Examples of fandoms whose fanfics show this tendency:
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- The Infinite Loops plays this back and forth depending on the loop. Most loopers try to play baseline loops as close to canon as possible, simply because certain events need to happen in order for other events to take place... and chances are that they've seen the consequences of derailing already and don't want to repeat the mistake. However, minor and out-of-the-way activities are usually fine, minor changes that just make it easier on everyones' lives are welcome, and outright cruelties tend to be averted completely unless they're absolutely essential to the grand scheme. There's also the occasion when a looper needs to blow off some steam (because eternal looping life can get weary otherwise) with some elaborate pranks. And then there's the seriously messed up variant loops, where the loopers say "Screw the plot, we're fixing this!"
- Certain genres of a full Alternate Universe fanfiction (such as High School AU) avert this trope... but fewer fics within those genres avoid the Stations then you might think, if for no other reason then because it helps protect the result from being accused of being In Name Only.
Anime and Manga
- Naruto: Good luck finding any Divergence Fic that does stealing the scroll, the Wave Country mission, or the Chuunin Exams with any amount of creativity.
- The Wave mission is really the worst offender. There must be around 50000 versions of it and they usually end up the same way as in canon, with the usual exception that Haku (and sometimes even Zabuza) survives.
- Strangely, a common scene to see is so minor that people often forget it at all: the first meeting between Team 7 and the Suna Team.
- Ranma ½: Girl-type Ranma being introduced to the Tendos, "I'm Ranma Saotome. Sorry about this.", the first encounter with Kuno (and Ryoga, and Shampoo) etc.
- Mazinger Z: Dr. Hell's surfacing, Dr. Kabuto's death, Kouji finding Mazinger and trying piloting for first time with disastrous results, Sayaka showing up to save him from himself, Baron Ashura attacking the institute, first meeting with Boss... To spice things up, some Fanfic writers try blending or playing out of order several minor events and battles.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji's "reunion" with his father, the battle with the Third Angel, etc. Many have described the EVA canon as one of the most stiff and rigid to bend for fanfic purposes without going to full blown Alternate Continuity.
- Done often with Zatch Bell!, especially with the Millenium-Mamodo arc. It doesn't seem to matter what things change beforehand, what OC characters are involved, or even if it's a cross-over fic. The entire arc seems to go on exactly the same way, right up to and past the ending battle between Brago and Zophis, which might as well be 'copy-and-pasted' from the canon.
- Bubblegum Crisis: Irene Chang dies (or not), Storming the Castle to kill Brian J. Mason, etc.
- Wolfs Rain, fanfic really repeat your episodes an awful lot. Heck, even the canon does it.
- The Familiar of Zero crossover fics cannot avoid - unless you want to get really creative - including the summoning, since it kickstarts the plot. The bugbear will be mentioned. Most people doing crossovers usually also include the duel with Guiche in some way, as it is where the Saito-substitute gets a chance to show off his/her power, if he did not already do so at the summoning, and prove that (s)he's not a hapless schmuck. And no matter who the familiar is they will have to go to town to buy a sword. Even if they honestly have no reason to just so that they can buy Derflinger. Writers like having the sword around even if the familiar might end up never using it in combat.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!, what are we going to do with you? Many OCs go through the arcs by numbers. One inevitably meets Konoemon, Shizuna, and Takamichi, then meets Negi and the 3-A class, before going through the Evangeline Arc, Library Island, the trip to Kyoto, and the tournament within the Mahora Festival, before the writers inevitably exhaust themselves and give up their fic for death.
- Death Note. If it involves Mello after Wammy's House, no matter how AU the fanfic is, Mello will get scarred or already be scarred. Also, Fix Fics really love following the Stations up through the start of the Memory Gambit, then seeing how spectacularly they can derail it.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica has about twelve episodes, each with at least one important event happening in each of them. note It's almost impossible for a Fix Fic to not go along the plotted line until it starts making its changes, though those that really want to get the ball rolling usually start around the third episode's event.
