Kristi Burns / Burnout Girl
Jennifer Kristi Burns, better known as the "Burnout Girl" is a rather reticent young girl, she can often be found drifting in thought or nose-deep in a book, disconnected from the world around her. In spite of her internally sharp wit and insightfulness, Kristi struggles to openly express herself to others as a result of severe anxiety and depression, instead opting to communicate through mumbles and one-word answers. Unfortunately, she often finds her only ailment to these stressors in impulsive behaviors and frequent substance abuse to keep afloat and functioning. As an only child, Kristi lives with her soft-spoken and hard-working father, who she has had a strained relationship with since her mother's death. After several years, the pair made the decision to move out-of-state from her childhood home in Arlen, to the Appalachian town of Lawndale in hopes of a fresh start for each other.
Wade is a former Lawndale High student who dropped out in his junior year to pursue his own artistic ambitions and help support his family financially. The lead singer and guitarist of a grunge band, The Harpies, he still swings by the school occasionally, hanging out at the smoker pit with his friends and helping out at community events that support the underprivileged in Lawndale. His off-kilter cynical sense of humor balanced with an unusually altruistic nature immediately draws Burnout's attention upon their first meeting. However, for all his good intentions, Wade has a notable reputation for being something of a delinquent and his tendency to be overly critical and (albeit unintentionally) inconsiderate of others emotions. Wade's rather neglectful father, Axl, runs a piercing parlor, while his older sister currently lives in Ashfield. He understandably has a resentful and complicated relationship with both of them.
Devan 'Shaggy' Rogers
Devan is perhaps best known as Lawndale's top stoner, a slacker in every sense of the word, he gets his nickname from both his rugged unkempt appearance and uncanny resemblance to the Scooby-Doo character of the same name. Devan is one of the first friends that Burnout makes in O'Neill's self-esteem class. He consistently has to retake the school tour at the start of every year due to his poor long-term memory and due to his academic failures has been stuck in tenth grade for roughly three years. In spite of his pot-associated challenges, he's an eternally friendly, open-minded and positively encouraging ally to Burnout and the others.
Kelly 'Red' MacIntosh
Kelly, also known by her nickname 'Red', is a hyper-energetic, optimistically quirky young girl who somehow manages to see the best in everyone at Lawndale and goes out of her way rather early on to befriend the unusually quiet Burnout. True to her involved nature, she is a key member of the student council responsible for organizing community events alongside Jodie Landon. Kelly is one of the few students who is openly gay, although her history in romantic endeavors has been complicated to say the least.
Bob is a close friend of Devan's and the school's resident punk rocker. Although soft-hearted and well-intentioned, he is a bit of a meathead as a result of a turbulent home life and tends to get in trouble picking fights with those who cross him.
Trent is the lead singer and guitarist of Mystik Spiral. He's a long time friend of Wade's and the two share many of the same interests and mannerisms. Trent, however, is quite forgetful and passive to many of the goings-on in Lawndale that doesn't directly impact him or his band. Trent has a large extended family, the most notable of which is his younger sister, Jane Lane.
Josh is Burnout's paternal cousin and Lawndale native. In that respect, they share the same hair color, love for skateboarding and trademark cynical stoicism, however, their time together is greatly limited by his eccentric and overbearing parents, but he serves as a grounded and reliable confidant for Burnout.
Oh joy, oh rapture; another fanfic author's pretentious ramblings.
"Burnout" is a fic that I've been slowly seeding, treading and peeling away at my own pace for almost five years now. After a marathon of the show in 2017, I felt that for someone with practically no dialogue or further characterization, "Burnout Girl" still managed to grab my attention damn near every time she was given the space on screen, and be it the visually-striking jacket, forever sleepy expression or the fact she was based on show director and character designer, Karen Disher; she is just kind of the 'definitive' backgrounder for me. Yet, despite her relative popularity in the fandom over the last 25 years, being the central character of several fics and featuring and backgrounding in an endless many more, she's never quite had the renaissance in fanon that characters such as Andrea and Scarlett have received. So, I decided that "t'was 'bout dang near time" and got to work plotting my own take on the character.
I decided rather quickly on the simplistic and uninspired idea of "retelling the events of the entire show from her perspective" - but seeing as her interaction with Daria and Jane is severely limited (heck, there are even several episodes scattered about where she's absent from her typical classes entirely... where did she go?) this concept only opened more doors for me to take in the realm of creative liberties without sacrificing adherence to/interfering with "Daria canon". Thus, the show's seasons have worked more as a narrative guide for the fic's pacing rather than a strict set of rules to abide by. A first-person POV also felt rather necessary for a character who says and emotes very little. I was happily able to teeter the much dreamt of fine-line between fanfiction and original works. As every episode where either a) she doesn't appear and/or b) is largely centered on Daria/Jane's activities outside of the confines of Lawndale High (including surreal dream episodes), would present yet another chapter that was now open and free for me to dive into her life, her own circle of misfit backgrounder friends, trials, and personal tribulations.
