Adapting the Games
Hello Fairground! After all my million stickied threads and constant General Chat comments, I am finally here to deliver you all something of a lot more substance! On the one year anniversary (well, thirteen month…) of my first Academy article on Christmas writing, I return for my encore act with an article on something that will be appropriate for many of us: adapting the games.
By ‘the games’, I am of course referring to the Pokemon games that have brought us all here, but while I may not be discussing adapting Mario, Zelda, Halo, Nintendogs or Wii Fit, this article may come in handy for them as well (hmm, a Wii Fit fan fiction…)
I wanted to write this article because I feel that some people become too stuck within the confines of strictly adapting the games almost exactly as if you were walking through it. While this is not entirely a bad thing, and can be great when you are first starting out, I will be bluntly honest in saying it can be a tad repetitive, and if you are hoping to get comments and reviews on your work, you need to do something a bit more interesting to get attention. So I will be discuss ways you can improve on adapting the Plot, Characters, Location and Pokemon of the games we have all loved for so many years.
A big issue when adapting the games is the fact that, for the most part, people fall back on the plotlines as they are laid out in the games. This largely includes starting in Pallet/New Bark/Nuvema/Twinleaf, what have you, then moving on from their, facing everything that you would normally face in the games (IE the gyms in exact order, the villainous teams in the exact same places, following the exact same routes and layouts). It is fair to say that when it comes to browsing through fics to read, it can be generally quite dull if it looks as though everything is going to fall down the same old tried and tested route hundreds, possibly thousands, of fan fic writers have done before you.
When you are thinking of writing a story, do not be afraid to shake things up. There is nothing stopping you from starting the story in a different location, or for perhaps shaking up what your character does on their journey. It seems too many people are unwilling to include Team Rocket/Magma/Aqua/Plasma/Galactic/Flare in any locations other than how they appear in the game – frankly, it can be boring and lower the effects of the villains if we only ever see them as infrequently as they appear in the games.
However, I am not saying that if you write your story starting in the respective starting town of each game your story will automatically suck. If you do chose to go down this path, it is generally for the best if you remember to add in your own challenges and obstacles for characters to overcome, or put a spin as to why they are starting from there (Pavell’s The Long Walk uses a different main type of main character in the form of a Joy.) Your plot should not be solely ‘find and defeat the villains’, as, again, that has been done to death, so to make things more personal, you should add in more emotional and character-building plots for your mains and supporting characters to overcome and to fuel their motivations. And this now segues nicely into…
This is perhaps the category were most people end up getting stuck. It seems most users here manage things well with creating their own OC or their own version of the player characters of each region, many of the other characters you interact with do not get such a shining treatment within fan fiction.
One of the main areas of trouble comes down to Originality. Many people become stuck with keeping the character similar to how they acted within the games, sometimes even carbon copying dialogue, actions, motivations and back stories directly from the games. I always see this happen with villains, so I am going to use Cyrus as an example.
Cyrus is a character that has rather stock and easily repeated motivations; he wants to gain control of Dialga/Palkia/Giratina and create a new world for himself to rule. However, there is nothing stopping you from turning Cyrus into your own character; you can alter his end goal to give you something that fits in with your story better, you can change his appearance, you can change his role within the company. Simply because you are using the character does not mean you are stuck to make them exactly the same as Diamond/Pearl/Platinum Cyrus. It would be more interesting for readers if you presented them with an original interpretation of Cyrus, and it would also be more fun for you if you gave him a touch of your own ideas; one of the greatest parts of being a writer is being able to create characters, and while we are limited when writing fan fiction, there is nothing stopping you re-imagining characters with your own ideas.
Similarly though, I would recommend not going too overboard; turning Cyrus into a cyborg sent back from the future with flame-throwing abilities is a tad stretch in terms of realism, and your audience will probably not be that impressed. You need to find balance, turning the game characters in ones that can be original and interesting but without trying too hard and alienating your audience. A simple few character quirks, some unique motivations, goals and some interesting relationships (why does the villain have the team of admins that he does, why do they not kill the main character?). From personal experience, I have found turning one of the heroes into a villain can go down negatively with some fans; however, if you are someone who is not fussed by this, having this style of character change as a twist would help your story be memorable.
