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The Stations of the Canon

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The inevitable result of a Point of Divergence, Peggy Sue, or Role Swap AU Fic: You move across the plot points of the original from that point onward, with the intent of showing how the story has changed due to whatever factor has been added to the story. These events tend to be quite fixed, and thus they can, when done poorly, come across as merely crossing over The Stations of the Canon, rather than an actual plot, which is where this trope gets its name.

For example, if you have "Harry Potter raised by someone else" Fanfic, you must cross over the Stations of The Letter From Hogwarts, The Visit To Diagon Alley, The Trip To Hogwarts, The Sorting Hat, and, depending on how you play things, The Troll, all the way up to The Confrontation With Voldemort — all iconic moments that establish key points of the setting or characterization as the fandom knows it. In most cases, the reason for doing this is to show just how the divergence(s) has changed the story.

Sometimes (but not always) this brings up Fridge Logic involving In Spite of a Nail; no matter what changes have already been made in the characters or setting, the plot somehow twists to allow it to cross the Stations. (If the events in question are on a schedule that has nothing to do with what happens to the protagonist, this particular problem does not appear. After all, if Harry still goes to Hogwarts, he's gotta be sorted by the Hat no matter how different he's become from canon.) At the very worst, the story will be exactly the same as the original just with a few changes in the details.

Some authors attempt to minimize this trope by either describing the events from a different perspective or simply skipping over a Station with only minimal description of the events. After all, the audience has most likely already read/seen/played through those events, no need to make them go over it again (the obvious exception being a Crossover fic, where a prospective half of the readers might not have done so—in which case there can be two potential sets of Stations to pull from, more if more series are involved).

This trope is named after the Stations of the Cross, a traditional sequence of 14 (or 15) iconic scenes from the Passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Christian doctrine; in this regard, the revisitation of canonical scenes in an adaptation or a derivative work can be compared to an iconic guided tour allowing pilgrims to Jerusalem to literally follow in Christ's steps. Coincidentally, the "stations" evoke the image of a railroad to indicate that the plot hasn't gone Off the Rails.

Remember that Tropes Are Tools: Fanfiction stories can play this trope reasonably straight and still be good stories.

Examples should be of works whose fanfic show this tendency, rather than individual fanfics. Connected to Broad Strokes: how broadly the events are painted relates to how many Stations the work bothers crossing. On the other hand, when you hit the broad stroke of a Station the fine details can also be changed up. Compare with In Spite of a Nail.

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 everyone's 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 than you might think, if for no other reason than because it helps protect the result from being accused of being In Name Only.
  • Fanfic writer Iron117Prime is notable for his fusion fics that usually follow one series' Stations of the Canon, but showcase how the event is altered due to another element's influence. Then the story hits the midpoint...

