Fanon is an odd thing. Fans come up with it for many reasons. Because Word of Dante says so, because Word of God never said so, because it's the only plausible explanation of an event, or just because it's fun!
One popular form of fanon, however, is that which is created simply to make shipping the OTP easier. This type of fanon is what we refer to as The Ship's Motor. In the way that having a motor is helpful in propelling an actual ship, this piece of fanon is helpful in pushing a Fanfic writer's ship. But it's not enough for it to be just helpful; to truly be considered The Ship's Motor, a piece of fanon must have no other clear purpose than to make shipping two characters more plausible. That does not mean the piece of fanon has to be contrived. In fact, the idea could make perfect sense within the work's canon, or at least not be blatantly contradictory. On the other hand, depending on the popularity of the pairing and/or the plausibility of the idea, a Ship's Motor may inadvertently grow to the point where it comes to be mistaken as an actual part of canon.
Only tangentially related to the YouTube vidcast The Ship's Closet.
For pages about actual ships and motors, see the Motor Vehicle Tropes.
- Death Note: During the time period when L and Light were handcuffed together, it is not mentioned how they did things such as sleep, bathe etc. It's quite possible (and likely) that they were unhandcuffed and someone else kept an eye on Light- but slash fic writers have decided they definitely slept in the same bed and bathed together.
- Some Naruto fanfics with the Neji×Hinata couple have the two arranged to marry in order to keep the Byakugan bloodline trait within the family, thus precluding any other ships.
- Many Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfics with the Shinji×Rei pairing will bring up various arguments and bits of fanon that make the pairing less problematic by reducing the degree of genetic connection between the two.
- The practice in Yu-Gi-Oh! fics of giving Yami Yugi, Yami Bakura, and/or Yami Marik their own bodies to make shipping them with their human hosts easier is so widespread that it's rare to find a fic that actually sticks to the canon portrayal of them as Sharing a Body with their hosts.
- In The Force Awakens fandom, the idea that Rey and Finn are both sexually and romantically inexperienced due to their unusual childhood is popular among fans who ship Rey×Finn×Poe. This allows Poe to be introduced to an established Rey×Finn relationship in the process of "teaching" them how to kiss and so on. It also has some support through Word of Saint Paul, with John Boyega (who plays Finn) stating that he believes Finn is a virgin.
- One popular-ish example of this trope is the pairing of Kylo Ren and Poe Dameron. Typically, fanfics for the ship requiring the two having a past connection, usually being childhood-friends-turned-lovers-turned-enemies. The fact that the Damerons and Solos were quite close also helps matters.
- Harry Potter:
- The Head Boy and Head Girl share quarters. Which seems particularly odd since the Founders use magic to keep boys from even visiting the girls' dormitories, but presumably the reasoning is that anyone who earns that title probably has enough sense to avoid unfortunate mishaps. Some of the saner examples downplay the trope a bit and give them separate sleeping quarters but a shared study/living room.
- There's a million of these, really. There are also "Marriage Law fics," where the Ministry passes a law forcing purebloods and Muggle-borns to marry against their will (usually for the sake of Snape×Hermione or Draco×Hermione). This... worked better before the last couple of books came out (not that was particularly plausible then). Another plethora of stories has Hermione wind up really being a Pureblood so that she more easily hook up with Malfoy or Zabini. Changing a character's heritage to pair her with an unrepentant Politically Incorrect Villain? Unfortunate Implications be danged!
- In The Hobbit fandom, a popular piece of fanon is that Yavanna, the wife of Aule/Mahal who created the dwarves, was the creator of the hobbit race and thus has a special fondness for them. This has no basis in book or film canon, with supplemental materials implying that hobbits originated as an offshoot of the human race, but it's very common for this fanon to be treated as widely-known fact in fanfic to legitimize a relationship between Bilbo and Thorin or have Yavanna help them reunite in the afterlife.
- Kara and Lee of Battlestar Galactica are believed to have gone to flight academy together even though canon has discredited this.
