fandom culture

Social media ‘seryes’: An intro to Twitter fanfiction series and ‘alternate universes’

Ysa Abad
Social media ‘seryes’: An intro to Twitter fanfiction series and ‘alternate universes’
Learn more about a new kind of multimedia fanfiction where stories are told through social media threads – from the writers themselves!

Have you ever come across a viral tweet where a K-pop idol is fluent in Filipino or your favorite local star is interacting with a Hollywood celebrity – and got excited over these “crumbs” – only to find out that they’re just part of a fan-made story?

Surprise! You just got your introduction to the social media fanfiction series – a new kind of multimedia fanfiction where stories are told through social media threads. 

Fanfiction, in general, has long existed before the rise of the Internet age. But given the advent of social media, it’s no surprise that fanfiction has also evolved to fit its growing demand and popularity with the latest development being the social media alternate universes or AUs. 

Social media AUs are told primarily through fake social media posts and message conversations compiled in one single thread. It can also include video clips, still images with subtitles, mock news articles, and other audiovisual components for a more realistic and aesthetic storytelling. 

Your imagination’s the limit

“I find [social media serye] a unique way to present the flow of stories and the characters’ points of view,” Job, a writer of SB19 fanfiction since April 2020, told Rappler. “It unveils the story in an interesting and straightforward way.” 

What’s exciting about fanfiction is that writers can create entirely new alternate universes for existing characters to explore several worlds: well-loved figures from anime or games come to life as real human beings; famous celebrities are reimagined as mythical creatures; and even characters from different lores can be paired together. 

And with how visually reliant social networking sites’ (SNS) AUs are, readers can now see these stories unfold through visual cues instead of just imagining them the way most written fiction is consumed. The writing process, SNS AUs authors say, is pretty much the same as creating normal fanfictions – main plot points are established, with the rest of the story just building from there. This time, however, they have the help of audiovisual materials to make the story more cohesive. 

Considering how limited the characters in a tweet is, SNS AUs often begin with a one-sentence prompt. For authors, this is one of the biggest challenges in writing SNS AUs, as this introduction should be both intriguing and informative enough to catch the attention of their target readers. 

For Tri, or Twitter user shuahongonlyfans, a K-pop fan who primarily writes about boy group SEVENTEEN, she keeps her prompts “short and sweet.” “Always keep in mind to make it short enough to catch the reader’s short attention span but sweet enough to make them stay. Dragging and typical prompts are usually getting scrolled past by the readers so I make sure to use catchy titles and attach interesting photos on the title panel,” she told Rappler.

Since most of her readers are within their late teens to mid-twenties, Tri makes sure that she “mirrors the realities of life” through her characters. “In today’s progressive digital age, it’s rare to encounter a person that doesn’t have a social media account, whether it be Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. I think that sparks the beauty of SNS fanfictions – it is relatable and mirrors our daily lives,” she said. 

For Jem, or Twitter user PCYGnani, the prompt sets the tone of her story: “When I write prompts, I always have the mentality of ‘making my readers crave for more.’ If your prompt is catchy and can pump curiosity out of your readers then you have achieved the attention of your target audience.” Her stories often star K-pop idols from boy groups EXO and SEVENTEEN.

But having a prompt is just the tip of the iceberg. From there on, authors need to flesh out their stories with just limited narration. Characters are introduced through various aspects of social media platforms; usernames, profile photos, biographies, and even usage of memes and emojis help establish a character’s distinct voice; and private Twitter accounts are often used to show characters’ inner monologue. 

“Each character gets a distinct personality that you can separate from the others. From the way they type, to the emojis or emoticons that they use, it’s fun to challenge myself as a writer in giving each character his/her own branding,” Tri said. “As a writer, it’s a challenge to create a different persona for each one of my characters but also a reward when you get to see your readers enjoy their dynamics in the end.”

For Job, she draws inspiration from the real-life behavior of the celebrities she’s using as characters: “Paying close attention to the persons I’m trying to shape my characters from helps me a lot with characterization. This includes mannerisms and the way they act, speak, and interact with others.” 

Ae, or bernardoskath on Twitter, who has been writing SNS serye featuring the Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla tandem since 2017, recalled that she also had a hard time writing from a guy’s character when she was starting. “One thing I did was to observe my guy friends – how they typed, delivered messages, utilized emoticons, and how they were on our everyday basis.” 

Now that she has an idea of how she wants her character to be, Ae then starts making the social media profiles of her characters: “Usually, nakakagawa ako ng profile in an hour or two, kasi dapat alam mo ‘yung personality ‘nung character mo, kung anong picture ba ‘yung nagsu-suit sa profile nila, etc.” (Usually, I can make a character’s profile in an hour or two. You should know their personalities and find which photos suit their profiles.) 

Despite the fact that SNS AU stories can be read in a snap, making them takes much longer. SNS AU authors tend to use several applications to come up with the dialogue and spend several hours scouring the internet for a single photo that fits a certain scenario in their story. Even the memes and slang they use in a dialogue are well thought of.

“In terms of coming up with the profiles, I usually allocate a day to curate photos that I can use. What takes time is the fact that you have to make sure that from the very beginning, you would be able to get the readers’ interest already. For video narrations, it usually takes me around 15-30 minutes to edit,” Tri shared. 

