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GinsengH PM
Biography
Joined Feb '08

To anyone I may have left a review to:

I have been actively reading/reviewing stories on this site since around 2008, and recently I have discovered a theme where a number of authors do not appreciate criticism (more so than I've ever seen in my time here). My intent is in leaving reviews is to provide an actual review, not be intentionally antagonistic. I do my best to provide positive feedback where applicable, but my arguments for critical aspects are usually going to be more in depth. While reviews are emotional/personal by nature, I do my best to stick to logical points of focus as often as possible. If you can't take criticism though, please say so from the beginning. It will save everyone a lot of time and save yourself a lot of stress.

Also, if you send me a PM I will respond (unless the e-mail notifications aren't working which has happened before). I enjoy chatting about stories, and so I'm always happy discuss more in depth any criticisms that I may have left whether it's a story I want to continue with or not.

Quick warning - Below is the uncensored version of how I feel about various plot points and character treatment. If you're easily offended don't continue. If you are curious as to why I may have left a review, or you just want to see my general thoughts on some of the elements of fanfiction then read on for my unfiltered commentary.

Fanfiction

The entirety of my beliefs can be summed up with my comments in this paragraph. Fanfiction exists because we fall in love with a story, its characters and/or its universe. We want to see those characters and that universe explored in new ways, and at some level these characters must maintain a personal resemblance to their source material. If you start changing major physical characteristics of a character then you've created an OC who only shares the same name as the original character.. If you massively change the personality without giving context for the change, then you've created an OC who just happens to share physical characteristics to the original character. If you change the character's name, then you have created an OC regardless of any physical or character traits that he/she may share. Suffice to say, there was a reason that these characters or their universe attracted you to the original story, and bastardizing them in any form only serves to alienate your story from its original source. If you do choose to go in a different direction then please just be up front about it because the default logic for any story should be that it will resemble the one that made people originally fall in love with it.

Universe Consistency

This one really bugs me. Maintaining consistency within the universe that you are writing about is simply one of the most fundamental aspects of writing, and it is of paramount importance in fanfiction. In fanfiction you are writing about established universes, each of which has its own sets of "laws" (even supernatural ones) by which that universe must abide. For instance, a Jedi in the Star Wars universe can not fly nor can Harry Potter cast elemental magic from his hands. Adhering to these "laws" is what provides the connection between your story as a piece of fanfiction and the source that inspired it. Now, obviously AU's are a thing, and writers can play around to add their own creative spin to it. If you are going to break the rules of the original universe though, apply your new rules uniformly. It's one thing to make a character more powerful than others. It's another thing entirely to give that character powers & abilities that are wholly unique to all others in the world and are by themselves overpowered/convenient.

Either accept "the laws of the universe" for what they are in a given story or change the universe preemptively to better handle those plot holes.

Character Bashing

Simple. Don't do it. If you result to character bashing in anything other than a parody then that is just bad writing.

Sorry to be blunt, but it's the truth. For one, when you bash a character you end up with a character whose only existence in your story is to be kicked around. No drama, no character building, no suspense. It's a cartoon. It's a fake character who either arbitrarily moves events along because you couldn't come up with a more realistic way of doing it, or a character whose omission would not change any aspect of the actual plot.

In sum. Character bashing is useless because it demeans characters in such a way that they become juvenile. You can't tell a serious/legitimate story if one or more of your characters has more in common with a children's cartoon villain than a real person. Regardless of any magical or supernatural universe that a story takes place in, if the characters don't act like real people then the setting can't be taken seriously.

Albus Dumbledore

This is really an extension of character bashing, but Dumbledore gets his own section due to the sheer volume of bashing that occurs on this site with regard to his character..

I doubt that there is a character more misrepresented on this site than Dumbledore. To all of the people who seem to look at what happens to Harry at the end of each school year as evidence that Dumbledore is intentionally manipulating events to play out that way...you basically treat him as incompetent or as so manipulative that he can't get out of his own way.

First, any notion that Dumbledore is in any way incompetent needs to end immediately. He has a long list of accomplishments throughout his life, and even the most feared dark lord of the time feared him. Further, for him to be guilty of manipulating the vents that he is accused of then he inherently has to have a pretty high level of competence

The second...well let's address something else first. Now, I love the Harry Potter books, and I respect J.K. Rowling's ability as a story teller. However, she was not shy about inserting convenient plot devices to advance her story throughout her entire young adult series (Like maybe not mentioning why the Weasley twins never pointed out that someone named Peter Pettigrew was sleeping with Ron for his first 2 years at Hogwarts via the Map).