- Faith of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is often portrayed in fanfic as bisexual, building on her on-screen promiscuous nature. This is, of course, useful for pairing her with Buffy, Willow, or any other female character. This attitude of making a character bisexual can also extend to Buffy herself when pairing her up with Willow in earlier seasons or Faith or Tara in later seasons.
- In the Firefly fandom, River/Jayne shippers often use the idea that Jayne's thoughts are "clear" or "simple" as part of the reasons River might be attracted to him.
- Sam× Freddie belligerent sexual tension shippers used a reply that Word of God left on his blog early in the show's run as their motor, it being along the lines of "their bickering is a game, and maybe they are afraid to stop playing". The comment was likely in regards to their inability admit they really care for each other as friends, but shippers expand it to them willfully ignoring romantic feelings for each other because they enjoy fighting, and one-day will stop playing and get together. Which, given how the show's "iOMG" storyline would play out in season four, is not a stretch by any means.
- Sam being bi is a big piece of fanon that's very useful in bringing out Carly's If It's You, It's Okay feelings for her in the Carly/Sam fandom. The other common fanon is to make Carly and Sam both bisexual to make their mutual attraction easier or help ship Carly with Shelby Marx or Missy.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Canonically, Carisi is godfather only to Rollins's youngest child, but in fanon, it's generally accepted he is also her older daughter's godfather. There is no evidence for this, and their relationship when Jesse was born wasn't close enough for that to make sense, but fans are happy to fudge the details. It helps solidify Carisi as Parental Substitute for the Rollins girls as opposed to the Honorary Uncle he is for Olivia's son, Noah, in a more definitive way (though he is "Uncle Sonny" to all of them) and gives him a plausible reason to spend more time with Amanda outside of work.
- Once Upon a Time: A lot of Emma/Regina fanfics have the plot of Henry trying to get his moms together, being a Shipper on Deck for them, and/or trying to actively break them up from their canon relationships as a way to get them together. This not only has little to no evidence in canon but ignores the fact that he seems perfectly fine with their love interests, Hook and Robin, even if he took a while to warm up to Hook.
- Popular: It became fanon for Brooke/Sam shippers that they had an adjoined bathroom connecting their bedrooms, even though there was no such thing.
- Power Rangers S.P.D.: Sky being Bridge's roommate because his hardnosed-ness means his thoughts are more ordered and less apt to bleed over and give Bridge a psychic headache. (Actually, Sky's as emotional as anyone else, if not more. He just feels the need to act like the Perfect Officerï¿½ 24-7 because he wants to follow in the foosteps of his legendary pa.)
- Star Trek: The Original Series:
- Kirk can empathically sense when Spock is going into Pon Farr. This actually crops up in one of the published TOS books, "Killing Time", which was famously recalled and edited after the publishers realized the author was a Kirk×Spock shipper.
- Also please note that Gene Roddenberry's novelisation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture stated that it was Kirk's mind that called to Spock across the light years and ended his chances at the Kolinahr. Maybe not such a stretch after all...
- Similar to the Harry Potter example above, a significant number of fics feature the idea that the Captain and First Officer have adjacent quarters and share a bathroom. Canonically their quarters appear to be on different decks altogether, but this piece of Fanon is so widely used (and convenient) that its use can be considered an Acceptable Break From Canon.
- Despite the prevailing opinion of the fandom, Sam and Dean having amazingly bright/pure souls that angels are drawn to — despite everything they've been through — has never actually been stated in canon.
- Many Dean/Castiel fics posit that Castiel accidentally formed a soul-bond with Dean when he pulled him out of Hell and left a handprint on his shoulder.
- The X-Files fans had a setup for Mulder and Scully's hotel arrangements - adjoining rooms, door in the middle connecting them — ostensibly so they could protect each other better from one their Monsters of the Week deciding to attack.
- The Life Is Strange fandom often portrays Victoria and Nathan's relationship as being Like Brother and Sister to set up Victoria as a lesbian prior to shipping her with another girl.