“It is a time-eating hobby, and sometimes, readers get too eager or excited to even consider that aside from being writers, we were fans of these groups in the first place and we are on stan Twitter to support these groups. Sometimes it gets overwhelming especially when the number of readers hike up, the demand for updates gets repetitive,” she added.

While it is both time-consuming and requires much effort from the SNS AU authors, they say that the hard work pays off when readers have fully immersed themselves in their stories. 

Differentiating fiction from reality

Considering that their characters are based on real human beings, and that some of their story plots are inspired by actual events and dynamics, these authors are aware that their work of fiction can be easily misinterpreted as something factual. 

“I have AUs inspired by my ship’s real-life interactions. So when I post them, I try to place some notes clarifying that the story is pure fiction,” Job explained. 

For Tri, she tends to limit herself to only incorporating the actual names and birthdays of the celebrities in her stories, and just use random information for the additional details. “As much as possible, I’d rather stay away from using too much of their personal identities so that my readers could still have this sense of reality that we are using the faces and names of these celebrities as actors of our made-up stories,” she said. 

“Tao pa rin naman sila, kaya lagi kong pinapaalala sa sarili ko na hindi dapat ako lumagpas sa kung ano yung maka-tao basahin.” (They’re real people, which is why I have to constantly remind myself that I should not let myself write something inhumane.) 

Other authors like Jem and Ae, meanwhile, try to not incorporate real facts about their chosen celebrities in their stories. “I always remind myself that this is only a fanfiction; this is different from the idols’ real lives. I also do not want to confuse my readers and I want them to still separate fanfiction and reality,” Jem said. 

Even though theirs is fictitious work, SNS AU authors are also wary about creating sensitive content, especially since they’re using the personas of actual human beings and Twitter is known for its virality. They can never know when their work will reach members outside of their fandom. This is why majority of authors put disclaimers and trigger warnings for sensitive and mature content. Some even go to the extent of blocking the celebrities’ actual social media accounts just so they don’t have the chance to come across their written works. 

Must Read

Erotic fanfiction: Boon or bane for young girls exploring their sexuality?

Erotic fanfiction: Boon or bane for young girls exploring their sexuality?

“Tags and trigger warnings are also very important when writing because we will never know who may encounter these stories,” Tri said. “As a writer, there must be an innate sense of responsibility with every story that we publish. Always consider that we are using the names of these celebrities and one wrong move can tarnish their names.” 

As a general rule, Tri constantly reminds herself that: “Fictions remain to be fictions at the end of the day. Sometimes there are instances when readers, or I, myself, tend to forget that these characters are just a piece of my imagination. So a rule that I impose not just on myself but on my readers, as well, is that we should be able to draw a firm line between AUs and real life…. I always bear in mind that these characters are drawn from real life people so I should know how to limit my storytelling.”

“Despite how good a story is, some fans still lowball us and find it weird that we [create] fictional lives for these idols. However, I always tell myself that fiction is fiction. And at the end of the day, these stories have produced more good than bad (if there’s even any),” she continued.

The SNS AU community

If there’s one thing fandom communities are known for, it’s their enthusiasm. And it’s no longer a surprise that even fan-made content can also, generally, be well-received by the community. 

“Writing and sharing stories in the fandom also made it possible for me to meet other stans who’ve become precious friends and trusted confidants,” Job said. “Aside from being sources of entertainment and comfort, AUs play a role in connecting people within the fandom community. The stories also inspire discourse and sometimes, the writers would even host spaces to interact with the readers regarding their stories.” 

Readers can easily react to the scenes through comments and quote-retweets. This interactive feature is also used by some authors as they feature polls in their stories. The results from these engagement polls often dictate how the stories go. 

But while fanfictions are primarily for fun, it’s undeniable that there are downsides to them, too. 

Must Read

Toxic K-pop and P-pop fans: When entitlement goes too far, and what to do about it

Toxic K-pop and P-pop fans: When entitlement goes too far, and what to do about it

In Job’s case, she admits feeling anxious every time she thinks of the small chance that the celebrities who inspired her to make these stories might notice her works. “But knowing how vocal SB19 members are, I believe that they would say something if they feel uncomfortable about being the inspirations for these AUs. And if one day they express uneasiness regarding these fanfictions, I will respect and heed their words,” she said. 

Tri, meanwhile, pointed out how SNS AU authors are often stigmatized, and not considered “real” writers. “With our progressive digital age, everything is slowly transitioning to be digital. Not just because AUs are being posted in a social media platform doesn’t mean that they are any less of a literary and creative piece. Some AUs are being used to create a voice for the masses, talking about real life problems, but are only being reflected on social media posts so that everyone can relate,” she explained. 

Jem, a Filipino high school teacher, added that we can “never judge what is ‘real’ literature or not because literature is everywhere and it could be anything.” “Literature is not only limited to what we read in schools or what we see in the academy. We should give fanfictions a chance to be a part of literature because honestly, there are a lot of hidden gems in the fanfiction world.” 

Despite these, the SNS AU authors understand that they can’t please everyone. “This is not everyone’s cup of tea,” Tri said. “At the end of the day, it remains to be a matter of preference.” 

Jem summed it best: “If people still read [our] works and get upset about it even if [we] already [fulfilled our] responsibilities as a writer, I believe it’s not [our] fault anymore. People can scroll away or block [our] accounts if they do not want our content.”

“Consume what only fits you and makes you happy. That is the golden rule of fangirling… and AUs, of course,” she said.  – Rappler.com