How To Write Crossovers · 3:04pm
Crossover: Stories that place two different fictional characters, settings, or universes in the same story.
Wanderer D! What is- what’s the meaning of this!?
‘This’: used to indicate a person, thing, idea, state, event, time, remark, etc., as present, near, just mentioned or pointed out, supposed to be understood, or by way of emphasis.
You know what I mean!
You failed my story! Look!
So I did. And be glad that I kept a moderate tone when I failed it because if I had actually put my thoughts about your story there it would have been much, much longer.
Sounds like OW’s story wasn’t that good?
What?! That’s impossible! My story is pure genius!
Is it the one where you rewrite Doctor Zhivago, but with ponies?
Well, sort of, only I added Ranma and Naruto to it because between them and Dr. Shivago they can take on Goku at full Super Saiyan level 4!
Oh my Celestia. OW!
No... that was an actual expression of pain! What the hay man? Dr. Zhivago, Ranma and Naruto vs Goku?! What have you been drinking!?
Nothing, it sprouted out of my internal genius... like... it was like–
Yes! I mean, no! Shut up, Clueless! No one likes you! No one needs to hear your drivel or smell your breath! Go away!
Hey, calm down OW, is that the way to treat your sister?
My sister?! Since when is Clueless my sister?
It would explain my suddenly higher voice. Among... other things.
Well, I don’t care! Even if we are siblings, I’m still the genius!
To answer your question I have arbitrarily decided CU is female now. And to reply to your asseveration, you’re still an idiot.
Well then, oh great Wanderer D, why, if the rules would have permitted it, would you have failed my story?
Because you have no idea how to write a crossover.
Yes I do! Writing crossovers is the easiest thing ever! You get fans from all series involved and you just write whatever you want. You know they’ll read it! People here will put just about any piece of manure!
Well, if manure is what you want to write, get it up to speed and it’ll be published by rule adherence even if good taste dictates it should be deleted.
However, if you really want to be a good author, you need help.
I see you’re wearing your Celestia-damned Pokeballs.
Eeeyup! And it’s that time again.
Yay! The time has come! The time for what?
To receive advice from those that know their craft, of course! You want to write crossovers? Well, heed their words! Let’s get this going! Eter– I mean, MythrilMoth! I choose you! What makes writing crossovers hard?
The trickiest, and most important, element of writing a crossover is plausibility. In short, before you even attempt to write a crossover, you have to ask yourself: "Does this work?" Or more to the point, "Can I make this work, and make it believable?"
A good writer can usually find a way to make a given crossover work, if he or she is determined enough. A good writer is also capable of determining when a crossover idea simply isn't going to work. As a general rule of thumb, if you can't think of anything to do with the concept beyond "Wouldn't it be cool if...", then you probably don't have a workable crossover idea.
Say you wanted to cross MLP:FiM with Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends. Okay, fine. There's a lot of potential there. But what would you DO with it? You could go for having the ponies turn up in the house as abandoned imaginary friends. You could do something silly like having Cheese pop up in Equestria and harass the ponies. You could even do some kind of big epic thing with it. But you need to be confident that you could write a complete story out of your basic concept, and you need to be confident that you can make your crossover believable to the reader. As with pretty much ALL types of FiM fic, avoid using cliche plot devices like "Discord did it" or "Twilight botched another spell"; originality is key in writing an enjoyable and memorable story.
Above all, DON'T BE AFRAID OF BIZARRE CROSSOVER IDEAS. If you want to write a Metal Gear Solid/MLP:FiM crossover, and you can make it work, by all means go for it! Write the wacky misadventures of Solid Sparkle as she utterly fails at stealth in her inexplicable spy catsuit. Love pirates? "Ponies of the Caribbean" could be awesome, if you handle it right. At the same time, recognize the pitfalls of an implausible crossover. Crossing MLP:FiM with Q*bert, for example, would just be stupid. So would Ponyball Z...that's one even an experienced crossover writer would be loathe to touch, as there are red flags and screaming alarm sirens all OVER that idea.
"It's this, but with ponies" isn't a workable crossover idea in and of itself, incidentally. You have to be careful of this trap; if you're writing something that's this, be sure it deviates from whatever you're plugging ponies into substantially or it isn't worth reading. The aforementioned "Solid Sparkle" idea is workable because it'd be pretty much impossible to play that as straight "pony plug-in". On the other hand, say you wanted to do "Ben finds the Ponytrix and can turn into different ponies"...that's less likely to work because it doesn't substantially alter the core premise of Ben 10. It isn't impossible, but it's more susceptible to the "It's this, but with ponies" pitfall.