So, despite her clear intent for the character, a number of these convenient plot points could be theorized to lead back to Dumbledore intentionally putting Harry in these situations. However, even ignoring the obvious intent of the character, if you just continue to apply logic to all of those plot holes then you quickly realize how inane it is to think that. Yes, it's odd that the traps set up to protect the sorcerer's stone could be overcome by some first years, but actually use your brain to think one step forward. What motivation could Dumbledore possibly have for having his 11 year old weapon/sacrifice go off to face Quirrel/Voldemort alone? Even assuming that:
A - Dumbledore knew with absolute certainty that Harry would be able to overcome the traps to meet up with Quirrel/Voldemort
B - Dumbledore knew with absolute certainty that Harry's skin would be lethal to the touch of Quirrel/Voldemort...
Even with those assumptions how would he possibly know that Quirrel/Voldemort wouldn't simply use the most popular tool in all of wizardry, a wand, to curse the life out of Harry? If that happens then Dumbledore has lost his champion/weapon which is simply antithetical to Dumbledore's obvious motivations, regardless of whether or not he actually cares about Harry. Further, what even would Dumbledore's motivation be in this scenario? No result was achieved with either the fate of the Philosopher's Stone or the status of Quirrel/Voldemort that could not have been achieved in hundreds of more plausible scenarios if that was his end goal.

The most egregious criticisms of his actions are simply the result of an author needing an easy way to get her children's/young adult story from point A to point B with little care to the larger implications.

None of this is to say that Dumbledore can't be manipulative per se and seeking scenarios where Harry ultimately sacrifices himself for the greater good. In fact, it's pretty clear that Dumbledore did manipulate events to a certain extent. However, there is a difference between a master chess player who isn't afraid to sacrifice a pawn and a senile fool who charges ahead thinking his way is best without thinking things through. One is clever and Machiavellian demonstrating how he achieved his many titles and conquered all foes. The other needs help tying his shoelaces. One creates a logical connection to someone who very subtly manipulates events towards "the greater good" no matter the cost. The other thinks that driving a wedge between Harry and his godfather will somehow endear Harry to him, even a version of Harry that is already distrusting of him.

Emphasis of an OC

OC's are often necessary to create a unique story in a well established universe because at a certain point you just exhaust all of the villains and complimentary characters with the thousands of fanfiction stories. No one wants to see how bad ass your OC is to the point where he/she overshadows the main character though. A good OC compliments the main cast in either a side kick/friend role or as a villain that needs to be overcome. Seeing an OC come in and continuously save the day kind of defeats the purpose of fanfiction. Many people like to do self inserts, and that's fine. It's your story, but if you're not going to focus on the "real" story then please be upfront about it. Listing main characters in your story filter and then prominently featuring your OC is just clickbait.

'Damsel in Distress'

Let's talk abut strong female leads for a moment. Specifically, the all too prevalent notion that an otherwise strong female protagonist can become emotionally weak at a moment's notice and/or need saving by their male counterpart. I'm gender neutral when it comes to preferences on main characters. Both sexes can pull off any form of a story (even pure action). What is particularly troubling though is when the source material, or the author, has a powerful female character who just withers into complete distress during any time of crisis. It's this "damsel in distress" mentality which is fine when the female figure actually isn't the main fighter, but if you spend half a story building up a character into some badass then don't weaken her to the point that she needs a man to save her whenever there actually is a conflict. It's contradictory and inconsistent with your universe.

Soulbound Relationships

Guiltily I enjoy a good relationship in stories. I'm not necessarily looking for a relationship when I search out a new story, but I do think that it often enhances the story as it adds another layer for the characters. Even pure romance stories can be quite entertaining even though that isn't what I'm usually looking for. All of this is predicated on the building up of that relationship with the characters though, and that simply isn't possible with any form of "soulbound" plot device. If some form of magic or other fantastical narrative is used to "tie" two characters together then congratulations. You just re-made Twilight. The buildup of the relationship doesn't matter. It will never be organic. It's an easy button for the relationship because it never mattered how they formed their bond. Magic or some other supernatural force said they would be together and that was that instead of a real personal connection.

Rushed Relationships

I get it. Relationships are hard to write. That is no excuse for flipping a switch, making 2 characters who barely know each other suddenly fall in love though. If you want two characters to have an emotional and romantic bond in your story, then you need to show it. To do that, you have to actually develop it, showing the little interactions that bring them together over time. 3 chapters into a story is not nearly enough time to show why these characters are declaring their undying love for each other. For that matter, neither is it appropriate to do so even in Chapter 40 if you haven't shown an adequate amount of intimate (not meaning sensual/sexual) interactions. Bonds don't just form over night, nor do they form over the course of 6 months if you barely interact and communicate with each other.

