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fun-fact! an AU hypothetical - the turnip patch
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fun-fact! an AU hypothetical
Say I had an AU.  And say the boys had an ally, and say I named this ally something like Dekim Barton or Quinze.  Would you automatically assume/guess that this ally was secretly a bad guy ready to betray their confidence?  Does it make it less fun, being able to see the 'obvious'?  Or would it make it less fun if it turned out that he really was a staunch ally, and that you'd just wasted all that fic-energy in trying to read signs that weren't there?

If, for instance, I had a character named Treize, and a character named Mariemaia, and they did not appear to be related, but their ages were right, and Treize was in reasonable proximity to Mariemaia's family, would you spend all this time thinking/wondering if Treize was actually Mariemaia's father?  Would it be better if I just said outright in the notes, nope, no relation, so you didn't have to think about it, or would it just be cheating to use these two characters in unrelated roles?

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call_me_ishmael From: call_me_ishmael Date: June 5th, 2011 06:44 am (UTC) (Link)


I love the ambiguity of it, the possibilities that come up when a known name is used in an AU. I like seeing what a character might-have-been. An enemy turning into an ally in an AU is a way to explore their character and is awesome, not annoying. I think using canon bias against a reader is brilliant. Sure, you could use some character you created and it's awesome, but the nice thing about canon characters is there's instant implied history. Seeing what is and isn't the same, what changed because of circumstances is fascinating.

Even somebody that doesn't have much screentime, like Meiran, can give a lot of awesome possibilities without being forced. A female OC as a Gundam pilot wouldn't go over nearly as well as Meiran in a Gundam because of that history.

I usually prefer not having quite everything spelled out, letting me draw my own conclusions from the situation. Finding out my theory is untrue may turn out disappointing.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: June 5th, 2011 07:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: rambling

Hm, good points.  I was thinking specifically in my own rambly ponderings, which is other-world other-time AU, to which there is hardly any relevance to the GW characters as we know them, but then, perhaps that is the problem right there.  My boys are always my boys, sure, but then if I need BadGuy#1 and BadGuy#2, should I feel contractually obligated to plug in the names of various Ozzies?  Unless they're total throwaways, I usually do feel like I shouldn't be inventing characters when existing characters will do nicely.  At what point does the gw-history of the character enhance the AU-story, and at what point does it just become desperate plugging-in just because I can?  Or perhaps if I'm lucky, the desperately-plugged-in character will come to inhabit the AU-character and his history will actually become relevant...

I do quite agree with the lovely potentials that can be explored with AU digressions, especially since I'm so obsessed with Heero, who has potentials bleeding out of his ears.  But then I get to this point in my schemes where it might be like, hey it's a war between the nobles and the commoners, but GW has a distressing lack of people that might qualify as commoners. -_-' Sure, I could stick Treize with the role, for instance, just because he's ambitious and charismatic, but he's totally not a commoner.  At that point, isn't it just authorial convenience?  Or is it actually an interesting exploration of the Treize character, seeing that even without the blue blood, he's still ambitious and charismatic?  Or is that just a rationalization?

...Or is this really just residual fic-guilt because in actuality, Duo would be totally perfect for this role, but it would kind of call for him getting screwed in the end, and he and Heero couldn't be together, and I can't unbend my shippiness for long enough to do what's right for the story? ^^'

(for the record, this is fusion-fic, and has nothing to do with the AU novella i've said is next on my list of things to write. i'm still in the exploratory-committee phase on this one...)
call_me_ishmael From: call_me_ishmael Date: June 5th, 2011 02:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Rambling 2: The TL;DR

Hrm. I think it's a bit of a waste to have a history/preconceived notions and not use it, be it for or against the reader. I think, when I see a Big Bad OC in a fic, I want to know why it's an OC and not a convenient baddy from canon, what makes them different.

All the pilots have a lot of potential. I'm often frustrated by the fandom as a whole because the pilots are all so multifaceted and few explore it.