And if you DO attempt an "It's this, but with ponies" style story, you have to be careful about how much of the original story you crib or copy-paste wholesale. Depending on the source you're working with, some degree of this may be unavoidable, but generally speaking, you want to break from the source material wherever possible, and use as little source dialogue as necessary. It's a tricky balance, but an experienced writer can generally figure out where to draw the line.
One last bit of advice: DON'T attempt to write any formulation of "Pony 1/2". It will not end well for you.
So are you saying that my story is bad because it’s Dr. Zhivago with ponies?
OW, while I commend your foolhardiness in even attempting such a story, there’s more to it than that. For instance, Dr. Zhivago never met Ranma or Naruto.
Well, he should have! He would have lived longer if he had!
OW has a point.
No, he doesn’t. You cannot simply expect-
One of my Pokeballs is shaking! This author really wants to contribute!
Send it away! I’ve had enough advice to last me a lifetime!
Wanderer! What are you going to do?
Well, let’s see what she has to say! Loyal2Luna! I choose you!
*A small, lemon-yellow unicorn mare with a bushy brown mane and glasses escapes from the pokeball and immediately face plants, her cutie mark: a scrivener icon prominently displayed as her rump remains in the air a moment before she recovers and pulls herself up to her hooves*
“Ugghhhh, wow it’s cramped inside those things. Does Nintendo know you have those Wanderer?”
“Subject at hoof, Loyal.”
“Oh right, the thing… okay then.”
Keeping in character (Crossover Edition)
Ugh, another one of these? And she’s a pony role-player to boot! Look, I don’t need your fancy-shmancy lecturing, I got this! I mean, it’s ‘just’ a crossover, my characters come directly from their source material, so they are already set up and have a built-in fan base to appeal to. It’s PERFECT! See?
Actually, he kinda has a point. The characters are already out there for us, it’s not like we have to come up with anything new for them. You just copy and paste. Right?
Okay, first off, don’t diss the RP, the RP is cool! Secondly, OW, I’ve been listening to you for a while now and quite frankly, you need all the help you can get. So sit back on your haunches and perk your ears because class is in session
Crud! she’s got a ruler. *sits on hooves*
Crossovers are often seen as a cheap trick of the fan-fiction game. Take two or more things you love (with one of them obviously being MLP), throw them against one another hard enough and hope that they stick. An appeal to a built in fan-base that surely draws readers who will no doubt be ecstatic to see their favorite heroes (and villains) somehow combined with the creamy bliss that is the MLP-fandom.
As my fellow compatriots have already noted other areas, I’ll focus on the characters themselves, those icons around which whole other fandoms are built and their interaction with the candy-colored equines that bring us all together.
Sounds easy, right? Like peanut butter and chocolate colliding as they round the corner?
All the hard work is already done in terms of character design, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, this is the mentality that a LOT of authors approach a crossover with and thus fail to notice a far deeper complexity that must be addressed to make a crossover really work. And the truth is that portraying a believable crossover character is actually FAR harder than developing an OC.
What? That can’t be right! The characters are already made, established, and ready for exploitation. HOW could it be harder to write them than creating something from scratch!?
“OWCH!! My tender pony wrist!”
“They’re called fetlocks . Oh come on, don’t don’t look at me like that, everypony. You can’t tell me that you readers haven’t been wanting to do that all along.”
As Obnoxious Writer is so keen to point out, many authors are under the impression that since a character’s look and base personality is already well known, they are easy to write for. After all, anypony who’s written a fanfic starring ANY of the Mane Six or the CMC before have already done this.
Now, taking an established character and putting them into a new story in their established setting is one thing. To use a metaphor, think of ye olde blacksmith forge.
As any good blacksmith knows, if you hammer out and process iron ore, you get iron and can shape it however you want and it will still be iron. The same is said for stories that star only established MLP characters. Whether they are comedy or tragedy, goofy or serious, what you are writing is a Pinkie Pie story or a Twilight Sparkle story with different twists on the characters we know and love.
Crossovers, however, are far trickier as you have established characters, but thrown OUTSIDE of their established setting in one form or another.