Harems

It's not that MC/Multi stories can't work. It's simply that they do not work. It takes a lot of work and details to build up a solid relationship between just two characters in a story. Adding another character into the romantic tree adds a level of complexity that is extremely difficult to overcome in anything remotely befitting a believable manner. Even in more mainstream story telling, you don't see harem stories develop in serious stories. I'm sure part of that has to do with cultural acceptance of monogamy. It is damn hard to write write a believable and endearing relationship in a story between two people though, and Giving adequate attention and focus to a 3rd is damn near impossible. The trope is fairly common in a lot of Japanese anime, but in almost all of those stories the harem relationships are a form of comedic relief...not to mention that it's usually a bunch of female characters crushing/flirting/teasing the MC while that MC is actually only infatuated with 1 of them who receives the majority of the intimate interactions.

Convenient Plot Points

To a certain extent all plot devices are rooted in a bit of over-convenience. Just don't make it obvious or excessive though.

Character Ascension

I'm not sure if there is an official name for this, but I do find it annoying when a character goes through a story only to end up "ascending" to some other existence at the end. This could be actually ascending to a higher plane of existence or just taking on some mystical role which removes that character from the daily lives of they developed relationships with. One example of the ladder would be Elsa in Frozen 2 (spoilers ahead). I know it may be a bit silly to be critical of a plot device from an animated Disney film, but stay with me as it illustrates my point. In the first Frozen story, Elsa has to overcome her fear of herself, let go everything that she ever bottled in and finally live a life with the sister that she isolated herself away from for years to protect. Then Frozen 2 comes along and suddenly it isn't important to be near the sibling that she regretfully shunned for most of her life? All in order to become some mystical 5th spirit that she never knew existed for the first 20 years of her life.. It was sold as a happy ending, but was it really? Sure, she was finally free and able to be herself, but the entire plot device undermines the wants and desires of the characters in the original film. Another example could be a particular character going through a number of magical hardships throughout the story only to then ascend to some goddess type role at the end, gone from the physical plane but still "always with" their loved ones. The trope just seems very weak to me. Like many, I'm not a fan of character death. It sucks to build up some connection with a character over the course of a story to then see that character killed off in some way, but even though it sucks to see that character killed it is necessary because not every story can have the good guys go without casualties. This "character ascension" trope feels like a mockery of those impactful character deaths though. It's like the writer wants the hero to make some great sacrifice without truly being gone. It creates the illusion of a happy ending that I would argue detracts from the happiness of it. The character is still gone physically from the lives of the other characters, and whatever sacrifice he/she had to make feels less heroic because he/she is not truly gone.

Favorite Tropes:

So, I have a lot of things to criticize, but I'm a sucker for several tropes as well:

Double Life/Secret Identity - This is probably my favorite gimmick in story telling. It's half of why I love Batman, Spider-man and all of the other favorite super heroes. Because when those people aren't under the mask, they have to live real lives, and their family/friends have no idea. It's fun seeing them struggle to balance the two sides of that life, and it's also a lot of fun to get the perspectives of those other people who can't understand why these secretive characters keep disappearing or always appear injured. This doesn't just have to apply to super heroes either. It could just as easily be someone with a lot of power who chooses to never show it in favor of a more mundane life. Another possibility which doesn't account for any kind of fantastical powers at all would be like Tom Clancy's the Division. A handful of highly trained people living normal lives until they are activated. I just think it's a fun concept.

School Days - I'm a fan of any kind of school setting. It creates a lot of forced interactions for the the main character, and not to mention some obvious school drama. This could be paired with the secret identity trope, or could be something like an entire academy city for special individuals (plenty of anime have this).

Time Travel to "fix" things - This one is a bit hit/miss. For me, a good time travel story sends the main character back in time with his memories intact so that he can create a better future while re-living all of the original moments with whatever changes he/she does. In most situations this results in the MC basically being OP, or at least far more advanced than he should be. I guess you could also tie this one back to the secret identity trope, in that the person who goes back in time will appear very odd before his friends/family.

Specific Franchise Thoughts (some minor spoilers ahead)

My thoughts on various franchises and the fanfiction that surrounds them. This is also probably why you may find me leave a critical review when a character doesn't make sense.

