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Thread: Pokemon Battle: Writing vs. Anime vs. Games

  1. #1
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    Default Pokemon Battle: Writing vs. Anime vs. Games

    So, I just wanted to make a tiny thread to spark discussion (does this sub forum work this way?).

    I've read tons of mediocre Pokemon fanfiction in the past--we all have--and I wanted to talk about battles.

    Well, you see, a lot of times I'll see a lot of anime-style battles. Authors worried about their Pokemon knowing more than four moves, calculating base stats (or not keeping realistically true to them, like in the anime: Pikachu hits like 90 base speed iirc, yet that thing doesn't stand a chance in speed vs. Lucario in the anime, which has the same base speed stat, and Ash's Pikachu is noted for it's agile agility from the beginning of the anime).

    I've seen things like Hyper Beam used as sort of an "Go-To-Uber-Attack" where it hurts anything it hits. (I once saw a Dragonite's Hyper Beam OHKO a Metagross in a fanfic I was reading...) I also saw Pikachu's Thunderbolt hit ground types (and rock types in the same fanfic).

    --

    A lot of fanficiton focus solely on attack / dodge format setting, like in the anime. Typing is sometimes not taken into consideration, and not much strategy is demonstrated overall. BST total (lol, this really isn't a thing in competitive Pokemon, but I guess it's a good estimate for fanficiton) is often downplayed or overplayed.

    Then there are battles that try so hard to stick to competitive rules. Four attacks, typing is important, and BST totals (lol) are taken way too seriously.

    What I want to say is this: while none of what I mentioned is WRONG, per say, there are things I'd like more authors to consider: you're in a writing setting. This is the BEST place to make Pokemon Battles shine. You can add weak points (Crukik's Regret has Nuzleafs posses weak noses, using his under leveled Pokemon to weaken it enough for capture), and you can showcase strategy much easier. You can plot how a battle will go, and how your opponent is thinking. In a writing setting, you simply have more options to choose from: so use them!

    I mean, in the anime, Ash's Pikachu has this spin attack it can use to dodge attacks with elegance.

    Stall strategies are really underrated in fanfiction as well, and the importance of hazards are also no where to be seen. It'd be nice to see a contrast from official elite four league matches, from actual Trainer battles.

    Also, I'd like to see more realistic battle turn outs. I've seen Pikachu beat Garchomps before (like how, how, how?) by simply jumping at every Earthquake (realistically, if I was Garchomp's trainer, I would use EQ specifically to make my opponent to go airborne to hit it with another attack while it can't dodge: Dragon Rush, Hyper Beam, whatever). Special / Physical attack stats don't mean much in writing as well as you can downplay base stats for offensive stats so long as a Pokemon is evolved, and since not every Pokemon is the same level, it's not like anyone could call you out on it (unless it's your MC vs. The Champion, like in the battle I was referring to where Pikachu beat Garchomp, like come onnnnn--and the Garchomp had full health).

    Anyway, I guess the tl;tr version of this is that writing gives you a bigger variety than the games or anime does, so try to use everything to your advantage to create interesting, realistic battles versus bland, generic, boring battles I've been seeing in the FFN site lately.

    As a last note, your Pokemon can and should know more moves than four unless it's video game centric for whatever reason. This in itself makes battles in fanfiction much more interesting than in the anime or games.
    Last edited by Shurtugal; 7th August 2014 at 2:38 AM.

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    Speaking of battles with game system at the behind, there is just one thing I also do not understand whenever it comes to Pokemon-related fanfics: Why the game mechanics must be follow so strictly up to the level of statistically and systematically, without even considering Pokemon is a kind of living creature that can act (for some fics they even think) on its own?

    Although I would also blame the anime and the game partly for making Pokemon battles so mechanical in these recent generations, but that doesn't give the reason fanfic authors must follow so.
    And even looking at a fanfic from a Pokemon game player viewpoint, how many player will even notice and give a damn about BST/EV/IV right on their first play? It is true that type effectiveness will give one an advantage, but that is not a compulsory factor to win a match, and it is not that not-very-effective moves are unable to take down the opponent. Anime always confuse the concept between not-very-effective and completely ineffective.

    There are a few good Pokemon fanfic out there, where they utilize their own spin by most significantly disregarding meaningless in-game statistics like BST, EV/IV, or even accuracy for attacks. But however when it comes to battles, I still found many are rather second-rate, because the Pokemon acts and move rather mechanically like a robot which they reacts only upon the instructions of trainers or upon the actions of opponent Pokemon. Such undynamic lifeless portrayal of battling Pokemon just makes battle lackluster.
    And then, it is also true that I very seldom find Pokemon fic that utilize strategies and tactics. By strategies and tactics, it is not only those competitive strategies found on Smogan by just simply combining several moves in the correct order, where more importantly it relies on the systematical execution of in-game programming (Though, sometimes I utilize it, because there are really some good strategies even under real world settings). I mean the true strategies and tactics one would also utilize when one is playing a tactic war game, or many other non-turn-based real-time 3D-style RPG and/or Action-RPG games.

    On the opposite, even if game statistics and systems must be incorporate for some reason, such as within the virtual reality game world like Sword Art Online or Log Horizon, where then stats and parameters are technically truly existing, but still battles between characters are not turn-based and mechanical. Enemies don't just wait for your moves, and they don't just simply counterattack with a fixed algorithm, the battles are fast and instantly, sometimes characters just don't have time even to command or to think. So one's fighting ability is all thanks to the accumulated battle experiences and trainings for all those years, has completely nothing to do with the intrinsic parameters (aka BST and IV in Pokemon) before one is even born.
    Please do not tell me instructing a non-human being to fight for you is completely different from fighting on your own. Yeah, it is different, but only differ by a paper-thin slightness. Because you still need to train the Pokemon for it to become useful, the Pokemon still need to learn new skills/moves/knowledge for it to know how to battle efficiently, you still need to incorporate strategies and tactics during fighting, you may teach your Pokemon to fight by mere guts and brutal force but at the end your Pokemon may not be that lucky to survive until the end. All the fighting situations are exactly the same for both cases, the only difference is that either the human character is the fighter doing the battle, or the trainer (commander) of the Pokemon (fighter) that does the battle.

    Very strangely, although Sword Art Online and Log Horizon can make such a nice battle scenes (and story as well) even with game mechanics being utilized, why Pokemon (from realistic in-universe viewpoint) that is not supposed to be bound by mechanical game system had became so mechanical? That is not only for fanfic, but I'm addressing to the official anime as well.
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    As a general note (or more to Shurtugal, I mean), I just want to step in and say this. You’ll want to keep in mind that Serebii is a different writing community from FFNet. This of course doesn’t invalidate your advice (You’re pretty on the ball when it comes to their community), but given that it’s not entirely clear how much of an overlap exists between FFNet and the circle of regulars on Serebii (quite a few people here aren’t actually hardcore members of FFNet, even if they do update there), it’s possibly the equivalent of preaching to the choir. For example, a lot of the fics you want to see—the well-written ones with battles that aren’t just attack, attack, dodge, and aim for the horn—do exist, and I’d even venture to estimate that they’re a good chunk of the fics that are written and posted to/crossposted on Serebii. The forum’s full of fics that manage to balance inferences they get from stats (e.g., doing things like deciding that Pikachu are faster than Bidoof because of course) with their own creativity to come up with fast-paced, well-described, interesting-to-read action scenes. So I would definitely recommend checking out fics like Roots (by Mrs. Lovett) or Requiem (by Sidewinder) for some good battle scenes. And those are just two name drops. I could literally sit here and offer up pages of recs if you’d like.

    Meanwhile, the reason why you might be seeing a lot of fics of the caliber you’re describing in the rest of your post is because they’re written by young and inexperienced authors … which FFNet tends to be full of. They’re still testing out the waters, and it does take a lot of writing experience to understand how movement works in prose. A lot of newer authors cling to the formulaic, boring formats because they’re safe. That’s what they know from their experiences playing the game or participating in other parts of the fandom, so they try their hardest to translate those concepts into words without realizing that action and battle scenes don’t work that way—or that battles written like that aren’t that interesting, in any case. It’s a lot like the reason why Mary Sue self-inserts exist. In the author’s mind, they’re interesting because it’s satisfying to them, but they don’t really think about the possibility that reading a story focused on an awesome version of themselves might not necessarily be interesting to anyone else. Same deal with battle scenes. To an author who writes very simplistic battles, they think that the plot will be interesting enough to carry the rest of the story (not to mention they think that their battles are interesting enough if it’s full of explosions), but they don’t really think about the fact that prose is very limiting. They don’t really get that you need to have something crazy-awesome happen because you’re relying on just your words to convey that bit of excitement. And that’s something you learn as you get experience writing action scenes.

    Where I’m going with this is the point that I agree that battles written the way you’re describing them aren’t that interesting. Definitely agree about that. But the question is how do you go from writing dry battles with barely any thought or choreography to them to writing exciting, creative battles that take into consideration all of those different factors? That’s something I’d love to see more thoughts on because there are definitely different ways of approaching that question (and anyway, it’d be awesome if this really was an advice thread people could go to for tips on how to improve their battle-writing skills).

