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Planning & Writing -- with pairings or not?

Discussion in 'FanFic Discussion' started by Sesc, Mar 6, 2018.

  1. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    Tangent from the "Limpieza de Sangre"-library thread, on whether pairings should be part of planning a story, and more generally, what "planning a story" means.


    No, too black/white.

    For one, the genre separation doesn't work. Every story that doesn't not have romantic relationships of any kind is also a Romance story to a degree, and hence standards for "Romance" apply.

    Beyond that, however -- I mean, it depends on how you plan stories, and different people do it in different ways, we had threads about that. But for those on the "more planning" end of the scale -- how is "pairing" not an integral part of the "plan"? Having no fixed pairing in mind while still supposedly soundly "planning" a story is literally an oxymoron. If you know exactly what all your characters will do, but not whether they will hook up, that's like a black hole in the plan. I don't see how that would work, unless you are indeed more the go-with-the-flow-Stephen-King kind of writer -- and just don't have any detailed plan at all.

    And similarly, I'd argue that any element of a story can be a good starting point. You'll know that my stories are constructed (i.e. on the far end of the scale), and building them around pairings was as much motivation as anything. The question in that case is, "I want Harry and X together. Now how can I do that?"

    And I don't really see how that is different from going, "I want Harry to become proactive. Now how can I do that?" ... or any other idea that started a story ever.


    If your point is contrived shit stories, I agree they're bad, but not because the authors started with a pairing. Had they written any other kind of story, it'd still be bad -- simply because they aren't good writers, and can’t cloak their "I want to do this" idea into a framework from which it (for the reader) follows naturally.
     
  2. Miner

    Miner Professor

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    The way I see it, your argument and mine aren't particularly in conflict. I'm not saying you shouldn't plan out the hook-ups, or whatever, that occur between characters. I'm saying that if you go into a story saying "I want Harry and X" to be the pairing, then you're doing it wrong. Your story should never be about getting two specific people together (unless it's a romance solely dedicated to that goal as stated before). You can plan out the romance however you want. You can say that you want the main characters of your story to be in a committed relationship and that there are steps 1-6 of how that will happen through the first 25 chapters.

    I'm not saying that's wrong.

    What I'm saying is that if your intent to write a fic is based on a pairing, like, say, if my only reason for writing my Never Let Me Go story was because I wanted Kathy and Tommy to have a relationship during their Hailsham days, then that's not going to make a good fic.

    I'm not sure if my point's clear, but....

    The idea that a pairing drives a story rather than the actual story bothers me.
     
  3. TheLazyReader

    TheLazyReader Seventh Year

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    It's almost like that's your taste.
     
  4. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    Yeah, I got that. Hence the second part of my post.

    Look at it from the other end: Realistically, how will you, as a reader, know where the author started? Whether it was "I want Harry and X together" or "I want Harry to be proactive", when both are part of the story? You're arguing, if the author starts with the first, the story is bad, and with the second it's good, but I don't see the relation. As far as contrivances go, both are equally likely to lead to them. For the plan, it makes no difference, simply because both elements would have been in there anyway, regardless of the order.

    If your point is empirical, I'd argue that it's simply that more people write stories with a pairing in mind, so more of them are bad in absolute terms. But it's not something that corresponds to bad stories in particular, or not any more than a general "it has a pairing" will.
     
  5. Miner

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    Well the conversation started because I had direct knowledge of where the author starts his stories; and how he plans it. TE7 and I have talked about the concept of pairings before. I'm not wholly against pairings, I just find the idea of writing a story for the sake of a pairing wrong. The pairing should exist if it makes sense or compliments the story, not the other way around.

    As for a more generic "how will I know where the author started?", there's a very obvious quality to stories where two characters are forced together for absolutely no reason other than to satisfy the idea of a pairing. Like, back in the day I actually liked Letters a decent bit, but looking at it now I agree with TE7 in his assessment that it's probably his worst fic by a wide margin. Why? Because, somewhere in the midst of the story, the story began existing solely to satisfy the idea of Harry/Fleur, rather than telling any sort of actual story. And that's ignoring the fact that, as a character, Daphne was probably the person who Harry would have fallen for given the character actions and personalities.