Anime/Manga

Ranma 1/2:

Ranma will always hold a special place for me. It was the first manga that I read beginning to end (years after it finished), and it was my first foray into fanfiction. The Ranma story is one that was largely a comedy, but it still had some great coming of age moments, not to mention some fun action. The primary two characters of Ranma and Akane both had some serious flaws, awkwardness and vulnerability which made them great to see together. I basically read the entire manga series over the course of a few days summer of my freshmen year in college, and I was so hooked that I just wanted more. Somehow I stumbled upon some sites that were dedicated to Ranma fanfiction, and I was amazed by the quality of some of the stories. To this day, nearly a decade and a half later, I still remember 2 of those early stories being among the best fan fiction stories that I have ever read. I can probably credit those two stories with creating my passion for fanfiction in general.

Naruto:

When I first started reading fanfiction, the Naruto (english) anime had yet to even receive a time skip, and I believe the untranslated manga was around the point of Sasuke being early in his training with Orichimaru. I read many fantastic stories in this section, nearly all of them with a focus on Sasuke and Sakura. Naruto is by no means my favorite anime ever, but it was one that was very well represented on this site. It was very easy to read both continuations of the canon story as well as complete AU's. Sasuke's character always was more in line with what I value in an action/adventure character, and it was fun to see him in so many different stories.

Fairy Tail:

Not my favorite anime/manga, but I did enjoy it. The story and characters were over the top which made it a fun ride, but I would have loved to see a serious take on the story. As over the top the characters may have been though, they had equally deep and emotional moments scattered throughout the story that made them easy to connect to. It's also probably the only story where I 'ship' multiple female characters with the main protagonist. Lucy is the implied matchup with Natsu (and my favorite), but honestly I could see Erza, Lisanna, or even Wendy as a suitable match. Unfortunately, I have not had much luck in Fairy Tail fanfiction. Usually one of the primary characters will just be insanely OOC, and I don't even feel like I'm reading about that character anymore.

Darker than Black:

Unfortunately there are not many good stories under this title. It's one of my absolute favorite anime (the first season anyway). Heie, Yin and Mizuki are all great characters with a lot of potential. Both Yin and Mizuki even make for good romantic partners for Heie. Yin because she has a certain camaraderie with him and Mizuki because her personality can kind of keep up with him. Both sets of characters also have their own set of challenges with him as well. Challenges which can be overcome through a great story, but it can be difficult writing them well. It's very much possible, but many writers on this site choose instead to turn the cold/calculating Heie into something out of a cheap romance novel.

Full Metal Alchemist:

FMA was just the 3rd manga that I read beginning to end, and wow was it good. It's also one of the most frustrating sections of fanfiction. FMA does not rival Naruto's popularity, but it is by no means an obscure title. I think even most non-anime fans have probably at least heard of it. With that said, I have found it to be one of the worst efforts of fan fiction relative to it's community size. For instance, Ed and Winry are the canon couple, one of the primary sources of entertainment from the series that we all loved, and yet it seems there are equally as many Ed/Envy and Ed/Roy yaoi stories circulating around. Even in just the subset of Ed/Winry stories it is difficult to find ones that are well written for all characters involved. I have found a few gems over the years though that were able to continue the magic formula of Ed - the whatever it takes alchemist and Winry - the best friend/love interest who just wants to be part of his life, while also hitting him with a hammer when he does something stupid, but those have been the exception.

Rurouni Kenshin:

There are two Kenshins. The one from the anime with the reverse blade sword and the OVA Samurai X. I was a fan of the reverse blade Kenshin when all I knew was the anime that used to appear on cartoon network. Then I found the Samurai X OVA, and later the full manga which touches on that part of his past as well, and I just can't do the Rurouni anymore. I can still watch the show, but if I'm reading fanfiction to further explore his character then I want the battousai side of him. It's a more realistic persona of a person living by the sword, and it's offers more potential paths of interes.

Sword Art Online:

I almost want to call this one a guilty pleasure. The series is very popular (as evident from the various video games and multiple anime seasons), but it's also a franchise with a complete mary-sue at the top. Kirito is a relative genius (at least in terms of technology), an ace combatant, picks up things instantly, noble, brave, all of the girls love him, etc...Somehow though, it just works. SAO isn't fun despite Kirito's perfection, it's fun because of it.

Also, can I get a shout out to Sinon? I liked Kirito/Asuna in the first season, but when Sinon was introduced during the Gun Gale Online arc...well I've never been able to appreciate Asuna the same. Kirito/Asuna are both basically perfect. Sinon though introduces a level of not-quite-perfect to the story that I just love. Her exact origins aren't the most rational, but she seems like the most "real" character in the series. I really wish there were more stories that focused on just Kirito/Sinon.