For things like making Treize a commoner, the way to make it work is to think about the realistic implications of being a commoner. How much of Treize's Treizness is his inherent personality, and how much was molded by his surroundings? (It's a bit of a nature vs nurture debate.) To make it work, it needs to show how that one change alters a character. Sure he can still be ambitious and charismatic, but it'll be applied different, or won't be exactly the same style.

I think it's easiest to illustrate this with genderswap. If you make a male character exactly the same except wearing a skirt, it doesn't pull it off. It's not taking into account the changes somebody's gender plays on their life, how people are treated differently because of their gender/sex. Relena, Treize, Heero, Duo would all be changed as a different gender, but the core personality would still be there. It's finding a balance of what the reader expects when seeing that name vs necessary changes in the character.

I have full confidence that if you did select Duo for the role, you'd find a way to make it work. You have excellent plots.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: June 6th, 2011 12:59 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Rambling 2: The TL;DR

Yeah, I guess all of the pilots have potential bleeding out their ears.  I just think Heero gets shafted by the fandom more often than not.  Well, okay, and so does Wufei.  And... well, okay, maybe everyone pales in comparison to the light that is Duo. -_-' Hell, even Duo gets shafted by the people trying to support him sometimes.  I retract my earlier statement.

Taking the example of genderswap.  Yes, I do find it interesting to see how the character changes if he/she is a different gender, but I would take a moment to stop and ask, why did the author choose to do that?  If the author is taking the genderswap seriously, writing scenes that illustrate the differences nicely, exploring it as a true thought exercise, then yay.  If the author has a note at the top of the fic that says, 'hehe i just made so-and-so a girl because i felt like it and it was just so cute! *giggle*', then boo.  Boo x100, I say.

But I suppose I should stop worrying about the ways that people have used the AU label as an excuse to write about an OC with a GW name. ^^' I think that's probably what was at the root of me asking the question to begin with, a worry that I would do the very thing that annoys me in others.  But now that discussion has helped me identify the source of my neurosis, perhaps I can let most of it go now. =) Knowing what it is I fear can help me to avoid it.

Stupidly enough, I just reviewed the source material of my idea, and realized/remembered that the potential-Treize-character actually works his way into the nobility in the end, so... problem solved? =p And now that you mention it, I think this actually is something of an interesting thought exercise, and actually works out quite well, that Treize is quite Treize-y, and being a commoner in a place with a strict class bias would easily fuel his resentment of the nobility, knowing that he's just as good as they are, but cannot rise to his potential, so when that one event happens to set fire to his tinder, it's no wonder he would form the plots that he did, no matter his childhood friendship and allegiance to our Heero... Yesss.... *steeples fingers* This pleases me.

...Ha, Treize even has a canon brother I can dispose of, thanks to Frozen Teardrop. ^o^ I was looking for one.  Glad that silly thing can serve some purpose.

Your services are appreciated, citizen!
jak_frostty From: jak_frostty Date: June 5th, 2011 07:19 am (UTC) (Link)
I mean this in the most non-ambivalent way possible but, it doesn't matter.

Let me explain (and I've been meta-ing the entire day so please pardon the 'lecture' tone):

I think one is better than the other, just different. It depends on what you are trying to say, what themes your focusing on (if any). If this Dekim Barton is a true ally, what a wonderful fourth wall breakage to show just how much we as readers shouldn't judge a book by its cover or a character by his name. Say he really is a bad guy, maybe that plays on a theme of predestination, or sometimes a person is just born evil. Both of those would benefit from a direct telling. But maybe the ambiguity is the point. 'Damn, no matter how good at reading people I get, I still can't predict what this guy will do.'

Personally I'd like to know but I wouldn't be driven to distraction if I never found out.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: June 5th, 2011 07:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh, I don't start discussions like this without expecting meta treatises of some sort. =)

I think what I'm picking up here is that I really just need to put more thought into this.  At this point, I'm just exploring the possibilities in a certain fusion idea, where I have great plug-ins filling about half the staff, and then I'm drawing blanks on a few key characters.  My original post is really motivated by the idea of, does it simply 'not work' if I have to start plugging 'canon-inappropriate' characters in to those roles?  Should/could I just use OCs?