    To start off that bit of discussion, the way I did it was practicing. Roleplaying is a huge help, but back in the day, I did a lot of work with a form of ASB (Anime Style Battling, much like our own PASBL except a lot more detail-oriented). I’m not 100% sure if the PASBL is comparable because I know their battles aren’t as detail-heavy as the PFUASB (i.e., my style) was, but it and Fizzy Bubbles are still worth it to check out for one reason: they’re collaborative writing forms. If someone is relying on you to describe a battle well and keep things interesting, you’ll be more inclined to step up your game. And collaborations do put you in situations where people are relying on your descriptions. They form strategies based on what you have to say if you’re the ref, and if you’re the battler, you have to come up with moves and counters to prevent your opponent from hitting you hard. So you’re constantly thinking of combinations and creative ways of doing things, and for me anyway, that pushed me to think of a battle as more than just “Pokémon A uses Move B on Pokémon C.”

    Roleplaying in general—the high-end stuff you see in Serebii’s RP forum, I mean, not the stuff you’d do over VMs or with someone with a sparkly special character or whatnot—does something similar, except it cuts out the middleman that is the ref. Instead of having someone else describe the battle for you, you’re the one coming up with strategies and battle descriptions and everything else. Yet they’re still important to get down well because someone else is going to base the actions of their characters on what yours do or did to their surroundings.

    But if you can’t do either (roleplaying or ASBing, I mean), practice a lot. Look at Bulbapedia for move descriptions (which they do well, might I add, thanks to their sections on how each move is used in the manga and anime) and practice writing your own based on what they have to say. Build battles based on the images you form from thinking about the way these moves are used in canon. And most importantly: plan. Don’t rush through a battle just to get to its endpoint. Yes, you’ll want to have an endpoint in mind, but all battles need to be cause-and-effect. Something happens to a character because another character did something. Working backwards from this end result tends to be a bit too rigid (as in, you’re forcing every move to click with your battle’s results), but working from the beginning forwards and assuming that the end result is a rough concept gives you better flexibility. (As in, just think about battle results in terms of who’s going to win. What’s more important is saying, “Okay, Pikachu is going to use Quick Attack, and Garchomp is going to use Earthquake to fire Pikachu into the air. The result of that Earthquake is that Pikachu is in the air and therefore defenseless, so that means this other thing happens.” A chain of cause and effect, in other words.)

    Point is, yep, there are a lot of things to think about when it comes to writing battles and making them interesting. It’s more complicated than thinking about them in game or competitive battling terms. But understanding the basics is, well, the baseline, and getting away from that is a process, not a matter of flipping a switch from writing dry action scenes to writing well-written ones. The more you read about the way moves work and practice writing action scenes, the easier it will be to get creative with your battle choreography.

    In short, I totally would love to see more interesting battles. (I mean, more so than I do thanks to the fact that Serebii’s just straight-up got higher standards about that, for the most part.) But when it comes to FFNet, I'm also hesitating to say they have no excuse for writing the way they do because I know that a lot of those kids are, well, just kids. Some of them are just starting out, and some of the things they do are issues that can be worked out the more they work at it and the more us more experienced authors step in to give them a few polite words of concrit. So all I can say is do your best as a reviewer to point the way for writers. It’s the ones who don’t bother improving that you should be frustrated about, but those folks aren’t worth the stress either.

    Buuuuut in any case, you are most definitely welcome to post interesting discussion topics, Shurtugal. Here's to hoping the discussion stays up in the air because I'd love to see what advice other folks have about improving their action scene skills.

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    Agreed - maybe I'm not looking much in the right (or wrong?) places, because I can't say I've really seen many fics that stick so much to the mechanics to take into account BSTs for who should win... But Shurtugal, as you mention FFNet, then I can say that while there are diamonds in the rough there, boring or non-sensical battles in fics there hasn't ever been much of an uncommon sight. =p As said, a lot of newer and more inexperienced writers show up there than fan forums in general, from my experience.

    Granted, I feel that they should be taken into account, but more as a guideline. If a Pokemon has a much larger attack base stat than special, it makes sense that the way it fights in fics is through more physical attacks than special, for example. Besides that, following how the games go to a T just makes it boring to read. If your battles reads like how a game would - who should win, turn-for-turn, etc - then why shouldn't the reader just pick up a Pokemon game and play that instead? Battles are arguably one of the more exciting parts a Pokemon fic can offer, so it should reflect that and be exciting to read as well.

    Oh, and I agree with what Jax said about ASB helping with battle writing. During a break of a fic I was trying out writing in such a system, and I'm fairly sure it helped me think out battles in writing quite a great deal.

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    I think fanfiction is the perfect opportunity to make pokemon battles shine. Because battling is sort of the core of a pokemon trainer's life. :P I don't watch the anime at all, so in order to write battle scenes, I take what I observe from the games and give it a real-world spin. I adhere to type advantages because I consider them a necessary part of Pokemon canon, and as a bonus I try to give them sensible real-world justifications. Instead of taking HP, EXP, attack power, and all the other quantitative game mechanics as literal, I use their qualitative counterparts, like how much energy a pokemon has left to battle, how much power a move has, etc. If one pokemon is faster than another in-game, or has another stat difference, I will usually accept it and work with it, depending on how major it is. Of course, I still leave room for each pokemon's individuality -- one Pikachu might be faster or stronger than another -- but Pikachu as a species are faster than Slakoths.

    I also think it's very fun and interesting to build upon the relationship between the trainers involved. In the games, every battle is the same nonchalant relay of inputs and outputs, whether you're facing a Youngster or the Elite Four Champion or Cyrus in the middle of Distortion World. But whenever I play my games, I wonder: "What must my opponent's facial expression be like right now, now that I've gotten his last pokemon down to 10HP, Paralyzed, and him seconds away from having his dream crushed?" Or, "How does this little Tuber feel now that I'm about to beat her for the thousandth time?" Written stories are one of the few places you can make these relationships shine, so I consider them essential to writing battles.

    When it comes to battle results, for me, the sky's the limit. I think that outrageous battle turnouts (like the Pikachu-beating-Garchomp example you mentioned), can be very entertaining if they're written well. And I do believe they can be done, because the beauty of the games is that even a Pikachu can defeat a Garchomp if the Garchomp or the Garchomp's trainer doesn't have a good strategy. And making something like that happen in a universe that mimics the laws of real life can make the victory anything from dramatic, funny, to plain unexpected. In short, it can be whatever the writer wants.

    As for writing the actual combat, I have someone command first, and dive right in. I describe the effects of that command, whether the opponents are hit or whether it was a defensive/preparatory move, and how the second trainer and their pokemon react to it. I imagine the way each move looks for myself, using a combination of the in-game graphics, introspection, and the in-game descriptions of the attacks. Then the rest of the time is me living the battle in slow motion. I examine each side's position and think through each trainer's strategy. I repeat the process of giving commands, and describing the effects of those commands, keeping in mind that the effects of a move can entail more than just weakening the opponent, but altering the battlefield and battle conditions too. I also remember that, unlike me, the trainers are in the thick of things and don't have much time to think their reactions through. So you'll see them shouting "Dodge it!" to give themselves time, or "Noooo!" when something doesn't go their way. Sometimes I have preexisting notes about which moves are used, or which pokemon takes down which, but I treat these notes like checkpoints, and always try to meet them through a logical, organic writing process. Then, I just write and write until the battle concludes itself.

    I like this method because it doesn't constrain me. It allows me to write things vividly or plainly, and leaves me free to include anything else in the battle that I may want. Because you can do a lot of things with battles besides train pokemon -- they're great for character development, worldbuilding, and scenery description.


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  6. #6
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    Wow! There are so many things I'd like to say! I guess I'll go ahead and begin with:

    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine
    But the question is how do you go from writing dry battles with barely any thought or choreography to them to writing exciting, creative battles that take into consideration all of those different factors? That’s something I’d love to see more thoughts on because there are definitely different ways of approaching that question (and anyway, it’d be awesome if this really was an advice thread people could go to for tips on how to improve their battle-writing skills).
    I'd like to try to answer this prompt and maybe make this thread a discussion for this!

    Dry battles are battles that don't go anywhere. A battle, if you choose to write one, in any story, fanficiton or otherwise, should move the story somehow. Whether it be plot development, character development, or both. If it isn't moving the story in some way, it's probably useless. (However, I hope these words are carefully understood: some battles are set up for other battles, or foreshadow something in a story. Some battles potray a character's ability to battle, good, bad, or otherwise; and can even serve as development for characters introduced later on. And obviously, battles can move plot, haha.)

    Each battle should be considered in your story and the effects you need it to have. When you go into a battle writing, you should have an idea of who is going to win. That's all you need. You don't need a how. All you need to know is who is going to win, what the battle must demonstrate, and how it must effect your character.

    Personally, I just start writing a battle, and see where it goes. If it doesn't do what I need it to do, I consider the battle, take the good from it, and scrap everything else. Sometimes, a stroke of genius will hit me while I'm writing the battle for character development or whatever and I'll keep it.

    However, this response is a clear dodge on the prompt: how do you make your battles less dry and boring?

    Well, there are a lot of variables to consider, but I'll answer this as best as I can.

    First, you must consider the type of trainers you are battling. What if your opponent is bilingual? They can use a foreign language to command their pokemon. I don't even think you could make this illegal for them to do in a tournament setting. ("My Pokemon don't understand English commands.") How will not hearing your opponent's commands effect your Main Character's ability to battle? How will it effect your Main Character's Pokemon, too? And most importantly, how will they counter the tactic?

    Another type of trainers are contest trainers. By nature, they are much more creative than the average battler. They can make Flamethrower into a makeshift shields. They can pull out some crazy things out of their rears. Normal trainers, like quite possibly your Main Character, will be hard-pressed to fight firepower like that (pun not intended).

    Second, you must consider the Win Condition. This is an actual thing in Competitive Pokemon, but it's pretty much a thing in any kind of battle scene to be honest. What are your opponent / Main Character's Win Condition, and how will they work to get there?