- Lyrical Nanoha fanfics that follow the actual series almost always use the same fights between Nanoha and Fate over the Jewel Seeds with the former eventually befriending the latter, the Wolkenritter collecting linker cores for Hayate, and so on.
- Sword Art Online fanfic is particularly prone to this when it comes to Kayaba's so-called "tutorial" where he explains to about 10,000 players about the conditions for clearing the death game. Very few authors put forth enough effort to make it worth reading through the same speech for the 400th time. The first-floor boss battle led by Diabel is another common station, as is going through the motions of Kirito's first encounter with the Black Cats in order to set up an AU aversion of their deaths.
- Girls und Panzer fanfics featuring an alternate retelling of the main plot, or a similar story to it, often begin with the following sequence of events, or at least close equivalents:
- Miho and/or the Original Characters, despite not wanting to take tankery, get pressured to do so by the student council, but take it for their own reasons.
- The group goes hunting for tanks.
- The group has a practice battle.
- The crew fights St. Gloriana, often with a different outcome.
- The group encounters Maho and Erika, with the OCs usually giving a stronger rebuttal to the latter.
- The group goes up against Saunders.
- Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The gathering of the kids for the team, the appointment of Nambu to his position, the death of Ken's mother, the death of Joe's parents, episodes 52 and 53 involving the launch of the Van Allen rocket and the fate of Red Impulse, and Joe's becoming a cyborg are all big landmarks for fanfic.
- Code Geass fanfics that try to remain remotely like the original plot tend to go with the basics of Lelouch and Nunally hiding in Area 11, Lelouch meeting C.C. after Kallen's truck crashes and Lelouch making a contract with C.C.
- Dragon Ball fanfiction, especially those that involve an AU where an evil character undergoes a Heel-Face Turn, tends to repeat the fights against all of the villains after that character, one by one and ending with Buu.
- Especially egregious cases are when an event prevents the heroes from growing stronger, but nothing by any stretch of the imagination can stop the next Station from arriving. A notorious example is the special chapter in Dragon Ball Multiverse that revisited the Majin invasion in Universe 12, Future Trunks' timeline - everything about the enemy's actions had to screw themselves over because the author simply had no idea how not to make Gohan blow up with one punch. To their credit, it was a plot hole in canon, but it shows that trying to fill them in doesn't always work out well.
- Attack on Titan AU fics usually follow the canon with little deviation until at least the Battle for Trost.
- Fate/Zero fics, especially massive Crossover fics with other fictional characters taking the various Servant roles, tend to have the same 4 events before diverting from canon. The summoning of the Servants, Assassin apparently being killed by Archer, a brief skirmish at the docks to show various abilities and have the various Servants meet for the first time, and finally the Banquet where the various Servants share what their wish of the Holy Grail would be. Most but not all fics also have the various Servants disagree with Saber's wish.
- Regardless of universe, Maleficent fics that feature the Maleficent/Diaval pairing will almost inevitably have them meet by her saving him in some capacity. Additional plot elements like them raising Aurora together or him complaining about her treatment of him are optional but common. Surprisingly averted in Maleficent/Aurora fics, perhaps because there aren't as many canonical shippable moments to create Stations from.
- Harry Potter: As described above.
- The Stations in Percy Jackson and the Olympians OC stories always open with the particular demigod's homelife or with a scene between them and their parents. Then, they're either picked up by a satyr or Percy and friends themselves and whisked away to Camp Halfblood, with an explanation of all the demigod basics included something during the trip.
- The Lord of the Rings gives us Frodo inheriting the Ring, running from Nazgûl, meeting Strider, the Council of Elrond (even if a Tenth Walker Mary Sue has skipped over the previous bits, we invariably get the "and you have my X" lines.) Caradhras, the Mines, Boromir's betrayal, etc.
- In a similar vein, The Silmarillion has the Darkening of Valinor, the Oath of Fëanor, the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, the ships burning at Losgar, Fëanor's death, Maedhros's capture, the Battle of Sudden Flame, Fingolfin's duel with Morgoth, Beren and Lúthien's adventures, and the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Most fix fics generally wipe the Kinslaying and burning of the ships from history, but despite the significantly better political situation this causes various tragedies still occur.