Using the same metaphor as before, crossovers are akin to an alloy. While they can be stronger and greater than the sum of their when combined, forging them is often a tricker and more elaborate process. Too much of one ingredient and not enough of the other will likely result in brittle metal or just a really crummy story.
While the plot and story are always key points, what I am covering here today are how the characters themselves are involved and some tips based on my own experience to avoid the pitfalls that lead to flame-wars, overwhelming thumbs downs, public defacement in the comments, and the horrific fate of finding yourself on the front page of the ‘Train Wreck Explorers’.
“I thought we were supposed to be ponies now. Ponies don’t have thumbs.”
*face-hoofs* “MOVING ON!”
There are a few key differences in writing for established characters as opposed to OCs that are fairly standard.
--Are properties of another franchise and usually owned by either companies or individuals. While this may seem like a no-brainer to some, it is often considered extremely rude to neglect giving credit where credit is due. (Exp. MLP: FiM belongs to Hasbro // Spiderman is the property of Marvel and Stan Lee)
--Almost ‘always’ have a pre-existing fanbase. Most (if not all) major established characters seen in a given list of crossover characters have been around longer (sometimes a LOT longer) than Twilight Sparkle and the gang of our 4th Generation MLP. While this does allow for the aforementioned ‘built-in’ audience of readers who are already members of this fanbase, it also means that there may be a great deal more history behind them than a standard MLP character.
--Are ‘just’ that… ‘Established’. They have a history, friends, enemies, and a personality that is often very well cemented in the minds of their fans. Even characters that have no ‘canon’ personality (for example many Bioware video game protagonists, who can be good or evil depending on the actions of their players) often have a fan-based agreement on the most likely interpretation. When you are dealing with such things, thread carefully and be SURE to make your intentions clear from the beginning or very close to it.
--Often have the added burden of Fan Expectation. This is something ALL crossover writers should take into account. When you start messing around with characters that the readers may (and often DO) know more about than you, you are playing with fire in the eyes of those fans who are rabid enough to know ‘EVERYTHING’ about a given character, their setting, and how they react under certain circumstances. Unlike original characters, who exist only in their mind of their creator until they are molded and put into situations for the readers to experience, established characters have faced challenges that are both well documented and obscure. Push a character too far from their known tendencies and paths and chances are you will either hear about it in comments… or watch as your reader count drops.
“Booorrriiiing! This is all stuff we already know! Everyone knows this, why are you still talking?”
“The ruler… bewaaaare…”
“Nah, that gag’s run its course as it is. And the reason I’m going over these points is because the approach to a good crossover needs to take these things into account. In essence, what you are doing here is ‘borrowing’ a character for the purpose of entertainment.”
“I’m ‘always’ entertaining.”
“You have no idea, Ow… you have NO idea.”
Now, specifically, we are writing MLP crossovers. Come on, admit it… all of you out there reading this… That’s what you’re here for, am I right? You’re here for the ponies. Don’t try to cover it up, we know things. Just like I know that you shouldn’t be eating that second helping of cake. Yeah, YOU! I’m talking to YOU!
: “Geez, does Loyal take lessons from Pinkie Pie or something?”
Now while character crossovers in modern fiction have been around since the first time readers wondered what would happen if Count Dracula met Frankenstein’s Monster or Billy the Kid, the challenge in writing crossovers with MLP is that the very thing that makes many of us fall in complete love with the setting.
From the pegasi controlling weather to the complete absence of the ‘human element’ in the form of a demographically inclined heroine to act as an audience surrogate, Equestria and its universe are, by their established nature, ‘cut off’ from what most of us consider commonplace. While some fanfics argue this point or obliterate it in fantastic and creative ways: (Equestria is far future Earth, it’s a darker place than we imagine, alternate universes, etc), the core understanding of MLP canon leads us to realize that both Equestria and its citizens are in a very different sort of setting than what is considered standard to fiction and this is something that a writer attempting to do justice to his/her story can not simply wave off.
Now, I can’t go into ALL of the different variations of how a crossover happens. Between plot devices, macguffins, and the over the top ‘BAM you’re in Equestria for no reason’ settings, we just don’t have the time, so what I WILL go into are how these established characters interact and what sort of pitfalls to avoid. In my experience: crossover characters are typically divided into two variations.