Classroom of the Elite:

For whatever reason this series barely has a presence in fanfiction, but I wanted to list it because it might be my my all-time favorite anime and light-novel series. If you look through the list of franchises that I touch upon in this profile you may notice a common theme. I almost exclusively follow series where there is an adventure of some kind. You can't quite say that Classroom of the Elite falls into that genre though. It's not exactly just a slice of life, but there isn't exactly anyone gunning for world domination either. So, when I say that it still one of my all-time favorites then that should tell you something. The MC doesn't have super powers, but he still feels like the most OP character in story telling history. I don't think that I've ever found a story on this site worth reading which is truly unfortunate. I think that there are so many things that you could do with these characters and setting.

Chrome Shelled Regios:

It hurts my soul that this franchise is not better represented in fanfiction. I love both the anime and the LN. It's such a cool universe, and the characters are just so much fun. The one exception was Mayshen. She was just so annoying as a character. I get her little crush after being saved by the strong and "handsome" Layfon, but ugh...she was just so annoying. I can't say that I loved Nina's character either. I understood her motivations, but she could also get a bit annoying. This was probably the first Harem-lite anime that I ever really enjoyed. Once again though, I don't think that I have encountered any quality stories on this site.

The Asterisk War:

Rounding out anime that I love but aren't well represented on fanfiction. It once again hits on one of my favorite themes "academy city". I have somewhat mixed feelings on Ayato. He's a very cool character in general, but I didn't like how easily and quickly he dedicated his sword to Julis. In some respect that does mirror Layfon's motivation in Chrome Shelled Regios when he decides to help Nina, but at least Layfon still holds some of himself back. Ayato just seems to completely open himself to his partnership with Julis, and at times he even seems to disregard finding his long lost sister. His motivations just don't make sense at times, but the concept of the story is still cool.

Books

Harry Potter:

This is probably my most explored franchise on this site. I pretty much exclusively read Harry/Hermione stories (though I will occasionally venture into something like Harry/Greengrass). The reason that this is a must for me is because more than any other pair of characters from the books their connection was most apparent. I refuse to read anything that is Hermione/Ron, because even in the source material it didn't make sense. JK Rowling tells us that they fit so it must be true, but at no point in the 7 books does she actually write them in a way where someone would believe they like each other. In fact, I would say that there were plenty of reasons in the books for us to believe that Ron/Hermione shouldn't be a romantic pairing and probably not even friends for that matter. Hermione was bullied a lot as a kid. She values intelligence, loyalty, and she has great ambitions. Do any of those traits sound like someone who would be very close to Ron (lazy, jealous, inferiority complex, bit of a bully). I don't know how anyone could imagine her allowing Ron back in after any of his betrayals to Harry, certainly not enough to date him. I would extend this to the other major canon pairing, Harry/Ginny. Ginny has an unhealthy obsession with Harry early on, which I can't imagine someone like Harry who hates his fame would like. Eventually it's assumed that she get's over her childhood hero worship, but even then what interactions do they have together in the 5 1/2 books leading up to Harry pouncing on her in the common room (see above for "rushed relationships")? So yeah, I ship Harry/Hermione. I'm also a big fan of SlytherinHarry. With the way that he was raised I thought it was always a little too easy for him to be a Gryffindor. Also, let's be real. Morally ambiguous characters are more fun.

Stop it with Hadrian Potter, Hardwin Potter, or any other bastardization of Harry's name or referring to him via some alias for the entire story. Just stop. What's wrong with just Harry? One of the f* princes of England is named Harry, and if it's good enough for a prince then it's good enough for Harry Fucking Potter, the titular character of the story that you claim to be writing about.

Video Games

Final Fantasy VII:

Obviously it's a classic. I had played JRPGs before, but I had never really appreciated them in the way that I do now, prior to FF7 (probably due to my young age at the time.). That being said, I actually don't read many stories here though. In large part because I'm not a fan of the canon pairing of Cloud/Aeris. Aeris has maybe the most memorable scene in video game history, and it was hard to not care for her sweet demeanor. I just never found the dynamics of her and Cloud to be believable. Cloud/Tifa always seemed to a better and more fun fit to me. Even that pairing doesn't hold that much interest for me though. As the years have gone on I have found myself questioning more and more how much I actually liked Cloud.

Overall though I will say it had some cool concepts. There are a lot of cool semi-AU story lines you can go into with the cast and things like SOLDIER as well as Midgar's slum cities, but I don't venture into it too often.