- The Circle of Magic books invite this by starring a Four-Temperament Ensemble who all followed the same general template to begin with — so it's inevitable that half the fanfics are about The Woobie experiencing a traumatic event (or an entire tragic childhood) resulting in Parental Abandonment, having their unusual ambient magic discovered at a late age, being whisked off to Winding Circle Temple, and getting transferred to Discipline House because they don't fit in.
- Discussed in the RPG rulebook for The Dresden Files. In one section about what to do with the eponymous wizarding PI, it mentions that whatever you decide to do with him, there are some defining events of the setting that need to be taken into account—usually because Dresden himself was in a wholly unique position that let him stop The End of the World as We Know It. Therefore, if you go the "kill off Harry in the background" route, the GM needs to either figure out a way that the world continues to not be a Zombie Apocalypse, or perhaps have the player characters deal with it.
- The Hunger Games fanfictions have the Reaping, the family good-byes, training, forming alliances, the chariot entrances, the interviews, and the start of the Games themselves. Fanfics that are told in the first person, present tense, also tend to include exposition on what the Games are, what tesserae are, etc., just in case the reader has forgotten.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy's arrival, meeting Angel, "Prophecy Girl", Angel losing his soul, etc. No matter how much is changed, the mayor will seldom show his hand in season one.
- Sherlock AU fanfiction, for some reason, usually seems to avert this trope. Depending on the writer, the re-imagining of the canon cases can be very clever, in the same way that the show itself stays true to the original works while still being new.
- Doctor Who has a large number of rewrites of specific seasons, most of which follow this trope.
- An enormous number of Battlestar Galactica fics seem to be stuck to the concept that Cavil and the other One's will always win the Cylon Civil War, regardless of how heavily the AU has changed beforehand.
- Once Upon a Time: In the Rumbelle fandom, especially early on when there was no other material, the Stations tend to follow the events of "Skin Deep:" Rumple makes a deal in exchange for Belle, Belle goes with him, they fall in love, she's kidnapped by Regina (sometimes after an argument), but it all turns right in the end.
- The stations for almost any Glee fanfic usually go through the shows built-in Tournament Arc: Sectionals, Regionals, Nationals. Occasionally they also include Invitationals, which was more of a qualifier round in the show proper, as well as Internationals, which was discussed behind the scenes but never actually happened.
- Ace Attorney: For whatever reason, a Fix Fic generally only changes one of the Canon Stations: the DL-6 case, the SL-9 case, Diego going into a coma, Mia getting killed by Redd White, and the real perpetrators of each of the cases. Though as Trials and Tribulations and Investigations 2 establish, the DL-6 case had a huge impact on the rest of the series canon, to the point where even slightly changing it often creates a radically different Alternate Universe.
- Pokemon Mystery Dungeon is a criminal offender of this trope, to the point where nearly every single event, no matter HOW minor usually gets copy and pasted into any PMD fic that takes place in a canon game. Nine times out of ten, if the plot to the fic isn't completely original, most PMD fics end up being 'the exact same story, but with the Pokemon the author got ingame as the protagonist'.
- In general, any alternate universe based on a videogame will include an encounter with every boss (or every boss with a name), in order. If it was a series, it will tend to cover these games in series. This happens no matter how far diverged the fic's universe is from the game's universe.
- The Mega Man fandom tends to set fics and Sprite Comics based around the games, in order, even if they're alternate universe takes. Particularly popular are Mega Man X 4-6, since most comics based on that series use sprites from those games, making them the easiest to recreate.
- The Mass Effect Self-Insert Fic Mass Vexations and its sequel both play with this trope extensively; general things occur as they should in the games, but often little details will change, such as differing body language and people not being where they should at a given time. And then there are the times where it's flat-out subverted, such as Garrus's squad surviving; his loyalty mission still goes through Harkin giving them the information and Garrus finding Sidonis, but that's only the first half of the mission then.
