Character Studies: How Did Writing Star Wars Fanfic Get Me Here?

Me in the summer of 2008
Me, circa 2008. Because I can’t find any photos of me from around high school and this is as close as I can get. :)

Confession is good for the soul, or so I hear. It’s amazing what a little introspection can do, especially when you’re wracking your brains for new story ideas, waging that never-ending war against writer’s block. Of course, I’ve spent almost half my life now writing, and it’s good every now and then to stop and look back at the progress I’ve made. I think it’s a habit that every writer should get into, just to appreciate how they’re improving.

So let’s talk about Beren Teleriand, my Jedi Knight OC from my high school-era Star Wars fanfiction.

Who really was Beren? Well, he was an amalgamation of everything I liked at the time: Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. He was named after Beren from The Silmarillion and his love interest was a blatant ripoff of Arwen, Aragorn’s love interest. Even his last name is just Beleriand with a “T” because the name sounded “cooler.”

He hailed from Naboo, because that was a planet with culture, you see. But Beren wasn’t just a man of culture, who read history and philosophy books in his spare time. He was man of action! He was at the forefront of every battle! He was the first to volunteer for every secret mission that would turn the tide of the war. He was so awesome that the canon Star Wars heroes and all the other Jedi Knights couldn’t help but talk about his accomplishments.

Beren was a man whose every struggle came out of nowhere and then resolved itself just as quickly. He’d always come up with some B.S. superpower, some newfound deeper connection to the Force, and he’d win the day.

Beren Teleriand is the sort of deep-minded action hero that a philosophy geek like Teenage Alex would create. But, of course, all he wanted to do was stay at home and enjoy a quiet life with his wife Arwen, who ended the entire fanfic series with a pregnancy after he defeated his final villain, another B.S. warlord who was somehow responsible for sponsoring every other villain he’d ever fought. Of course, I will say that the villain didn’t set out to ruin Beren’s life. He’d just sponsored these warlords and Beren kept getting in his way, so the villain went after Beren directly in the finale. So, in that sense, my writing wasn’t totally horrible then.

I never gave Beren a chance to be anything but wish fulfillment. But that’s okay. Beren was supposed to be whatever cool thing I wanted him to be. A self-insert into a Gladiator-style plot? Done! A chance to recreate the fight between Holmes and Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls? No problem! Reenacting every single battle from the Lords of the Rings movies with Star Wars? I mean, that’s why I got into fanfic in the first place. I wanted to tell stories as awesome as that. I wanted an outlet for all the nonsense that I put up with in my teens, all my stress and insecurities. And I got that with Beren.

Years later, I did something similar with my recurring protagonist Edward in college, and that ever-changing Alpha Trilogy. It wasn’t until I wrote Trace Wilson (from my anthology Digital Eyes, Family Ties) that I wrote someone who wasn’t me in fiction. It wasn’t until I got into heroes like Trace and Holly (from “The Joy of Deduction” and other short stories) that I got better at storytelling. I stopped trying to escape into a fantasy world and tried to find a good story from someone else’s world instead. I stopped looking for wish fulfillment victories and started writing heroes who could only win when they made a serious sacrifice by the tale’s end—something that High School-era Me wouldn’t have considered.

So here’s to you, Beren Teleriand. You were my first creation, and you’ll always be a reminder of how far I’ve come and how far I’ve yet to go.

So, readers, do you have your own embarrassing, fan-inspired skeletons in the closet? Do you still revisit them from time to time for your own writing? Share your experiences in the comments below!


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