    For example, take the battle between Pikachu vs. Garchomp. Let's say Pikachu jumps expertly to avoid the Earthquake. Garchomp comes up to attack Pikachu with Dragon Rush. PIkachu deftly dodges the Dragon Rush with a wonderfully performed Spin Attack and Slams Garchomp with an Iron Tail.

    In order for Pikachu to win, it can't get attacked too many times by Garchomp. Between Pikachu's agile speed, possible Double Teams, and contest maneuvers (like the Spin Attack), Pikachu can possibly use Guerrilla Warefare as a way to defeat Garchomp. However, Pikachu's can't attack Garchomp from a distance since his electric attacks are useless, and no-thanks to Earthquake, unless he's really quick, he'll be forced to keep going airborne, which will make it hard to get close for an Iron Tail.

    You see, things like this should be put into a battle, where we can maybe see Garchomp getting frustrated as Pikachu keeps barely dodging attacks, and getting in quick attacks, and while he may end up fainting, Garchomp might find itself quickly tired out for another Pokemon to easily wipe out.

    I'd like to mention a work-in-progress as another example, as the MC (a Gardevoir)'s notice of her trainer's lack of strategy plays a key role in the story. At first, she faces off against Diantha's Gardevoir. While her Gardevoir Calm Minds, she is commanded to fire a Shadow Ball. However, thanks to the Calm Mind boost, Diantha orders her to retaliate with multiple Moonblasts, which hurt Gardevoir to the point where she collapses on her knees, and she's deftly finished with a Hyper Voice.

    In the second battle, an elite's Volcarona sets up Quiver Dance, and her attacks are useless. Her trainer keeps ordering more and more attacks, and Gardevoir realizes the elite hasn't ordered Volcarona to attack because the elite is trying to set up for a guaranteed sweep against her trainer's entire team. So she disobeys her trainer on the last Quiver Dance and promptly uses Psych Up, allowing her to catch the elite off guard and avoid the one attack the elite commands, and promptly finish the Volcarona off with a Psyshock.

    In this hypothetical second battle, you can see where a hint of strategy is weaved in, and you can also see where the reader wouldn't be able to see a way out of losing the battle (the stakes are high for our Main Character). (And even winning doesn't help her, but since I plan on posting that story sometime on here later, I don't want to say anything else.)

    Tl;tr: a battle needs to be thought out. You need to consider your trainer and Pokemon's ability to fight against Pokemon they have the advantage and Pokemon they don't have the advantage against. You should consider your opponent and how good they are at combating their own weaknesses, and overall, what the battle needs to accomplish. The battle should always be accomplishing something. To make your battle stand out, simply put thought into moves (please use more than four), typing, setting, and training. Training is important, as well as level, and battles can demonstrate how good or bad your MC is at battling, and depending on what direction you want to take, battling is a great way to move a story forward.

    A battle needs to be thoughtful. A battle can be stupidly simple and still be thoughtful if being simple serves a purpose (and it often can).

    PS: teammates should be taken into consideration too, as well as personal Pokemon phobias, etc. -- pretty much anything that can effect the battle's progression.

    ---

    Also, I never mentioned FFN in this thread ;___;. Also, I was just commenting in general, as I've seen the mistakes in the past. I admit I've seen a lot of quality work on here (that I HAVE been meaning to review, like JX Valentine's Retroactive Continuity and Dragonfree's Morphic).

    Anyway, I'll type up more later when I get the time. Haha. XD

    EDIT: Oh my, I did. Sorry about that! I didn't realize
    Last edited by Shurtugal; 8th August 2014 at 5:04 AM.

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    Just a quick specific reply (sorry to skip all the interesting discussion, but I can't really go through it rn!):
    Quote Originally Posted by Shurtugal View Post
    Also, I never mentioned FFN in this thread ;___;. Also, I was just commenting in general, as I've seen the mistakes in the past.
    I had been going on this at the end of your opening post:
    Anyway, I guess the tl;tr version of this is that writing gives you a bigger variety than the games or anime does, so try to use everything to your advantage to create interesting, realistic battles versus bland, generic, boring battles I've been seeing in the FFN site lately.
    Evidence. :B But that's okay, that's just why I (and Jax) said that.

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    Battles! What could be better, really?

    First off, I think it always helps to have a look at some really great battle writing as well as figuring out what puts you off about sub-par battles. Here's some recommendations in that vein:

    - Pokémon Rose and sequels by HelenAlexandra: Wonderful action scenes here all around, and the battles in particular are tense, strategic, and strongly colored by the personalities of the humans and pokémon doing the fighting. Just check out the gym battle at the end of this chapter, for example, where one character takes on all six of the fire gym leader's team with just his ivysaur and wins, and I completely bought it. All in all a lovely 'fic, highly recommended, but also extremely long, so grab a snack or something if you feel like diving in. I would say that the biggest take-away from this story might be how to convey character through battle, but it's good all around, honestly.
    - The Game of Champions by L. Lamora: This one probably showcases the most inventive strategies and best use of the environment out of any of the 'fics here; definitely something you want to look into if you want to take your battle scenes to the next level. Take a look at the Pewter Gym battle, for example. Unfortunately I can't really recommend this one outside the fight scenes, but hey, you take what good you can.
    - Gods and Demons by Keleri: The battles here get brutal and deliver a great lesson on building tension and sheer awe or horror over the opposition your main character faces. This gym battle (yes, always with the gym battles), for example, is probably the best use of a tentacruel I've seen in a fanfic and is just wonderfully done. This is a dead 'fic, though, so if you check it out, try not to get too attached.
    - Not a pokémon 'fic, but Worm is a superhero story that does an amazing job of showcasing what you can do when you have a bunch of beings with crazy powers duking it out, which is basically what pokémon is. This story gets very darkity-dark-dark (also long) and may not be your cuppa, but the early chapters aren't bad in that respect and the fight scenes are stellar throughout; you can definitely take lessons from them to improve your pokémon battle fight scenes... for example, how to make use of a very limited movepool in a fight. Many of the capes in this story have only one trick up their sleeve in terms of power, but damn do they ever make that one trick work.

    I feel like I'm missing at least one or two extremely obvious ones there, but that's plenty to get started with, and I can always come back to add more...

    You can also check out the battle one-shot contest we had here a few years back, where you can see battle scenes in isolation as well as judges' comments on them, which you may find helpful.

    Next! What JX Valentine and bobandbill said about ASB reffing being a great way to practice your battle writing skills is absolutely true! And it's tons of fun otherwise, of course. I'd amend their recommendation slightly, though, to say that you want to look specifically for a league that requires you to provide flavor with your reffing--that is, makes you write something, rather than allowing you to just turn in a bunch of calculations with a one-sentence "then the pokémon used X move!" to outline what happened. If you're in this to practice battle writing, then you really want to set yourself up in a situation where you have to, you know write battles. Otherwise you can easily bow out when the going gets tough or you just don't feel like you want to write, which of course are exactly the times you need to just force yourself to do the work. Smogon's league is one I would not recommend if your goal is to better your writing for this reason, and there are others like it around. But yeah, ASB's great for improving your writing among plenty of other things, A++ will play again someday.

    But anyway, on to the meat of the discussion itself. It's hard, because any one of these topics could easily have an entire thread devoted to it in and of itself, but in brief:

    I don't think I've ever seen anyone slavishly adhere to BST's, much less go on about EV's or IV's in a fanfic that wasn't a parody, but I think stats provide a useful guideline to how a pokémon can be played in battle. They're helpful in that they give you a quick way of picking interesting matchups (what could reasonably challenge my character in a battle?) and also a ready-made sense of how that pokémon might be expected to perform in battle: whether it's going to prefer a physical close-range assault, whether it will be agile or slow and bulky, and so on. All in all I think the clear framework provided by the games, which gives you ready-made strengths and weaknesses for the various species, is a huge boon to storytelling--far better than trying to have to think those things up for yourself!

    I think Mrs. Lovett makes a good point about how the battle can be used to highlight the relationship between the trainers involved. I think battles are excellent tools for character development. The way a person battles and interacts with their opponent can tell you a great deal about their personality, background, and so on, and do so in a relatively condensed amount of time. And battles are a great place for character development, too, often able to represent significant challenges for your cast to overcome, a chance for them to apply some lesson they've learned, or otherwise make a significant step forward in their personal growth. As Shurtugal said, it's important for the battle to in some way be important for the story, and the best way is to make it relevant to the characters. A good way to tell whether a battle advances the plot is to consider what would happen if the character lost, whether that actually ends up happening or not. This tells you the stakes, what the battle really means to the narrative--and if the answer is that nothing really would change, then the battle's a good candidate for cutting. Now, I did just mention that battles can be used for exposition (character exposition in particular) as well, and they have plenty of other potential functions, but if what you want is a real sense of excitement, some serious tension and drama, what you want is to be sure that there are serious stakes in play when writing a battle.

