Now that the idea for a fanficition topic is in place, the next step in the creative process is to plan out the story. Some writers see better results if they write on the fly, paying no heed to details, and letting the story flow naturally out of their imagination in its purest sense, and working out the details and continuities during the editing process. Others need absolute order, meticulously laying out every detail and making sure their writing follows every step precisely. In this blog, before deciding on an outline, we need to first take the middle path of the two.
Restrictions Breed Creativity
Game designer of the iconic trading card game Magic: the Gathering, Mark Rosewater, states repeatedly on his awesome weekly column that restrictions breed creativity. People are more capable of creating things if they are given restrictions compared to being given full creative freedom. This is because the brain is actually limited by this unlimited selection. It often resorts to already known thinking patterns and pathways, which results in something that is unguided, yet at the same time, all too familiar. Give the brain restrictions, however, and it is challenged to find ways around those restrictions, “thinking outside of the box,” and going into unexplored territory in order to solve a single problem that often has a single desired solution.
In fandom, there’s no clearer example than fanfiction itself. Tell a writer to write an entire story from scratch, and it will be somewhat difficult to come up with something engaging or original. But tell him to write a similar story based on an existing set of restrictive parameters (based entirely on an existing story premise), they are more likely to have an easier time making a story that is all their own because they already have guidelines to work around, and that they have basis to take a very interesting and original approach based on something that, ironically, isn’t of their own creation.
Thus, with writing fanfiction, it’s an awesome tip to create restrictions to your writing. Prolific webcaster and starcraft strategist Day9 encourages a “hammering down stakes” approach to developing a strategy or playstyle in Starcraft. Writing is the same way. By laying down stakes, as in, setting absolute restrictions to follow, the author has the ability to follow strict guidelines to follow, while at the same time allowing a flexible approach on how to go from one point to another.
Let’s set down some stakes in my proposed fanfiction project!
The Stakes – Endless Eight Meets Madoka
Some of the stakes that I choose to lay down are for practical purposes, and others are for the purposes of stretching out my imagination, as well as testing my ability to write out scenarios according to what I plan. I can’t enjoy writing fanfiction if I’m not challenged by it, so here are the guidelines.
1. The fanfic has to be reasonably close to, but cannot exceed 7,000 words.
Arbitrary word count limit here, but for a good reason. I plan on re-tweaking this fanfic so that I can submit it for Anime North’s fanfic contest next year. Each year, I always promise myself that I would submit something for it, but as it turns out, I keep forgetting and/or missing the deadline, or alternatively, my works are too short or too long for submission. So why not do myself a favor and write something that fulfills the main restriction of a fanfiction contest? Excellent. This is the easiest restriction to plan around. First stake, hammered!
2. The fanfic can only feature one major character from Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Ouch, this one is a bit weird, but also has good reasoning behind it. Firstly, I’m more familiar with the mythology of the Haruhiverse than I am of the Madokaverse. Doing this will help me in such a way that I don’t have to do a lot of research on the other characters. The character who I choose to be featured in this fanfic needs to solidify the fact that this is a full-fledged cross-over, and not a “inject character A into series B and Hilarity Ensues!” fic. The impact that this inserted character has to have needs to be felt, so that it feels like an reasonably equal mix of both franchises.
For the sake of clarity, by major characters, I mean that I can only choose from Madoka, Homura, Sayaka, Kyoko, Mami, and Kyubey. Any other minor characters (human, witch, or whatnot) are still fair game. Challenge fucking accepted. Second Stake, Hammered!
3. The fanfic HAS to have the following lines:
“Kyon, your telephone is ringing.”
“These two are my brigade members. They’ll do whatever I say, so feel free to ask for anything.”
“Excuse me for a second…” “…Thank you.”
“Yuki, what’s with the mask?”
“You need to follow the spirit of catch and release.”
“We are experiencing an infinite recursion of time.”
“I love you”
Whoever said that restrictions are a bad thing? This one I chose for myself to balance out the supposed difficulty of the previous restriction of choosing only one Madoka character. This restriction is actually a natural fit with the original spirit of the fanfic that I wanted to write. I want it to feel like an episode of Endless Eight, but with a mahou-shojou twist. This restriction will ensure that the feeling of deja vu is fulfilled in the story. Third stake, Hammered!
4. Incorporate AJTheFourth’s mini-vignette into the fanfic.
Yesterday, AJ left a really nice scene in one of my comments:
“Imagine: They’re all sitting in Kyon’s room. Yuki is reading by herself in a corner. Mikuru and Kyon’s sister are passed out on the floor next to each other. Izumi mysteriously has to go to the bathroom for a longer time than usually necessary, and Haruhi is leaning over Kyon, browbeating him into doing his homework, berating him for being an idiot; however, also leaning in just a bit closer than usual to brush up against his arm or back while doing so. Accidentally, of course. ^ ^”
My fourth and final stake will involve incorporating this picture into my fanfic. Whether or not the image itself will be written as a full scene, or as a brief imagine spot from one of the characters is left up to me during the planning process. This, in my opinion, is probably the most restrictive element in my design, and assuming she allows me to use it, it will end up in the story in some way or form. Final stake, Hammered!
And there you have it, the four pillars through which the writing process will continue. Let’s see where we can go from here!