But maybe your comment opens up a third question here.  Should/could I take this supposedly inappropriate character, and run through all the logic, all the timelines, create all the necessary AU backstory, and say, nope, you only thought he was canon-inappropriate!  See, here's why he's totally appropriate for this role!

I suppose I'm really just being insecure about my motivations here, or how I arrive at my decisions, but maybe the real point is just, as long as I can bury my choices under enough BS to make you believe, does it really matter? ^o^

Though with this particular idea, I also wonder if there are just some inalienable things you cannot/shouldnot change about a character without extreme justification? (i.e. it really is a theme i am focusing on.) Like, you don't just take Duo and say he's had short hair ever since he was a kid.  Can you take Treize and say he's not a nobleman, and that he resents the nobility?

(i actually don't think i really need treize in that role, so i suppose i don't care either way... but it did get me thinking.)
jak_frostty From: jak_frostty Date: June 6th, 2011 12:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Fusions in my opinion, are a whole 'nother kettle of fish. I don't think an author needs much more than a 'Oooo! He'd be so cool in this role" to justify a fusion, because they are so very close to AUs and we can't know what change could butterfly effect said character into said role. That being said I do prefer a little extra thought going it to finding a way for a canon character to fit, though as long as the OC is fully fleshed out and has (for lack of a better term) a life outside of the fusion, I realize sometimes it just can't be helped.

Don't tell anyone this but I've read a Star Trek/Twilight fusion that I thought was very well done. Except the author didn't quite have characters that fit all of the roles that were needed. So she improvised. (Details if you know the series: McCoy filled the roles of both Alice and Jasper, with a bit of Carlisle's doctoring on the side.) It worked amazingly because it was a fusion and not a retelling.

Peacewish on FF.net also does some amazing fusions (when did this become a rec post? O.o'), not all roles are filled and not all characters are used.

In the case of a role that is absolutely necessary, I'm going to use your Treize example: I'm of the belief that anything can be modified as long as the spirit of the character remains (and for the most part physical appearance (feel free to ask if you want any examples of exceptions)). As the author it is up to you to decide what you feel is the 'spirit'. I have no problem with a common-born Treize. Maybe in this fusion he only needs a noble personality. To go with a D&D reference he'd be considered Lawful instead of Chaotic (keep in mind either can be good/neutral/evil). Or he could be noble born and noble of heart but hates nobility because it is illustrated by ignoble oafs birthed into the same class. So it isn't really nobility he hates but the nobility that he can't stand (and really it's possible to get that point across without having to blatantly state the grammatical difference). It's all about playing with layers of meaning.

And to be completely absurd (and hopefully you do get the references), suppose there is a Star Trek/GW fusion with Duo playing a ferengi. They are bald. So maybe he gets emotionally attached to an unfortunately long scarf. It can hinder him in much the same way, it is quite cosmetic in usefulness. That may be a bit of a stretch but with a little creative thinking, nearly anything can be explained. You don't even have to get that close to canon either. As I mentioned before, you don't know in a AU (or fusion) what can spiral out of one minor detail changed. Maybe Odin picked one hit over another and in doing so ended up strangling someone with their own hair. Sister Helen sees this in the morning paper one day and then years later refuses to budge when Duo tries to keep his long hair. Duo then, with respect to Sister Helen's memory keeps it cropped short for the rest of his life. That isn't necessarily a theme but you can definitely play around a bit with the audience in a "Who the hell is this guy" kinda way.

The point of all of this being, this is your story. You shouldn't apologize for any of your choices as long as you worked for them and didn't just throw a dart at a board (unless of course you are so good that you hit your mark 99.5% of the time). Sometimes the character is minor, or they are really only needed as a plot device (though be careful of too many of these) and it really isn't important enough for all of this effort. Maybe you're ocd like me and every character, no matter how small, has to make sense and the only way for that to happen is to figure out what they want (that, by the way, is why I really don't have much in the way of finished work). Only you can really be able to decide this. And if your readers don't like a particular aspect, tough. I'll read and comment on their version when they post it themselves.