    Anime and Manga 
  • Attack on Titan AU fics usually follow the canon with little deviation until at least the Battle for Trost.
  • Bleach: The Soul Society Arc is usually a given in any fic that involves Ichigo receiving Rukia's powers as in canon regardless of any other changes, as the fallout of said actions coupled with Aizen's manipulations need to happen assuming Aizen is going to remain the Big Bad. Even if said events don't necessarily play out the same way, Ichigo and Byakuya will have their showdown, Aizen will make his dramatic reveal and obtain the Hogyoku, and the status quo of Soul Society will change. This likely has to do with the popularity of said arc. Everything after that, however, while it might use the characters later introduced, is usually fair game.
  • Bubblegum Crisis: Irene Chang dies (or not), Storming the Castle to kill Brian J. Mason, etc.
  • 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.
    • There are an astounding number of fanfics that have as their premise Lelouch returning from his death in Zero Requiem to the moment when he got his geass, with all of his memories intact, and still making the same choices, leading to this trope. The only variation is usually that he recruits Jeremiah earlier. He doesn't refuse to kill Clovis, or somehow protect Suzaku from being accused. He doesn't try to recruit Suzaku before killing Clovis, an offer Suzaku very well might have accepted. He never makes use of any of the intelligence he's gathered as Zero. He doesn't attempt to contact Kirihara earlier than in canon. He goes through the whole season, at least up to the SAZ, with an attitude of, "Alright, so this is the part where..." — completely OOC for someone so calculating and creative — it's actually quite like the mode of chess playing that he criticizes typical Britannian nobles for.
  • 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.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • 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. Ironically, Dragon Ball Super (which actually is canon) handled this exact situation with a lot more simplicity than Multiverse: the Majin Invasion still happens roughly when it did in DBZ, but this time the Supreme Kai warned Future Trunks and helped train him until he was strong enough to defeat Babidi and his minions before Majin Buu could be released.
      • The way Babidi and Dabura's attack is handled in Dragon Ball Super is actually an even bigger plot hole than leaving it be. In Future Trunks' timeline, Babidi targets Earth when he's an adult; in the "main" timeline, the attack happens when Trunks is a child. No reason is ever given for this change given that, even in Future Trunks' time, Gohan was the strongest being in the universe from whom Babidi could afford to steal energy (Whis and Beerus being out of the question and the androids having no ki). Of course, at that point, Babidi would be better off draining Dabura and then letting him recover day by day until Buu's seal is broken, but that's something even the main timeline fails to address.
    • MasakoX's What If stories are generally willing to diverge in all sorts of places, but he has his own personal station of canon: the existence of Future Trunks since his timeline would be unaffected by these changes. This can create some awkward situations, as in the "What If Goku Married Bulma?" story, where Trunks has to deal with the fact that he doesn't exist in the main timeline. Over time Masako recognized how many missed opportunities this created and started relying on it less often. While his stories will typically feature someone coming back in time to warn the Dragon Team about the Androids, it no longer has to be Future Trunks, especially in storylines where Vegeta and Bulma don't become an item. However, there is one station of canon that Masako will stick to almost without fail. Raditz's arrival on earth. This is because no changes to events on Earth in the original Dragon Ball will change the activities of Raditz or Freeza in space, so Raditz will get sent to Earth. Since Raditz is so much stronger than everyone on Earth at the time of his appearance (despite his reputation in fandom), Raditz usually changes the game as soon as he appears. For example, in the case where Pilaf gets his wish to rule the world, he then starts a world war with the Red Ribbon Army. When Raditz shows up, he's much, much stronger than Goku was when he defeated the RR. As a consequence, both sides are obliterated with ease.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Retellings or crossovers with Fairy Tail that involve The Balam Alliance will usually always consist of the same 3 guilds (Oración Seis, Grimoire Heart, and Tartaros) and with almost the exact same line-up as in canon. Naturally, this also means the exact same fights from canon will occur in these fanfics with only minor differences that do not impact the rest of the Stations in any real way. This is because these guilds leave the most impact on the plot, in ways that could cause almost an entirely different story if anything happened to prevent Fairy Tail from having to fight them for whatever reason. At most, some members may have a Heel–Face Turn earlier than they did or have one they never got in canon, but the plot points in the arcs that include them will still happen almost beat-for-beat for the most part.
    • Unless the story is about why certain members of Fairy Tail never end up in the guild, retellings and the like will always have the same events that cause them to join. Much like with the above, this is because certain members of Fairy Tail end up tremendously affecting the plot with their presence, so anyone wanting to keep certain characters or dynamics around will have to make sure these same characters end up as Fairy Tail wizards no matter what other changes they make in their fanfics.
  • 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:
    1. 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.
    2. The group goes hunting for tanks.
    3. The group has a practice battle.
    4. The crew fights St. Gloriana, often with a different outcome.
    5. The group encounters Maho and Erika, with the OCs usually giving a stronger rebuttal to the latter.
    6. The group goes up against Saunders.
  • Finding a High School D×D fic that doesn't start with Raynare killing Issei or the protagonist replacing Issei is near impossible. Yes, even if Issei is being replaced with someone who should be too smart or too powerful to be killed by Raynare.
  • 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.
  • Mazinger Z: Dr. Hell's surfacing, Dr. Kabuto's death, Kouji finding Mazinger and trying piloting for the 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.
  • My Hero Academia fics featuring Midoriya starting without a Quirk will usually feature the bullying of Midoriya by Bakugo, Midoriya's encounter with All Might, and the encounter with the sludge monster to set up the story, and even those where he begins with a Quirk will usually have at least one of those. Those that follow the "Midoriya gets One for All" plot will also include him receiving the Quirk from All Might, though some will have this happen later in the story. Later on, stations include the USJ villain attack, the sports festival, an internship with some pro hero, Iida's encounter with Stain, the final exam, the school trip and subsequent villain attack, All Might's final battle with All for One, and the hero license exam. All of these are justified by either being events put in motion by individuals unaffected by the story changes of the protagonist or fixed parts of the UA curriculum, with the events that don't involve the protagonist in the fic's plot typically still happening offscreen. The Entrance Exam is one that happens often but receives variations as Midoriya rescues his Love Interest in that arc, some people like to use that situation to set up alternate romantic possibilities for him.
  • 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 50,000 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.
    • Shikamaru is almost always among the first (if not the only one) of the Konoha 12 to become Chūnin pre-timeskip.
    • Sasuke performs a Face–Heel Turn.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi, 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.
  • 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. After all, nothing any of the characters do can change the Angels showing up in that precise time and order.
    • Subverted with Rise of the Minisukas. In spite of the presence of the Minisukas, the story seems to stick closely to the canon's main points as usual for the first chapters: Shinji arrives in Tokyo-3, fights Sachiel, meets Toji and Kensuke, fights Ramiel alongside Rei...until the Sixth Angel turns out to be a fusion of Gaghiel and Rebuild's Seventh Angel. From that point on, the arrival of different Angels (taken from other Eva continuities, videogames, and even tabletop games) completely changes the original sequence of events...much to the annoyance of the Minisuka Leader (who trusted on her knowledge of the original timeline to keep Shinji safe) and even Gendo and Keel Lorenz, (whose knowledge stemming from Dead Sea Scrolls have become utterly useless).
  • One Piece: Variations include how Luffy gathers his crew and whether or not he has consumed any Devil Fruit. It's almost an Enforced Trope due to how the Grand Line is set up (with seven different routes that are fixed unless one has an Eternal Pose set to an island outside of that route) - 99.9% of fics will go to Whiskey Peak and consequently replay the exact same islands as before.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Most fics featuring Ash (and Pokémon fanfiction in general) challenging gyms will more often than not move akin to the path the games and anime took, with similar events occurring at similar times with similar people and Pokémon. You will rarely see Ash tackle Gyms in different orders, with Pewter always being the first Gym and Viridian the last. The exception is Sabrina's Gym which was challenged fourth in the anime but often gets moved towards its game position as the sixth gym in fanfics, though you will still see it as the fourth gym Ash encounters on occasion. The events of the first episode will nearly always happen as they did canonically, and Ash will always fight Gary. Even in a heavily diverged plot, Ash will always obtain Charizard (even beyond Pikachu), and if possible Greninja. He will always follow up Kanto with the Orange Islands, and he will meet all of his companions. Except the Unovan, Alolan, and Journeys ones.
    • No matter how different Ash's path is before or after the Viridian Forest, even if he doesn't capture his canon Caterpie and Pidgeotto, he will always encounter the Samurai from Episode 4. Of all of the characters of the day he is the most frequently appearing, quite possibly for being the first. Similarly, when a fic does try to shake things up from canon, either by adding game plotlines into the anime or doing additional plotlines between gyms original to the fic, it usually doesn't happen until after the Pewter Gym, making the span of time from Pallet to Viridian to Viridian Forest to Pewter a plot bottleneck.
  • 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 who really want to get the ball rolling usually start around the third episode's event.
    • A trend in fanfics that cover Homura's other timelines tend to imply that things will always happen as they did as we see them in the episodes mentioned above, which actually goes against hints in the episode that introduced the concept fully, where things are clearly not identical between timelines even beyond what Homura implicitly changes. This tends to mostly involve Mami dying and Sayaka turning into a Witch in the same way and same time in each timeline.
  • Ranma ˝: 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. There have been entire Elseworlds that are just the various characters exchanging dialogue about each major plot arc, assuming the reader to be 100% familiar with the context.
  • 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.
  • Wolf's Rain, fanfic really repeat your episodes an awful lot. Heck, even the canon does it.
  • 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 Zofis, which might as well be 'copy-and-pasted' from the canon.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The original series will always have Kaiba discovering that Yugi’s grandfather owns a Blue-Eyes White Dragon, him stealing it and destroying it, Yugi defeating him in a Duel, the events of the Duelist Kingdom and then Battle City tournaments (with each Duelist fighting precisely the same opponents as canon despite the structure of both tournaments making that unlikely), and the Pharaoh recovering his memories and the Ceremonial Duel. These fanfics are invariably based on the anime canon and not the manga canon, so manga-exclusive stations never happen. However, it’s a toss-up as to whether the anime’s Filler arcs get adapted or not. Frustratingly, oftentimes not only are the events the same as canon, but the turns of the Duels are exactly the same as well, except for a few meaningless differences towards the end.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Whether the hero is an “improved” Judai or an Original Character, the fic will include the qualification Duel to get into Duel Academy, which is always against Chronos because the protagonist is always late and always earns the teacher’s enmity, arriving at the island, meeting their classmates and getting assigned their dorm (almost always Red), and most of the filler Duels from the first season still happen alongside the actual important events, specifically the Abandoned Dorm and the Tag Duel to avoid expulsion. Then the Seven Stars, Society of Light, and Yubel events happen as usual. Only Elsewhere Fics avoid this trope, and even they tend to get caught up in the main plot eventually.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Hobbit fics where someone (usually Bilbo) is sent back in time to fix things will still have certain events occur like the encounter with hungry trolls or Bilbo finding the One Ring with minimal changes because these events basically have to happen for the characters to succeed in their quest — if the characters don't run into the trolls, they don't find the trolls' valuable weapon stash, and if Bilbo doesn't find the Ring, he can't become invisible when the party really needs someone capable of sneaking around and the Ring might fall into the hands of someone more susceptible to its evil influence.
  • 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.