    As far as actually writing battles goes, I think one of the things newbie writers struggle with the most is breaking out of the turn-based format of the games (and often, anime), which reads as dead and static on the page. A battle wants to be full of life and movement, and it's hard to get good pacing if you're devoted to a basic form of "Pokémon A used move! Then pokémon B used move! Then pokémon A used move!" over and over until one side's defeated. This plays into what JX Valentine said about cause and effect being important in battles. It's in fact the most important element of a battle or other action scene, the only thing that can give coherence and prevent the scene from simply becoming a disconnected series of things happening on the page. (On the other hand, if what you want to convey is chaos and uncertainty, breaking the chain of causality is exactly what you want to do... but sparingly.) But in the sense of divorcing yourself from a turn-based style of writing, cause and effect is important to consider because it lets you see the through-flow of action into action rather than thinking of the battle as just a seesaw of commands and subsequent actions on the part of the pokémon. If your pokémon goes for a fire punch, for example, then probably the opponent will move to dodge or block, whether or not it's commanded to--and then either the attacker may be provoked to try another attack in quick succession, or the defender will take advantage of some opening and launch an attack of its own. In this way the next move follows directly on from the last in an organic way. Action on one pokémon's part forces reaction on the part of the other. This is far more interesting and coherent than the alternative, seen in many 'fics, where the pokémon essentially launch an attack, then stand around waiting for their turn to come around again. It may therefore be most useful to think of each move in a battle as a case of "what happens next?" rather than "what attack do they use next?" because a lot of the interaction between the pokémon (or between the pokémon and the arena) takes the form of something other than attack, and it's the transitions from one command to a next that really make the battle feel alive and genuine.

    Finally, I must strongly disagree with this sentiment:

    To make your battle stand out, simply put thought into moves (please use more than four)...
    As the old saying goes, it's not the size of your movepool, it's what you do with it. Sure, there are benefits to having a wider pool of attacks available to each pokémon: it gives you more wiggle room, gives you more ways to solve any particular situation, and can give you the opportunity to pull off more exotic strategies. But simply increasing the number of moves a pokémon is allowed to use doesn't inherently improve the quality of the battles it plays in. Look at it this way: in a standard martial-arts action scene, you have humans going at each other with essentially are a set of variations on the moves "punch" and "kick." And yet if you watch a good martial arts flick, you aren't going, "Man, it's just more people punching each other. Seen this soooo many times before, why don't they do something new?" A small number of moves, choreographed well and set up to be deeply relevant to the story and characters, leads to an infinite number of superb fight scenes. Same with pokémon attacks. You can get away with using only one, if you use it thoughtfully and well. Sure, there's no reason people should feel restricted to just four moves at once if they don't want to be, but acting like it's a mistake to go with just four (or fewer)? Eh, not so much. It really matters not at all.

    In fact, I think if the goal is to improve your battle skills, restricting the moves available to the pokémon involved is a great way to stretch your skills and really push you to look beyond just the moves in their most basic form--e.g. "pound" is just "slapping the opponent"--and how you can use them in new and interesting ways. Furthermore, you gain experience in making the battle exciting through pacing, drama, and solid core action rather than just relying on the showcasing of a bunch of cool moves to generate interest. If you get that solid core down, then manage to layer on top of it all the showy craftmanship, the clever strategies and the beautiful character beats, that's when you get something truly special. But to have a good, solid, exciting battle doesn't really require any of those things (okay, except character beats, probably). Again, bigger movepools may make the writing easier and will certainly make things more varied, but it can't save a bad battle and won't inherently help you build a better one.

    ...I seriously just need to write my stupid battle guide ffs. I could go on about this stuff for pages and pages and pages.

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  9. #9
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    Ah yes, battles. My favorite thing to write and my worst writing nemesis all in one. I've got a bit of a background both in competitive pokémon and in martial arts (Jujitsu specifically), so I always end up worrying that my battle scenes don't have the right flow to them and end up editing and re-editing them to death. Biggest timesink in my writing by far.

    Anyway, since most of the big points on this topic are already covered in considerable detail above, I'll mostly stick to my personal process and a couple of the smaller details.

    When it comes to planning how a battle will go, I like to think in terms of outcomes for the characters involved rather than outcomes for the battle itself. What I mean by that is that rather than, say, deciding that A and B will fight and A will lose by such and such margin, I instead try to phrase it in terms of this battle showing a new side of characters A and B or altering the relation between them in some way. Since pokémon are characters too, this means that sometimes A and B aren't necessarily one trainer and another but rather a trainer and their pokémon, a trainer and someone in the audience, or even two of the pokémon facing off against each other (or on the same team). By setting the conflict up in these terms, I have a lot more latitude in deciding what matchups to use and how to resolve them. This also has the benefit of letting me occasionally get in a more casual/low-stakes battle while still making sure the scene pulls its weight for the story, which I like since trying to frame every fight the characters get into as a huge, serious consequences affair quickly starts feeling forced and awkward. Trainers can battle for fun or trivial reasons too, and I like to draw attention to that every once in a while to provide some counterbalance for the more dramatic, serious stuff. I also find that tying my goals for a battle scene to the characters rather than the battle itself does me a world of good in helping me set organic-feeling boundaries for my battle scenes and ending them on a memorable high note.

    For the battle itself, I like to start by going through pokédex entries (usually serebii, bulbapedia if I want to dig deeper into the trivia) to refresh myself on what moves and abilities they have available, but also to read up on the flavor text on them for inspiration on what their natural inclinations might be like or interesting tactics they might use. While the movepool and stat distributions are handy guidelines, I've actually found that the flavor is often the part that gives me the biggest returns. There's a lot of little tidbits in there that aren't really implemented in the game mechanically but that can really help a pokémon stand out as its own individual character rather than just a pokémon of such and such type or type combination. Based on that, I lay down the match-ups I want out of the battle and usually note down a couple of ideas for interesting tactics or moments they could get into, and then I just get into it. I write out the exchange leading to the battle scene, describe the opening moves and then just power on through from there. Ideally, I'll have a rough draft of the whole battle from start to finish in one go. More often, it will turn out that some of the match-ups or strategies I had in mind just don't fit in well with the scene as a whole or don't translate well from mental image to writing, so I end up editing or scrapping them. Sometimes I find that I need more material to hit the character beats I want or I think of an additional character moment that would fit in well, so I write it in on the fly. And sometimes, I just get a better writing idea for the whole battle altogether and rewrite the whole thing. It might be because I got my start in roleplaying long before I went into fanfiction, but I find that I tend to get my best writing ideas during the course of writing rather than in the planning phase, so I usually stick to using planning only to set a rough, tentative framework for myself and then fill it in by ear. Once I have a draft I'm satisfied with, I go back, tighten it up and - if I made a bigger change - rewrite some of the preceding scenes to build up towards the new focus of the battle. It's a very time-consuming process, especially when I'm in an inspired mood, but it usually sidesteps the stale battles problem pretty naturally, since even I don't know how the battle turns out until it's finalized.

    For overall style, I'm very fond of exploring dimensions to battling that aren't present in the games, particularly trainer (and pokémon) psychology and battlefield conditions. A carefully picked arena can turn a seemingly one-sided matchup on its head, so I always want a clear picture in my mind of just what kind of location the battle takes place in and how it could affect the match, doubly so for gym leaders, since the ability to pick the battlefield themselves is one of the best methods they have for counteracting their obvious type counters. Working with a wide variety of battlefield types is also an easy way to help keep variety going, since a battle under significantly different environmental conditions forces the trainers to adopt different strategies and can really shift the power dynamic between different species. For example, a Rattata is probably not going to have much luck trying to fight a Tauros in an open field, but might well get the upper hand in a tight cavern with lots of little crevices and hidey-holes, where the Tauros's movements and vision are restricted and it's likely to crash into walls and obstacles while the Rattata can hit and fade with ease. Similarly, both trainers and pokémon have inclinations that a canny opponent can play against them. A pokémon might be baited into a bad position, or even into going against direct commands, by playing to its natural instincts, such as by having a pokémon pretend to flee in terror to make an opponent with a strong hunting instinct give chase, feigning surrender or weakness in front of a pokémon with compassionate/noble tendencies, etc. For trainers, a whole battle can be written on the strength of a mind game between two trainers trying to predict and psyche each other out to gain the upper hand in a match and the possibilities for character moments and development for these kinds of scenarios are pretty much endless. It also helps ensure that the trainers remain an important part of the battle rather than just glorified commentators. Trainers have the potential to do so much more in a battle than just give command input, and it's always great to see authors take advantage of that.

    The third thing I like to pay attention to when writing is how the battlefield changes during the course of match. A lot of the higher powered pokémon moves have the potential to really mess the field up, whether it's an earthquake weakening foundations or creating crevices in the field, a surf or hydro pump leaving excess water around that can be frozen with an ice attack to immobilize the opponent or create obstacles in their way, or just some big, strong brute of a pokémon smashing into things and breaking them. These are all new conditions on the battlefield that can be used to your advantage (or that can undermine your strategy if you don't account for them), and there's a special kind of satisfaction to taking what looked like just flavor fluff for a glancing blow earlier and changing it into the turning point of the match. Change can also happen more subtly, such as in the weather for instance. A trainer might purposely drag out a seemingly futile battle against a sun-centric team because they see a thick front of clouds rolling in on the horizon , or they might purposely pick the timing or location of a battle because they're anticipating a change in the environment that they can take advantage of before the match is over (I once had a grass starter come out on top in battle with the fire one because the battle took place within proximity of a timed sprinkler, to give an example) or they could be feigning an ineffective offensive while actually purposely directing their attacks towards shaking up the environment. This particular extreme is something you need to use a bit sparingly to keep it effective, but those little plan-coming-together moments can really make both the character and the battle stand out.