PS I'm totally in favor of the pragmatic BS solution as long as it doesn't kick continuity to the curb (though it might possibly break my heart to find out about it depending on the situation, so no reading any of your AN's in the future for me! XP).
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: June 6th, 2011 03:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I figured fusions sort of changed the rules, so I made sure to mention it (eventually).  But as I would not be surprised in the slightest to find that not a single person in my audience was familiar with my source, I might as well treat it as an AU where I just lifted the plot from something else.

I think I'm sort of in a good place with my source material, where I love it to itsy bitsy little pieces, except it's been so long that I only remember the major details, so I have some freedom to jigger things around a bit without accidentally retelling the original story in its entirety.  And recent discussion has helped to dislodge me from slavish devotion to the original even more. =) I need a 'Treize', and I need him to do certain things, but there's no reason his motivations have to be exactly the same as the source guy's, or that his background or personality have to be, either, as long as his motivations align with his personality and his actions.  I mean, I've written fusion before, and taken only the lore to create my own series.  Why should this be fouling me up?

Taking Treize away from the role I originally slotted for him left me lacking one of two brothers for Heero, but as you say, it seems I can just give him the one remaining brother, Zechs, and have Noin as his trusted lieutenant, for instance, who is practically a part of the family.  Which actually works out better in many ways.  Well, not for poor Noin. ^^' Then I needed this one fellow to fill this one role, which I thought was important because he was the guy who handed Heero the so-and-so, but now that I think about it, there's nothing really stopping Heero from finding it in a closet somewhere, with a convenient user's manual filled with lore sitting underneath it.  Really, I shouldn't fuss so much.

But it's sort of like, hmmmm, this entire organization seems to be filled with Ozzies... somehow, I don't think they're as benevolent as they claim to be. ^^' But I suppose I don't really care.  At least you won't immediately know how they're not so innocent.

Duo as a Ferengi is cracking me up.  But then I realize that Quatre would be like king of the Ferengi empire with his business acumen, and that's even more funny. ^o^ Oh great, now I'm picturing Wufei as a Klingon, and Heero as a Vulcan... (stereotyping much? -_-) But then you get into some situation where some crazy person comes along and decides that they'll write Duo as a Vulcan, which is like, why would you even do that?  That would drive me up a wall.  I generally think it's not slick at all when I can see the author's will in a story, stirring the pot and/or making things happen.

I'd say I'm pretty OCD about my characters... I originally intended my novella Touch the World to be utterly frivolous, with characters caricatured and lacking any depth, but unfortunately, I couldn't manage to keep the shallow for very long! ^^'

Heh, my honors English teacher back in high school used to say that the mark of a true honors student was the ability to BS. ^o^
jak_frostty From: jak_frostty Date: June 6th, 2011 12:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Damn....have I got opinions tonight....

turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: June 6th, 2011 03:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Opinions solicited, invited, and welcome!
kyaerie From: kyaerie Date: June 7th, 2011 08:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
The thing about such a situation, is that its shorthand. In the same way that a missing can be skipped over and you still know what I mean to say. So, when it turns out that the shorthand is wrong, it can be confusing. Generally, I find this sort of thing bad-confusing, but I'm sure if well-done a la Kaiser Soze, it could be brilliant. (talk about a non-answer!)
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: June 7th, 2011 08:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I'm sort of thinking of it as, if it's something that would happen in non-fic, then it's fine, but if it's something peculiar only to fic, then you maybe ought to reconsider.  Like, in non-fic, where I don't have any preconceptions, I still have to figure a character out, still have to puzzle out their relationships and their motivations and whether they're there to help or hinder.  So I feel it's okay to use my preconceptions against me to open my eyes to this character, if that's what the author wants to do.

