Recently I returned to something I loved when I was younger: fanfiction.
(Feel free to laugh. I know it sounds dorky, but I’m okay with it. Not everyone gets it, and that’s fine.)
For the uninitiated, fanfiction is where a writer will take existing characters and continue their stories, either in that character’s universe or another universe of the author’s choosing. The closest thing I can compare it to is like the show “Once Upon A Time”. The writers take all the famous fairytale characters, stick them in the real world, and see what would happen if almost everyone forgot their identities. What kind of people would they be? Would Snow White and Prince Charming still end up together, or would they fall in love with other people?
(If you’re still laughing, go ahead and get it out of your system. I promise this ties into something somewhat important.)
I never wrote any stories myself, but I spent a significant amount of time reading others’ stories about characters in universes I loved. The Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings were my two favorite story universes, although I had others. I started reading Narnia fanfiction when I was twelve during a brutally hot summer. I remember this because I was too young to create an account and save my favorite stories. I remedied this by printing out my favorites. I actually have an entire three-inch three-ring binder full of fanfics I printed. I loved more than most books.
(Yeah, I was a dorky twelve-year-old, but I was also a happy twelve-year-old. I can never regret that.)
People read and write fanfics because sometimes the characters and settings are so good that you need to read more. I wanted to read about Peter and Susan and Edmund and Lucy’s adventures ruling Narnia. I wanted to know what happened to Susan after the final book. Did she ever make it to Narnia? Did she have children? Did she tell them about Narnia? I always wanted her to have a happy ending. In fan fiction, she can.
Laugh if you want (I feel like a few of you still are) but I loved those stories. Some are so special, I still think about them years later. One of my favorite stories about Susan was never finished; the last time the author updated it was July 7, 2009. Even though I never found out what the writer wanted Susan’s ending to be, I have still played around with the idea and imagined what I would want the end to be inside that universe.
Good stories have that effect.
The stories I’ve been reading lately have had the theme of redemption.
Redemption stories are my favorite.
There’s something beautiful about two broken characters helping the other at whatever personal cost. It isn’t a clean process, but a messy, complicated task that doesn’t have any predetermined goals or any clear ending. Yet, there’s something beautiful about a gruff, irritable character sacrificing something dear on behalf of another character they grow to love. It isn’t always romantic, but it is always meaningful.
Good fanfiction highlights something precious in humanity: people want to redeem the irredeemable.
People see defeated characters and want to fix them. People still root for characters who have messed up, are broken down, and seem irreparably damaged. We want them to heal. We want them to thrive. We want to take impossibly bad situations and bring the character through so they can have a fulfilling life. Not every character lives, but every character has a purpose that helps others.
We want to see the sacrifices necessary for healing to take place. We want to see the character’s desperation to change and see them make the effort to do so.
We see ourselves and our brokenness in those characters and hope others will take a chance on us, too.
We all want to believe, in some small way, that we are redeemable too.
Maybe it is possible that even the worst people can still do good; no one is truly too far gone.
In these stories with broken and hurting characters, there is hope.
I think that’s beautiful.
Someone can read about a villain, have compassion on them, and write a story where they are redeemed. The villain grows into a complex character who doesn’t always do the right thing but wants to try. Through a creative backstory, the audience has empathy and understands why the villain became a villain. Not every book, movie, or television series gives enough background to explain every character.
In fan fiction, Boromir isn’t tempted by the One Ring, Susan makes it back to Narnia, and Anakin Skywalker is a good father who never turns into Darth Vader.
It’s hope and it’s beautiful.
So, yeah, fan fiction can be weird. Believe me, I’ve run across plenty of those stories. And not all fan fiction holds the same moral values found in the Bible. I’m not trying to say they all are good and pure and acceptable because many stories are not. I’m also not suggesting you go out and read the first story you can find on the internet. That is a very bad idea.
Yet, in the stories that have meant the most to me, I have found the beliefs I hold so dear. Underneath it all, the intent is to redeem and heal broken characters from their past and give them a future.
I think that’s what Christianity is all about: broken, messed-up people who need unconditional love and acceptance for redemption. We need someone else’s sacrifice and someone else’s love to empower and enable us to change.
We couldn’t fix our brokenness, but we needed someone to enter our story and rewrite the past to give us a future.
“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.”
If there’s something that means a lot to you, I hope you find an echo of Jesus somewhere inside. ❤