Silentcook's rants

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Silentcook
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Silentcook's rants

Post by Silentcook » Thu Oct 04, 2012 6:55 pm

Yeah, you just know the thread's gonna be great when you're a moderator of the damn place and you aren't sure where to fit it.

Not in the Fan Fiction section since it's not a fanfic, it's mostly about fanfics, thus too meta.
Not in any poor sod's thread backyard because no unfairly singling out.
Not in the "Tips" sticky because OPINIONS in definitely non-trace amounts, thus abuse of power, yay. Plus, God only knows where I'll be going with this in the future, if anywhere, other than "within the forum guidelines".
Not gonna dignify this with a blog post either.

Therefore, cheese it. Fan Works it is.



WHY WRITING A CROSSOVER IS generally A BAD IDEA.


Everyone and his brother seems hellbent on doing this. It seems to be some sort of rite of passage, or a gateway: doing something easy before graduating to harder stuff.

It's one of the worst writing concepts ever, and freaking hard to do decently to boot.

First: the definition of "crossover" I'm going to refer to for the purposes of this lovely piece.

"The placement of two or more otherwise separate characters, settings, or universes into the context of a single story; a piece of fiction that borrows elements from two or more universes."

So if you write something that includes Vin Diesel and General Patton, it's a crossover: separate timelines.
If you write something that includes Spongebob Squarepants and Queen Elizabeth II, it's a crossover: fictional and non-fictional.
If you write something that includes elements from giant robot anime and vampire horror, it's a crossover: different settings.

...Urgh. Just so we're clear, okay?

So here we go. We have our column A, our column B, we take our pick from the first and the second. Should be easy, right? I mean, we're borrowing stuff from two successful, or at least well-known universes. We got good stuff, ready made. Where could we go wrong?

Mistake one: the mismatching.

When you borrow something from someone else's creations, you're effectively taking along a whole slew of restrictions, characterization and/or precedents with it. You're taking it BECAUSE it's known for them. So, no way you can leave them by the roadside. If you do, you're only using a known name for its sake; anyone halfway knowledgeable is going to see you as a knockoff.
The chances of part A fitting seamlessly together with part B are, to put it mildly, slim. You're going to need a lot of hammering - square peg into round hole hammering, quite probably - to make things fit. The result is very likely to be an unpleasant mess, and unpleasant messes are not well-liked.

But wait! Why should we do that? We can invoke the comedic law of opposites - mismatching things are funny! So if we place, say, someone who's incredibly strong next to a weakling, it's going to be funny and OK!

Mistake two: the lack of originality.

I'm not even talking about the inherent lack of originality since you're not starting from original material (twice). That applies too, but it's not the point I'm driving at. My point is that since making a crossover mesh is HARD, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, who doesn't manage that... goes the comedic way.
Now, there's a wide and hungry market for "more of the same", but even so there's competition inside it. What odds do you figure you have if you pick the biggest sector to compete in?
I'll tell you: crappy. Unless you're good at what you do, you're not going to derive as much satisfaction from it - and if you were, you would not have much reason to not be original.

But wait, again! We have picked part A and part B from two well-known universes! Surely that means at least people who like either of THOSE will read our stuff, right?

Mistake three: (A) + (B) > (A + B)

When you write a crossover story, most of the reason why is "because this way I have two ready-made universes to draw from". I'm betting that you're not going to spend much time explaining or setting up things either.
I mean, for example... practically everyone knows who Dracula is, so if you put Dracula in your writing, you don't need to explain what a vampire is. Hell, you don't WANT to do that, since you'll make most readers skim forwards to the good stuff if you try.
The problems begin when you do this twice.
You see, when you write something that requires knowledge of TWO universes to enjoy, you're reducing your audience, not increasing it. People who know about either might get interested, sure, but if you confuse them by referring constantly to things unknown, you're betting that they will take the time to do research to understand your stuff fully - while if you do provide all details needed in-story, you'll bore both sides to a degree, because either side knows at least half of the stuff already. It's a Catch-22.
Net result: your crossover will, on average, only be enjoyed by people familiar with both of its sources. That's always less than the number of people familiar with either. Crossover harder for extra trouble.

