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Nitro Indigo


I write about griffs. (♀ | Timezone: BST | Discord)

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Mar
21st
2021

"What the hay is a Pokeyman?" · 10:11am March 21st

All too often in Pokémon crossovers on this site, I’ve seen the plot grind to a screeching halt so the Mane 6 (or whoever) can ask what a Pokémon is. This isn’t limited to crossovers, either. Once I read a Pokémon Mystery Dungeon fanfic where most of the first chapter was the protagonist asking his partner about every single Pokémon mechanic. No characterisation, no actions, just back-and-forth dialogue. ​I’m going to make a point of not doing this in Forging Our Own Paths, for a simple reason: People who read fanfics should already be familiar with the source material, so this kind of exposition wastes their time.

So why do people do it in the first place? I think it’s because the characters in these types of stories don’t know these things, so the authors feel the need to show them learning them, which is fine on principle. A lot of stories — such as Harry Potter or BNA — have a protagonist who’s unfamiliar with the setting so that other characters can explain it to both them and the audience. However, the difference is that these settings didn’t exist prior to these stories being made... and the protagonists weren’t told everything at once. Hagrid didn’t offload the entire history of the Wizarding World to Harry, for example; instead, Harry learned new things when they became relevant.

This kind of fanfic exposition, on the other hand, feels like the author is paraphrasing a wiki article.

”What the hay is a Pokeyman?” asked Twilight Sparkle.

“Pokémon are powerful creatures that come in eighteen elemental types. There are almost 900 species. Some of them resemble animals, while others resemble plants, inanimate objects, or furry bait. They like to fight and grow stronger in order to evolve into bigger Pokémon. Some people, called Pokémon trainers, like to catch Pokémon in devices called Poké Balls and fight other Pokémon trainers. Some trainers fight eight gyms and then the Elite Four in order to become champions,” replied Ash.

Which brings me to my next point: original stories with protagonists who have always lived in fantastical settings don’t have infodumps like this either. The very first My Little Pony cartoon, Rescue at/Escape From Midnight Castle (I’ve seen it called both), doesn’t have a narrator explain what ponies are; instead, it shows us that pegasi can fly, unicorns can teleport, and Earth ponies... can’t, all in the span of about two minutes.

Similarly, every main Pokémon game begins with an authority figure explaining what a Pokémon is, but they don’t explain it like that scene I made up above. They say that some Pokémon live alongside people, and what a trainer is, but you learn everything else as you play the game.


So if your fanfic has a scenario where characters need to have basic information about the setting explained to them, how can you make it interesting?

1. Have it happen off-screen

”What they hay is a Pokeyman?” asked Twilight Sparkle.

“Well...” Ash started.


“Thank you. I’ve learned so much!” exclaimed Twilight.

2. Inject some characterisation

”So let me get this straight,” said Twilight. “You’re telling me that creatures even more powerful as the monsters of the Everfree Forest live all over your world, yet it has almost as much harmony as ours?”

Ash nodded.

“That’s sounds fascinating! Oh, I’d love to learn more! Perhaps befriending these creatures instead of fearing them was beneficial to the survival of your species...” Twilight went on for several minutes.

3. Only bring things up when they become relevant

”I saw one of those Pokémon transform today,” said Twilight. “Do you know what happened?”

“That sounds like evolution,” replied Ash. “Most Pokémon can permanently evolve into new forms to become stronger. Some Pokémon, like Pikachu here, don’t want to, though.”

“Thanks!” exclaimed Twilight. “If I have any more questions in the future, I’ll go to you for answers.”

4. Show, don’t tell

Twilight noticed that this “Pikachu” was capable of generating enough electricity to destroy a tree with a lightning bolt, and didn’t like mud. Perhaps this was true of all creatures with an affinity for electricity.


P.S.: GMBlackjack writes all of his crossovers with the assumption that the reader is familiar with nothing. He avoids bogging the stories down with boring exposition, but I haven’t read enough of his fics to analyse how he does it.

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