    To make a very long story short, if you find a battle scene is turning out very dry or formulaic, my advice would be to take a long, hard look at it and ask yourself "what am I not considering here?". There are so many potential levels to a battle that you can pretty much always find more wiggle room if you put your mind and a little bit of creative thinking to it. Formulaic writing usually comes from taking things for granted, and I've found that pushing myself to take a closer look at things I normally wouldn't take into account is usually the best way to get out of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shurtugal View Post
    I've seen things like Hyper Beam used as sort of an "Go-To-Uber-Attack" where it hurts anything it hits. (I once saw a Dragonite's Hyper Beam OHKO a Metagross in a fanfic I was reading...) I also saw Pikachu's Thunderbolt hit ground types (and rock types in the same fanfic).
    Rock has a neutral affinity against electricity, actually, so the weird thing would be if the Thunderbolt couldn't hit. This is kind of a common misconception, probably because a lot of Rock types are Ground splits and that one Pikachu vs Onix episode of the anime where Brock claims rock types are immune, but you need look no further than, say, Omanyte or Aerodactyl to see that a Rock typing will not protect you against electricity one bit.

    Also, Hyper Beam does hurt pretty much anything it hits. In RBY, a Hyper Beam from a Dragonite was a death sentence to pretty much everything except a very select club of physical walls, so it's not like the idea is entirely off base, just...outdated. Even resisted, a hit coming off that much base power from a pokémon with a high attacking stat is going to leave a serious dent unless you're a ghost or a rock/steel double resist. I mean, let's not forget Porygon-Z did do horrible things with that move even to heavy special defense blobs like Blissey as recent as two gens ago. (Modest Specs Adaptibility version had pretty much RBY Dragonite's OHKO range)

    Not saying Hyper Beam is actually a good move in most cases, mind (the recoil turn alone usually makes it a no sell), or that using it as a catch-all KO is good writing, only that taking one to the face does tend to hurt.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shurtugal View Post
    Stall strategies are really underrated in fanfiction as well, and the importance of hazards are also no where to be seen. It'd be nice to see a contrast from official elite four league matches, from actual Trainer battles.
    Well, the issue with trying to directly translate competitive pokémon stall to fanfiction is that competitive Stall done right is about catching your opponent in an endlessly repeating loop of moves where you sponge up every hit they throw at you without suffering a dent to your HP while they rack up residual damage from poison, sandstorm and entry hazards. The whole thing is based on developing a small set of routine moves you can cycle between and many many turns of iteration to make it do its thing. That right there is pretty much the exact opposite of what a working battle scene in writing needs. It's also an approach that's very hard to translate into anything sensible in writing terms, because it relies heavily on repeated switching between different walls.

    That being said, I do agree that defensively-oriented tactics and hazards could use more love. In actual martial arts matches (and battles in general), it's actually very important to slow down the tempo from time to time to avoid overextending yourself and running out of steam partway through, and deflecting an opponent's attack through a well-placed defense is a great way to reclaim momentum for a counter. While doing it in the way and to the extent you would in the games would be a very bad idea from a writing-perspective, turning a battle into more of a stamina match is definitely a viable possibility. You can also incorporate the entry hazards easy enough as part of the battlefield conditions (though I'm still struggling to find a way to not make stealth rock really weird) where rather than hurting on the switch, they present a hazard for a carelessly moving opponent and limit their mobility. You could even incorporate phazing in a way by, say, having Dragon Tail physically smack the opponent into the hazards or Roar startle them into tripping on them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shurtugal View Post
    Also, I'd like to see more realistic battle turn outs. I've seen Pikachu beat Garchomps before (like how, how, how?) by simply jumping at every Earthquake
    You know, the problem with this example is not so much the outcome as the fact that it sounds like the way they got there was left unfinished. Usually, a satisfying battle is a game of cat and mouse where advantage is won and lost back and forth. One fighter is presented with a problem, they come up with a solution to get around it, the opponent counters that move, and on it goes until one side makes a mistake they can't bounce back from or the other plans their move one step further and lands a finishing blow. The problem here is that they only did one move and called it good. The outcome itself is definitely doable with the right circumstances.

    I mean, just to think up a scenario off the top of my head using that outcome (since reading this I got into the mood of thinking one up anyway), I'd go for something like: Garchomp uses Earthquake, Pikachu counters by leaping up into the air, using short bursts of Magnet Rise to get enough height to stay out of reach. Garchomp's trainer tries to use the opening to close in with Dragon Rush, Pikachu counters by giving Garchomp a Flash straight in the eyes. Garchomp and its evolutionary line are cave dwellers who make their nests underground, so that bright light doesn't just distract; it burns, causing Garchomp to veer off course. While it's trying to regain its bearings, Pikachu closes in, disorients it even further by landing hits from all directions with Quick Attack and then trips the flailing Garchomp up with Grass Knot for good measure. Garchomp's trainer counters by having it unleash a Sandstorm. The sand is thick enough that it drowns out the light from any further Flash attacks, and since Pikachu cut itself on Garchomp's Rough Skin with its Quick Attack stunt, its fur is covered in blood from the scrapes it got, which the Garchomp (being a land shark after all) can pick up with its sense of smell and use to get a trace on Pikachu, meaning the tables are turned on the visibility front. More importantly, this also means that the trainers outside can't see into the arena, which means that Pikachu's trainer can't use any of the timing-based tricks they've relied on so far. Pikachu is forced into a scrambling retreat while Garchomp claws and nips at it. Garchomp's trainer lets the pokémon fight on its own, since it's right in its natural element, while Pikachu's trainer tries to shout over the sandstorm's noise to make his pokémon use Agility to stay ahead of Garchomp and move to the other side of the arena closer to him, which it eventually manages to do. Garchomp's trainer decides to have it finish Pikachu off with Outrage because the widespread damage from the attack means even a glancing hit will finish things. Pikachu gets pinned in a corner, Garchomp moves in for the kill and the promptly crashes through the Substitute Pikachu's trainer had ordered and crashes into one of the little artificial hills that were set up in the arena. That same hill was already destabilized by Garchomp's Earthquake attack at the start and comes crashing down, burying Garchomp in debris on top of the concussion it gave itself slamming into the wall. Pikachu wins, and is most likely out of commission for a good long while for its trouble.

    YMMV in how much justification you need, but to my mind, the plausibility of any given battle outcome depends a lot more on the sell than the actual outcome itself. If the outcome seems implausible, that really just means you need to pitch it better.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shurtugal View Post
    As a last note, your Pokemon can and should know more moves than four unless it's video game centric for whatever reason. This in itself makes battles in fanfiction much more interesting than in the anime or games.
    I'm a fan of making use of wide movepools as much as the next person (heck, possibly even more), but you don't really need more than four moves apiece to get enough variety for a battle, nor does having more than that in itself make your battle more interesting or involving. I mean, I would consider the above Pikachu vs Garchomp example a pretty long battle when written out in full, probably about as long as I'd normally go, and it uses all of six moves for Pikachu (Magnet Rise, Flash, Quick Attack, Grass Knot, Agility, and Substitute) and four for Garchomp (Earthquake, Dragon Rush, Sandstorm, Outrage) and that could be pared down to five, four or even three for Pikachu, since Magnet Rise is not necessarily needed to explain dodging Earthquake if it's a particularly good jumper, Pikachu might be fast enough to avoid annihilation without agility, and Substitute isn't necessarily needed for the fakeout if Pikachu finds some way to leave a secondary blood mark to throw Garchomp off. (a solution which I'd actually consider more satisfying, since it would take an earlier advantage and turn it into a deciding factor of Garchomp's defeat)


    Anywho, I'm tl;dring like crazy over here, so let me just close by saying writing battles is a lot of fun and I for one would love to see a guide/general resource type thread on the subject. Failing that, it'd also be interesting to hear how other people would take on the Pikachu vs Garchomp scenario, or any seemingly implausible battle like it really. Like I said, battle scenes are my favorite thing to write in this fandom, so getting a peek at how other people approach them is really just fascinating to me.
    Last edited by Creepychu; 9th August 2014 at 5:41 AM.

  10. #10
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    OK--so I was gone for a week (cruise vacation before school starts). Anyway, I'd like to go over what Creepychu has said, since I think their post was very insightful and intriguing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Creepychu
    Well, the issue with trying to directly translate competitive pokémon stall to fanfiction is that competitive Stall done right is about catching your opponent in an endlessly repeating loop of moves where you sponge up every hit they throw at you without suffering a dent to your HP while they rack up residual damage from poison, sandstorm and entry hazards. The whole thing is based on developing a small set of routine moves you can cycle between and many many turns of iteration to make it do its thing. That right there is pretty much the exact opposite of what a working battle scene in writing needs. It's also an approach that's very hard to translate into anything sensible in writing terms, because it relies heavily on repeated switching between different walls.
    Yeah, I have to agree--in competitive Pokemon, switching is key, even for offense, and that alone makes things hard to transition into with writing.

    With that said, of course, while I was referencing competitive play, I was mostly referencingthe fact that stall strategies are non-existent, and I believe there are ways to make stall a thing in writing.

    Personally, stall seems like a strategy more available in "official" battles, like League matches, GYM matches, those kind of things, where there are set rules to follow, and switching would be more applicable (it doesn't have to be from the Pokeball--the Pokemon could be standing in the sidelines and simply come into the battlefield as switches, and would make more sense for taking attacks).

    However, it would probably be harder to do in a setting where rules and standards aren't set, and there is no standard setting / terrain either (most official fields are probably going to be neutral-based, whereas in the wild...). It would also be hard because if you're in the wild, stall is not a very efficient way to go about things.

    Put short, it seems most effectively utilized in official matches, due to the fact that it's easier to pull off, much more effectively done, and something pro trainers would consider (at that point, they could train up a lot of Pokemon, and make multiple teams and what have you).