...So tell me again, why did we do that?

"Because we enjoy trying?"

Damn you. ;_;

About the author:
Silentcook absolutely, positively doesn't write crossovers, especially not on these forums.
Shattering your dreams since '94.

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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by Snow_Storm » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:56 am

Going to throw in my two-cents here.

Now, I am not a writer by any means. Hell, I could never tell an attention grabbing story to save my own damn neck. The very last fanfiction I have ever wrote was back during my weeaboo stage during middle and high school. Now keep it mind the keyword "weeaboo" and that should give you an example of the writing quality I had with fanfiction.

With that said, I'm going to agree with bad ideas of crossovers and give my own example on why I think it is just bad:

A cheeseburger with ranch, hotsauce, bacon, and egg: pretty damn good by itself.

Sherbert ice cream with fruit: pretty damn good by itself.

THe cheeseburger with all the items mention above topped with the sherbert ice cream above: Pretty fucking nasty, a bad idea, and will ruin both food items for you for a good while.

That's how I see crossover fanfiction: On paper, it may seem like a good idea at the time but overall, once you see the quality of it and how nonsense it is, you are going to kick yourself in the ass in the long run. Plus, it is just going to be utterly confusing and for a niche reader base.

Now, do not get discourage. Some crossover fiction can be pulled off very well if effort and "logic" is applied. However, the chances of it being good and well is pretty damn rare. You're better off not even crossing over the two universes. Why I may think it would be fun to write a King of Fighters Vs. Katawa Shoujo fanfiction (because who wouldn't want to see Kyo Kusangi use his fire magic against Hanako and yell out to her "TIME FOR SOME PTSD!"?) , it will not work, at all. And if I did try to make it happen (again, which will not work out), I only going to gain a few readership, confuse everyone, and pad the story with explaining the KoF characters and trying to make a somewhat logical story with the two universe. I do not want to go to details on how Rin could possibly beat Geese Howard with no arms whatsoever or why Hanako didn't kick Kyo.

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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by Oddball » Fri Oct 05, 2012 11:22 am

Mind if I piggyback off of that?

If you ARE going to write crossover fanfic of anykind, you need to examine the identity of each fandom and why it works. Now, in the casse of KS, it's mainly slice of life romance, with a nice slice of drama and a sprinkling of comedy (varrying depending on what route you're taking) but primarily, it's a slice of life depicting normal people.

Part of the problem you're going to run into right off the bat is picking something that combines with it naturally. The KS cast... well... they don't really DO anything. They're normal teenagers with (more or less) normal teenager problems. If you Hanako delivering spinning roundhouse kicks in a world wide martial arts tournament consisting of the cast of Tekken, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Battle Raper, you lose part of what makes her Hanako and you've certainly strayed away from the setting theme and feel of KS (and why are you sticking the cast of Battle Raper in there anyway, you sicko?) Most things you can cross with KS are going to overpower the themes of the original work. Sadly, the cast of KS is going to fit in a lot better with Archie than they are with the Avengers. They're normal people. Just because they suddenly get magical artifacts doesn't mean they automatically want to go stop an alien invasion. They probably just want to continue their lives as normal.

One thing I do want to ask you, 'Cook, is what is your stance of the cameos in Hisao's class? Half of his classmates come from different fandoms originally. What if somebody where to continue things in that vein? We don't really know who's in the other classes. How would you feel in a writer used ... oh let's say Bruce Wayne, a moody rich foreigner who's arm is paralyzed because he got shot by a mugger as a kid (and most definitely is NOT dressing up as a bat and fighting crime?)
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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by Silentcook » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:59 pm

Oddball wrote:One thing I do want to ask you, 'Cook, is what is your stance of the cameos in Hisao's class? Half of his classmates come from different fandoms originally. What if somebody where to continue things in that vein? We don't really know who's in the other classes. How would you feel in a writer used ... oh let's say Bruce Wayne, a moody rich foreigner who's arm is paralyzed because he got shot by a mugger as a kid (and most definitely is NOT dressing up as a bat and fighting crime?)
Oh, you don't want to know exactly how "happy" I was and still am about that. To quote Moekki right before the time of its creation:
Moekki wrote:don't worry, we're going to use original character designs.
:|

Sure, ma'am.