  • Animorphs AU fics (unless they're It's a Wonderful Plot versions like Back to Before) have the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits meet Elfangor and receive the morphing power, (usually) watch him killed and eaten by Visser Three, go to The Gardens or the equivalent to get battle morphs, have one character (usually Tobias if it's the original gang) become a nothlit, and rescue Ax from the crashed Dome Ship. At that point all the main characters are together, though stories (depending on their divergence) often include major plot points like the revelation that Marco's mom is Visser One, one of the characters becoming a Controller and the group having to keep them under guard for three days, meeting the Ellimist, meeting Erek and the Chee, Tobias (or whoever the nothlit is) getting their morphing back, and David finding the blue box (if they get that far).
  • 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 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, usually at the insistence of Louise. 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.
  • Fate/Zero fics, especially massive Crossover fics with other fictional characters taking the various Servant roles, tend to have the same 5 events before diverting from canon. The summoning of the Servants (obviously), Assassin apparently being killed by Archer (which makes sense since Kirei and Tokiomi are working together), a brief skirmish at the docks to show various abilities and have the various Servants meet for the first time, the Banquet where the various Servants share what their wish of the Holy Grail would be, and a massive climactic battle against one of the more evil/powerful Servants (usually Ryuunosuke's) that's decided to attack the citizenry with Enemy Mines made between the other Master-Servant pairs. Most but not all fics also have the various Servants disagree to varying degrees with Saber's wish assuming she's one of the ones not replaced.
  • Harry Potter:
    • As described above, Year One will have The Letter From Hogwarts, The Visit To Diagon Alley, The Trip To Hogwarts, and The Sorting Hat. These stations are particularly special in that they'll often take place in any fic that contains a Year One, even if it's not Harry's Year One. Fan-Created Offspring, Self-Insert Original Character, Peggy Sue, you name it, if the main character is eleven, they will do these things.
    • Again, as described above, Philosopher's Stone stations include Harry's versions of the above, plus The Troll and The Confrontation With Quirrell. There's a high chance of the viewpoint character successfully retrieving the Stone from the Mirror, even in cases such as a Peggy Sue where they should realize that the Stone is safest where it is. Oh God, Not Again! splits the difference, with Harry knowing that retrieving the stone is unnecessary, but this time he also brings in Neville, who does not. This being the first book, the stations are more influential here.
    • Chamber of Secrets stations include Lockhart's Book-Signing, Dobby Blocking Platform 9 3/4 (which doesn't necessarily proceed to Stealing The Anglia or Ron's Wand Breaking), Mrs. Norris's Petrification, Several Miscellaneous Other Petrifications (which don't necessarily happen to the same characters as canon), The Kidnapping (which only usually happens to Ginny), Lockhart Tries A Memory Charm (which often goes differently, especially if Ron's wand didn't break), and The Confrontation With Diarymort. Rarely shown on-screen but invariably implicit to the year's events is the station of Lucius Planting Tom's Diary, which again only usually happens to Ginny. And in an inversion, because the basilisk kills nobody in canon despite having a lethal gaze, most fics will do the same, with some going one further than canon and giving an explicit reason for this rather than a series of coincidences. Contrariwise, some fics will forget that the basilisk's gaze is supposed to be deadly at all, and act like petrification is explicitly its power.
    • If a fic goes on into a character's seventh year, usually something will happen to them make them miss the end of the school year or the whole seventh year just like the main characters. This is because there isn't much known about how Hogwarts students celebrate the end of their schooling, and it just isn't in the fans' consciousness. (One thing is certain, though — there would not be a "graduation ceremony", because in the UK, "graduation" refers to finishing university, not school.)
  • The Hunger Games fanfictions have the Reaping, the family good-byes, the chariot entrances, training, forming alliances, 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.
  • 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 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 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.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • While fics may drastically alter canon events, the events that set the plot of A Game of Thrones in motion typically remain unchanged: Jon Arryn dies under suspicious circumstances, the Stark children find the direwolf pups, Robert travels to the North, and Ned Stark is named Hand of the King.
    • Even with plot divergences, plenty of story beats still occur one way or the other, namely King Robert's untimely death, the War of the Five Kings, Daenerys hatching the dragons, Arya traveling with the Hound, the Battle of the Blackwater, the Red Wedding, and Joffrey's death.
  • 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.
  • 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'll win, joining the Undersiders or Wards, the Undersiders bank robbery, Leviathan as the first Endbringer that comes bythough , a visit from the Slaughterhouse 9... The confrontation and inevitable defeat of Coil always happens; however, exactly when it happens is a variable. Amusingly, the Armsmaster-branded underpants Taylor mentions once owning seem to be a popular mention.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An enormous number of Battlestar Galactica fics seem to be stuck to the concept that Cavil and the other Ones will always win the Cylon Civil War, regardless of how heavily the AU has changed beforehand.
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who has a large number of rewrites of specific seasons, most of which follow this trope.
    • There are also many examples of alternate Nth Doctor fanfics, either following a "what if the Doctor regenerated to XYZ?" format, or as an alternative to an on-screen regeneration an aspect of fandom did not like/want/appreciate. Specific example: that the Thirteenth Doctor did not undergo the controversial Gender Bender, with alternate examples of a male Thirteenth Doctor presented. Stations of the Canon must still be followed in that the alternate Doctor still needs to follow some of the usual storytelling tropes related to the character getting to know his new self.
  • The stations for almost any Glee fanfic usually go through the show's 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. Fics taking place at the beginning of the school year will also devote time for auditions into the club, and if they reach the end of the school year they'll feature seniors auditioning for NYADA (the show's fictional musical theatre Ivy League school) and graduating.
  • Power Rangers: An evil force arrives or awakens, prompting The Mentor to seek out new rangers. Said rangers are either, recruited, chosen by destiny, or stumble into the Power and begin their fight against the monsters. The Sixth Ranger will make their appearance anywhere from six episodes in to halfway through the plot. There will also be Mid-Season Upgrade for the rangers, and sometimes the villain leader being deposed early as a Disc-One Final Boss and replaced with a new threat.
  • 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. However, these fanfics will usually add new elements which makes this a zig-zagged trope.
  • 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.
  • Skins: Almost all Naomily fanfics that want to create conflict between the two will run through at least the Sophia arc (even in AU settings the name will remain the same), probably also Mandy's, and possibly reference Naomi's aborted earlier fumblings with Cook; most of them will in turn resolve it with a derivative of the shed speech.