    Quote Originally Posted by Creepychu
    That being said, I do agree that defensively-oriented tactics and hazards could use more love. In actual martial arts matches (and battles in general), it's actually very important to slow down the tempo from time to time to avoid overextending yourself and running out of steam partway through, and deflecting an opponent's attack through a well-placed defense is a great way to reclaim momentum for a counter. While doing it in the way and to the extent you would in the games would be a very bad idea from a writing-perspective, turning a battle into more of a stamina match is definitely a viable possibility. You can also incorporate the entry hazards easy enough as part of the battlefield conditions (though I'm still struggling to find a way to not make stealth rock really weird) where rather than hurting on the switch, they present a hazard for a carelessly moving opponent and limit their mobility. You could even incorporate phazing in a way by, say, having Dragon Tail physically smack the opponent into the hazards or Roar startle them into tripping on them.
    My brother wants to learn Martial Arts, haha. We both learned defensive moves at work (very basic stuff, really, pretty much evolutions of Wax On and Wax Off, and no really offensive attacks) but from that alone I can understand what you're saying by the "slow down" part.

    I also agree with the hazards bit. Spikes are obvious enough (and, please, I can't wait to play with Sticky Web!) but Stealth Rocks are kind of hard. (Ironically enough, Stealth Rock is the most important hazard of them all.) Stealth Rocks seem really useful against aerial opponents, like birds, since they can't exactly fly into them, now can they? (Also ironically enough, they do 25% to Flying types in the game, so it would make sense.)

    Also, imagine Pikachu doesn't have Magnet Rise--if Garchomp uses Stealth Rock, and a Sandstorm, there's no way Pikachu will flawlessly jump without getting hit. [I'm going to address this battle later, though.]

    I'm glad we agree!

    Quote Originally Posted by Creepychu
    I mean, just to think up a scenario off the top of my head using that outcome (since reading this I got into the mood of thinking one up anyway), I'd go for something like: Garchomp uses Earthquake, Pikachu counters by leaping up into the air, using short bursts of Magnet Rise to get enough height to stay out of reach. Garchomp's trainer tries to use the opening to close in with Dragon Rush, Pikachu counters by giving Garchomp a Flash straight in the eyes. Garchomp and its evolutionary line are cave dwellers who make their nests underground, so that bright light doesn't just distract; it burns, causing Garchomp to veer off course. While it's trying to regain its bearings, Pikachu closes in, disorients it even further by landing hits from all directions with Quick Attack and then trips the flailing Garchomp up with Grass Knot for good measure. Garchomp's trainer counters by having it unleash a Sandstorm. The sand is thick enough that it drowns out the light from any further Flash attacks, and since Pikachu cut itself on Garchomp's Rough Skin with its Quick Attack stunt, its fur is covered in blood from the scrapes it got, which the Garchomp (being a land shark after all) can pick up with its sense of smell and use to get a trace on Pikachu, meaning the tables are turned on the visibility front. More importantly, this also means that the trainers outside can't see into the arena, which means that Pikachu's trainer can't use any of the timing-based tricks they've relied on so far. Pikachu is forced into a scrambling retreat while Garchomp claws and nips at it. Garchomp's trainer lets the pokémon fight on its own, since it's right in its natural element, while Pikachu's trainer tries to shout over the sandstorm's noise to make his pokémon use Agility to stay ahead of Garchomp and move to the other side of the arena closer to him, which it eventually manages to do. Garchomp's trainer decides to have it finish Pikachu off with Outrage because the widespread damage from the attack means even a glancing hit will finish things. Pikachu gets pinned in a corner, Garchomp moves in for the kill and the promptly crashes through the Substitute Pikachu's trainer had ordered and crashes into one of the little artificial hills that were set up in the arena. That same hill was already destabilized by Garchomp's Earthquake attack at the start and comes crashing down, burying Garchomp in debris on top of the concussion it gave itself slamming into the wall. Pikachu wins, and is most likely out of commission for a good long while for its trouble.
    OK, so this is a pretty neat variation (I especially enjoyed Garchomp's keen senses and land dweller background being its strength--senses to scout Pikachu--and weakness by being weak to Flash), but a few problems:

    Pikachu--I think--doesn't learn Magnet Rise. (However, assuming there is a plot explanation prior to the battle...) It seems to me that Pikachu's Magnet Rise would be ineffective by the time Garchomp has set up a Sandstorm (because wouldn't the Sandstorm interfere with it?), which means Pikachu won't be able to reset the Magnet Rise until after the Sandstorm is gone.

    Also, depending on how abilities are translated into the story, if Garchomp can use both Rough Skin and Sand Veil, Pikachu is going to have a rough--no pun intended--time even knowing where Garchomp is.

    Meanwhile Garchomp can force Pikachu into the air with an easy earthquake.

    The only plausible way Pikachu can win is to outlast the Sandstorm (since this doesn't last forever either)--a quick Flash at this point of the battle would result in Pikachu's victory.

    However, Pikachu is hardpressed to stay one step ahead of Garchomp through the entire battle. You see, due to the sheer type disadvantage, and not being very bulky, Pikachu, especially at this point of the battle, can't get hit by Earthquake.

    With Sandstorm in play, Pikachu can no longer rely on a Flash attack to keep Garchomp at bay, nor rely on Magnet Rise to stall out the Sandstorm. The problem with this matchup is that there is simply no reason not to earthquake: Pikachu is forced into a spot where it's open, it can't see in the sandstorm once its in the air, thanks to Sand Veil it can't even pull of a Spin Attack maneuver to avoid a possible Outrage / Dragon Rush.

    Of course, some well played aerial Double Teams or Substitutes could easily turn the tides (But remember--these are going to be draining the hell out of Pikachu to accomplish, and since it can't see where Garchomp is, it'll be even harder to trick him with them, and thanks to Garchomp's senses, the Double Teams might not even work). Tl;tr if Pikachu could overcome the Sandstorm, Pikachu wins, but Pikachu is pretty damn pressed to do so.

    My problem with that is that it's really hard to pull this off; however, despite all that, your battle was very satisfying, and as a reader, I would be content with Pikachu winning.

    It's just really hard to make this plausible because Pikachu has to be a step ahead the entire time, and as it gets worn out, it gets harder and harder to maintain perfection.

    There's a lot of variables to take in for sure. (Especially if we consider the Stealth Rocks from earlier--if Pikachu jumps, and it has to, it has to avoid those among all the other things.)

    I agree with pretty much everything else you've said. Thanks for sharing [I mostly added my comments on the battle you outlined out because you said you were interested on other people's takes.]

    EDIT: Was also thinking: Pikachu gets Surf (mind you, that's an event Pikachu, but still plausible)--if it could get Garchomp wet, its electric attacks could make a comeback (although the Sandstorm, once again, makes this wishful thinking, as it's going to nullify most of its electricity-based attacks regardless, and it's still a ground type even if it is drenched with water, an the sand would probably dry Garchomp anyway, or at least speed up the process if the Surf is used while the Sandstorm is up, so once again poor Pikachu is still hard pressed for perfection).

    Also, I didn't mean that your Pokemon MUST use more than four moves (I know it came off that way, ehe), but simply that you shouldn't limit yourself ONLY to four moves, and should be more opened minded about it. (Especially since in some cases it really doesn't make sense--Arceus is God, but can only use four moves at one time?) The amount of moves could vary on evolution as well, too, which is actually quite a neat thing to add into a fanfiction setting.
    Last edited by Shurtugal; 17th August 2014 at 2:35 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shurtugal View Post
    stuff that I am cutting out to save space
    Pikachu actually does get Magnet Rise (it is a move tutor in Platinum, HGSS and BW2).

    Also, when writing battles, you don't have to restrict yourself to moves the pokemon can learn in the games. You can have the pokemon use any move that it seems like it should be able to learn (for example, Magikarp and Dive, since fish should be able to dive).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mulan15262 View Post
    Also, when writing battles, you don't have to restrict yourself to moves the pokemon can learn in the games. You can have the pokemon use any move that it seems like it should be able to learn (for example, Magikarp and Dive, since fish should be able to dive).
    Eh, to be honest, I'd be careful with this for two reasons:

    1. Sometimes, there are reasons why some Pokémon can't learn moves. Take Magikarp for example. It can't learn Dive because it's meant to be that pathetic. I mean, when your signature attack (or basically what amounts to having a signature attack) is Splash, then it'd be a little weird if the Magikarp in your fic can suddenly perform Dive. Note that Dive (the move) and diving (the action) are two different things. One involves using a certain set of techniques to inflict hefty damage on an opponent (or carry a human being underwater a la Surf or Fly), and the other is simply submerging. The point of saying all of this is that it's important to study up on both Pokémon and moves in order to figure out whether or not you'd be risking raising an eyebrow or several over your move choices.

    2. There are very few instances where a story would actually call for a Pokémon to use a move outside of their canon movepools. Typically, Pokémon already have attacks that could, with a little creativity, result in the same thing you might be trying to do with the out-of-canon move. If you find yourself in a situation where you're tempted to write an attack that a Pokémon can't normally learn, you're either in a situation where you'd need to refer to Point #1 (as in, determine whether or not the move does what you think it does and whether or not that Pokémon really could use that move) or one in which you could still use a Pokémon's canon movepool, provided you push yourself to be a touch more creative with it.

