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What Is It About Time Travel Fics That Drives Authors Mad?

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by JordanL, Nov 27, 2010.

  1. JordanL

    JordanL Third Year

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    I've started to notice a pattern.

    Lots of timetravel fics start out with promise, and a select few get even better a few chapters in. But without fail, at about the... 25% marker... the fic jumps the shark, and the story just loses all... not interest, but... respect?

    I ask because I just finished chapter 10 of Time Braid, which I had up to this point steadfastly avoided, as I was so mistreated by so many other timetravel fics that I was wary.

    And about the end of chapter 10 in Time Braid... the story just jumps the shark.

    This is a question of particular importance to me, because I'm currently writing a harry potter time travel fic, and I am TERRIFIED of having this happen without noticing. In fact, I did something in chapter 4 that could qualify, although I don't see it that way because I know where I'm going with it...

    But still...

    Why do authors get 75,000-100,000 words into a time travel fic then just mail it in?
     
  2. Brown

    Brown Third Year

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    Having never written a time travel fic myself, I can only conjecture, but I would say it's because of a lack of planning. If you have a time travel fic, naturally you want to have time travel - but then you have to write what happens next. If you stick to canon events, it becomes boring very quickly, but if you completely change what happens it is very hard to keep the story coherent. Basically, the same problems as any fic, but time travel dials authorial consistency/planning issues up to 11.

    See Always and Always for an example of a good, complete time travel fic - because the author planned the whole story out in advance.
     
  3. Ayreon

    Ayreon Unspeakable DLP Supporter

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    I'd guess it happens if you don't have a pre-planned storyline that you follow. It's very easy with time-travel fics to write yourself into a corner.
    The author notices that the 'old' bad guys are suddenly no threat anymore, because of what happened in the first couple of chapters. Or all the original storylines got resolved early and a new challenge is suddenly needed for the hero.
     
  4. JordanL

    JordanL Third Year

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    Perhaps.... with CED I'd say it truly jumped the shark about the point where Naruto began having weddings with half of the kunoichi's during the exams just because he was that good.

    With Time Braid the aforementioned chapter 10 is where Sakura suddenly conjures up a demon version of her inner self and it enslaves Hinata... who decides to go along with it.

    Neither of these were truly "i don't have bad guys" moments... Sakura still couldn't deal with Orochimaru and hadn't met the looping Sasuke a second time yet. Naruto, likewise, still hadn't come up with any way to defeat Orochimaru or begin to get close to getting promoted...

    It's like the authors just decided "fuck it" and wrote a completely off the wall chapter that boxed them into something utterly ridiculous for the hell of it.
     
  5. Celestin

    Celestin The Cursed Child

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    I actually liked this sequence, but only because in a one chapter author described how everything slowly started to become better and better as Naruto was spending more time to practice making these things.

    For me the moment when I finished with this fic was when Naruto started bringing memories of girls to the next loop.

    But like others said, with time-travel fic you need to have a plan, because if you let your hero resolve every problem he had in the past in the first few chapters and you don't have any good challenge for his afterwards, that's the moment when fic will probably jump the shark.
     
  6. Fiat

    Fiat The Chosen One DLP Supporter

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    Unless that story is a crackfic of epic proportions...
     
  7. Spanks

    Spanks Chief Warlock

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    Most time travel fics fail for the same reasons; canon rehash, unneeded harem that dominates the story, no new ideas, etc.

    I wrote a Naruto time travel fic (Here) a while back. Even though I think it's a poor effort I still think I did a decent enough job trying to be original with it. Now, if only I could find it within me to rewrite it and continue :3

    Seriously, maybe we should layout some ground rules for time travel stories like Potter Law did for HP fanfics.
     
  8. Anarchy

    Anarchy Half-Blood Prince DLP Supporter

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    I found I have the exact opposite with my time travel fic. The first 25% were alright, but it really shines for the rest of the story. Trying to recoverer from the mediocre start is not always easy, especially when the start is what gets readers hooked into a story. I haven't run into any problems with planning, or running our of ideas, but that is probably because I have a whole 3 subject notebook filled with outlines, plot ideas, dialogue framework, etc.

    I am not going to post a link to it because it didn't get a great response in the WBA thread like a year ago, and a new chapter is going to be posted either today or tomorrow along with a few rewritten scenes for the other chapters.
     
  9. Rin

    Rin Oberstgruppenführer DLP Supporter

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    Best I can figure to make a good time-travel story is the following:

    1) Stick to what you KNOW is possible in canon and where you do have to infer, don't get cute with your interpretations - i.e., just because there might be room for interpretation, it doesn't mean that you can always drive a truck through that wiggle-room. For HP fiction, we now have the definitive set of what is possible, as well as a wealth of semi-canonical information from the Author, and the Lexicon for easy reference.

    2) Think about exactly how each change you make affects the rest of the time-line. Keep track of these effects and plan accordingly. For example, freeing Sirius in 1st year pretty much eliminates the entire third book. There's no need to force Harry's third year to consist of remotely similar events - but if you've planned carefully enough, you'll already know what will happen in 3rd year due to the confluence of the various changes Harry's made since the return point.

    The first item helps with the second because you know the limitations within which the characters are operating.

    And that's it.
     
