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Pairings and Conflict
A question for fanfic writers: If you write the same pairing over and over, do you find that no matter what the actual story is, the essential conflict between them is the same?

I've been trying to work out the themes and controlling idea for a longer story I'm starting on and when boiling down my ideas to that essence, I find that the problem between the characters is the same problem between them in almost every other story I've written about them. (I did think of one where it was different and, frankly, something always seemed off about the characterization in that story.)

Is this an issue for you when you write? Is it an issue? Do you have one version of the pairing or several? Does it seem to make a difference if the canon spans a longer length of time? If the scope of events is greater or lesser?

I've progressed from trying to analyse all the fanfic I've ever written to see if I do this will all my pairings to analysing my long-term relationship to look see if it fits the pattern, so I think I'll just stop for now and wait to see what you have to say instead. :)

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Yeah, I tend to think that relationships don't really change that much, deep down, so it makes sense the core conflicts and themes would be consistent. I can see where writing AUs would give you a bit more scope, though!

That's... actually a very good question. I don't think I've given it much thought over the years and quite frankly, I'm sure I've done it a lot, I mean, if there HAS been an issue. I think the few times I have thought about it, it's more been along the lines of stopping a story early because I feel like I've done this or that plot line before.

Now you've made me want to sit down and analyse all the fics I've written o.0

Hee! Yeah, it's not like a repeated plot -- you can have lots of different plots around the same core relationship issues. I'm going to assume it's perfectly normal and not something I should worry about correcting. :)

I haven't thought about it either. My hard drive is full of stuff that I took off the Pit for being too crappy or am too scared to post to LJ. I should start going through it all ...

The ship I have written most of recently was MomoKai but now that canon has sunk it with the force of a torpedo, I don't intend to write it again :/ The other ship I write most often is Harry/Hermione in Harry Potter, whereby the conflict between them isn't always the same because it's also not canon so I need a new way to set them up each time, and I prefer my fics for that fandom to have a proper plot and let the romance take a back seat.

What happened in canon to sink the MomoKai? I've read the latest chapters, but I didn't see anything between them. Momo lost his match but he's done that before. Unless I missed a note that Kaidoh was gone because he was being forced into an arranged marriage. :D (And even then, there's always adultery!)

I try to set up the conflicts with a different gimmick each time but I do find that, for example, every MomoKai story has a similar essential conflict: their reluctance to admit they like each other (even as friends). I guess that stems from their character arc which is about them being socialized to be more cooperative to the point where they are a great doubles pair. (Even though they call themselves rivals, they don't have the classic rival dynamic most of the time.) When I write them in the future, it's different, though, since they're (I hope) past that stage.

I don't write, but I've noticed that all the pairings I've ever really loved boiled down to the fact that there has to be some huge external conflict between the pairs. They have to hate each other on sight / their families have to hate each other / they are mortal enemies.

This is even true when I read harlequin romances. I just like the ones where the secretary thinks the boss is an arrogant knob and wouldn't ever want to be in the same room as him.

Anyway, I think that if you love a pairing, then you have your own versions of why they think or act the way they do. Then you'd have a theory as to why they like the other character (or come to like). Sometimes it doesn't make sense to have multiple theories because it wouldn't fit in with WHAT YOU THINK THEIR CHARACTERS ARE. I also think this is why some authors just write one big magnum opus for each fandom they're in (it's their one big theory!) and are unable to write anything else. You have the problem of constantly churning out shorts. So same ideas, different settings.

Sometimes it doesn't make sense to have multiple theories because it wouldn't fit in with WHAT YOU THINK THEIR CHARACTERS ARE.

That's a good point! I expect I would find it easier to find different theories about a pairing that I don't really ship.

I love those vintage romances too! And you're supposed to just forget what a total asshole the boss was at the beginning of the book. :)

Yes? I mean, I can see it most clearly with Remus/Sirius, where there are two main conflicts, depending on what timeframe I was writing in, and even then it sort of boils down to the same conflict, just many different ways of dealing with it.

But even in non-pairing stories...I wouldn't want anyone to read all my SPN gen fic back to back, because they are all essentially the same story.

I'm glad you mentioned Remus/Sirius -- that seems like it would be the best test case for this theory.

I think we all probably have a couple of stories that we like to tell, early and often. :)

I find that the essential conflict changes, depending on which aspect of canon I decide to focus on. Canon can be interpreted fairly widely, even with canon pairings such as Jack and Ianto. YOu can decide one is in Twu Wuv and one isn't, which creates one essential conflict but if you decide they're both just in it for fun the essential conflict is necessarily different.

For me, it's all about the character's background and individual issues that change how they interact with their partner. So while their personalities remain mostly the same, the way they interact with each other and the basic conflict they have to resolve, changes.

I've never tried to write about a canon pairing like that -- I imagine it must be interesting to work with!

I think part of what makes it difficult for me is I'm working with a very limited scope -- a couple of months of time, where nothing too seriously bad happens to the charcters. So it doesn't take many stories to cover all the angles.