    Video Games 
  • 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, Phoenix losing his badge, 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.
    • Many fan games like to imitate the basic formula of the canon games as closely as possible, which goes something like this: first case is a short one against a Warmup Boss Prosecutor like Payne or an Expy of him, with an obvious culprit, but maybe slight ties to the overall Story Arc. Second case introduces the new Prosecutor, who has some gimmick to them, is very antagonistic towards the main lawyer for some unexplained reason, and seems like a Flat Character at first. One or two later cases flesh out the Prosecutor's backstory, explain their reasons for hating the lawyer, and reveal they have ties to a major unsolved case (Usually some kind of "Letter Letter-Number" Incident). Final case connects to this unsolved case from X years ago (playable flashbacks are often involved), often has a major recurring OC as the victim and/or defendant, has a temporary change of prosecutor (the new one is often Edgeworth or Franziska) and eventually leads to the Big Bad behind everything.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is a criminal offender of this trope, to the point where nearly every single event, no matter HOW minor usually gets copied 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 Pokémon the author got in-game as the protagonist'.
  • In general, any alternate universe based on a video game 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 X4-6, since most comics based on that series use sprites from those games, making them the easiest to recreate.
    • Oddly, one of the "stations" that so many fics and comics feel obligated to touch on both never happened in the games, and in fact has Word of God saying it didn't happen. The idea of "The Cataclysm," an event that supposedly killed off the Mega Man (Classic) cast before the Mega Man X games started, was speculated on then popularized by Bob and George, to the point many fans generally assumed it was canon. As a result, tons of fancomics have some variation on the theme of "Zero goes nuts and kills everyone" — sometimes with a Self-Insert Author Avatar either in Zero's place or stopping Zero. Keiji Inafune later specifically said Zero didn't kill the original cast. (After all, who would be able to seal him away in time for the events leading up to X1 if everyone's dead?)
  • 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, 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. We will ALWAYS visit Eden Prime, get implanted with the Prothean warning, go to the Citadel, get told nightmares aren't evidence, rescue Tali, etc. Even if Shepard is replaced with Master Chief or a waterbender.
  • Dragon Age: We will agree to join (or get conscripted into) the Wardens, and always survive the Joining—since it's heavily implied we meet a grisly fate if we don't—we'll always end up in Kirkwall, and we'll always survive the explosion at the Conclave with a green glowy hand.
  • Persona 5 AU fics tend not to stray very far from the original game's plot. They tend to start with the In Medias Res sequence at the casino, have whoever is replacing Joker get arrested, then the Kamoshida arc, then the Madarame arc, and so on and so forth.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Given the rather linear progression of the canon story, there are quite a few stations that fanfic authors tend to check in at. If the story starts in Midgar, we will have the first job to destroy the reactor, and then the next, falling into the church to meet the flower girl, interrogating Don Corneo, the destruction of Sector 7, and finally the storming of Shinra tower. In some cases, the entire Midgar section can be skipped, but even if it is, there are still stations from later parts of the game that seemingly must be hit; at some point, they will go to the Temple of the Ancients to retrieve the Black Materia, followed by Aerith going to the Forgotten Capital to summon Holy (roll of the dice as to whether or not she survives in this instance). This will be followed by Meteor appearing and the WEAPONS being released and needing to be dealt with before a final confrontation, usually at the Northern Crater, and ending with the Lifestream being summoned to destroy Meteor before it can destroy the planet.
  • Danganronpa: Whether it's a Role Swap AU, a Fusion Fic with another franchise (or many!), or a cast of Original Characters, many fanworks centered on a Deadly Game follow the plot structure of the canon games. Everyone wakes up trapped in a mysterious location and is forced to kill each other by their captor, who may be in the form of an animal (and if so, will sometimes be visually similar to Monokuma, or even be Monokuma himself). Each full chapter will feature free time for exploration and bonding, a temptation to commit murder, the discovery of a corpse and the subsequent investigation, and a trial and execution. In many stories this will usually go on until the sixth chapter, in which a massive disruption in the game allows the remaining cast to confront the mastermind (usually the real Junko Enoshima if she's part of whatever cast is involved in the events of Trigger-Happy Havoc) in a trial, in the process learning whatever Awful Truth forced them together in the first place. If the story is based closely on canon formulas, they may also include other recurring plot elements such as propping up a character to be important just to kill them off in the first chapter or having two people be murdered in the third chapter.