  10. The Berkeley Hunt

    The Berkeley Hunt Headmaster

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    Just about Time Braid, yes the whole demon-Sakura thing is pretty fucking ridiculous, but it is difficult to find legitimate challenges for a looping protagonists. At least it didn't just continue ramping till you get a boring sue, as opposed to the pretty cool sue you have now.

    And demon-Sakura gets destroyed within a couple of chapters, in a fairly cool way. So while the author did make a mistake, it doesn't ruin the story.

    You guys are totally right though, a good time travel story needs to have both planning and imagination. Two things a whole lot of authors lack.
     
  11. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    Not really. There is no reason why events should play out the same if you're in them for the second time. So considering that the greatest aid is the knowledge of what will happen, if the author simply changes what actually does happen, you have a legit challenge, not more or not less than in any non-time-travel-story. I don't see why not more authors are doing this. Going back to do something better the second time around, only to realise things aren't working out the way you know them at all and you've essentially fucked yourself over and aren't any better off than you were in the first place would make a right decent plot-bunny.

    And yeah, that has nothing to do with time-trave-stories in particular. You just described 95% of all stories on FF.net.
     
  12. Tylendel

    Tylendel Seventh Year

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    Mostly what Sesc said!

    People who write Time Travel fic forget that by going to the past, events won’t unfold exactly like they did the first time. By his simple presence, the time traveler is changing everything and that is what I find interesting in Time Travel fic: how the past change and how the hero will react to those changes.


    To resume, you need to plan, at least, your chapter before writing it and think how Naruto being in the past actually change thing, because even the smallest act or omission can have a major impact on the time line.
     
  13. Ayreon

    Ayreon Unspeakable DLP Supporter

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    I have to admit, that I hate the opposite much more, when someone writes a time-travel fic where nothing special ever happens.

    The previous life is mostly relived, with a few fixes here and there - just touching up the bad spots of the previous life a bit. Maybe there's even 'fate' that steers everything back on its predestined path again.

    I just feel kind of cheated when someone's doing that. It's like that cliché on TV when an old character gets asked what he would change in his life if he had the chance to do it all over again, and he replies 'Nothing.' and maybe adds something like 'Ask my wife to marry me sooner.' Some people do exactly that in their stories.
    That's boring!
     
  14. JordanL

    JordanL Third Year

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    That's essentially what happened in Time and Again by KyLewin... but with that story in particular I have a beef to pick.

    The entire story is despair. Even the first 100,000 words of the sequel are utter despair.

    I got 600,000 words into those two stories and found myself asking "Why am I doing this? It's good writing, but it's just worse thing after worse thing, and it's just putting me in a terrible mood. There's no entertainment here, it's just making me feel like the entire story is pointless."

    IMO, KyLewin is probably the best attempt so far at what you're suggesting... I just think she took it too far.
     
  15. Tehan

    Tehan Avatar of Khorne DLP Supporter

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    On the topic of Naruto time-travel fics, my favourite is easily Reload, where Naruto and Sasuke, about three quarters of the way to batshit insane from a long time spent in a loop, kick back and take a holiday. No super-serious plots, no big exposition, just two almost-crazy demigods fucking around.

    That's how you do a time-loop story well - face the fact that you'll never be able to put a realistic challenge in their way without being ridiculous, and just run with it. If you want to write a serious Groundhog Day story, take a page from the original and make it character-driven, not plot-driven, because it's the only way it'll work.
     
  16. Celestin

    Celestin The Cursed Child

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    Well, my favorite time-loop story about Naruto (I don't remember title) is the one where he already did it million times, but because Fox doesn't want to die, after his demise he always starts from the day he become a genin.

    It was interesting, because in this fic Naruto admitted that there were times when he did everything in his power to make things better for everybody. Or times when he just went crazy and killed everyone over and over again. But by the time we have a chance to see him, he just accepted that he will not die and is just trying to enjoy his every new life with differences that it will have from the countless before it.
     
  17. JordanL

    JordanL Third Year

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    That would be All Is Relative Except the Stubbornness of a Demon by Uncle Stojil

    Easily my favortie time-travel story as well, although he hasn't updated in forever. I sent him a message about adopting the story a few months ago and he insisted that he was working on it still.
     
  18. Garden

    Garden Supreme Mugwump

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    "Reload", "All is Except the Stubbornness of a Demon", and "Time and Again" are all awesome, and they all do their concepts in widely diverging ways.
    "Catharsis" is also awesome, though its HP.
     
  19. kalespr

    kalespr Fourth Year

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    Another problem plaguing time-travel stories, is often author's just can't seem to decide how time travel works in their world and consistently adhere to those rules.

    Time travel is complicated stuff, and there are many theories on the concept, and this is right where many author's fail. They might go too far into detail and lose any reader that isn't a physics-geek. They might explain too little, leaving the reader confused as to what exactly is happening (or supposed to be happening). They might mix and match theories of time travel so haphazardly that frankly nothing makes sense to anybody, much less the author themselves. However, I suppose this is really just another aspect of "proper planning" that a time travel story needs to be successful.
     
  20. Celestin

    Celestin The Cursed Child

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    I've just remembered one thing that I really dislike in time-travel fics - when character from future is trying to make sure that others will fall in love in the same people that they did in his past and so that they do it even faster. You know - like Harry making sure that Ron is the one who asks Hermione to Yule Ball or that Remus have a chance to meet Tonks much earlier.

    I prefer when the traveler realizes that you can't make people be like they were in his first future and it's up the them if they will hook up like they did the last time.
     
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