    Of course, I'm not saying that every story is so cut and dry as to be lumped into one of these two categories. I'm only saying that if it's clear that the story exists because the author decided that he absolutely had to write this pairing, then it's probably not a very good story. (James Spookie's earlier Harry/Daphne fics pretty much are the epitome of what I'm talking about. Not really sure about his later fics because I stopped reading.)
     
  6. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign Prestige

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    Tbh, Letters had nowhere to go but a pairing, given that it's a rehash. Plot was never a problem with that fic because GoF already existed.
     
  7. why?

    why? DA Member

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    You could have a believable sequence of events that form a cohesive whole because the author wanted to put two people together.

    I could be mistaken, but was What You Leave Behind not in huge part motivated because Newcomb wanted to write a good Harry and Fleur romance?

    Having said that, I understand what you're referring to. For every story like the above, there's hundreds more where contrived events are the vehicle for the pairing/romance. And those are usually bad.

    But not only because the story is built around the pairing, but also because it does so at the expense of creating credible circumstances for said pairing. If you add other cool stuff to the mix, you have more than a story about just romance. Have them come together when working a criminal case, and you got yourself a drama/mystery.
     
  8. Sataniel

    Sataniel Seventh Year

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    I would say that there is a very pointed difference between around getting certain pairing and around changing certain characteristic of the protagonist. In the first case you start from (depending on how the fanfic flows) end result or something that happens in the middle (assuming you don't have characters falling in love on the first sight and immediately hooking up). And a lot is "how to achieve this result". Whereas when you are making Harry proactive (or whatever else), you are starting from the initial characteristic and thus build story more from "what will this character do". Of course in real writing, there is always a mix of both and both have their own pitfalls, but I still think the second approach is better.
     
  9. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    I was intending these to be similar, so assume a story where Harry starts from Canon and changes within the story -- a proper development arc. But it doesn't matter, ultimately --

    What you are missing is how planning works. If you do plan, not a single word is written before the plan stands, and that means that it's indeed arbitrary where you start. You can plan from the beginning ahead or from the ending backwards, or from somewhere in the middle in both directions, it doesn't matter -- you will (ideally) encounter all possible plot problems, and have them straightened out before you write. The result is always a "perfect" story -- limited solely by your talent as a writer, never by which element of it you started with.
     
  10. Sataniel

    Sataniel Seventh Year

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    Welp, I forgot about this discussion. You are right, I didn't think about it. I clearly read too many fics that are written as they go.
     
  11. basium1

    basium1 Second Year DLP Supporter

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    As someone who enjoys writing romance just to tear down people's expectations of what the pairing will be, you have to keep the audience you're looking for in mind.

    I always decide the ultimate relationships, who "they end up with" in the end before I start plotting

    If it's a happy ending, I'll add more drama to the start of when they actually do get together. When they're together for a while, they'll appreciate the peaceful times they have and will have funny stories to tell the kids. ;)

    If it is a bittersweet ending, it'll come off as fluffy at the start, like a honeymoon phase. As I had planned with a now-abandoned story, the POV couple had a dysfunctional relationship, they want to be together and are much too prideful to admit that they may just not be a good fit.

    As for my plotting, I make a notes doc the write down the divergence and what it affects in canon and then add some story arcs ideas to it.
     
  12. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    If I'm writing a "general" fic I don't plan the pairings. This is because characters almost always go in directions I hadn't originally planned. The feeling of whether two characters have chemistry often comes down to their dialogue, and you can't plan dialogue out phrase by phrase - that would just be writing it. Because of this, two characters who you might have planned to develop a close relationship can end up, in the event, feeling stilted, whereas another character feels like they're having much better interactions. In that situation you can either stick with your plan and force a stilted relationship, or else adapt.
     
  13. Sauce Bauss

    Sauce Bauss Headmaster DLP Supporter

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    As I mentioned in the favorite pairings thread, I view pairings as a mechanism by which to advance the larger themes. Stories that are going to have a focus on things like pureblood culture, wizarding history, and politics will tend to have Harry in a relationship with someone like Daphne or Pansy. Stories that tend to take place in Hogwarts will frequently have him paired with Hermione or Ginny. If the story has a lot of emphasis on the Order and the Ministry during the war, you'll see it be Tonks. The pairing and the plot can define one another, as they dictate the kind of person Harry will be and who he'll spend time with. You'll never see a Harry and Pansy story that wants to talk about all the things that muggles can offer the wizarding world, just as you'll never see a story about Harry adventuring in South America or Africa with Fem!Voldemort.

