
->A regular reader
->Nostalgic reader
->High stakes
->Medium interaction

But as you might tell I have arguments to make about the need for more categories. For starters, I think there is a wider difference than simply a non-writer vs writer. The author didn't explain why this category was important (unlike the other categories) so I'm going to offer my own interpretation.

a) I think that this category could more broadly represent how involved a person is within that fandom community rather than whether or not they actually write fanfiction. I'm guessing that the category's relevance is that a fellow writer reads differently than a general reader, and I think that's quite often true. You may be looking more intently at how a fellow writer wrote a story and what they did with it from a technical standpoint than someone who doesn't write. But I think this is too limiting. I suspect quite a lot of people who have written, or even regularly write fanfic, don't look at a story any more technically than other readers, while others (especially those who beta read) might be much more aware of the choices a writer is making even if they never write themselves. You might even do so more or less often depending on the content.

But I do think that a reader's general participation and sense of personal involvement with a fandom community or with fandom more broadly does affect their reading. For example, we've quite often seen people moved to respond to things they read in a creative way, such as artists or podficcers. People who create rec lists start thinking about how they want to describe the work. People might follow the author personally, wanting to get to know them better, or reach out to them with responses separate to the particular work they read (such as wanting to add their work to a collection, getting them to participate in a fest, etc.)

So I think that those people might have a different context for what they're reading than people who are fans but essentially drive by readers.

b) I would either argue about what a "vigorous" reader is or suggest there needs to be a third path in there. I don't read simply to fill time or because I've just seen something pop up on my feed. But I also don't read as a form of self care. I read for entertainment, I read several hours a day, and I read in a habitual way. For example, unless it's brief I very rarely stop to read fanfic during the day. If I see something interesting, I'll download it and my reading time is (unless I'm on vacation, sick, or some other schedule disruption) once I'm in bed and getting ready to sleep. So I'd call it regulated.

c) My reading motivation is probably best defined by nostalgic, but not in the way the author defines it. I just want to spend some time with the characters and hope to recognize them in the story. But I'd say nostalgia might also apply to some of the tropes and plot types because I'm most likely to have downloaded something that falls into certain areas.

That said, I'm not particularly into crack fic but I like a comedic story. I'm also not traumatized by the canon (annoyed is more generally the reaction). But like, I suspect, almost all fanfic readers, I do like fix it fics, especially when the canon as a whole is a mess. But while many writers give those a try, I never know when starting a story if I'm going to like the fanfic writer's version any better or if I'll enjoy the way it's told.

I know very few writers whose work I've read repeatedly –- in fact even on occasions where I've read, say, a whole series or all their fic in a particular fandom I may not remember their name. This is mostly because I'm terrible with names but also because so many have gone by over the years in various fandoms.

d) I'd say I'm more of a middle ground between safe space and emotionally risky. There are definitely story types I avoid but that's not how I started out. I think I tried out pretty much anything for favorite pairings when I first started reading fanfic and after a while I discovered that there were certain story types and character portrayals I just didn't enjoy. So I tend to avoid stories with addiction storylines, or illness, or abuse, etc. I'm not put off by character death or infidelity and I might or might not read stories about kids and age regression depending on the author and the approach. But I suppose part of that is just about what I find emotionally difficult vs what I don't. I think there's a difference between that and taking a chance on a new type of storyline. If anything, after 17 years of daily fic reading I'd say that I'd be glad of some novelty.

e) I haven't beta read for anyone in quite some time, but I do still rec works regularly and I do leave comments, but not on everything. I think the author is a little strict about interaction because as someone who has received kudos on their writing I can say I'm happy to receive that just as I am a comment, and I consider that interactive as well. Because to be really interactive I'd think there would need to be some back and forth with the creator. This is generally true for beta reads, though I can remember at least one case where there was no response from the writer to any specifics of what I'd sent, so that isn't 100%. And there are certainly many cases where the authors do not respond to comments, whereas there are others where a conversation ensues as a result. But either way the reader doesn't have any control over that so I'd say that any kind of feedback regarding the story should count.

Besides the points the author raises, can anyone offer other aspects of reading that the graphic should include?

Having seen discussions elsewhere of what tropes people keep gravitating to, it made me think about what tropes I really do like, which connects to a desire for novelty.

For example these are favorite tropes of mine that I was already aware of:

Amnesia Fic
Groundhog Day'/Karmic Time Loop
Magical Connection (Telepathy, etc)

In all three there is an element of some people knowing more than others in a way that leads to a different sort of outcome. Amnesia fic could be for a given individual or a group, but either way it leads to having people rediscover one another in a way that might change their trajectories. In the Time Loop story, the same thing is true, with a discovery of the overlooked or a change for the better. Similarly in a personal time travel story, a timeline is often deliberately altered for a better outcome.

M/F/M or F/F/M Threesomes
Enemies to Friends to Lovers
Royals/Political Marriage Turns Into Feelings

To me threesome fic, generally speaking, is all about learning how things are going to work, getting to know one another, and give and take. Since I enjoy Buffy/Spike and also Loki/Tony, clearly I like watching a similar kind of progress in a story where two people forge a new understanding. And I also find Enemies to Lovers not unlike the political/arranged marriage trope. Perhaps they don't start as enemies, but presumably they begin with indifference, which is something not explored nearly enough.

Speaking of not explored enough, this next trope is pretty rare and I would quite like to see it, if only because I could really go for a generally untrodden path in fanfic.

Unrequited Pining

I also always like learning what someone else's job is like and that, to me, adds something to stories. It's not unlike travel stories or historical fiction. However, I don't see this being a story type in itself so much as an element in stories, same as the loyalty kink.

Author Clearly Has The Same Job
Loyalty Kink

Lastly there is the turnabout sort of story.

Physical disability story vein of Hurt/Comfort
Body Swapping
Characters Swap Canon Roles

This is almost the flip side of the time loop/amnesia etc. group I started out with. Instead of having to relearn one's own life, the character(s) have to relearn their own selves. In the third one, where characters are swapping roles, they may not be relearning themselves but we get to look at them and their relationship in a different way, separating things that were them from things that were their roles or particular paths.