Pre-show fanfiction is, for the majority of the characters at least, one of the least used genres in the Buffy and Angel universes. Through the years of Buffy and Angel, we have glimpsed scenes from the past, mainly about the vampires on the shows. We saw Angel's turning, William meeting Drusilla for the first time, glances at Angelus and Darla's relationship. Entire episodes have been around a plot point that supposedly occurred hundreds of years in the past. Through the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we see Buffy's calling as a slayer and how she deals with finding out about what goes bump in the night.
Yet fanfiction authors seldom write pre-show fanfic which I, at least, find odd. Our characters certainly had lives before Buffy arrived in Sunnydale, as evidenced by those all-too-brief scenes from the shows. It's interesting that thousands of stories are placed in the Buffyverse future, yet not nearly as many in the past. I can only surmise that some authors feel uncomfortable in knowing how the characters turn out in the end, afraid that their take on a particular character's past might cause controversy. Or perhaps, in the case of many characters, they simply don't like to write fanfiction from a child's point of view.
Regardless, I ask: what were our favorite characters doing before Mrs. Summers moved Buffy (and Dawn I suppose) to Sunnydale? What happened in Los Angeles before Angel and Cordelia arrived? Some might say that writing pre-show fanfic is useless, since we know what will happen. We know that Lilah is a lawyer and Xander is a student destined to be carpenter. So why write about it?
Well I, for one, am very interested about what drives our characters. Regardless of your stance on the nature versus nurture argument (whether one's personality is derived from nature, meaning biologically, or nurture, meaning experiences one has during life), it is the past and the character's reactions to events in the past that have shaped their choices and personality now. What was it that drove Willow to become such a good student? Who was Wesley's first love? How did Lilah feel about putting her mother in a nursing home? What was Gunn's life like prior to meeting Angel? What on earth happened that traumatized Anya so much that she hates rabbits? (Have to admit that's one I'm dying to know.)
Writing pre-show fic has the same starting point as writing any other type of fanfic. You must decide which character (or characters) you want to concentrate on. At what point are we in their lives? What personality quirks are established and what haven't? It might be interesting to write out a scene where the reasoning for the character's future actions in the show is shown. (For example- why did Lilah join Wolfram and Hart? Did she have any offers from other law firms? What was Darla and Drusilla's relationship before and after Angel got his soul? Was it different from the way they interacted in S2 of Angel?) Or perhaps show the growth of a character from a child or teenager to the one we saw on the show. Or elaborate on a scene we saw, or heard about on the show. (What did happen with Xander's Underoos? Why was Wesley locked in the closet?)
By choosing not to set your fanfic during the shows or in the future, you have a bit more leeway in writing the character. They are not yet the characters we know and love (or hate as the case may be). Remember, at one point they were all children and children seldom see anything in the same light as adults. Similarly, a character who has not yet seen what goes bump in the night will have a different reaction to what life brings than one who's been fighting the forces of darkness (or fighting with them) for several years. Think of the differences in Season 1 characters of Buffy and Season 7. If characters can change that much over a period of seven years, what changes occurred during the previous fifteen, twenty or thirty? Inquiring minds want to know!
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