  • 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.
  • Campaign Comics have 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.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY suffers from this hard. Less than six months after the first episode came out, there were already over 1,100+ fanfics. And no matter whether they starred an OC, someone from another show, or just an alternate version of a major character, almost all of them hit this trope. Years later, many of these fanfics still continue to religiously address every minute plot beat of the first season, no matter how many other things the author may have changed about the plot. We will get the Ruby and Torchwick robbery scene. We will get a bullhead scene where Yang hugs Ruby to death and/or Jaune vomits from airsickness. We will get Ruby dustneezing Weiss, who will get promptly called out by Blake. We will get someone helping Ruby up. Etcetera, et cetera, and most of the dialogue will be completely unaltered. Things usually ease up after that first season, though.

    Web Original 
  • Many of the Wham Episodes and important lore events of the Dream SMP would be this, most notably the L'Manburg War for Independence, the L'Manburg Elections, the Manburg Festival, the Manburg-Pogtopia War, the Exile Conflict, Technoblade's execution by the Butcher Army, Tommy and Techno's team-up, the Doomsday War, the Disc Confrontation, the Red Banquet, etc. — it technically depends on when and how the fic is set, so the plotline can turn out to be a mix-and-match of any of these events. Most notably, in a What Could Have Been confirmed by Word of God, if Wilbur had won the L'Manburg Elections instead of Schlatt, a festival would still have occurred, with disaster going down all the same (minus the public execution).

    Western Animation 
  • 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 fewer of these stations overall, but there will usually be some variation on the Lion-Turtle appearing, Aang energybending Ozai, and Zuko becoming Fire Lord.
  • How to Train Your Dragon: Many fanfics that retell the events of the first movie follow a pattern no matter how radical the change is from canon.
    1. Hiccup meets Toothless and Toothless doesn't 'go for the kill'
    2. Hiccup befriends Toothless
    3. Someone human (usually Astrid) from Berk discovers Hiccup and Toothless's forbidden friendship
    4. Hiccup learns about Red Death (sometimes this happens before Hiccup and Toothless' forbidden friendship is discovered)
    5. Hiccup is disowned, accused of treason, and/or imprisoned
    6. Hiccup defeats Red Death and is considered a hero by Berk
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • FIM 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.
    • Most writers that do a self-insert fic, by inserting either themself directly as a human character, or as an Author Avatar, tend to drag it through most of the major events of the show, such as villain appearances, regardless of what impact the new character has on the story.
  • 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.
    • Rewrites are bound to have at least one canon relationship remain intact, primarily Courtney/Duncan, Geoff/Bridgette, Gwen/Trent, and/or Alejandro/Heather, even if it doesn't get the same level of Relationship Upgrade as canon. The characters' dynamics will likely remain similar, such as Courtney and Duncan having Belligerent Sexual Tension.
    • 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.
    • Rewrites of All-Stars almost always keep Mal as the season villain, even if the author hates Mal. The difference usually lies in how he's defeated.
  • Winx Club:
    • Several fanfics give the main characters a new transformation (often fairies, but witches are not unheard of) that can only be obtained through a quest to find some MacGuffin or a display of some virtue (self-sacrifice, kindness, etc.). This is almost always prompted after having been defeated by the fic's main villain or his/her underlings. All of this follows the same formula as the first half of each canonical season.
    • If the fanfic happens to feature a bunch of Original Characters (next-gen or otherwise), steps about the group bonding, choosing its name, and solidifying will be added. It's optional but not uncommon whether the Winx-esque group gets a rival group akin to the Trix sisters. Thus, rehearsing how the Winx girls themselves formed her group in season one.
    • A trend in rewrites of the show is to still have Bloom go to the Enchanted Dimension via stumbling on Stella (therefore, Stella is who convinces Bloom's parents) and both girls meet their roommates. Introducing Bloom as Varanda is less ubiquitous but frequent enough.
    • Rewrite shows often follow the canonical sequence of villains, at least for the first four ones, as they are fundamentally involved in Bloom's quest of freeing Domino and the first (and only) overarching plot of the series. These villains are the Trix sisters, the Shadow Phoenix, Valtor, and the Ancestral Witches.

Outside of fanfic:

    Anime and Manga 
  • The live-action adaptation of Death Note also gets in on the act of following the plot up to the Memory Gambit before throwing it off the rails and going from there.
  • The Nasuverse has "Quantum Time Locks" making certain historical and mythological events consistent inevitabilities across the multiverse such as the fall of Camelot or Ragnarok.
  • Artistic license aside, Ravages of Time follows actual history closer than Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but it still alludes to the Romance version of events from time to time. There have also been several tie-in novels, and when it comes to revisiting scenes from the manhua it does so beat for beat, line for line.