Anyway, cameos are best left to companies who chug out multiple works one after the other - they do earn a sort of continuity that way, at least. If you played "Combat Chef III: Taco Rebellion" it's fairly likely that you'd get a kick out of noticing its protagonist in the background of "Combat Chef V: Pizza Massacre". And if you didn't, or you started out with the latter, no harm done to the hot tamales either way.

Also a cameo is... what, the most basic, cut-down and innocuous form of a crossover? Most of the point of a cameo is that it's not really acknowledged. It's "hey, that totally unimportant extra swinging by for two seconds in a non-speaking role is actually Mr. so-and-so". That doesn't really leave you much of anything to crossover WITH, as long as we're talking writing.

Concerning the rest, I think you're using some suspiciously specific denial there.
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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by Out-All Knight » Sat Oct 06, 2012 11:56 am

Crossovers exists for these purposes:

-What if x meets with y? What if x is in y's universe and vice versa.
Related to this is either the deconstruction, reconstruction (maybe even both) of both the characters and even their beliefs and universe. But the real reason is because its fu
For every great work, multitudes of very... bad works gets made.

Rule of cool, fun and funny apply.

May I also ask Mr.Cook if applying another universe's traits into a selected canon.
(Ex. Hisao with Kenshiro's powers and ideal but retaining his core personality) apply as a crossover?

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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by Sgt_Frog » Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:05 pm

Personally, I think writing ANY sort of crossover with KS is difficult. Part of what makes Katawa Shoujo so appealing is its realism. The characters are so likeable because there is no epic backstory or magic powers. No heroic quests or world-saving/destroying MacGuffins. Just 6 girls (and Hisao) trying to live life to the fullest, despite their disabilities.

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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by Catgirl Kleptocracy » Sun Oct 07, 2012 3:01 pm

Note: Sorry for the wall of text. Didn't think it would take a post this long to type that out :oops:

As a personal taste, I really dislike crossovers for a lot of the reasons already given. A lot of the time, people rely too heavily on the appeal of taking two very popular and well known fandoms, mashing them together, making a few offhand references and in-jokes for each fandom, and calling it a day. The truth is, a lot of the time it works. Doesn't always make a good story, but if the fandom you're crossing over with is popular, it'll often be enough to get your story some fans regardless of the actual content of your story. I usually look at a crossover story and think, "Alright, that's all well and good, but X reference had no actual content," or, "Why was X fandom even brought in when it didn't add anything to the story?"

That said, I'm going to play devil's advocate in this thread partly because, while I generally dislike crossovers, there are some points in their favor worth making, and partly because I see a lot of usernames in this thread that I read posts from in the FF forum and nine times out of ten say, "Yeah, I agree with what he/she said. I like the cut of that poster's jib," and want to see what y'all have to say about a worthwhile topic.

I think of the "mistakes" of crossover fanfiction not as mistakes, but "hurdles". If you're writing a crossover, you've got a lot running against you if you want to write a story that sells itself on its own merit (we'll get back to that point later, but that seems to be what's up for discussion in this topic, so I'll hit that first). The one brought up most is the issue of "mismatching"--how can you fit the two together when the content of each fandom is at odds with its partner?

Hammering a square peg into a round hole is about the best way to describe it, but I don't think it's impossible for two fandoms to be welded together simply because of those differences. It might not be everybody's taste, but you can still make a story that stands on its own merits out of it. It all depends on how much effort you're willing to put into justification. For example, Hanako delivering her balls-out-middle-fingers-up spinning roundhouse in the world martial art tournament. That's not the Hanako we know, but has it destroyed her character? Not necessarily, but you've got an assload of explaining to do. If she's going to be fighting with the Tekken and Co. people, she needs to know how to fight. It's not established in Katawa Kanon that she does, and evidence would seem to suggest otherwise. But there's also no evidence that concretely rules it out.