The Alien Crossover
: “Aliens? Like little grey men and xenomorphs and stuff? That’s narrow minded and lacks creativity! Who says that my crossover HAS aliens in it at all?”
Are we talking like Alf aliens or Independence Day aliens?
Alien Crossovers doesn’t refer to literal aliens. (Although I guess sometimes it can be depending on the situation.)
Alien-Style Crossovers, my personal specialty, are fairly common, much like Human in Equestria stories and sometimes can also fall into that category. The term indicates that known characters from one established realm of fiction are thrown ‘whole’ into Equestria by some means (magic portal, crash landing in a spaceship, interdimensional mishap, etc).
This also works in reverse if one or more established characters from MLP are transported to another world and have to cope with the often more violent environments of an established setting such as Skyrim or the Dead Space universe to name two. While the characters may or may not be physically ‘ponified’ by this process, it is important to understand that this leads to an expectation that the characters introduced are still themselves. They still think like they always did and have their experiences from their own established fictional works.
“Well, that’s easy isn’t it? Just copy paste and throw characters into the zany world of Equestria?”
: “Yeeeeaaahhhh, not so much.”
Readers of Alien Crossovers can be meticulous and unforgivingly critical about the interpretation of a character they know and love, be it GLaDOS and Chell from ‘Portal’ or Sonic and Tails of ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ fame.
Want to know a quick way to lose readers?
Have GLaDOS quickly adapt and start playing nice with the ponies after learning the magic of friendship, or have Sonic kick up his feet in Ponyville like he’s at a spa, falling in love with and marrying Rainbow Dash and retiring to… yeah, I’m snoring already.
Just because these characters are in the relatively peaceful ‘Equestria’ doesn’t mean they suddenly stop being themselves. GLaDOS doesn’t suddenly stop being the evil manipulative AI with the sarcastic humor we love and Sonic doesn’t stop being an impatient and hyperactive speedster with an addiction to action and a heart of gold.
Alien Crossover characters tend to fall into two subgroups. Those that are physically the same as they are in their own canon universe... and those that have been ‘ponified’.
: “Now, for an example of each of these, I have here two characters I am intimately familiar with. One in his natural state, the other ponified.”
: “I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favorite blog on the Internet.”
: “Hello, I’m the Doctor.”
: “OMG-OMG-OMG! It’s SHEPARD!”
: “Uhhh, how intimately are you...”
: “Nottellingmovingon! Now, you guys see if you can each give one of them an in character bit of dialogue for the circumstance of finding themselves suddenly stranded in Equestria.”
“Oh, I got this. I’m a huge Mass Effect fan.”
: “Hey, Normandy. This planet we found is filled with nice ponies that can do magic, I think they can help us in our fight against the Reapers, let’s pick them up.”
: “Uhh, okaaaaay...”
While a bit corny in terms of dialogue, Clueless’ Shepard has an obvious and basic understanding of his history, motivations and relationships and brings them front and center immediately. Now, one thing to make clear here is that there is nothing wrong with reiterating who a character is as a refresher during the early stages of a story, especially if you want to try and clue in readers that may not be familiar with who the characters are. This can be done as an internal monologue or a consideration of past events that led to the current moment in time, really the method is less important than establishing what point in their timeline a character is. (This is particularly important for characters with a linear history that has a definite ending.)
A quick reference to Shepard’s actual speech pattern and methods of operation in any of his games can also help in setting up the dialogue of a soldier with top tier diplomatic training.
: “Normandy, Come in. I’ve made contact with the planet’s dominant species. They seem friendly enough and their abilities could make them valuable assets in the fight against the Reapers. I’ll see if we can work out something to bring them into our cause. Stand by for extraction. Shepard: out.”
“Uhhh, okay, that ‘did’ sound more like Shepard than my version. “
: “Just needed a bit of brushing up and an ear for how the sci-fi hero speaks. And speaking of sci-fi heroes...”
: “Yeah, I think I’ve seen an episode or two of that show. Here we go.
: *california accent* “Dude, I’m a pony now! Ponies are so cool.”
: “She’s speechless!”
: “I would facehoof, but the force required to relay just how epically fail that was... would kill me.”
: “What? I got rid of the stupid accent and I’ve seen pics of this guy saying...”
Changing critical details of an established character is ‘DANGEROUS’. The Doctor, for instance, is an incredibly complicated character, but has a few key attributes no matter what version of him is presented: His TARDIS, british accent (different dialects and tones perhaps, but still british) and the fact that he’s an alien known as a Time Lord.