I think some pairings have an essential conflict, or some characters have an essential internal conflict. Other pairings or characters don't, for what I think are lots of reasons.

I like to try to work with characters where there are options for the conflict, and so I tend to look for options, or choose pairings where I feel there are options. Not everyone is interested in that (and I don't always look for options, either -- I don't always want to do it, you know?)

Yeah, you make a good point. Some characters really seem to fit together one way, even though there might be some variation. I think the options for conflict is a more interesting choice, but you can't always choose your ships. :)

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Yeah, that makes good sense to me! I wish I liked AUs more -- it would be a good way to deal with this issue.

I write the same story for a pairing over and over and over, basically. I try not to worry about it too much. I analyze the basic conflict from every angle that interests me, and when I am done I move on to another pairing, it is pretty simple.

I think you have a healthy attitude. :)

For relationships that I ship enough to write, I typically envision a main conception of them and, thus, end up writing the same conflict from different angles and contexts and persepctives and timelines. I don't really worry about it, I guess, because once I lose story ideas, it means that I've explored all there is to explore in my own writing for these characters.

That's a good way to look at it. Sometimes it works that way for me, but there are some pairings I just ship so hard I can't leave them alone, even if I've covered all the territory already.

That is probably pretty true for me. It is also further compounded by the fact that I really do have a quintessential story (as in that meme that went around a while back) that I write over and over again in different fandoms and I am drawn to character dynamics that work with it... but for each pairing, even those that don't really fall into that trope, I usually have fairly consistent interpretations and personal fanon, and that tends to shape the stories I write or roleplay or imagine.

I'm sure we all have our favourite stories to tell. :) And I guess those do require our favourite character dynamics as well.

Now you got me thinking... I don't put a whole lot of conflict in my own fics, but I suppose I can see how it'll be the same after lots of fics. But you write how you see them, and that's most important. ^_^ At least you enjoy what you do write when you write it.

I think it's that the core issue usually seems to be the same. Like with InuKai, for me, it usually comes down to them having trouble communicating clearly. With MomoKai, it's about admitting that they can actually like the other one. And that doesn't really seem to change, no matter what else I do with the story. I'm starting to think that's not a problem, though.

I find that in fandom in general, not just in my own work, that the essential conflict is the same. The stories I like best are the ones that can take that same concept and twist it into something new and different. I think that if you have any hope of keeping your characters true to canon in fanfic that there are certain premises that you have to begin with. If you write Momo/Kaidoh, for example, you have to start with the fact that they have an antagonistic relationship. Whether it stays that way depends on what kind of author you are and what kind of fic you write.

I personally like to change the characterization of characters I write often to avoid the sense of "this is the same story I've been writing all along". To keep with a Tenipuri theme: Inui could be written as very calculating and aware, or as very calculating and kind of naive. From my experience with your fic, you seem to prefer the latter choice for characterization but it's not difficult to argue for either version, just a matter of taste. Some authors are really capable of using that came characterization and devising stories that continue to be fresh and new.

This question actually reminds me of a post I found a few weeks ago asking about authors who "show their id" in their writing. It seems to me that a lot of people who write fic are probably unconsciously doing the same thing which may also account for repetitions on a theme.

I'm sure we really do show our id, especially in fanwriting, which is very blatantly about wish fulfillment, at least for me. And while we can take different angles at characterization, we can't go too far with it either. I think I like that limitation, though.

I guess it depends on the pairing.
Some definitely always stay the same, and that's the way you want them to be. As you said, when you change a bit your characterization, try to go for something else, it just doesn't look/sound like them anymore.
I don't think it's a problem to write lots of stories on a single pairing which works like that though. There is always so much to write on a pairing you like ^o^ Even if the essence is the same.

I do think the "length" of canon does influence it, though. Not the time the series has run, but the time that elapsed throughout the story. In some series, the characters and relationships do not evolve (or not much), through the entire series, whereas in some, it does.
For example, when I write Takami x Sakuraba (Eyeshield), Sakuraba has evolved SO much that depending on when you want your fic set up, it can be radically different. Even if it will always make way more sense to use Mount Fuji as a turning point, you can really do something else that would make sense.
I do think that in Prince of Tennis, not that many relationships have evolved throughout the series (well, we mainly see a few months of time-span which can explain a lot).

Length of canon is a huge factor, I think. As well as the tone of the canon. In tenipuri, bad things just don't happen. People get hurt, then they get better. People get sick, then they get better. Akutsu slightly beats some people up once or twice. So it's hard to push a story much beyond that, which lets out a lot of issues you could tackle.

I love how much Sakuraba has changed! Lots of scope there.

I find not only in fanfic but in orginal as well, author's become comfortable in certain routines and often cannot break from them. there may be nothing wrong with the "other" ideas that are coming to mind, but because they do not easily fit into the pattern your mind wants to follow when writing they seem as though they will not work out. They may or may not, but your writing mind is balking.

I have more to say but am pre-coffee right now.

That's a good point about routine. I will have to ponder it more! (And maybe drink some coffee.)