    Comic Books 
  • 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!"note , Professor X getting crippled, Hellboy joining the BPRD, etc.
  • Batman has several core tenets of its most popular characters. Each lane follows internal stations consistently if they get enough screen time. How fast they move relative to other lanes is up for grabs.
    • Bruce Wayne's origin is always the same: after his parents were murdered in an alley (usually after leaving a theater, bonus points if they were watching Zorro), he devotes himself to a war on crime by training and studying for years and eventually uses his family fortune to become Batman.
    • The Robin lane has its own logic. Starts with Dick Grayson who outgrows the role to become Nightwing. Succeeded by Jason Todd who apparently dies. Succeeded by Tim Drake. Succeeded by Bruce's biological son Damien Wayne. Always in that order. The only caveats being how long Jason is presumed dead before he resurfaces as Red Hood and which Robin(s) are part of the Teen Titans/Young Justice and when relative to other teen heroes.
    • The Joker lane starts with him as a solo villain. Eventually he recruits sidekick/girlfriend Harley Quinn. Harley breaks up with the Joker to become a solo anti-hero, floats between any number of super team-ups note , but somewhere forms a relationship with Poison Ivy.
    • Darkest Knight: After Bruce Wayne becomes a Green Lantern, Sinestro becomes a Joker-like figure for no reason whatsoever.
  • Superman:
    • 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.
    • Supergirl's different mainstream origins -The Supergirl From Krypton (1959), The Supergirl from Krypton (2004), Last Daughter of Krypton''...- share a basic sequence of events: Kara Zor-El is born in Argo City, her parents Zor-El and Allura -Superman's uncle and aunt- realize that their civilization is doomed, they get their teenager daughter into a rocket to save her life and send her to Earth where they hope she will be safe, and she meets her adult cousin.
    • Speeding Bullets: If Kal-El was raised by the Waynes instead of the Kents, Lex Luthor would be the Joker!
    • Superman: Secret Identity flip-flops on this, partially because of it is supposed to be a real-life-like world. Clark still grows up in a small 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, Kara Zor-El or Lana Lang.
  • At first, this seemed to be a thing for Mega Man (Archie Comics) 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.
  • Issues of What If? often have this problem - especially the issues from the first run, when the modern Marvel universe had less than two decades of material to draw from.
    • The biggest is dealing with changes to the Fantastic Four. Since the first coming of Galactus to Earth was only thwarted by the Four taking very specific actions, any alternate universe where the Four are dead, powerless, never formed, or otherwise must figure out a way to deal with Galactus eventually or suffer The End of the World as We Know It. There is an unpublished issue written and drawn by John Byrne in which Magneto forms the X-Men when Charles Xavier dies. The story builds intriguingly as Magneto draws mutants to his side, who would normally be either X-Men and Brotherhood members in the regular continuity, taking out other superhumans in the name of protecting mutantkind - and it ends with Galactus destroying the Earth because the Fantastic Four were dead and thus unable to stop him. Writing for the Marvel Appendix page, Mikel Midnight sums up the main problem:
      "Even had the Beast knocked the Surfer into Alicia's skylight, and the Watcher empowered Quicksilver to track down the Ultimate Nullifier, for Magneto's use to repel Galactus, then the next world-destroying menace which had only been stopped because the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, or the Defenders had been in just the right place at the right time... would end up destroying Earth-8013. While there is a certain logic to it, it seems anticlimactic if every Earth which involves a significant divergence on the part of the Fantastic Four ends the same way."
    • Captain America being frozen is something that has to be dealt with, as the end of World War II was long before the start of the modern Marvel age, and so even if the Avengers are never formed, Cap is still out there and somebody has to free him. Notably, only one What If story had explicit mention of Cap never being recovered from the ice, while multiple stories are some variant of "What If Cap Were Revived Today?", "today" being the year of publication.
    • This is actually discussed in the story "What if Flash Thompson became Spider-Man?" where Flash finds himself pinned under rubble from Dr. Octopus' lair and finds the strength to escape, mimicking the events of Amazing Spider-Man #33. The Unseen, narrating the story, explains that some events are so critical to the fabric of reality that they would always happen somehow, no matter how divergent the timeline.
    • The tendency reaches its apex in the infamous "What If Frank Castle's family was never killed?", in which Frank Castle's family surviving and him never becoming the Punisher results in... Frank Castle's family being killed and him becoming the Punisher.

    Film — Animated 
  • The LEGO Batman Movie, despite ostensibly being set in the same canon as The LEGO Movie, still has the same origin story as usual: parents murdered, raised by Alfred, becomes Batman. Thankfully, the origin story is so well known that it's scarcely alluded to outside of Batman sadly looking at a painting/picture of a young Bruce, Thomas, and Martha Wayne outside the theater. note 
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: The plot and the framing device of the movie is based on the stations of the Spider-Man canon being so iconic. Radioactive spider bite. Loss of a close relative or friend (usually uncle). With great power comes great responsibility. Takes a leap of faith to become Spider-Man. Saves the city multiple times. Gets knocked down and keeps getting back up. Miles is going through his version of these events for the first time, while surrounded by other Spider-People from alternate universes who have already lived it.
    • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse further discusses the Stations, as Miguel O'Hara believes them to be a fundamental truth of being a Spider-Person; breaking from "Canon Events" will lead to the destruction of an entire universe. He flat-out thinks that Miles is a paradox who shouldn't exist and will inevitably doom his world, while ignoring proof in front of his face that Canon Events are fairly malleable, such as the continued existence of Earth-42 (which never got its Spider-Man) and Gwen Stacy safely co-existing with her father, a police captain who was "supposed" to die saving a child but was saved... by Miguel himself, ironically.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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. It is taken even further in Spider-Man: Homecoming; it's never stated outright that there ever was an Uncle Ben or if Aunt May was a single mother (Aunt?) and Peter's With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility mantra in Captain America: Civil War is even more mangled. There is a character named MJ, although she's not a love interest and Word of God says that she's not Mary-Jane, and that the similarity was meant as a Shout-Out rather than a canon confirmation that they are the same. Their reasoning for all this was, presumably, that because audiences had seen the story done twice in the past 15 years, that they would know the origin story and didn't need to retread it.
  • Particularly in the early scenes, Groundhog Day invokes this to illustrate that Phil Conners is repeating the same day over and over again. Despite his increasingly different reactions to the day, in each iteration we repeatedly see some variation of the following elements: the clock in his bedroom switch from 5:59 to 6:00; Phil meeting "Porkchop"note ; Phil having a conversation with his rather ditzy hostess over coffee; Phil encountering Ned Ryerson ("Bing!") on the street and trying to get away from him; Phil crossing the park where the Groundhog Day celebrations are being held; and the Groundhog Day ceremony itself.