The best way to prevent this ‘lazy writing’ is to get into a character’s head… to understand how the character thinks, what their motivations are, and how they react to the world around them. Try to form a response to the plot based on their quirks that is realistic for them. How do you do this? Well, actually being familiar with the subject matter goes a LONG way, don’t expect that watching one episode of a show or reading one book in a series prepares you for being able to understand the width and depth of a well known character. Also, wikis are the friend of writers everywhere.
Homework? Nah, not really. After all, if you want to write about the Doctor, it pays to know that he’s not called ‘Doctor Who’ in the show.
: “He isn’t? I thought he was just a ‘Mr.’ Who that became a doctor...”
Also, take into account their physical being. In many crossover stories, the characters are ponified (or invertedly, equine characters can become humanoid). While this particular character is quite well acquainted with the unknown, even he would need to pause and take stock of the fact that he’s just gone from being humanoid to being an equine. If a character is going to freak out in a ponified story, it’s going to be RIGHT at the beginning when they realize what’s happened to them. While you don’t want this to get in the way of telling the story, it is generally understood that even the most experienced, straight-faced character WILL react to being somehow placed into a new body.
I think that Squeak-anon did it best for the Doctor in this tidbit from Number 12 .
: “Dear me, four legs... that’s new. Well I’ve been worse. A tail! That’s certainly different. I’d say from the hindquarters definitely equine. That’s rather daft. A horsey Time Lord, look at that! Or maybe I’m a Timey Horse Lord, or a Lord of Horsey Time. I’m really not sure yet. Oh! And look at that, there’s an hourglass on it, never had a tattoo before, love a tattoo.”
The ‘most’ important thing to remember in alien crossovers is that regardless of what else is going on, the established characters are the ‘SAME’ as they were in their own fiction. Staying faithful to that interpretation and then working into new development with such characters will go a long way to showing just how dedicated and respectful a writer is of their source material, something that fellow fans of the included series are sure to appreciate.
**Examples of Alien Crossovers done well** Better Living though Science and Ponies by Pen Stroke Dresden Fillies by Psychoscubadiver The Works of Loyal2Luna (shameless self-promotion for the WIN) The Native Crossover
: “Space: The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Equestrian-ship ‘Eponaprise. Her continuing mission, explore fun new worlds, to seek out new friends and new places to party… To BOLDLY go where NOPONY’S GONE BEFORE! VWWWWWOOOOOMMM”
& : *edge away from Loyal*
Native Crossover’s are different from Alien-Style in that the characters brought into it are not the ‘exact’ established characters since they ‘belong’ in the setting rather than being imported to it though some means.
This can simply mean that these characters were born ponies (or griffins or dragons as the case may be) or may be amalgams of them that share names/traits/occupations/personality or any combination of such with a known character. (For example: Sherclop Holmes, the great detective or Spidermare, who was bitten by an enchanted spider). These are still crossovers and allow more freedom since you are imitating the character rather than outright using that ‘exact’ character. This can also allow for fun to be had by delving into ‘paths not taken’ or different aspects of the character’s personality as painted by growing up in Equestria. He may be similar to the original character, but he doesn’t have the same experiences and is therefore not the same.
Other crossovers might put MLP characters directly into the roles of other established characters, such as having Twilight Sparkle command the ‘Eponaprise’ or Pinkie Pie portray the infamous merc with a mouth, Deadpool. If this sounds like what you’re planning, be careful and AVOID the pitfall of just replacing the word ‘human’ with pony and ‘hands’ with hooves.
After all, nopony wants to just read a complete retelling of a known story do they?
These crossovers may also require a change of setting away from the ‘Classic Equestria’, but our focus here is on the characters. (Settings is somepony else’s class)
To use our earlier examples of the Doctor and Commander Shepard.
: “‘ello, Ditzy Doo... I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Pony. I’m from the Planet Gallopfrey. I explore the universe and travel throughout time and space. Do you want to come with me?”
The Pony-Doctor portrayed here is fairly easy to use like this because the character’s versatility allows him to still be alien, mysterious, and have his adventures. The only difference is that rather than being a Time Lord from Gallifrey, he is a Time Pony from ‘Gallopfrey’. Two minor changes and you’re on your way with a Doctor who may have never worn a scarf or had a useless companions named Micky. Perhaps his Harry Sullivan was ‘not’ an imbecile.