Final Fantasy VIII:

FFVIII is probably my favorite title in the series. Character development and interaction is probably the most important part of story telling to me, and this game was heavy on both. I was in middle school when this game came out, and so Squall's character definitely fit the teen persona that I thought was cool at the time. His indifferent attitude was "cool", and I loved the way that events and characters kept revolving around him even as he didn't want them. Also, how can you not adore Squall/Rinoa? Aeris may have the more memorable scene in Final Fantasy lore, but I was hit much harder by all the revelations on the Ragnarok with Rinoa (while Faye Wong's 'Eyes on Me' casually plays in the background and ninjas are cutting onions). The way that Rinoa is caring, feisty, and even sometimes airy all result in a non linear (and very adorable) character. Honestly, her and Squall together is one of the best relationship buildups in any video game.

Beyond just the romantic pairing of Squall/Rinoa there are many other fascinating aspects about this story. As I've mentioned in other parts here, I'm a big fan of academy cities, and this is one where teens/young adults go to school to become mercenaries. If that doesn't scream YA plot line then I don't know what does.

Final Fantasy XIII:

Similar to FF8, I fell in love with this game because of the characters. Lightning is my favorite character in all of Final Fantasy (all of video games for that matter). She's is self-sacrificing, commands respect, and she isn't above petty revenge when she or her family have been wronged which removes her from any 'I'm perfect' protagonist trope. Has there been a more "human" character in all of the Final Fantasy franchise? She believed her sister was more or less dead, and so her driving force was revenge and a need to just do something so that she didn't have to dwell on the fact that her sister was gone and her own guilt. The anger and desperation that she displayed throughout the journey was just so "human". What doesn't make sense though are all of the authors on this site who try to pair her with I-just-hit-puberty Hope. Aside from the initial age gap, she treats him as like she is a big sister or even a surrogate mother. How she could ever return any romantic feelings (as many stories here attempt to show) is unbelievable.

Actually, in terms of pairings I don't think there is a good fit for Lightning among any of the main cast. Maybe Fang, going into the opposites attract thing, but even that one has issues. Lightning has a certain coldness to her personality that only someone like Fang would have the persistence to get through, but she also might kill Fang in the process.

What is a good pairing though is Light/Serah, but I don't mean the romantic kind. Think about Light's motivation in the first game. The entire plot happens because Light has this burning rage to avenge her sister. Also, we know from her backstory that Lightning basically had to grow up fast for the both of them. Her incredible sacrifices and motivations show an amazing level of love and care for her sister, and I think that is a bond that is always worth exploring in fanfiction.

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic:

So, it's a bit unfair in that you can kind of make Revan be the character that you want him/her to be, but I also see a lot of stories on this site create a Revan that is more or less how I envision the character. While I prefer a (F) Revan, I'm not opposed to a (M) one. I just think that (F) Revan is more interesting. Not because she can potentially have a romantic pairing with some of the male cast, but I just enjoy the rare story where a woman with extraordinary power takes charge. Having a lithe figure would not prevent her from being an amazing combatant or genius strategist. Really though the key is having a dark/grey Revan. Emphasizing the character's power, genius, and willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done. The Star Wars universe is in general a fun one with many opportunities, but ever since I played the first KOTOR game, to me the story is about Revan.

Mass Effect:

My favorite video game story ever. Some of this goes back to the advantage of being able to create your own character, but the universe itself was fascinating. We all know the background, and so I won't go into that. Isn't it so much fun having this human spectre who is in some ways above the law? Also, the voice actress for (F)Shepard was phenomenal. I don't know if it was intended or not, but everything about her tone just screamed renegade (even when that wasn't the option being selected). I love reading other people's takes on a ruthless (F)Shepard, who takes her responsibilities seriously and isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. In some ways my view of Shepard is the same as Revan.

TV Shows & Movies

Teen Titans (original 2000's cartoon):

Screw Teen Titans Go lol. But really. The original cartoon from the early 2000's was such a great show. It was dark, funny, and it had real character development. Each of the characters grew in their own way over the course of the show, but one thing stood true. Raven was the best. The 4th season that featured her character arc was a high point for an already good series. It was hard not to adore her. She was a teen girl who had to bottle up her emotions or her powers would go out of control, and her powers were no joke. So, she developed an aloof personality to deal that. She loved her friends, but she also loved being alone. Also, her father is basically the devil. So, shouldn't it make sense that some half-demon royalty packs a serious punch? I love reading stories on here that don't have her take a backseat to the others. In terms of raw power she has it. It's hard for her to control though, and that's her big flaw as a super hero. It's also a driving force for many great plots. I'm not a fan of the canon BB/Raven pairing though. It takes the idea of "opposites attract" way too far. Opposites attract, but there still has to be something in their personalities that they share. In all honesty can you really picture a scenario where Raven and Beast Boy start spending a lot of time together and she doesn't send Beast Boy into another dimension?