The general rule to justifications is that the more outlandish the event you're trying to sell, the earlier in the story and the harder you have to hit on the point. Hanako probably did a lot of physical therapy. Who is to say martial arts training couldn't have been a part of that. But, if the first time the readers hear that Hanako has a 4th degree black belt and has been training since her injury is when she throws the kick, they're going to close their browsers in disgust. Since it's a pretty major change from what readers are going to expect from her character, it needs to be addressed early, and it needs a good deal of focus before anybody is going to believe Hanako is a tournament fighter. It can't become her whole character--she still needs to be Hanako--but it can work, at least in the context of the story you're writing.

Giving Hanako the ability to throw the kick doesn't justify the whole scene enough that people are going to believe it, but we can tie hurdle number two--the originality issue--in to actually help us here instead of hurt the story. And no, before you smack me, I don't mean that it's original and has merit on its own just because it's the only story where Hanako throws 720 jump spin hook-kicks. If you're able to justify her ability to throw the kick, you still have to justify her reason to throw it. Hanako is a little timid. Kind of shy. Probably not the type of person to fight in a tournament like that. You can tie in her reason for throwing the kick along with the originality, as well as justifying the story as a crossover instead of just using OCs. Ultimately, something needs to kick her (no pun intended) out of her shy self and make her a fighter. Maybe it was in her all along, but she just needed a push. Maybe even she didn't need a push, but wanted to hide it because she knew that if she lashed out, she'd get more stares, and she'd be seen as more of a freak than she already imagines people see her as. However it's done, make it a main theme, if not THE major theme of the story.

Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with any of those fighting games you listed (except for Battle Raper, that game was the sh... wait, what? :oops: Forget you heard that). I am familiar with a similar "tournament style" game--Twisted Metal--so I'll use that for this hypothetical simply because I'm familiar with it (Yeah, this brings up the familiarity issue of "Mistake Number 3", but we'll get to that). In Twisted Metal, contestants fight in tournament style battles for the grand prize of having any one wish they desire granted (with often unintended results). Let's use that as the basis for the tournament, since this is a mega-crossover with a whole bunch of different "tournament style fighting" fandoms. I also like the Twisted Metal format because the prize is always directly related to what makes a character him or herself--their ultimate desires. This gives you an excuse to examine the core of what makes Hanako herself.

If you're doing a crossover that stands on its own merit, you need to bring something to the table that any of those fandoms don't have on their own. In this instance, we're taking characters from Katawa, and a slew of fighting games, and putting them in a fighting tournament where the prize is any one wish granted, as per Twisted Metal. So what wish from Hanako could be powerful enough for her to step out of her meek shell and put on the gloves? That's free game, and as long as you can make that wish strong enough, you can justify her fighting. Maybe her wish is that the fire she lost her parents in--and that took half of her body--never happened. That's a full reset button on the event that, in her mind, ruined her life and has driven everything she's become since. I could buy it, with a little sales talk. But wait, plot twist! She falls in love with Hisao, who can't fight for himself because of his heart condition. She's conflicted--does she go ahead and continue fighting for her own wish, or does she use her wish to cure his condition instead? There's a lot to explore there, and that's looking only at the Twisted Metal element that was introduced.

So what about the other contestants? Why bring them in from other games when the story above can be told only with the Twisted Metal cross and a few OCs for her to kick around? If another story is crossed into a crossover, it has to bring something along with it to the table. And it easily could. Those other characters have desires themselves. What are they fighting for? How does Hanako feel about their reasons for fighting. Better yet, develop another fighter from one of those other games, and make them a major character, too. Pick somebody who has a goal that's very similar to Hanako's. Are his/her reasons for pursuing that goal the same as Hanako's, or are they different? Compare/contrast. How does Hanako feel, knowing that this character is essentially the same as she is, and she has to crush everything he/she is fighting for? Even better, maybe there's also a character that has a wish that's at its base is the same as hers, but in some way perverted, or the person is a monster, or the wish--while pure in heart, and possibly selfless--is something that she believes is ultimately wrong. You can develop characters from both/many fandoms, show how their interactions with people outside of their home base reveal their views in ways the people from their own fandoms couldn't, and even in some way change that person. They can change Hanako, too. Make the square pegs the themes you fit in your round hole.