    I mean, sure, Pokémon learn past-gen moves they couldn't previously learn all the time, and sure, sometimes, Pokémon learn moves that straight-up don't make sense for them (i.e., Pikachu with Surf or most Gen I Pokémon with Gen I TMs), but the point is that when writing fanfic, the first question on your mind should really be, "Can I find a way to keep to canon and have it make sense in writing?" That's the reason why a lot of battle rules are YMMV-ish: because they don't make sense in writing. But having a Pokémon not know certain moves can make sense in writing, so suspending canon just to give a Pokémon a move it can't learn should probably be the resort after you try to do the same thing with the moves it already knows.

    Otherwise, observant fans might ask questions (especially if you do it with a gimmicky or popular Pokémon), and if they don't, it might strike them as a touch weird that you'd casually whip out a non-canon move for no apparent reason, y'know?

    Not sure if that made sense, but ... yeah. I'm personally kinda iffy on the whole "give Pokémon moves they can't learn" shebang. I mean, yeah, I understand you'd only do it if it would make sense for a Pokémon to learn it but ... sometimes it's just more satisfying (from both a writer's and reader's standpoint) to challenge yourself by keeping to canon first.

    That and, for reals, Magikarp is meant to suck so bad it can't learn Dive. That's kinda its thing. *sage nod*

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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Note that Dive (the move) and diving (the action) are two different things. One involves using a certain set of techniques to inflict hefty damage on an opponent (or carry a human being underwater a la Surf or Fly), and the other is simply submerging. The point of saying all of this is that it's important to study up on both Pokémon and moves in order to figure out whether or not you'd be risking raising an eyebrow or several over your move choices.
    I always love this little tidbit when it comes up because it's such an uncommon thought-process (from what I've seen) but it's just so right. Sometimes it's hard to remember what the difference is between a scratch and a Scratch or a Bite and a bite. Of course, then you point out that a Scratch in Pokemon usually involves glowing claws meanwhile you don't have them turn into Wolverine whenever they want to sample perfume in a magazine.

    But a lot of what that post is about is kinda why I like PMD/Pokemon centric fics (or at least writing them). You don't have to mention attack names. You describe them doing it and that's just what happens. You have Emolga shooting lightning at assailants but you don't have to mention Thunder/Shock/Bolt at all. Which allows you, in my opinion, to be more creative with a Pokemon's attacks without testing a reader's skepticism. Abilities would work in a similar manner, I imagine.

    But what I'm saying is that you don't really need to have a distinction in Pokemon-centric writing with stuff like dive/Dive because the second is just a more creative use of the first.

    But in non-Pokemon centric fics where battling is roughly the focus, it's more complicated because now the most practical way of getting your Pokemon to do something with a move. Now you have to start with an attack and add descriptors/commands to it change its effect.

    Though I'm not quite as wary with giving Pokemon moves that it really should be able to learn as long as you're smart about it.

    Why can Zangoose learn Slash but not Cut? Like, wut?
    Last edited by Brutaka; 28th August 2014 at 6:01 AM.
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    The thing with moves is that a move (or a "Move", as in with capitalized name and whatever it implies in-universe) is not the same for one mon species or another. Given the emphasis for short names and the fact that many of them are things that only mostly make sense in battle, they can be seen as shortcuts Trainers use to give their Pokémon instructions that, seen from a Pokémon-centric perspective, do not need a "name".

    A Scyther can "Cut" as in perform a technique where power and motion are all intended to cleanly split the target, at least when in the overworld; whereas Zangoose probably can't do that cleanly because it lacks the adequate morphology - its claws are too close to each other and seem to be built for choking and pressure (Crush Claw). Slash is basically the "clean-for-sports" version of a tearing slash, which in the wild is basically a move for the intended effect of just severing a nerve or spilling your target's guts over in a very broad sense and without many precise requirements.

    But at this point it is, sometimes, overthinking a lot and trying to enclose yourself as an author in justifications for an interpretation of the world that is not what the creators of the game probably intended (Tajiri's quote about Special, apocryphal or not, deserves mention here). There's many ommisions in the game canon that can be attributed less to the design of the "world" and more to the videogame interface. After all, why wouldn't a Starly be able to Peck?

    Which reminds me, don't enclose yourself solely in game canon, it's far too limiting (four moves and all). Other canons do help and try to acknowledge missing elements. Starly in the Trading Card Game for example does learn Peck.
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    But the question still remains—why would you need to have Starly use Peck or Zangoose use Cut? My point in saying that you should stick with game canon wasn't so much to say, "You absolutely must be strict about this because rawr it's fanfiction."* It was to say, "In most cases, you actually don't need to do this. Don't do something you don't need to do unless there's absolutely no other way around doing it." So yes, maybe you could show a Starly pecking at something, but does it need to go after its food or that one bug with a glowing beak? And if it's in battle, does it absolutely need to attack that Pokémon with the same glowing beak instead of attacking it with glowing wings or a full-body attack? In that same battle, if it has to use a glowing beak, does it have to be a Starly instead of a Pidgey?

    While all of that might seem a little anal because you'd assume that a reader wouldn't know every Pokémon's movepool by default (meaning you'd think you'd have wiggle room), in some cases, justifying that a Pokémon should be able to use this move or that move leads you to writing situations where it's rather obvious that you're working outside of canon. (Like that example with Magikarp using Dive.) In some cases, that can also shed a rather awkward light on your writing abilities because throwing up your hands and saying, "screw canon; we can totally do this because canon doesn't make sense" can sometimes imply that you weren't creative enough to figure out how to do the same thing with what you've already got. (I remember one hilarious instance in which a Charizard used Explosion to take out a bunch of Haunter. Could Charizard use Explosion? Theoretically, maybe, given that it works with powerful amounts of fire all the time, and Explosion is basically a more violent form of releasing the same kind of energy, if that makes sense. Should Charizard have used Explosion when it could have just done a widespread Flamethrower? ... In that case no, given that it would've taken more of an explanation as to why Charizard could get back up immediately after, why it could use a move that powerful, or why it could hit multiple Haunter with it.)

    So ... yeah. While you don't necessarily want to bend over backwards to adhere to canon at all times, you also don't want to bend over backwards thinking about all the things a Pokémon should be able to do. If you're writing a battle and need to have a Pokémon use a move, it shouldn't take that much effort to look up their movepool and pick one, and you most likely won't be in a situation where you'll be thinking about that Starly using Peck before you do your research.

    Footnote (because, yes, I ran off on a tangent for that long:
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    Last edited by JX Valentine; 29th August 2014 at 11:06 AM.

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    In my opinion there are several things wrong with the above, probbaly because your commentary seems to make the assumption that I'd want to "throw the canon out" before I plan the story. That's... not the idea at all. This comes to mind: "if it has to use a glowing beak, does it have to be a Starly instead of a Pidgey?" -- well, it'd be far weirder and out of place that the Starly just somehow switched species live for that one battle, wouldn't it? If so, why not just using a team of six Dittos?

    Should you plan to never find yourself in the position of having a Starly use Peck? It depends. I'd say you should let battles write themselves and characters act on their own where possible, and the time might come for it where your character will react without thinking or the battle will go like the magic duel in The Sword in the Stone. But I wouldn't go as far as saying that you shouldn't have Starly using Peck in your arsenal just in case, in particular when, looking at all the canons, the creators did not intend to deprive you from that tool ever in the first place.

    There's a big gap between "suspending canon" and "filling the gaps in canon". We fanfiction writers are supposed to, ideally, go with the latter.

    (Also, glowing beaks? Ewww. I'm completely willing to leave THEM out of this.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by solovino View Post
    This comes to mind: "if it has to use a glowing beak, does it have to be a Starly instead of a Pidgey?" -- well, it'd be far weirder and out of place that the Starly just somehow switched species live for that one battle, wouldn't it? If so, why not just using a team of six Dittos?
    That's ... not quite what I meant.

    Put it this way. If you're using Starly, you're already acknowledging that you're working with a Pokémon with a specific moveset. You'd want to work with what Starly can do and what Starly knows. It's like if you worked with Ash Ketchum or another canon character. You have a certain personality/canon set of facts to work with, so you go into writing about that character by building on what you already know first. If Ash Ketchum isn't psychic, for example, then you wouldn't want to make Ash Ketchum psychic unless that's the point of the story (and unless you can come up with a reason why he's psychic). Likewise, if you're using Starly, you're already putting yourself in situations where you want to showcase what Starly can and can't do. Why would you look up what Starly can use in terms of attacks, notice that Peck isn't among them, and then suddenly say to yourself, "Well, I want Starly to use Peck for this one battle, so whatever"? Wouldn't you want to say, "Well. Starly doesn't know Peck, but it does know Aerial Ace, so maybe Aerial Ace might work here"? (Yes, I know that a Peck-using Starly isn't quite as intense as Ash Ketchum suddenly being psychic, but my point is that it works on the same principle. You think that it's rather inconvenient that Starly can't use Peck, just as another writer might think that it's inconvenient for Ash to not be psychic or smart or to be actually not an insanely perky and determined character. So you take creative liberties when you, as someone who might just like Starly enough to put in your fic, probably shouldn't unless you absolutely have to.)

    Meanwhile, if you need a Pokémon to use Peck but haven't defined which one you need to use, why would you go for a Pokémon that can't use Peck in the first place? If that's a one-off Pokémon then ... just use a Pidgey, you know?

    Again, there are situations where you might need that Starly to use Peck. I never said there weren't. From the get-go, though, I said you should try to see what you can do to get around having to use Peck first because chances are, you don't need to teach a Pokémon moves it doesn't know.

    Or in other words, I was saying, "No, seriously, guys. Don't be lazy. Try to work with canon first to come up with creative solutions to your plot. If that doesn't work, then you can consider doing something else. But most likely, you will be in situations where you can resolve your issues with creative applications of canon."