But in non-fic, I don't look at the cast of characters and just start automatically assuming that this person and that person are siblings.  I'll always do that in fic because that's the nature of fic, but I think the author should find a way to let me know that the universe has been tweaked, if not for me, than for him/her.  Surely the author would prefer that I enjoy the work for what it is, rather than spending the whole story puzzling over the fact that Relena and Zechs are lovers and not a single person is blinking twice over it. =p (unless, of course, the author is trying to make a point about incest being okay or something. O_o)
askerian From: askerian Date: June 15th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Coming late to the party, sorry. I hope you don't mind random comments. .___.; I started to ramble and then couldn't stop, so the comment is long, and perhaps also a bit pedantic. XD;;; Sorry.

Your Dekim example: What's the AU character personality? His goals? Are they good fits for Dekim's personality and goals? Just because he's background doesn't mean he can be made into a random "name and appearance" costume for an OC to further the plot, in that case use an OC instead. Does it just so happen that for your plot his goal and the heroes' goals mesh and thus he has no reason to be an antagonist? Then use Dekim, and it's even better if the way their goals mesh is surprising, since you're playing on the expectation that Dekim is this and that way (read: evil/power-hungry/warmongering/whatever he was I don't remember it's been so long), and yet circumstances STILL have these people on the same side in a reasonable, logical way. Perhaps he wants power because he feels people he trusted with it have misused it and he feels there's no choice but to take the reins firmly, perhaps something traumatic that happened to someone he loves changed his mind or he's trying to protect something that the heroes also want to protect. People aren't white and black, so even if the character acts like he did in canon -- haughty, snappish, controlling, what-have-you, so your readers would expect the same results -- he's motivated by "good" motives this time around and so, because the context is different, the resulting choices and actions he takes are also different. And that would not especially make for a nice plot twist, but it wouldn't feel cheap/random either. (I mean, if the readers doubt him just because of the name, even though the fic has zero hints toward him being a bad person, it's not a plot twist regardless, but if you as the author introduce a red herring by having him act in a way that seems shady and then later turn out good, it becomes one.)

If the character is going to hold different ideals, there needs to be a point of his personal history that happened differently. His personality could be nicer or meaner as well, for the same reasons. So you can change him a little, if it's mentioned eventually.

If he, as a specific person, is not going to have that much screentime/impact, then is it truly necessary for that character to be him and not Random OCguy? (this is the scenario with the most "whatever you feel like at the time". XD)

If he's got screentime, and he's visibly different just because it's more convenient for the plot, then it's the plot that needs to change. The characters should drive the plot, they shouldn't be twisted to do things they usually wouldn't whenever it's convenient instead. (but since I doubt you'd want to change the plot for Dekim-like background people then it might be better to switch him for an OC at this point. XD)

I really liked Duo's father in your last fic, because Duo saw him as this total asshole/deadbeat father, but his widow didn't see him like that at all. I think it's a bit of the same thing. Is it the same person? Then use the same name. But there's zero reason to shoehorn a canon character in a generic villain role. I'm sure the universe has more than three bad guys who might disagree with the heroes, there's no obligation to reuse them all the time. XD;
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: June 16th, 2011 07:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Random comments yay!

I've managed to work out most of the bad guys, plugging bad guys into bad guy roles and thus avoiding most of this discussion. ^^ I needed to populate several enemy factions, and I started running out of people, which is alarming, considering how many silly factions there are in GW.  But... ... ... hey wait, I forgot White Fang.  Hey, they do a much better job at that one faction than the Maguanacs do (i was getting desperate), plus I don't have to wonder whether or not it's in-character for Rashid to turn to the dark side.  Pity there aren't more named White Fang characters, but whatever, just because I have to make up some names doesn't mean that the characters are OC, per se... this guy's just the Libra BridgeBunny#2, right? ^o^ Excellent... Thank you for your contribution. ^o^

BUT back in that brief span of time when I slotted Rashid into the leader of that faction and did have to wonder whether or not he'd choose the dark side in the end... This is fusion fic, and yeah, it would have been out of character for him to do it for the same reason the source guy did it, so that was out of the question.  So either I was going to have to cook up a reason for him to do it, like for the sake of protecting his loved ones or something, or I was just going to have to snip that plot thread off with a little minor hand-waving, because absolutely, AU is no excuse for OOC.
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