  • An In-Universe example is present in the series My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!. The main character of the series has been reincarnated as the main antagonist of the fictitious Video Game "Fortune Lover," and she believes that she is going to inevitably die or be exiled if things continue to follow the original game's Stations of the Canon. This would be a problem if her change in personality from an Alpha Bitch to a Nice Girl as a result of her remembering her past life didn't completely obliterate the game's canon already, unfortunately she doesn't realize it.
  • In-universe, An Observation Log of My Fiancée Who Calls Herself a Villainess has the heroine and co-protagonist Bertia firmly believe the Stations in spite of working against and thoroughly averting them. An early example is a plague that heavily influences where things go, killing her mother and crippling a future character. She informs someone who can do something about it how to treat it and where it starts, and as a result prevents it from ever happening. In spite of this, she's thrown into an utter panic when her mother (who is alive and well) has a second child because she wasn't supposed to. This also happens with the antagonist, Heronia, who tries to follow the Stations (and botches lines when she references events that don't happen as if they did) and gets very upset when they don't work in her favour.
  • Two Star Trek: Myriad Universes novellas use this:
    • In the Star Trek: The Original Series novella The Chimes At Midnight, set in the movie-era in a universe where Spock died as a child and Kirk's first officer is the Andorian Thelin, the Stations are: Khan and Genesis; Kruge and Genesis; whale-probe attacks Earth; and Praxis explodes, leading to the Khitomer Conference.
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager novella Places of Exile, which has a Point of Divergence in "Scorpion", the Stations are: Seven of Nine joins the crew; Kes becomes more powerful; they meet the Species 8472 Boothbynote ; and they find the Hirogen transmitter array that lets them communicate with the Federation.
  • The first three books of the Temeraire series follow the beats of the Napoleonic Wars from the British perspective, but soon the addition of dragons as essentially aerial, rigged-out ships with attitude causes things to veer from history. Things go off the rails as the setting expands outwards from Europe, as dragons act as an equalizer for civilizations that fell to European imperialism—although still hit by disease, most were able to either retain or regain independence. Meanwhile, Trafalgar happens, but Nelson survives, and Napoleon rolls over Prussia even more so, but China, Tswana, and Incans become participants. It's brought in at the end of the series when Napoleon invades Russia, where winter still beats all. The series does not end with Waterloo, but Napoleon is sent to his final residence on St. Helena—had he been placed on Elba, the site of his first, temporary, exile, it would be construed as a Sequel Hook.
  • Honor Harrington also follows the beats of the Napoleonic Wars from the British perspective, with some SF twists. At least until someone nukes Napoleon.
  • The Rocheworld novels are written with an eye to being able to start anywhere in the series: the first quarter is always about the crew being assigned to the Prometheus for the expedition to the Barnard's Star system, then there's a unique storyline about a crewmember or group of crewmembers, then there's a storyline about an outbreak of Hodgkin's Lymphoma when everyone's on a stupidity-inducing life extension drug called No-Die, and then we finally get to the storyline about the aliens of whatever planet is being explored. The final chapter is always about the last 3 crewmembers of the Prometheus and how they become the last two crewmembers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019): The titular event is driven by the foretold deaths of the Green Arrow and The Flash, the latter's death especially is an integral and iconic part of the source material. In fact, Green Arrow's death only happened because he made a deal to exchange his life for both Flash and Supergirl's (herself a famous casualty of the event in the source material) supposed deaths during the previous crossover, but Flash's death is just irreversible. Ultimately Green Arrow did die (twice in fact), but the Flash survives thanks to a Prophecy Twist. Supergirl's iconic death scene is also teased but she survives it.
  • Doctor Who: "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, usually involving a much higher body count.
  • The main plot of Maria Clara at Ibarra. It's a Portal Book series for Noli Me Tangere and its Distant Sequel El Filibusterismo. Much of the conflict between protagonist Klay and her teacher Prof. Torres is the former becoming too attached to the characters from the iconic two-part novel that she wants to save them from their tragic fates while the latter keeps insisting that the characters' fates should be preserved due to the novels' cultural and historical importance. Klay ultimately creates an Alternate Continuity, though Prof. Torres doesn't hold it against her.
  • Power Rangers is a great big mashup of dubbed Super Sentai shows intercut with newly filmed sequences of the "rangers" in civilian costume using American actors. How much each particular show is still recognizable after this process varies from episode to episode (and season to season).