    There's a big gap between "suspending canon" and "filling the gaps in canon". We fanfiction writers are supposed to, ideally, go with the latter.
    Exactly. That's why you don't randomly decide to do whatever you want just because canon doesn't do what you want it to do, particularly if you're in a situation where a move it can canonically learn works just as well (which tends to be most of the time). That's not expanding canon. That's just calling canon inconvenient, if you don't mind me saying.

    (Also, glowing beaks? Ewww. I'm completely willing to leave THEM out of this.)
    Now, this I need to say something rather harsh about. Namely, that's rather unnecessary of you. :/ I mean, it is part of a canon, and just because you don't like it doesn't mean other people can't like it or want to use it if they want to. The anime gets enough hate in its own forum. Please don't bring it into a thread where whether or not you don't like the anime's means of portraying moves is irrelevant.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 30th August 2014 at 7:12 PM.

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    I see we have more than enough divergence on how do we interpret several concepts on worldbuilding and working on fanfiction then. I still feel you miss on the big mark when asking why would someone choose a Pokémon that does not learn Peck for that situation - ignoring the key fact (and the reason behind my "sudden transformation" example) that the Pokémon was already a Starly to begin with - eg.: it was caught that way, so it's established into a team. But I'm not going to continue to argue the point further - after all the point of the thread is "canon vs canon" and not "canon plus canon" (it's in the title and I could very well remember that).


    Now, this I need to say something rather harsh about. Namely, that's rather unnecessary of you. :/ I mean, it is part of a canon, and just because you don't like it doesn't mean other people can't like it or want to use it if they want to. The anime gets enough hate in its own forum. Please don't bring it into a thread where whether or not you don't like the anime's means of portraying moves is irrelevant.
    Agreed and I'm sorry. To be honest, I read sarcasm when you brough them up, and I couldn't convey my own portion of it well, I guess.
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    Quote Originally Posted by solovino View Post
    I see we have more than enough divergence on how do we interpret several concepts on worldbuilding and working on fanfiction then. I still feel you miss on the big mark when asking why would someone choose a Pokémon that does not learn Peck for that situation - ignoring the key fact (and the reason behind my "sudden transformation" example) that the Pokémon was already a Starly to begin with - eg.: it was caught that way, so it's established into a team.
    I ... address that point in the entire first paragraph of my previous post? By saying that if you're already using Starly, you can look up its moves while writing a battle, and it's unlikely that you'll be in a situation where you'd need Starly to use a move it doesn't know instead of one it does? And also by saying that it's typical that you'd find that the moves it can learn will work just as well as Peck, so that's why you should use them first?

    I mean this with absolutely zero sarcasm, but I'm kinda confused here. If my point about what to do if you're already using a certain Pokémon isn't clear, feel free to let me know so I can clarify, but I'm most certainly addressing that.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 30th August 2014 at 10:21 PM.

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    (Psst, Pidgey can't learn Peck either. Try Spearow.)

    I have to agree with JX - deviating from definitively established universal canon is generally not something you should do just because it'd be convenient. If nothing else, it encourages lazy, sloppy writing - working within established constraints is a lot more interesting and challenging than just waving them away.

    I mean, what does it say if, in six generations of games, Game Freak has never made Pidgey able to learn Peck? Probably that as they see this creature, it doesn't use its beak to attack. They prefer to attack with their wings, with their entire bodies, or by whipping up winds. Deciding to ignore this because you just want your Pidgey to peck something is lazy and, I'd argue, somewhere on the same scale as writing characters OOC: you're taking established facts about this species' behaviour and changing them just because.

    If you really, really need a Pidgey to be able to use Peck, it's entirely possible you can write yourself around that, though! Perhaps your character, knowing trainers are universally familiar with how Pidgey attack, wants to do something differently to be unpredictable to her opponents, and she specially trains her Pidgey to attack with its beak to that end, even though it doesn't come naturally to it and it takes a lot of practice for it to be able to do it well. I don't think anyone arguing against giving Pokémon non-canon moves here would have a problem with something like that - nor with a Pidgey resorting to pecking when it's unable to use the kinds of attacks it would normally use. (Obviously, you're going to have a way bigger problem when the move doesn't make obvious sense given the Pokémon's physiology, or it involves elemental powers this Pokémon has no business having at all - I'm talking about stuff like Pidgey using Peck, where it clearly makes sense for the Pokémon to be physically capable of doing it.) This would be the same kind of deal as taking a character who would normally never behave like X and writing them believably into a situation where they might behave that way - it's perfectly possible for that to be done well, in a way that doesn't feel OOC at all. It's just that lazily deciding not to abide by canon just because is, well, lazy. Your story would probably be better if you instead challenged yourself to stay within the parameters of canon and pull off whatever you're trying to do without just deciding to pretend the Pokémon can normally use some non-canon move.
    Last edited by Dragonfree; 30th August 2014 at 11:18 PM.

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    tl;dr if you want to use attacks that aren't legal according to the games but appear in the TCG or some other medium, that's cool, go ahead and mix canon all you want; any change you want to make from canon is perfectly fine as long as it better serves the narrative than actually following canon

    The long version: I think this issue really illustrates what a gray area "canon compliance" is. Canon is important because, in broad strokes, not following it means that you're not actually writing Pokémon fanfiction in the first place; it's the set of rules governing what a Pokémon fanfic should look like.

    On the other hand, writing fanfiction isn't about simulating canon, in the same way that writing a piece of realistic fiction set in the real world isn't actually about simulating the real world. It's about telling a story, and what works for a story is often different than the way things "actually work"--for example, dialogue in stories rarely sounds exactly like real people talking. So deviations from canon are, at times, perfectly acceptable to construct a good narrative. Therefore, I think that anytime you feel like you want to make a break with canon, the primary question you want to address is whether or not what you're choosing to do is in the interest of telling a better story.

    Dragonfree gave some great examples of ways that you could have a pidgey (or whatever) learn to use a move it couldn't ordinarily know, any of which have the added bonus that they add a bit of interest to the story, i.e. it tells you something about the trainer or the pokémon if they're making the effort to learn this unusual attack or resorting to it out of instinct or desperation or whatever. That's not quite the issue I want to look at here, though. In those examples, it's still "canon" that pidgey can't normally use peck in that within the universe of your story it's uncommon for pidgey to be able to use peck. When that's the case, though, you always need some kind of explanation for why your character or situation is the exception to the rule. But what if you don't want to do that? What if you want to have your pidgey using peck like it's a perfectly normal thing and not even worth commenting on? Sometimes it's not worth tying yourself into knots to explain something like this. What if you just want to have pidgey within the universe of your story be perfectly capable of using peck and not make a big deal out of it?

    This can be perfectly fine, too. Again, sometimes what is most canon-compliant isn't what's best for the story at hand. Consider the four move limit, for example. Most people think of it as just a game thing, but it's actually one of the most consistent aspects across different pokémon incarnations: in the main series games, in the PMD games, in Special, and more recently even in the anime, pokémon only know four attacks at one time. And yet, as we see in this thread, not only do people not really care when someone has a pokémon use more than four attacks, they may actively encourage it, despite the fact that this is clearly a larger issue than some instance of a pidgey using peck. So what's going on here? Why is one of these "sure do it don't even worry" and the other an emphatic "no?"

    Most people think that having pokémon able to use more than four attacks results in a better story by adding more variety to battles and providing more leeway for more complex strategies. They think that strictly adhering to canon on that point would actively make the story worse. And that's always the deciding factor: what's best for my story? Does following canon serve my interests, or is it going to interfere with what I'm trying to do? In a battle between "better story" and canon, canon should always lose. With the four-move limit people just kind of assume or accept that it's better not to have it (which I disagree with, as you see above, but whatever), while altering movesets is less common and often done in an egregiously bad fashion, so people are more leery about endorsing it.

    I think solovino's point that pokémon can learn different attacks in e.g. the TCG than they can in the games lies in a similar area. I think if you want to bring in things from a different canon to support your story, that's perfectly fine! People do this all the time; often "gameverse" fics will feature professors distributing pokémon as a regular part of their job or some kind of tournament instead of an Elite Four run in order to determine the champion, for example, which are explicitly against game canon and brought in from the anime, among numerous other tweaks. And ultimately this is really just another example of choosing what's good for the story over what's technically "legal" in canon: you see that your story can be improved by taking bits and pieces of different canon and stitching them together rather than sticking exclusively to one. So if you think bringing in some of the diversity of the other Pokémon media out there would make for a richer narrative, then it's absolutely what you should do. You should recognize that some people may be confused by encountering an attack that doesn't have a game equivalent or if this means your battles work a bit different than the norm, but again, as long as you're willing to pay that price, it's beyond just "okay" to do, it's exactly what you should do.

    It all comes back to the point Dragonfree was making about intent. When writing, you want to make choices that serve the story, not choices that necessarily make things easier for you or to satisfy some gripe you have with canon logic or whatever. When people do something like give a pokémon an illegal move, it's often because they didn't do the research, or think this is the easiest thing to do, or just want their pokémon to be "cool" or "different" or whatever, which is why people tend to get up in arms about it. Because let's be honest: most people probably aren't even going to notice that a zangoose used cut even though it shouldn't be able to. In that sense, it's "no big deal" and not worth getting worked up about. But how you approach problems in storytelling is important, and if you get used to handwaving away canon just because "it's just a little thing, nobody's going to notice anyway," your story will suffer. It's an example of a trivial issue that actually comments on the central problem in writing, which is "What is the best way to construct this narrative so that it conveys the story I want to tell?"

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