The first step was the easiest but probably second most tedious (well, next to actually writing) and that was going through every episode of Daria and "Burnspotting": screenshotting her every appearance throughout the shows and taking notes on the context of aforementioned scene, then finding interesting and abstract ways that the events of said scenes could influence or interact with the overall Burnout narrative. The one thing I didn't want to do is just transcript episodes word-for-word every line of dialogue in some random scene that she happens to appear in, in fact, I actually ended up omitting a lot of these if they weren't worthy of contribution to the overall narrative, so this is much less of a "perspective retelling of Daria" than it is an appetizing companion to it. On the flip side of that coin, I didn't want the work to feel too far removed from its source, the "world" of Lawndale is really what matters here, and for that sake, I did a painstaking amount of research into the extended lore of Daria (credit enough can't be given to the late Anne D. Bernstein for writing a good portion of supplementary material), likewise, there are almost zero wholly-OC characters. You've got Burnout's dad and the deuteragonist of Wade (who, by retroactive technicality, actually appears in an episode of the original series if you look hard enough), the bulk of the original cast is made up of the existing backgrounders we've come to be familiar with.
The second task was developing Burnout's character, it shouldn't take much guessing to figure out that Burnout as a character is probably a bit more troubled and rough-around-the-edges than Daria or Jane, she's got their biting wit and cynicism, but she is a bit more vulgar and street smart as a result of her childhood. A rebel with a heart. Not without precedent, seeing that she's one of the very few characters we ever see smoke on the show, and... well, let's just say you don't exactly earn the name 'Burnout Chick' being straight-edge. On the topic of names, Burnout Girl (as she is known by many throughout the fandom, not having a explicitly stated name) has no shortage of them: 'Cristy' comes from her early pre-production sketch, 'Jennifer' based on O'Neill's seating chart in Cafe Disaffecto, 'K.D.' in honor of Disher, and 'Burns' is a rather inventive surname she has picked up from various authors. In the end, I decided to incorporate a bit of all of them to sort of honor the long standing legacy and mystery of this character. It's not uncommon for some people to go by their second, or middle name in preference over their given first, and in this case that preference ties quite closely to her experiences and who 'Kristi' is as a character.
From the get-go, Kristi doesn't have the luxury of ducking out of her self-esteem class in the first week like Jane and Daria, and O'Neill, for all his good intentions, is woefully unequipped to get her to open up, DeMartino derides her for her poor attention span and apathy towards her academic performance, Barch is suspicious of her… or rather, that boy she's been preoccupied with, and Angela Li just might well be the antithesis of everything that defines Kristi as human. Thankfully, what she lacks in support from her school faculty, she gains from her lil' posse of at least mildly-dedicated friends. As per the show, she's sitting with Devan and Bob at lunch and in assemblies far more often than not, and even seems to be friendly with the upbeat Kelly, all of whom you may have realized have some rather under-descriptive "descriptions'' above, because likewise, any further and we be crossin into 'dem spoiler waters. In any case, it was a blast to take a rather simple premise and add lots of thematic twists and turns and shocks (oh my!), stepping back into the shoes of being an awkward and anxious teenager and I hope that it's anywhere near as satisfying to read and follow as it was to plan and write. Furthermore, while there's certainly no lack of angsty-fic in the Daria fandom, as the overall narrative of 'Burnout' really began to develop itself, I realized that the more "grounded" tone that the story harshly demanded of me clashed somewhat with the more comedic and 'simple' aspects of the earlier seasons, so a decision was made quite early on that while the character's personal drama could get quite severe (S5 fans may rejoice), once again, the "world" of Lawndale, and more particularly, the recurring characters within, should never stray far from their depiction in the show (amoeba-level intelligence, et al).
So, as this is quite a lengthy fic, (lots… and lots… of words… send...help...) and I already have a rather decent portion of it written with only some minor touch-ups needed here and there, for the time being my plan is to release a block of several chapters at a time on a bi-monthly basis, roughly making up what we'll call "seasons'', these won't always be equivalent to the show, but rather follow the pacing of the arcs/subplots in the fic. The first of which is all about Burnout coming out of her shell (and doin' just fine). It's also worth noting that there will be three versions of 'Burnout'. The first, exclusive to Archive of Our Own (AO3), will have some of the more spicier bits retained (nothing too graphic, but there is definitely some hormonal tension pushing outside the PG-rating), the second, exclusive to The PaperPusher Message Board (PPMB) will include all these nifty behind-the-scenes bits (like this one you're currently reading) about certain spoiler-y story/character decisions to open further discussion, finally, the bog-standard 'Burnout' experience in all it's glory (or lack thereof) will be available on and eventually wherever you get your webby fiction-y goodness.
COMING JULY 7TH, 2022:
I. The New Pollution (Esteemers / The Invitation)
II. Coffee & TV (College Bound / Cafe Disaffecto)
III. Heart Factory (Malled / This Year's Model)
IV. Novocaine For The Soul (The Lab Brat / Pinch Sitter)
V. Room A Thousand Years Wide (Too Cute / The Big House)
VI. Counting Blue Cars (The Road Worrier / The Teachings of Don Jake)
VII. Why I'm Here (The Misery Chick)
AN: Should also clarify that this fic is both unrelated to and was developed separately from/without knowledge of wrabbit7's similar "Burned Out". Both works differ wildly from each other in regards to canon-compliance, presentation, overall narrative and depictions of the 'Burnout Girl' character beyond surface-level similarities, but I'm leaving this note here to help clear-up and avoid any potential confusion.
"Burnout" is an unofficial, unlicensed not-for-profit fan work. 'Burnout Chick' was created by Karen Disher and Willy Hartland, 'Daria' © 1997 was created by Glenn Eichler, Susie Lewis Lynn, and many more at MTV, based on the character created by Mike Judge and David Felton among others.