For a more drastic change, let’s take a look at Specialist Shepard from Quillery’s ‘Mane Effect’.
: “My name is Shepard and this is not where I ever expected to be. Thrown into a situation I was never trained for, something so far beyond me that I am barely able to keep up. I am no soldier, I’m an engineer, and all the odds are stacked against me.
Everypony has choices that make them who they are. Will mine make me a selfless hero or a ruthless war criminal? You be the judge.”
Quillery’s Shepard takes liberties with personality, history, and the established events of Mass Effect, blending it with MLP like a bartender mixes drinks. Is this still a crossover? Clearly so, as elements of both Mass Effect and MLP are prevalent.
Is this character still Shepard? Yes, although it is one that was born and forged in a very different life than the Shepard of the original Mass Effect, the traits and similarities are still there.
**Examples of Native Crossovers done well** Mane Effect by Quillery Ponyville Pawnstars by Timid Wolf Pony Effect by Grif
: “Okay, I think that covers most of the bases.”
: “Is it over? Oh, THANK CELESTIA! I thought she would NEVER stop talking.”
: “OWCH! HEY! I thought you said that gag had run its course!”
“Still funny to me.”
: Just getting your attention. I still have a couple of last minute tips.
-- Details are important. Regularly manifesting aspects of a character's individual quirks or mannerisms, or referencing events in their past can help a crossover stay true to its nature.
-- If your story necessitates shipping the crossover character with one of the ponies (ugh), keep in mind how that character would respond to that kind of interaction. Is this character romantic? Solitary? Indifferent? Don't sacrifice a character's integrity for the sake of your perfect union.
: “You know what? I can talk about this all day long. Now next on the docket... “
: “Loyal, return.” *holds out pokeball*
: “What the... WANDERER! DON’T YOU DARE STUFF ME BACK INTO THAT THING YOU SON OF A-- *Zaaaaaap*
I- I thought all the authors were in there of their own accord?
Seriously? Nah. I just catch them in the wild when they are not expecting it. How do you think the LOEG was born?
I was under the impression that it was a random comment and that Arcainum and Obs–
Moving on. OW, did you learn anything?
Look, D, my story is not that bad, I really keep the characters in character and all that jazz...
But my story goes beyond this! It includes several universes! It’s not as simple as your Poke-authors imply!
They never said it was simple. On the contrary, they acknowledged the difficulties of doing it correc–
And my genius doesn’t let me change unnecessarily. I don’t need advice. I’m perfect. Please understand that.
Okay OW, you’re pissing me off. It’s time to use yet another Pokeball!
Why is it getting dark? Is that thunder in the background?
Behold! The ultimate Pokeball! Wanderer D! I choose you!
I’m Wanderer D.
What does that mean!?
None of your business.
Today I will talk about two types of crossovers that I am infamous for, starting with:
Crossovers are tremendously misunderstood. Most of the time, when I see one, the author seems to have the impression that if they throw the whole cast of Bleach into MLP without a point– sorry, because it is ‘interesting’ and don’t even account for the differences that each character would bring... they have a story.
I hate to break it to them, but no. You don’t.
It’s hard to have to pass ‘stories’ where the author basically just jumps the gun and I finally got annoyed enough with the manure that piles up here to do something about it.
I love crossovers. I’ve been writing them for years. I’ve messed up and had them MSTed by really nasty people, and I have succeeded and gotten a following out of them... but most importantly I have learned what works and what doesn’t.
And there are simple things that beginning writers don’t do that are extremely important to remember, they are so important that they even seep into the topic I will discuss below.
Let me start by laying a simple rule for all of you crossover-writing enthusiasts:
Let people know just what the hay they are reading.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it is often the most ignored rule of crossovers I have ever encountered it’s, in fact, so rare to see it in the summary that when I do see it, I will PM the author and thank him/her/it for their consideration. Unless it’s one of the guys that already know better; they just earn my silent gratitude.
Now, you don’t believe me? Here’s an example of the summaries we have to face sometimes:
Now, let’s ignore the completely idiotic choice of tags and the obviously missing character tags... actually let's not. As an exercise to our readers, how many conflicting/useless tags are listed?