As I mentioned above, it is important, whoever your character is in any story, to give them an emotional storyline to fuel their journey. They should have a reason for travelling, they should have a reason for wanting to defeat the gyms/win the contests etc, and they should have a reason for wanting to defeat the antagonists. Unlike in the games, your character does have to say more than ‘…’, so you need to give them something worth saying and they need something to keep them going when things turn to shit.
The setting is perhaps the most important part of any story, yet for such a significant area of your writing, some people do not really pull it off well. This can be especially troublesome with the Pokemon world, as everyone seems to think everyone else knows what the world looks like. However, the regions and the world that we play these games in is one that is riff for massive creative interpretation; these are meant to be massive cities, but most of them prior to Gen IV, perhaps not even until Gen V, had about twenty people maximum living in them – I may live in New Zealand, but even we have more than that living in our cities.
Just like everything else when your adapting these works, the cities, towns, routes, caves, forests and buildings are all things that you should shape to become your own in whatever little or grand way you can manage. It may sound difficult describing numerous places in great detail, but you only really need to pick out a few key features that will really sum up the location and it will be enough for your readers.
Another important thing to consider is that location is not necessarily just the land setting of your story but also the time it is set in. It seems many stories are generally set within what could be called the ‘present’ as it generally is easier for people to write in. One thing that would help your story stand out would be to set it either in the past (how did the game characters get to where they are? What were the gyms like fifty years ago? Where there all the same buildings, locations, Pokemon?) or setting it in the future (what happens when Red/Gold/Brendan etc becomes Champion? How does one go on a gym journey after Team … has made their mark on the region?) It may sound like more work to go and create semi-new worlds, but it can be a lot more fun re-imagining the regions in different locations. Other possibilities are of course ‘What if’ styled alternative universes, or the new concepts of things like dystopia and utopia (Some Rise by Sin is a good example of the latter.)
When it comes to Pokemon, there is not a lot you can do to be obviously original here, lets be honest; with there now being around 721 Pokemon in the world, you can probably come up with a Pokemon team combination that most people won’t have seen before. If you want to make things original, the easiest way is to give the main characters different Pokemon to begin with (not to toot my own horn, but ‘Eight Easy Steps’ is an example of this). I will say though, do not feel a need to be restrained within how the Pokemon are placed within the games in order to have your characters capture certain ones in certain locations: animals in the wild migrate, especially birds and aquatic life, so it would make perfect sense if your version of Red catches a Pidgey in an area where Pidgeys are not at all found.
So in conclusion, I feel the key thing to keep in mind when you are writing a story based heavily by the layout of the games is this; make your story original in a way that is not too over the top but will be enough to keep people interested.
This all being said, I stress the fact that not doing any of these things does not mean your story will be automatically terrible and no one is going to read it; I personally have learnt though, over the past six years that I have being written Pokemon fan fiction, that is important for the sake of yourself and your reader to spice things up. I would not still be a writer today if I had not begun crafting my own plots and my own backstories for the characters; it makes everything much more fun, and while there are many parts of my stories I would love to go back and change, I would not for a second considering altering my interpretation of the games, the plots, the heroes and, most of all, the villains. This is fan fiction, and it should be how we want it to be, not how the games instruct it to be.
Instead of articles this time, I have gone and looked over stories that have taken elements of the games and given them their own twist.
The Long Walk
The Kalos Connection
How to Conquer Kanto in Eight Easy Steps
some rise by sin
and, of course, what is perhaps the closest this forum has to a classic:
I would like other people to suggest the names of fics they have read that they feel are great examples of how to adapt the games in a fun and exciting way, as I have not read all of the ones out there and it would be great if we could build a collective list for people to consult.