Hurdle Number Three is a little different from one and two in that it's harder to address at the same time (not impossible), while one and two can (and probably should) be jumped in conjunction with one another. The first question you have to ask is what audience you are writing to. Are you alright with writing specifically for audiences that know the fandoms involved, and alienating those who don't? Yes? Alright then. You're good to go. So you'll lose people outside of the loop on the way. If you know you are writing for a particular audience, and you don't care about grabbing people outside of that audience, then there is no harm in saying, "Screw it, you're on board or you're not, let's rock-and-roll!" People who know the fandoms will follow the story. People who don't won't, but they were never supposed to anyway. Fanfiction success.

If you want a wider audience, though, you will need to do some explaining. This is where Silentcook's problem of explanation comes in--your audience already knows at least half of the material, and you will lose everybody if most of your story is explaining the other half to each side. This is something you can minimize the effects of, but can't completely eliminate--one of the real problems of crossover writing. One solution could be to explain everything only as one character sees it. Back to the hypothetical, we'll use Hanako. Since this is a Katawa forum, we can assume that everybody is familiar with Katawa Shoujo, so we'll immediately empathize with her and understand the KS elements of the story. That leaves the elements of the other fandoms that are crossed into KS. Don't try to explain things objectively. That's where you'll lose people. Explain them as Hanako sees them. This is also how you can roll Mistake Number Three into One and Two. Hanako needs a reason to fight. Through that, you necessarily explain the Twisted Metal element as far as any reader of your story reasonably needs to know. Then explain the other elements as Hanako encounters them. Meets a fighter from Tekken? She doesn't need to know his backstory--and probably shouldn't, if there's no reason why she would have met him before. You can keep the other fighter's personality, style, desires, and quirks intact, but reveal them to the audience as Hanako encounters them. That way, you're not info-dumping to the reader. Instead, you're having the reader digest the information along with Hanako, and allowing the reader to see how Hanako interprets it. You can tie all of that directly back to your themes, and then you have originality to boot.

There are the three hurdles mentioned if you're trying to write a story that stands on its own merit. I do have a few separate points in defense of crossovers though.

First, this is all assuming that the story has to stand on its own merit. This is largely going to depend on your view of what fanfiction should be, but I don't see anything wrong with a fanfiction story that doesn't stand on its own. Ultimately, fanfiction is something written for fun. A lot of people DO try to learn to be a better writer through it, but if your goal is to be a better writer, you should really be writing original fiction anyway, not fanfiction. That's not to say you shouldn't ALSO write fanfiction, or that you can't learn through it, but there is less you can really work on with fanfiction than there is original fiction, and if your goal is to learn to write, fanfiction is what you should write for fun on the side to strengthen things like writing style (grammar, sentence structure, word choice; the technical aspects of writing) and story consistency (keeping things coherent throughout a single, continuous work of fiction). The truth is, though, that most fanfiction is written simply for fun, and a lot of readers are reading for just that. What's the harm in providing a product that's in demand? It might not be a workable story on its own merits, but if you make a certain audience happy with it, you've achieved every goal you set out for. That would never stand for a work of original fiction, which by its nature requires a heightened standard of review. I'd argue it can stand for fanfiction.

All of that "you should be writing original fiction instead" stuff aside, there really are some things you can work on with fanfiction that you can't with original, and even more specifically, there are things you can work on with crossovers that you can't with straight fanfiction. Justification of the type described is one. It can be an awesome writing exercise to take two fandoms that people say could "never fit together and work", and then make it work. It'll be difficult, but if you can come up with strong enough justifications, it's possible. There is nothing so outlandish that it can't be done. It all depends on how much work you're willing to put in to justify it.

Ultimately, though, I don't think the problem with terrible crossovers is a problem with crossovers themselves. Are they hard to do well? Yes. But (TL;DR): If a person isn't willing to put the effort into writing a "good" crossover, they probably aren't willing to put the effort into writing a "good" story period.