    Having said that, I think that a pairing is almost inextricable from the plot, at least if it's a well-executed one. A pairing can dictate the kind of person that Harry grows to be, or perhaps the person who Harry grows to be dictates the pairing. It's a bit of a chicken and the egg situation on that front, but as @Sesc said in the end if the story is preplanned then it all equalizes in the end.
     
  14. TheLazyReader

    TheLazyReader Seventh Year

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    I don't see how writing a story for a pairing is any different from writing one about, let's say, Harry being magically talented. In the end, you want to tell something, and why can't that something be the story of two people falling in love and getting together? Just because it happens that Harry and Fleur save the infinity stones along the way doesn't mean the story is not also about them.
     
  15. Miner

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    Well, let's take Harry/Fleur as an example.

    Assuming your story isn't completely and utterly AU (stuff like WYLB doesn't really count, since it's completely AU and ages and characters are completely different its almost like a new story within the HP universe), you're going to have to alter canon in a believable way in order to get them together. If this is during Harry’s Hogwarts years, then Fleur and Harry are gonna have to deal with a three-year age gap and a long-distance relationship across countries, not to mention the threat of Voldemort. If it's post-Hogwarts, then somehow Bill needs to have not existed as a partner for Fleur. And same with Ginny. And somehow Harry will decide to fall for the girl he hasn't really seen much of since his fourth year (we discount Sixth Year Hospital Wing and Shell Cottage here because if those scenes in Shell Cottage exist then Bill and Fleur are already engaged/married and at that point forcing a relationship just becomes way too difficult to do plausibly). This is opposed to all the girls that Harry interacts with on a regular basis at school.

    The odds that they get together are very slim.

    If we take a look at some of the more successful Harry/Fleur fics, we can see that they're either massively AU (like WYLB or Heartlands), or you're fundamentally forcing a change into canon (like Half-Blood Romantic and Fleur in Hogwarts) and fundamentally changing an emphasized characteristic of Fleur (her loyalty to Bill, as seen by her comments in the Hospital Wing at the end of book six) to make her even consider an affair.

    Setting out to write an AU because you want a pairing done right, as was what I believe Newcomb's goal was, is fine, laudable even.

    But it takes talent to get it right.

    And for the vast majority of fanfic writers, we're kind of not capable of that. So I try to shy away from saying, I'm writing this story because I want this pairing, focusing on the story instead.
     
  16. TheLazyReader

    TheLazyReader Seventh Year

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    Odds don't decide everything. In fiction, writing something believable is only limited by your skills as a writer.

    If it were equal to canon it wouldn't be fanfiction would it?

    It's okay if you want to shy away from challenges, but it's not alright if you say that's fundamentally wrong. People seem to think writing with a pairing in mind 'limits' the story; I say it doesn't. You're telling the story you want to tell, and it should contain the elements you want. There's no limitation there. And if you think that writing for that purpose makes for a bad story, that is entirely your opinion and taste.
     
  17. Miner

    Miner Professor

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    Fanfic is fanfic, but if a part of your story leans on canon, then the parts that are different should be explained as to why they're different.

    If we take LdS as an example, it mostly follows canon except that Emily is female. The fic then spends its entirety explaining why.
     
  18. TheLazyReader

    TheLazyReader Seventh Year

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    How is that a problem? If it stays unbelievable then it's a problem of the story, not the concept itself.
     
  19. Miner

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    And my argument is that the problem with the story stems from forcing yourself into writing a concept of mashing two people together before you've written a single word of the actual story.
     
  20. TheLazyReader

    TheLazyReader Seventh Year

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    And my argument is there is no force here. If I want to write HarryxFleur, I'll write HarryxFleur. If it'll be unbelievable it's my problem, not because it's impossible. If the story fails because they were together it means I failed to tell the story I wanted.
     
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