Titans (HBO Max: Live Action):

I WANT to like this show, but the showrunner makes it so damn hard. The first season had a good pace to begin with, but things started to get derailed after a few episodes. I could appreciate the heavy focus that each of Rachel, Dick, Kori and Gar received early on in order to establish the characters. It made less sense to introduce Hank and Dawn separately though, and even less sense to continually split story focus across an ever growing roster of characters. This problem has only increased in subsequent seasons as more characters have joined the cast. Instead of "Titans", this show should be called Dick Grayson and the sporadic One Character Focus Episodes of Everyone Else.

The simultaneous yet separate attention applied to - Rachel, Dick, Gar, Kori, Hank, Dawn, Jason, Rose, Tim, Donna, Conner, Blackfire, Scarebrow, Barbara and Slade - has made it so that I barely know these characters despite being just a couple episodes from finishing the 3rd full season of the show.

Also, what the hell was up with the whole Trigon conclusion? The team originally comes together over the course of an entire season, literally due to the troubles chasing Rachel, and it features a pretty desperate cliffhanger to end the first season. Yet someone seriously thought it was a good idea after all of that to close out that entire storyline in the span of like 15 minutes in s2e1? Just...wow...

Firefly/Serenity:

Well I can pretty much sum this section up with 1 word. River. The entire cast is awesome, and the over arching story is obviously cool (sci-fi western). However, while every character is worthy of their own in-depth exploration, River is the one that I need. She's equal parts broken and total bad ass, and she's the one who you can make the entirety of the crew revolve around. Yes, Mal is the Captain with a dramatic past, and the unquestioned (usually) leader. He can force things to go a certain way, but with River things are just going to be a certain way and there isn't anything that anyone can do about it. River is the one who can drive an almost unlimited number of plotlines. Alliance hunting her down, being a secret weapon for the crew, being the little sister that everyone tries to help, etc...The only thing that I can't stand is Jayne/River. On some level they actually do make sense together (mainly in that they are the only two unpaired characters on the ship). Now, a lot of stories use character relationships to add depth to the characters. Unfortunately though I kind of think that a romantic relationship between Jayne and River detracts from their characters. For one, it's too easy to just throw the only two unmatched characters on the ship together. Second, I think that you inevitably lose focus on the traits that make both characters so interesting. Jayne is your typical rough guy/mercenary. He does have a softer side that we sometimes get to see, but that's kind of the point. It isn't supposed to be in your face. River is mentally unstable and would probably struggle to remain lucid enough for a functional relationship with anyone, but even if she was able to do that then I think you still lose something. Even if you find a way to maintain her character with that lucidness, then I think that you will still lose out on focusing on areas about her that aren't her kick ass fighting, genius intellect, position within the entire crew, sensory abilities and their cost.

Lucifer:

This franchise exists and excels entirely because of the cast of characters. Each character plays important roles (and they're all likable in their own way). Ultimately though, this story is about Lucifer and Chloe, and that's also why I think this is one of the harder franchises to write about for fanfiction. I thought that the show is very clever in giving just enough of those Chloe/Lucifer moments to keep the relationship alive and getting every ounce of emotional impact out of them for the audience; all without turning it into a cheap romance story. Getting that same level of impact while staying true to their characters does not seem easy though in fanfiction though since you can't really draw it out. Both characters are stubborn, both hold their emotions in, and there is mountain of other problems that divide the two from forming a true relationship. On top of those character trait issues there is the issue of what kind of believable story can you make when you don't simply dance around the Chloe/Lucifer relationship teases and instead go full blown into it. I can imagine the difficulty in staying true to the characters that we have grown to love while attempting to write a story that actually tries to bring them together. I've found a couple of pretty good stories, but most have either Lucifer or Chloe turning into a sobbing mess where they are always longing forlornly for the other.

Frozen:

Call it a guilty pleasure. Maybe there is something wrong with looking too deep into the story of an animated Disney film like Frozen, but this has become one of my favorite fanfiction franchises. The first Frozen movie was good for what it was. An animated Disney film with some fun characters and annoyingly catchy songs. The part that gets me excited for it's potential though is the setting.

First, there is the historical setting of an 18th-19th century European monarchy with the burden of an entire kingdom falling onto the shoulders of a young and sheltered princess/queen. For anyone who loves history and political intrigue, this alone offers many exciting avenues to explore. Next, you have this young woman with strange elemental powers that she had to conceal her entire life. Each of those concepts would make for their own interesting story individually. Combining them together presents a whole new world (see what I did there) of story telling avenues from when to explore, and that is what you get with Frozen. A young queen in a post medieval time period, with strange magical powers, lack of control, an estranged sister who she loves yet can't quite connect with, and on top of it all she still has a kingdom's burdens falling onto her after the untimely death of her parents. That is an exciting setting.