Sigh. So, what is this story about? It’s a crossover. But who the hell are: Hachirota, Esteban Mendoza, Shindo and Vicious?
Why should we care? I don’t know about you, but this puts me off of even giving this thing a try.
If I could fail a story based on the summary I would fail it so hard it would produce a chain reaction that would fail all your other attempts in writing. That and there would be a lot less stress in my life, that’s for sure.
If you write something like that, with crappy grammar to boot, and wonder why your “MLP: FIM/Detonator Orgun/Mysterious Cities of Gold/Planetes/Cowboy Bebop crossover Epic of Fail© doesn’t get attention, there’s your first clue: people don’t know what you’re talking about.
In fact I would be surprised if anyone here caught on to what series were mentioned just by the names with the possible exception of Vicious.
In other words, it’s getting all the attention it deserves: none.
Moral: Don’t assume people know what the hay you are talking about. When it comes to the summary, list the damned series.
But that’s not all, oh no. The same individuals that think you all should immediately and intuitively recognize their genius by the summary alone have even more to share. For you see, when you click on the first chapter, you see this:Vicious giggledtickled Nightmaremoon and rubbed her belly. j ust thenHachirota burst thewindow and threwthe!bomb at them before Shindo grabbled him!But thy didn’t kno that Esteban and Mendoza were inthe castlebecausePrincess Celestial had asketh
Hey, guess what? ‘Esteban Mendoza’ was actually two people! But that’s not all, for all of you out there that have absolutely no idea what any of the series (or most of them) above even are... (and ignoring the grammar/spelling/punctuation/logic) how did that make you feel?
I bet you got a lot of insight into what the characters are like; the great differences in their worlds and obviously their individual stories as to how the got there. Not.
But, Wanderer! You might say. I am in the process of writing this! It’s just the first chapter, and I am building drama!
And if you do say that, I will take a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh before I stare at you in the eye and say: “If this is how you think a story is told kid, find another hobby. Like grenade juggling. Or read a few hundred books and see if something sticks before you try again.”
There is no chance of success for a story like this. It has failed even if I or another mod approve it and set it loose on the internet. It cannot even qualify as a Trollfic which would be better written to start with and also make more sense.
In fact, speaking of trolls, if you posted a story like that and some random user offered to “Proof-read” for you, ignore them. Chances are they are trolling you, because there is no way that can be salvaged.
But Wanderer! I want to be a great writer, just like you, you arrogant bastard!
To which I would reply: “Shut it, OW, or I will write you from now on with the personality of ‘Rainbow Brite’ from back in the 80s.
She had a personality?!
The point I am trying to make is that when you write a crossover, besides the challenges of writing the characters right, you also have the opportunity to share these other worlds with others and you are wasting them by throwing the characters into your attempt at a story like when you thought throwing salsa at your mom-invited-guests during your birthday party would endear to you to them.
Hint: It doesn’t work.
You have to dedicate some time to the characters so that people can understand where they are coming from. Chances are, most people here will be unfamiliar with the characters and most likely will be wondering why the hay Vicious is tickling Nightmare Moon’s belly. And that’s not even counting what was mentioned above about fan-perceptions of how some characters should act.
So, take your time when writing multiple-crossovers. Let the character express who they are and why they are there. Let them show the reader how they are struggling to make sense of what is happening. And for the love of Celestia think of another introduction sequence than 'Fluttershy finds character xyz in the Everfree forest and drags him home.' it gets old after the first two hundred times.
Now, let me talk about another type of crossover:
The Fan Fiction Crossover
Just what is this “Fan Fiction” Crossover you speak of, Wanderer D? You might ask.
Hell, at least one crazy individual has already done so in an epic project. But I digress.
Well, it’s exactly that. A story mixing up stories from other authors to create your own. NOT to be confused with the “Derivative Work” such as the FoE spin-offs or “Chess Game of the Gods” or “The whateveritscalled Bureau”; we’re talking crossovers outside of those settings.
I have seen several Fan-fiction crossovers here; indeed, I have been asked on several occasions on how to do it and since the Brony community is very tight and eager to share, it’s not uncommon to have someone ask to be allowed to send their characters to another author’s world, or use their characters as part of a ‘crew’.
So you might think it’s easy. Well, to be fair, if you don’t care at all about the source material (both canonical and fan-originated) sure, it is. You’ll find readers here to fav your semi-original work with the rabid disregard for quality that is the hallmark of the average fimfic user.