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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by themocaw » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:18 am

Crossovers are fun, but they're basically the fanfic equivalent of "my dad can beat up your dad blah blah blah."

Serious crossover fanfic doesn't usually do it for me. Silly crossover fanfic can be hilarious, though.

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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by Megumeru » Thu Oct 11, 2012 9:29 pm

I don't normally write crossovers, but when I do...

I'm making it a comedy.


I don't know, at one point I agree at what you say Silentcook, at the next I'm a little bit iffy on the idea. Not a fan of crossover myself, but it's fun when it goes all comedy with hell's breaking loose here and there due to conflicts in characters/universe.
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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by Xanatos » Mon Oct 15, 2012 4:30 pm

Megumeru wrote:I don't normally write crossovers, but when I do...

I'm making it a comedy.


I don't know, at one point I agree at what you say Silentcook, at the next I'm a little bit iffy on the idea. Not a fan of crossover myself, but it's fun when it goes all comedy with hell's breaking loose here and there due to conflicts in characters/universe.
it's like mixing a box of chocolate: you still don't know what you're going to get.
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Forrest Gump/KS crossover. Make it happen, internet. :mrgreen:

And I...Pretty much agree with the rant. Crossovers hurt my insidey parts...
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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by OtakuNinja » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:07 pm

I think a KS/Higurashi crossover would be really enjoyable, but that's the only crossover I approve of. :)

EDIT: I almost forgot about the KS/K-ON/Haruhi crossover. That would be awesome, since the characters are already in Yamaku. :lol:
Last edited by OtakuNinja on Tue Oct 16, 2012 4:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by Enceladeans » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:09 pm

Xanatos wrote:Forrest Gump/KS crossover. Make it happen, internet. :mrgreen:
Emi/Lieutenant Dan OTP

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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by DuaneMoody » Tue Oct 16, 2012 4:31 pm

Silentcook wrote:If you write something that includes elements from giant robot anime and vampire horror, it's a crossover: different settings.
youdonefuckedupnow.jpg

No, you just described genre mashups (for want of a better term).

Crossover fanfiction starts out with the premise "Dramatically interesting but unrelated characters A and B would have awesome exciting sugoi chemistry if only they met." The focus is entirely character chemistry and the challenges are as you enumerated them, more or less.

Genre mashup juxtaposes entire worlds, their dramatic rules and archetypes rather than franchise characters. At the highbrow end of the spectrum, you've got the subtle Western/police procedural (set in antebellum burgeoning Manhattan, of all places) "Copper," the drama "Once Upon a Time" somewhere in the middle, and at the far end, "Wreck-it Ralph." All focus on individual drama for the A plot, but their hooks are conflict on a metatextual scale without the benefit of popular characters to sell it. You know, not fanfiction.

Believe me, our job making — and selling people on — American Jurassic would be a lot easier if we had someone else's set of characters to play with.

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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by Silentcook » Wed Oct 17, 2012 6:36 am

Silentcook wrote:First: the definition of "crossover" I'm going to refer to for the purposes of this lovely piece.

"The placement of two or more otherwise separate characters, settings, or universes into the context of a single story; a piece of fiction that borrows elements from two or more universes."
I done put up a reference and it didn't do me any good. :(

I know the definition I used is quite a bit wider than usual, but that was the point. No specific settings were named in the third example because finding ones that are clearly recognizable by their internal rules once you rip away most everything else isn't quite as instant. I suppose I should have used (eyuuggghhh) "Robotech and the Nasuverse" instead, my bad for being lazy.

...You owe me the drink of water I needed to get the bad taste out of my mouth after typing this, though.
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Re: Silentcook's rants

Post by Doomish » Thu Oct 18, 2012 7:48 am

I think you are mixing up "this is not a good idea" with "I do not think this is a good idea" too much. Anyone can make anything work with the right talent. It's completely subjective what is and isn't a bad concept for a story; the only way to know if it won't work out is to write it.

edit: Rethought my post a little.

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