I love seeing Elsa work to overcome her own insecurities, try to patch together her relationship with her sister, and then dealing with all of the responsibilities of a kingdom on top of that.

My love of the franchise is strictly held to the first Frozen story though. For me, Frozen II sweeps the rug out from under the lore that was established in the first film. It turns it into a typical magical Disney children's adventure instead of a potentially complex coming of age story with royalty and ice powers (it's Disney, I get it). Elsa the monarch no longer exists which removes that line of story telling. Now, you could explore Anna as queen, but that is a bigger fantasy than a young woman with ice powers. Whatever general competency Anna may have, which she does, there is not anything about her character which suggests that she could sit in on diplomatic negotiations for hours. Second, one of the major points of the original animation was the bond and desire between the two sisters. In Frozen II, Elsa goes off to live in the north as some guardian spirit and Anna becomes queen of Arendelle (both of which seem like full time jobs)...so much for reconnecting after being isolated from one another for most their lives. Finally, it all just fit too nicely. Obviously it's a Disney film, there was always going to be a happily ever after with a ribbon to match. The difference between the first film and the 2nd though is what potential was left with the story and it's universe. The first Frozen left the state affairs open to any kind of historical tale with sprinkles of magic. The second film pushed the universe completely into magical fairy tail land with very limited options to continue the story.

Mulan:

I don't think that I've ever read any Mulan stories here (maybe I should remedy that). I'm putting it on here though because my thoughts on it influence my thoughts on many other stories. I've always been a fan of female centric hero stories. It's nothing to do with SJW or anything like that. I just think that a strong female taking "action" offers a unique experience in story telling since it is usually a male in that role, and there are different things that you can do with a female hero (some of which are explored in the various tellings of Mulan). That's a long introduction, but this is why I love Mulan. It's not a story you get every day, and while I always enjoyed the original animated version, I really started to love the story with the Mulan Rise of a Warrior movie from 2009. In the animated version of Mulan, she was just a tomboy who learned how to fight. However, in both the 2009 version and the recent live action Disney version, Mulan grows up learning martial arts. It creates a more realistic foundation to her heroic legend in the army.

Underworld:

Probably my favorite movie franchise period. Yes, I think Kate Beckinsale is hot. Yes, I think Kate Beckinsale with electric blue eyes in tight leather is very hot. But that isn't why I love it (it's not the only reason). I love fantasy lore where vampires act a sort of aristocracy. I also love stories where the lead is akin to some sort of assassin, and as I've mentioned before I love strong female action leads. I also have a soft spot for urban fantasy where we get these supernatural beings living in our modern world in secret. Add all of this together and yeah I love the franchise. The fanfiction? Not so much. Given that this is a franchise spanning 5 movies, 4 of which with Selene in the lead role, the number of stories which do not prominently feature her is baffling. It's utterly shocking how many of them that do feature her do not take into account that she is a 600 year old trained killer (even before her powerup in Evolution), has no qualms about raising some chaos, and is both shown and implied to have great control over her emotions. I've seen stories where she breaks down crying and needs saving by Michael or (insert male character) and I've read stories about her getting her ass kicked by everyone she encounters in the story. Never have I found a story that actually matches the character that we saw across 4 movies though.
Strong and independent
A warrior
An emotional mask covering a 600 year quest of revenge and later betrayal
Fully capable of handling herself in any situation.

My Wishlist Essentially this is my wishlist for this site and its authors.

-I really wish there was a way to blacklist stories. Sometimes when I find a synopsis that sounds cool but the story is bad then I will leave a review just so that I can reference it later as something not to read again. Especially now that I'm not as actively reading on here, it's easy for me to scroll over stories that I've already passed 5 times in previous searches. It would be nice if I could just flag stories to not show up in my search anymore.

- More undercover fics...one of my favorite tropes in story telling is an undercover/double identity. Like Bruce Wayne keeping his Batman activities a secret from all of the people he cares about. It creates strains on those relationships that add a lot of drama.

- More time travel fics. I do see a lot of these in the Harry Potter section, and I love them. Where Harry goes back in time, back into the body of his younger self with all of his memories intact. It makes him overpowered, but it's fun to see what he does with that knowledge. This is a popular story type in Wuxia light novels. Yes it does make the main character OP, but sometimes that's fun.

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