- In Til the Sun Grows Cold and the Stars Grow Old, which is basically a fanfic novelization of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, this is done with a twist. The major plot points of Twilight Princess are the stations to be crossed, since the stations are the plot, but it also introduces some of the stations of the canon of other Zelda games because Link keeps having past life flashbacks.
- In The Sims fanfiction, no matter what the divergence is, Bella will always go missing and many times she will be revealed to be in Strangetown all along.
- Mass Effect fanfics in general suffer from this, partially due to the structure of the setting. Since the Reapers and their actions are such a deeply ingrained and integral part of the setting, deviating from established canon without utterly wrecking the setting is very difficult.
- Homestuck is very prone to this: fanfic, roleplaying and forum adventures based on homestuck near enough always begin in the exact same way, a kid has his/her birthday, gets Sburb discs somehow, contact their friends to be server players for them, have their server deploy all the required items, release their sprite and prototype it, use the required items to obtain their entry item, use the entry item to enter the game and then wander about. They'll also often meet consorts, go through their first gate, fight a denizen, become godtier etc. Understandable though as Sburb is a game and these are necessary in order to both survive and continue playing the game, but it is nevertheless very formulaic.
- The problem of the Homestuck fanfic is that for a proper AU to be made, every single event in the story has to be changed. To change how a single event happens, say John prototypes a different object instead of the harlequin, Lord English's entire Xanatos Gambit has to be altered, which leads to either A.) A story that diverges completely and ends up doing something well that we never expected, or B.) A story that fills itself to the brim with paradoxes. Most simply have no time for the research required in outcome A.
- The "X reimagined as a series of tabletop gaming sessions" as popularized by DM of the Rings and Darths & Droids has a love/hate relationship with this trope. On one hand, when all you have are the screencaps from the series you are adapting, it's hard to stray from the Canon Stations. On the other hand, part of the draw of these comics is to see how differently a certain event will play out.
- RWBY: Less than six months after the first episode came out, there are already over 1,100+ fanfics. A lot of them are stories featuring OC or Badass!Jaune , and unfortunately, almost all of them are hit by this trope. It is possibly because of the fact that there are only 2 hours worth of materials, but it still doesn't justify fanfic writer's religious dedication for covering (no, there aren't any fics who follow ALL of these, but many follow these pretty closely):
- Episode 1: Somebody else will be inside the store that Ruby was in that gets robbed by Roman Torchwick in the first episode, and either help her or (try) to stop him him/herself. Somebody will get admitted to Beacon alongside, watching Yang hugging Ruby and Jaune vomiting.
- Episode 2: Somebody will be watch Ruby Dustneezing Weiss, who will get promptly called out by Blake. Somebody will help Ruby up.
- In fact, most OC fics can be summarized as RWBY episodes scripts with OC characters added in.
- Worm fics that replace Taylor's original power with something else usually still have the locker as her trigger event, a run-in with Lung that she wins, joining the Undersiders, Leviathan as the first Endbringer that comes bythough , a visit from the Slaughterhouse 9...
- Amusingly, the Armsmaster-branded underpants Taylor mentions once owning seem to be a popular mention.
- Avatar The Last Airbender: Early on there's Katara and Sokka crashing their canoe, unfreezing Aang, Zuko (or AU equivalent person) arriving in his warship, and then the Water Tribe kids rescuing Aang from said warship. In the Season 2 Ba Sing Se arc, there's typically some variation of Toph learning metalbending, Katara stumbling across Zuko and his uncle in the Jasmine Dragon, Katara and Zuko being imprisoned in the crystal caverns, Azula's temptation of Zuko, Aang being killed by Azula's lightning strike and Katara subsequently reviving him with the Spirit Oasis water, and the fall of Ba Sing Se. Season 3 features less of these stations overall, but there will usually be some variation on the Lion-Turtle appearing, Aang energybending Ozai, and Zuko becoming Fire Lord.
- Total Drama season remakes, especially Season 1 remakes, tend to follow both major and minor canonical events very closely in the early going. It often takes several chapters for these stories to find their own path.
