Tips To End Canon Ships Better & More Believably
Not everybody agrees with canon ships all of the time, and plenty of people have their own ideas of who ought to be shipped with who. And that's okay. But sometimes people handle the whole thing rather poorly and messily. Here are a few pointers to help you avoid some of the more common blunders out there.
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- You don’t have to vilify one half of the canon ship to justify breaking them up.
- You don’t have to kill off one half of the canon ship, either.
- You don’t have to retcon the canon relationship as completely meaningless and devoid of any emotional significance or attachment.
- If there was clearly sexual and/or romantic attraction before, please don’t retcon it out.
You don’t have to vilify one half of the canon ship to justify breaking them up.
Hypothetical example: In canon, Cam and Beck are a couple, but a fanfiction writer ships Cam with Lex instead. The author doesn’t want to just say that Cam and Lex have been a couple all along, so instead writes that Beck started abusing Cam. Cam breaks up with Beck, hooks up with Lex, and happy shippy times ahoy!
People can have good reasons to break up that don’t stem from one half of the couple turning into a complete abusive monster overnight or something. It can be as simple as realizing that they just aren’t right or compatible with each other. (I can think of several canon couple where this could easily happen.) Making one half of a canon ship into an outright villain or abuser out of nowhere will usually result in a story that's hard to believe, as well as put fans of the character off from the get-go.
You don’t have to kill off one half of the canon ship, either.
There is no better way to tell people that you are a petty, spiteful little person like blatantly killing off a canon character just to expedite your ship.
Now, one half of a canon ship dying and the other half hooking up with someone else isn’t inherently bad - but it must be handled with care - namely, the character and xir death must be treated with respect. Mourning and grieving need to happen - which includes a period of not being ready for another relationship. Pretty much the only people who can immediately bounce off into a new relationship following the death of a partner are sociopaths.
If you do this, it needs to feel like the new relationship is a natural consequence of the chain of events that preceded it, not like you’re killing off a character just so your preferred ship can happen.
You don’t have to retcon the canon relationship as completely meaningless and devoid of any emotional significance or attachment.
Another Cam/Lex shipper goes a different route: as soon as meeting Lex, Cam falls head over heels and realizes that it’s ~true love~. When asked about Beck, Cam just shrugs and says that Beck never really meant anything… never mind the years spent together and the shared triumphs and heartaches. Nope, Cam was never really attracted to Beck so none of it matters. All that matters now is Lex.
Relationships do not work that way. If the above scenario happened in the real world, Cam would most probably be a sociopath incapable of feeling a genuine emotional bond with anyone, period. What happened with Lex would inevitably happen with Beck in a few months or years, with Cam eventually growing bored with Beck and hooking up with someone else at the next available opportunity.
Unless someone is incapable of forming emotional bonds period, the time spent with another person isn’t going to be emotionally meaningless, even if there was no genuine sexual or romantic attraction. Ask yourself - are the hardships, joys, embarrassing moments, and successes you share with your friends any less meaningful because you’re not in a romantic/intimate relationship with them?
If there was clearly sexual and/or romantic attraction before, please don’t retcon it out.
Several times I’ve seen it that when authors breaks up a canon couple, the characters they’ve freed up for their preferred ship will reveal that there was never any sexual and/or romantic attraction to the characters they broke up with, even though it was clearly present before.
This also goes for heterosexual couples you’ve broken up in favor of a slash pairing - there is such a thing as bisexuality, pansexuality, and biromanticism, and panromanticism.
(For the wondering, the difference between a sexual attraction and a romantic attraction is that with a sexual attraction you feel… well, sexually attracted, whereas with a romantic attraction you only feel inclined to do only non-sexual romantic-type things. Most people are both romantically and sexually attracted to others. Some people are one or neither.)
If you liked this, you might also be interested in:
Basic Tips To Write Healthy Relationships
Tips to Write & Roleplay Believable Successful Long-Term Relationships
Things To Avoid When Writing Romance Novels
Couple Development Questions
Basic Tips To Improve Your OCs & Fan Characters
Tips To Create Better OC Relatives of Canon Characters