    Video Games 
  • An unusual, in-universe example in BioShock Infinite — some things may change in any given playthrough, but Booker will never row the boat, will always get a Heads, and will always draw Ball #77. As the game puts it, "constants and variables". And on a bigger scale, there is always a man, a city, and a lighthouse.
  • Castlevania: Harmony of Despair has no explicit plot, but each chapter is the most famous portions of various Castlevania games stitched into one giant map, with Chapter Ten being an almost 100% faithful recreation of the original demonic castle.
  • 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). This means a lot of games where you fight Raditz, Nappa, Vegeta, Frieza's henchmen including the Ginyu Force, Frieza, the Androids, Cell, either Majin Vegeta or Dabura, and then various forms of Buu. In Dragon Ball Xenoverse and its sequel, it's your job to enforce them (albeit in Broad Strokes, since now It's Up to You). One of the more notable recent exceptions to this is Dragon Ball Fighter Z, which has a completely original storyline—Starter Villain Raditz not being playable is likely a reason why.
  • The various IP-based Dynasty Warriors spin-off games tend to simply rehash the plot of their licensed series (or, in the case of Hyrule Warriors and the two Dragon Quest Heroes games, using the same Broad Strokes in an original storyline); how well this is pulled off and how well it is received by the target audience varies from game to game.
  • The Final Fantasy VII Remake runs through the famous early original game Stations of the reactor bombings, meeting Aerith in the church, the crossdressing sequence of Wall Market, the plate collapse, and the deaths of Biggs, Jessie, and Wedge, and the assault on the Shinra building, most with some form of modernised twist and fleshing out. It has also courted a certain amount of controversy by hinting that it will not necessarily adhere to the Stations going forward; the Whispers are Time Police keen to keep the game on track with the original Stations, but with their defeat, the timeline appears to be being altered: Biggs and Wedge are still alive, and Zack's fate appears to be deviating from the original canon. It's a curious case in that the fans expected the Remake(s?) to adhere rigidly to the Stations, and have some concern that the most infamous Station of them all — the death of Aerith — is set to be averted.
  • Hiveswap introduces us to an isolated kid whose authority figure doesn't understand them, their bedroom full of interests, their special personality/weapon, their character quirk, has them communicate with other kids, has them communicate with Trolls...
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • The world-traveling heroes tend to pass 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." On the mild plus side, there's a second, non-Station following episode for every world.
    • In spite of this, the first game both played this straight and averted it in equal measure. Some of the Disney worlds followed the movie the world is from down to a tee, with the only difference being that the trio was there to either watch or have a subplot. Others completely deviated from it, often by incapacitating the normal protagonist in a way involving the Heartless somehow. The exceptions to that are Olympus by having Hades run the show but otherwise focus on Sora and co., and Hollow Bastion by having Beast be a party member with his own goal of rescuing Belle.
    • Sora (re)experiencing the events of the first game Station for Station (except for a certain Important Promise) is a plot point in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories.
    • In some cases, such as The Little Mermaid (1989), Sora ends up passing through the events of the movie twice.note 
    • Mostly averted in Kingdom Hearts III, where a number of Disney locations end up focusing on other things, presumably in response to complaints about this. Some of them, such as the Toy Story world, even have plots that aren't tied to the movies' ones at all.
  • 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 fledgling 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.
  • Metal Gear tends to incorporate the same plot structures over and over again, even in spin-offs. This particularly affects Metal Gear: Ghost Babel (the only spin-off to be written by Hideo Kojima), where Snake is supported by Mei Ling over the CODEC, infiltrates the fortress via vents, has to identify a female informant in disguise as a guard, finds Metal Gear is in the control of a group of quirky terrorists with animal-based codenames including an Evil Counterpart obsessed with besting him, has to rescue a nerdy young genius responsible for designing Metal Gear, fights a kinky ninja-themed boss, fights a Hind D helicopter, defeats a Noble Demon female villain with a sad backstory about colonialism, defeats the Metal Gear pilot in return for more details about his own tragic backstory, and then has a fistfight with his evil counterpart on top of a nuclear launch platform that's ready to go off, before deciding to enjoy life and driving off with the Damsel in Distress he rescued. The similarities were in fact so strong that the game was billed outside Japan as the Game Boy Color version of Metal Gear Solid.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2, the Patriots are doing this on purpose as they believe it was that particular sequence of events that can turn people into sufficiently Snake-like badasses. (However, they probably should have paid closer attention to what actually happened, as Snake tended to give a giant flaming middle finger to whoever's trying to manipulate him and foil whatever massive conspiracy's been cooked up—sometimes even accidentally—and this is exactly what ends up happening with Raiden, though of course Snake also was involved that time as well.)
  • In Overwatch's Junkenstien's Revenge event, despite taking place in a different setting altogether, Hanzo still murdered his brother and went on a self-imposed exile, Reaper is still an old friend turned evil of Soldier: 76 and Ana, and Genji is still Zenyatta's disciple.
  • Starting with the events of Infinity Moment/Hollow Fragment, the game splits away from canon during the battle on the 75th floor. From there, Kirito and company need to clear the rest of the game up to the 100th floor. In addition, Leafa/Suguha and Sinon/Shino get pulled into SAO as well. It's actually done quite well and creates a separate timeline of events that is exclusive to the games.
  • Super Robot Wars:
    • 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.
    • SRW games' tendency for this gave birth to the "fifty Strike Daggers" meme in China: no matter how ridiculously powerful the player faction is, they'll still be forced to retreat when defending Orb from the Earth Alliance's invasion by fifty Strike Daggers, giving the cheap mass production mobile suit Memetic Badass status.
    • Super Robot Wars Judgment 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.
  • The Lord of the Rings-based game The Third Age, despite ostensibly being based on a new cast of characters, follows the events of the films very closely (largely due to the main characters literally following right behind the Fellowship). This means the game starts with roving around Eriador and getting nearly killed by Nazgul, then going into Moria and reaching Balin's tomb before facing the balrog, then meeting elves in Lothlorien, then fighting Saruman's scouts, then traveling into Rohan and facing raiding parties before joining in at Helm's Deep, then the battles of Osgiliath and Pelennor. This was apparently enforced due to rights issues: EA only owned the rights to the films, and therefore couldn't draw on book material unless it had roots in the films. This meant that exploring anywhere other than what was shown in the films was a no-go.

    Western Animation 
  • Transformers:
    • The Transformers 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.
    • However, several Transformers series such as IDW's crossovers (e.g. Transformers/Ghostbusters, and both My Little Pony/Transformers ones) and Transformers (2019) avert it with no human kids, Optimus not dying and IDW's reboot ending with the Autobots never making it to Earth and instead being on one of Cybertron's moons, preparing to take back Cybertron.
  • Winx Club: Enforced because, as explained below, it allows to create new merchandise every season. There are two levels in which this trope occurs: within the original show and across media works.
    • Regarding the former, every season follows more or less the same order of events: 1) the Winx are minding their own business, 2) either a new threat lets itself know or an often-new character calls for the Winx's help, 3) the Winx have an encounter with the season's Big Bad and find themselves outmatched, 4) Faragonda introduces a new fairy transformation that is either more powerful or more fitting for the mission at hand, 5) the Winx go on a quest to earn said transformation and they either do it all six at once or one by one, 6) the Winx kick the Trix's asses with their new transformation, 7) the Winx have a final confrontation against the villain, they win, and 8) the throw a party/concert at Alfea or the Frutti Music Bar. Additionally, the Trix tend to earn new witch transformations as well, but the time has varied greatly. As of late (season fourth onward), the formula has been expanded to accommodate for more new transformations each. The only seasons to have deviated from this formula are the first and the fourth but are still within that general framework.
    • Regarding the latter, the aforementioned stations are something that is replicated in miniature in the comics issues from time to time — there are quite a few comic-only transformations, in fact. The same happens with some of the books. The exception is the video games where often the Winx and Trix already have their respective transformations.

Alternative Title(s): Stations Of The Canon