- Rehashing contestant arrivals/introductions almost verbatim, including much canonical dialogue, is more the rule than the exception. A few of these remakes omit the contestant arrivals/introductions altogether, covering it all with a note stating that they're the same as in the original. If there are new characters, they tend to arrive last and have little interaction with the canonical cast.
- Some remakes even keep the first few eliminations unchanged.
- If a Season 1 remake retains Heather as the villain, which is quite common, she will typically ally with Lindsay and Beth (maybe with one or more people added/replacing Beth) during the Awake-a-Thon challenge, just as in canon. She will also typically get a canon-like humiliation conga when she finally goes down in flames.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfics which cast different characters into the roles of the bearers of the Elements of Harmony usually start the same way - one character is sent from Canterlot to (usually) Ponyville to oversee the Summer Sun Celebration, and meets the other five characters while checking on preparations for food, weather, decorations and music, then encounter with the Big Bad.
- To be fair, the Elements of Harmony, the MacGuffins retrieved in the Station, are a major part of the setting. In addition, since it is a test of character to be able to use them it also serves as a means to conveniently show the characters personalities and mannerisms, as well as giving them a defining virtue. Since the Elements require multiple wielders it is also useful for justifying the formation of the main cast as a team.
- Certain other events such as the Best Young Flyers Competition, Winter Wrap Up, and the Grand Galloping Galla also tend to take center stage. Partially justified in that these events will happen with or without character input, but in the case of the flying competition it can be seen as odd if the cast doesn't feature a dedicated athletic flyer.
Outside of fanfic:
- Superheroes tend to have their origins retold over and over again (sometimes in completely alternate realities), but certain plot points must be hit. E.g., "I shall become a bat!", Professor X getting crippled, Hellboy joining the BPRD, etc.
- All-Star Superman hits all the notes of Superman's pre-Metropolis origins in four panels and eight words: "Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple."
- When John Byrne rebooted Superman in the 1980s, the first issue began with his parents on doomed Krypton. Later, Byrne commented that this was dumb of him; he should have let the readers learn the details at the same time as Clark, since all the readers knew the basics already. In his own opinion, Byrne stuck to the Stations too closely.
- Quite a few of the Elseworlds comics from DC suffer from this problem. Most commonly, they will rehash the origin of Batman with minor variations, but there will almost always be a Joker, a Catwoman, etc, etc, regardless of how illogical they might be in this setting.
- Speeding Bullets is one of the worst offenders in thisnote - If Kal-El was raised by the Waynes instead of the Kents, Lex Luthor would be the Joker!
- Darkest Knight was worse by several measures. After Wayne becomes a Green Lantern, Sinestro starts wearing a purple trenchcoat and hat for no reason whatsoever.
- Superman Secret Identity flip-flops on this, partially because of its This Is Reality message. Clark still grows up in a suburban town and then moves to a big city, swapping a Superboy identity for a Superman identity, gets a writing-related desk job and marries a Lois (Chaudhari, not Lane)... but no equivalents appear for any other classic Superman characters, such as Lex Luthor or Lana Lang.
- At first, this seemed to be a thing for Archie Comics' Mega Man series, with the first 12 issues dealing with the original game, the remake and the sequel. It gets derailed after the twelfth issue.
- IDW's Star Trek (2009) continuation toys with this. Despite the new universe, some of the old missions still happen, but the events sometimes differ wildly. Gary Mitchell still encounters the galactic barrier and goes mad with power but he and Kirk aren't friends, and Elizabeth Dehner isn't present at all.
- A problem for The Amazing Spider-Man was that it had to introduce Spider-Man to movie audiences, but couldn't follow the standard version (Peter is a hopeless loser, gets bitten by a spider, gains powers, uses powers for personal gain, Uncle Ben warns him against this, does it anyway, Uncle Ben dies, Peter learns responsibility and becomes a true hero) because Spider-Man had done it relatively recently. They mostly got the same message of each plot beat without doing it exactly the same as the comics or previous movie, although the writers were clearly straining to deliver Uncle Ben's message without explicitly saying it outright.