- The Portal fandom has a habit of taking bots like GLaDOS and Wheatley, and making them humanoid, either by downloading them into a human body, giving them some sort of android, or finding a way to mix the two. This is done in part to make writing their expressions easier in fanfiction, but mainly it seems to pair them with Chell. This was only reinforced after Portal 2 revealed GLaDOS herself used to be human. Wheatley being the more human of the two (with less mechanical feedback in his speech, truly incredible fallibility, and "facial" gestures,) expect his androids and cyborgs to appear more natural, while GLaDOS's will have wires or damage right out in the open.
- The four prequel trailers led to the fandom creating sexual orientations for Team RWBY based on assumptions about characterisation and preferred ships. The Red and White Trailers led to a preference for the White Rose ship (Ruby and Weiss), and the Black and Yellow trailers led to a preference for the Bumblebee ship (Blake and Yang). When Volume 1 indicated Yang may like boys and began a Ship Tease arc between Blake and Sun (Black Sun), the fanon evolved to portray Blake and Yang as bisexual to allow both Bumblebee and Black Sun to exist in the fandom; this was helped by the voice actresses being bisexual and later volumes introducing Ship Tease between Blake and Yang. Ruby and Weiss are sometimes depicted as being unaware of their sexuality yet, especially Weiss who has had canon hero worship of Pyrrha and her memetic status as a "Useless Lesbian". Due to a canonical apparent lack of attraction towards any characters, Ruby is sometimes depicted as an aromantic asexual.
- Many fics about Ren and Nora have them platonically sleeping together. This helps to ramp up sexual tension if the fic is romantic, but it's also an extrapolation of the very close partnership they have in canon.
- Gravity Falls: Most Bill/Dipper fics age up Dipper and give Bill a humanoid form to lessen the squick of pairing a 12-year-old with a triangle-shaped Eldritch Abomination.
- Invader Zim:
- The fandom will often justify sex with Irkens by claiming that Irkens have sex at all. Canon seems to imply that they're all grown in a big factory, and naked Irkens have no apparent genitals. It's particularly common to assume that they lay eggs.
- Also, ZATR fans often portray Zim and Tak having known each other prior to the events on Devastis, even to the point of having been best friends since they were smeets. This is despite the fact that, from the way Zim acts when Tak reveals herself on Earth, it seems they never met before... though considering the type of character Zim is, he probably wouldn't remember either way.
- Though Dib/Gaz isn't very popular, those who do ship it sometimes use a Word of God statement about Dib being an experiment created by Membrane to suggest that he and Gaz aren't really related. That said, creator Jhonen Vasquez spews out tongue-in-cheek statements and sardonic jokes as though its a biological necessity, so whether this actually is the case is up in the air. Beyond that, he notably never mentioned how Dib's sister Gaz fits into that scenario; since Fanon often makes Dib Membrane's clone, some extend this theory to make Gaz a clone of Membrane's dead wife in a weirdly literal case of Generation Xerox.
- Canonically speaking, Zim is not an actual child, but a very short Psychopathic Manchild. He and other Irkens seen in the series are hundreds of years older than any living human, with an unfinished episode revealing that he's even around the same age as his leaders, the Tallest. To get around this huge age gap, it's common for Fanon to treat Zim and Tak as being equivalent to teenagers by the standards of their species, which is how the rumor that Zim is "16 in Irken years" got started. The fact this doesn't actually fix much in terms of shipping, especially considering Dib and Gaz aren't even teenagers themselves, is never acknowledged for some reason.
- Any Star vs. the Forces of Evil fics that feature the Janco (Janna/Marco) pairing, and even a fair few that don't, tend to have them as childhood friends in order to strengthen the connection between the characters and justify why the latter is occasionally annoyed, but never completely perturbed by her presence despite being the victim of her Gadfly tendencies.
- Like the Buffy example above, Cody on Total Drama is often made bisexual, because while it's very clear that Cody likes girls, most fans prefer a bit of Ho Yay between him and Noah.