In today’s world, certain real life tropes can apply to social media-based settings. Bantering is no longer confined to face to face interactions of the characters involved — you now have Twitter replies for that. There is slow burn and mutual pining in the casual hit of a like button and in the viewing of Instagram Stories. All these elements create a new setting where tropes can thrive: Social Media AUs.
A social media AU, to put it simply, is a form of fanfiction, commonly posted on Twitter. Beyond the world of text and prose, social media AUs are made up of screenshots, and sometimes videos of different social media platforms that create an alternate universe for the author’s chosen fandom. It was in 2019, when this type of fanfiction writing catapulted into local popularity through @frostfambam’s “Along España” thread featuring one of the beloved local love teams, KathNiel as two university students with a rocky past in an enemies-to-lovers AU. With thousands of engagements, and over 40k retweets, the thread quickly became a classic among the Twitter folk.
If creating narratives in online landscapes is something you want to take a chance on, we have a few tips for making your own. Before anything you should read (or at least check out) some already existing social media AUs. Find one about your own fandom! I’ll make things easy for you and give you a list of some of the most popular AUs right now:
A JaDine AU by @walkingeyebrows
A Larry AU by @lwtglamvinyl
A Loona AU (with a dash of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) by @ae_ongie
DEVILISH (JiKook AU) by @euphoriakoo_
Understand that in order to make a social media AU, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on your phone. If you’ve been wondering how all those screenshots are made, the answer is apps! There are plenty of apps that you can use to create fake social media accounts and text message archives for both Android and iPhone users. You’ll need these to complete the next steps.
Note that for iPhones, you can create fake messages by sending the messages to yourself to be able to make up both sides of the chat. Just delete the doubled messages and you’re good! Here’s a quick video that shows you how to do it. You can also create a group chat by turning on subject fields and placing the character names there. Here’s another quick video that shows how to do that. Social Dummy makes it easier, giving the user the option to switch between chat bubbles. You can even add a typing indicator.
There’s also the more laborious option of using Photoshop. If you want to include other forms of fake online posts like news articles, magazine covers, or ads, you might need to get extra creative. Photoshop lets you create almost any type of graphic that you might need. The best approach would be to draw inspiration from real life. Look at existing forms of online media and base it on those. This way, the AU stays immersive and believable.
Now that you have your tools, you’re going to need your subject. After all, the existence of an alternate universe implies that you are deviating from an already established universe.
The most common genre is of course, romance. Don’t be afraid to look up some of the best tropes and AUs you can use for your One True Pairing’s premise! There are numerous romance-centric AUs across all fandoms, which all usually start with a prompt or premise already popular in classic forms of fanfiction. One kind is the Soulmate Trope; a trope that most likely will never die. How soulmates are matched is entirely up to you. An example is this Tumblr post where you can only see color once you meet your soulmate.
You also have interactive social media AUs, where readers decide what happens in the story. Veering away from your usual romance, this format is usually under the horror or suspense genre. Authors usually offer choices using polls and let their followers determine the fate of their the AU. You can do the same and experience a special kind of interaction with your fellow stans. Check out this interactive BTS horror AU to see what it’s like.
Now that you’ve got your apps and an idea for a story, it’s time to flesh them out. The key to making social media AUs work is by writing compelling and relatable characters that your reader will be attached to. Use the apps I listed above to really make your character’s personalities evident (a subtle sprinkling of classic archetypes helps too). If it’s a brooding character, they could have a dark Twitter profile where they spend most of their time tweeting quotes from poetry. If it’s a geeky character, maybe they have a Twitter account dedicated solely to shitposting. The possibilities are endless when establishing your character’s persona online. A good way to start an AU is by listing the characters involved and putting a short description of their traits.
featuring niall, zayn, and liam 🤧 pic.twitter.com/JRfSbUn8pH— gem (@lwtwallows) January 3, 2019
For your first social media AU, it’s best to keep things simple by making your characters’ personalities easier for readers to understand. This is where tropes come in. Even if the AU might be about real people, your adaptation of them into your fictional world gives you some creative license to make up a personality and attach it to their AU counterpart. One example would be if you were to write Thor as a goofball frat boy and Loki an antisocial Humanities major in your ThorKi college AU. Usually, this makes it easier for you to prompt romance and write about them falling in love.
to all the girls i’ve loved before— 𝔫𝔦𝔞 (@ae_ongie) August 25, 2018
— a loona au
kim hyunjin is a seventeen year old girl who keeps love letters to all the girls she has ever loved in a pink heart shaped box. pic.twitter.com/OohMKSktHk
At this point, you’ve probably realized that this form of fanfiction writing involves a lot of roleplaying. You’re managing maybe two to six fake profiles in this story in order to weave things together in a way that makes sense. And part of this intricate web are private text messages.
Fake texts are a useful tool to establish and grow the relationships among your characters. This is where your protagonist might turn to a group chat and ask their friends for advice. Maybe a love interest will ask for a character’s phone number and you can show your readers how they flirt over text.
When writing dialogue, never forget to stick to your characters’ personalities. Keep things casual and simple, and try to mimic the way you would normally converse online. It keeps your readers entertained when they feel like they’re reading through some spicy screenshots.
Social Media AUs find home on Twitter where they are free to be retweeted, liked, and quote tweeted. Unlike your usual fare on fanfiction sites, Social Media AUs can’t be put on beta. Interactions with the post, especially ones for interactive AUs are hinged on the original tweet. So post it once, and be sure to get it right! Use the “Add To Thread” option, be sure to add the corresponding media to the tweets. When you want to update your AU, make sure to use it by adding it to the thread. This helps those following the story find them under a mother tweet.
There are some unspoken rules in the field of writing social media AUs. You’ll see that in most, if not all, authors will politely ask their followers to “quote/rt tweet only! no replies!” This is to make sure that someone’s comments don’t break the thread of tweets. Quote retweets allow followers to react to what’s happening in the AU or offer comments to its writer. There’s no harm in asking your followers for comments, especially if it helps keep you going.
Social media AUs are one of the most flexible forms of storytelling in modern media. Since they are so versatile, they can be whatever you want. You’ve got multiple tools at your disposal. If you want to, you can include updates through prose by writing them in your phone’s Notes app and taking screenshots of those. Not everything has to be a fake social media post. You can use anything you want to tell this story as long as you can find a way to add it to your AU’s thread.
Cliche as it is, the most important thing in all this is that you have fun. It’s about time we acknowledge that creating fanfiction takes tons of time, effort, and energy. Remember that fanfiction authors offer up all this labor for free and for everyone’s consumption. That’s what makes fanfiction and social media AUs so beautiful. They’re made out of pure enjoyment and love for one’s fandom and you shouldn’t be afraid to do the same for yours.
Header art by Ches Gatpayat
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