Live Action TV
- The Doctor Who story "Turn Left" focuses on a For Want of a Nail timeline in which Donna Noble never met the Doctor and, as a result, the Doctor dies. Many of the present-day events from earlier in the season and the previous season are revisited with very different outcomes, if one of the Doctor's former companions didn't step in and make a Heroic Sacrifice while saving the day.
- Virtually every Game Mod ever made. In this case, it's primarily because they edit the existing game. This is common for example with Super Mario World ones, where blatantly edited hacks will keep the general structure of the game and many of the levels.
- Super Robot Wars K sure feels this way. Instead of combining and reimagining the various stories like other games in the franchise do, most chapters feel basically like "this episode or arc from a series, with scenes copy-pasted and everything", heroes barely interacting and such.
- Granted, most Super Robot Wars games do this. But most of them are also much better about it, keeping the important consequences of each event (if it isn't already out to subvert them), but often modifying the location, situation, people involved, and sometimes even the reasons they occur. The games also often mix things up by causing important events in different series' to happen at the same time.
- Super Robot Wars Judgement also does this for Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, and to a minor extent Tekkaman Blade and Full Metal Panic!. Granted, it was the first appearance for all three (first handheld appearance for SEED), but they still follow canon VICIOUSLY - You can't keep Mu La Flaga alive, a lot of the game caters to Kira being the only Gundam around despite Mobile Fighter G Gundam being an established part of the story, and a lot of the random events can seem very catering to SEED at times.
- What makes J and K so jarring is that the game immediately before J on handhelds was Super Robot Wars Destiny, which played the most fast and loose with canon possible (the world disappears at the START of the game.), and in between them was Super Robot Wars W, which contained a lot of J's series but changed events around enough to keep everything very fresh, even for the new arrivals.
- Partial example: The Kingdom Hearts series passes through the Stations of Disney Animated Canon either as the events of their respective movies are happening, or right before the start of any exciting plot action. It gets very noticeable in Kingdom Hearts II where most of the worlds' events are "The plot from the movie, but with Sora, Donald, and Goofy."
- An unusual, in-universe example in BioShock Infinite - some things may change, but Booker will never row the boat, will always get a Heads, and will always draw ball #77. And on a bigger scale, there is always a man, a city, and a lighthouse.
- In Legacy of Kain Defiance, all of the places that Raziel visits are significant places that Kain has already been to, and most are in reference to the original Blood Omen. (It isn't until the climax of the game that he stops being just behind the fledgeling of his sire.)
- Many modern games that allow you to make choices for the player character will experience this, due to the logistics of having to create and compensate for all the various outcomes. As an example, for all the choices one can make in the Mass Effect Trilogy, almost all of the major plot events and their results will be the same; what changes is who is present, what their outlook towards the player character is, and exactly how those events play out.
- Almost every single Dragon Ball game covers most of the events of the series in order (specifically, the Z portion - GT often gets a token nod and the original Dragon Ball will get one if it's lucky). In Dragonball Xenoverse, it's your job to enforce them.
- The Transformers will always find themselves chasing a MacGuffin to Earth (yes, Energon counts) after at some point, meet human kids early on, and make them sidekicks, no matter the continuity or how improbable it seems. Megatron and Optimus Prime will have a showdown, lines from the 1986 film battle will probably be spoken at some point (even if the story isn't in that continuity), and Optimus Prime will die.
- And probably come back to life, usually with an upgrade. Also, Bumblebee is always younger/smaller and Starscream is always, well, The Starscream. Also, Megatron will almost always become Galvatron, though outside the original, that just means a Palette Swap.
- Oddly enough, every time a series diverges from the usual characterizations, it often becomes a new Station itself, such as Bumblebee either being mute or playing a stronger role in combat after the live-action film series came out.
- Also, the stealthy Autobot agent Mirage isn't in most series, but when he is, he will get suspected of treachery. G1 did it, RID did it, and the IDW Comics series has him not knowing if he's an Autobot with visions of an alternate Decepticon life, or the other way around.