However, if you want to do it right then it’s a completely different matter. In fact, it is an extremely challenging genre to write well.
Why? Because you are not writing a straight-forward MLP:FIM fan fic. As close as the author can get the characters, the bottom line is... it’s not canon. It’s their interpretation of the MLP universe, and what made their story different is what you are probably interested in, if you are doing one of these. And most likely, those differences and nuances are what your readers will be expecting when you write your story.
So, if their interpretation and story differ from the canon, what you have to take into account is the differences from world to world. What you are counting on is that the similarities will help but the individuals will stand by themselves. Why would you want to write a crossover with another story where the characters act exactly the same? There’s no point, just write your own ‘original’ fanfic. (Oxymoron ftw!)
If you grab a character from another fan fic, throw them into another world, and have them act OOC you’re messing things up completely. That’s not a crossover; it’s a bad fanfic of a fanfic.
Want an example? Sure.
Let’s grab an obscenely famous character from fan fiction. Nyx. Hopefully by this point you have PM’d Pen Stroke and asked him for permission to use his character, and we will assume he will grant you the chance as he must assuredly did to me. If I asked. I think I did. But then... sleep.
Now let’s hurl Nyx across the multiverse with the combined might of all hatred and love characters like her get. Nyx thankfully survived the impact and now stands in front of Prince Solaris, Celestia’s male counterpart from several fics including “On a Cross and Arrow”.“I am Nyx! Who are you and what have you done to my mother?”
Prince Solaris frowned. “Yo, I ain’t got no idea who you’re talkin’ about, b****”
“Knave!” Nyx retorted, summoning a giant sword. “Defend yourself from my might!”
Now, regardless of how you feel about either character, you must have noticed something is wrong with that.
So let me put it simply: If you’re going to have a character that doesn’t even attempt to act like the characters you’re borrowing/interacting with, just skip asking for permission and write your alicorn OC of doom (which is obviously ignoring THIS) and don’t drag fans of either series into your story with false promises.
Again, what you are trying to do is use the other fan fic’s uniqueness to help you tell a story, so respect that.
If I send Sweetie Belle into the world of ‘Mares and Magic’ and I don’t respect the elements that make that world what it is (i.e. Trixie’s challenges, Trixie/Twilight shipping, etc.) it won’t feel like ‘Mares and Magic’ and therefore I failed. Same goes for ‘Nightmares don’t last Forever’, or ‘The Light never Goes Out’ or ‘On a Cross and Arrow’ or any other of the 20+ fics I’m crossing over.
Writing each character well, with their own differences is going to take effort. And if you ask an author to use their work, you might as well give it the respect it deserves and make that effort. It’s not impossible and others have done it convincingly.
Another thing is a problem that arises with all crossovers, and that is ‘spotlight’. Who is the center of your story? How much time do you spend on the characters you are borrowing, and most importantly, are they really necessary?
It’s a hard question. What is it about them, in their uniqueness, that makes you want to tell a story using them? Beyond the fact that you are a fan-boy/girl/thing?
If you don’t know, chances are the characters you are borrowing will fade to the background and be pretty much inconsequential. At that stage, you’re better off with a cameo.
So what helps? Well, know your source material. Be aware of what makes it different, and how the characters differ from the canon. If you have to, make a list.
And this reminds me of a point I made above: LET PEOPLE KNOW WHAT THE HAY THEY ARE READING!
Not everyone will know the story you became a fan of, and if it’s their first encounter with it and they don’t want to read a FoE and/or a spin-off to know why Sweetie Belle is meeting with Puppysmiles, it is my job as the author to give them some background so they can know what’s going on. Because, if I don’t, the readers will be confused and either skip the chapter, or simply quit reading the story.
And that applies to you too. You want to write a crossover with that fic you loved, the one about Sonic the Hedghog in Equestria being the father of Rainbow Dash. Whatever. If you don’t show in your story a little bit of how the hay he got there... and why he’s RD’s dad, then you’re messing up big time... even past the thought of that abomination.
Anyway, hopefully this shed some light on the mechanics of both. So I’m going back into my Pokeball.
You- you returned to the Pokeball you were holding... and you’re still here?!
But... how is that even possible?
It isn’t. Where’s OW?
He ran away crying halfway through your explanation.
Well, I hope some of it stuck.
You and me both, D.