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So You Want To / Write the next "Fate/stay night"

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So, you've watched or played Fate/stay night and learned two things: people die when they are killed, and it's great and you want to make something like it but aren’t quite sure where to start. Well Troper, you've come to the right place! (not for the dying part, though.)

As with everything, be sure to check out Write a Story for basic advice that holds across all genres and mediums. It also would do you some good to take a look at the genre-specific pages that will guide you in crafting your masterpiece. We recommend Write an Urban Fantasy.

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Also, please note that while the namespace says Fate/stay night, this page will cover not only all of its various adaptations, but also Fate/Zero as well as other works in the franchise where applicable. Be wary of potential spoilers!


Necessary Tropes

When you get right down to it, the Fate franchise is basically Cool vs. Awesome and Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny at their purest. Keep this in mind as you read through the rest of this page. The main essence comes down to two main tropes:

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Choices, Choices

  • The Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Both Fate/stay night and Fate/Zero examine this, but in different ways. Where does your work land? What are your heroes like (if there even are any heroes)?
    • In stay night, Shirou is a Wide-Eyed Idealist with a Chronic Samaritan Syndrome. Each of the three routes focus on dragging Shirou through the mud and see how, in becoming a hero, he acts upon his ideals. In Fate, he defends them; in Unlimited Blade Works, he compromises them; in Heaven’s Feel, he abandons them.
    • In Zero, this trope is examined through the interactions mainly through Emiya Kiritsugu, and his interactions with both his Servant Saber and his rival Kotomine Kirei. There’s also the three opposing ideologies of Saber (“A king exists to serve his people”), Rider (“A king exists to lead and be idolized by his people”), and Archer (“A king exists to own everything”).

  • Consider how these legendary characters are going to meet in universe. It almost goes without saying that some sort of magic is involved, but what’s the exact mechanism? The Fate franchise has the Holy Grail itself being responsible for allowing their Heroic Spirits to be summoned. What about yours? Gods from ancient times? Sorcerers working with the power of belief? Heroes being reincarnated as modern-day people?

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  • What is your work’s stance on God/gods, religion, and worship? You’re playing with characters that are sacred in some way or another, after all, so it might be good for you to decide beforehand how you want to play this and how you are planning to portray the different characters. Keep in mind that one person’s myth is easily another person’s religious belief, and be mindful of concepts like gods and reincarnation. In the Fate franchise, various characters are associated with the Catholic Church (most notably the Kotomine family), and many more muse on things like fate, death, humanity and their place in the world, and the nature of God.

Pitfalls

  • More importantly than most other works, please avoid Informed Ability! These are characters of actual legend, with myths being told of them for centuries. Don’t just put a mythical hero in your story only for them to not do anything impressive and die to a single hit! That’s an extremely easy way to piss people off whose culture is represented by said hero. Instead, have each character demonstrate their abilities in the story at least once, maybe even by having your Muggles be in awe of their power. Show us why they’re legendary in the first place!

  • Contrary to what this wiki says, we DON’T all live in the USA. Make sure your characters speak, look, and act according to their culture of origin. Unless you’re specifically aiming for anachronistic and/or hilarious Crazy Awesome (and hey, we don’t blame you if you are!), let’s not have Achilles wield a katana or Lü Bu wear bear-skin, shall we? Of course, you can have them all speak the same language for the sake of story convenience, but don’t have them use modern-day slang.

  • If you’re including more overtly religious characters (whether mythical like St. George in Fate/Grand Order, or historical like Joan of Arc in Fate/Apocrypha), be wary of the potential Unfortunate Implications that might crop up (the franchise as a whole seems particularly fond of Satan-esque characters, from Angra Mainyu in the entire franchise to the Beast of Revelation in Fate/Prototype). No matter your stance on a particular religion, or even all religion, you still need to maintain basic respect for other people. Check out Avoid Unfortunate Implications for more tips.

Potential Subversions

Writers' Lounge

Suggested Themes and Aesops

  • When Saber and Lancer first fought in Fate/Zero, they immediately developed a mutual sense of respect and admiration. A similar thing occurred between Archer and Rider (although in a much more muted manner), whereas by contrast, Archer and Berserker immediately developed a mutual sense of hatred and animosity. You’re playing with characters from various disparate myths and legends; how would they react to one another?

  • As we mentioned earlier, Fate loves to examine idealism vs. cynicism in the form of classical heroism of old versus the more morally-ambiguous heroes of the modern age. Take a look again at the opposing ideologies of Saber, Rider, and Archer in Fate/Zero. Could you weave a discussion about heroism and morality in your work somehow? Read up on philosophy and ethics books, learn the different arguments for various ideologies and morality systems, and have your characters debate with one another as to what they think it really means to be a hero, or a king.

Potential Motifs

Suggested Plots

  • All Myths Are True, yes, but why not go for the lesser-known myths and legends? As great a work as it is, Fate/stay night featured three figures from Greek mythology alone, two from Arthurian legends in the prequel, and a total of two from Irish mythology in both. Switch it up and have your story star Lemminkäinen, Arjuna, and Benkei instead. Read up on Native American myths and their heroic figures. Research East Asian history, legends, and literature. Not only will this educate your audience on some of the more obscure mythologies, it will also undoubtedly boost your work’s popularity in those places.

  • The Holy Grail War is, well, an all-out war for the Holy Grail. But there’s no inherent reason for your characters to also go to war with each other. You could just as easily have multiple groups of legendary heroes competing with each other on a hunt for the same treasure, creature, or character. Imagine if the Masters had summoned their Servants to go on a magical treasure-hunting quest a la Indiana Jones instead!

  • How about having different heroes Trapped in Another World? A wizard or mage has put your mythical warriors in a world of his creation for his own amusement, and now the heroes have to work together to return to their respective legends. Or, to take a page out of Marvel’s book, maybe they’re forced to fight each other to death, with the losers risking their legends being erased from history? Plenty of motivation there!

  • Another idea is to take characters from one mythology and put them in another. To stick to characters that have been featured in Fate: What would happen if you dropped Alexander the Great’s army in the middle of the Trojan War? How successful would King Arthur be at taking on Heracles’s Twelve Labors? Would Gilgamesh ever embark on the Orphean Rescue?

Departments

Set Designer / Location Scout

  • Both Fate/stay night and Fate/Zero are set in a fictional Japanese city (the same one, in fact). It worked to great effect, so there’s nothing wrong with doing the same thing with your work. How about placing your story in a real world city, to give it that extra familiarity? Even better, a lesser-known real world city?

  • Of course, you could also choose to set your story anywhere else you think might work for your story. A small village at the foot of a mountain range? Sure thing! A chain of islands with limited resources for everyone involved? Why not!

  • You don’t even need to set your work in any real world location. If you’re playing with the Trapped in Another World plot, then you can have your heroes battle in Another Dimension. Alternatively, you can use whatever mythical locations you want. Summoned a bunch of aquatic-based entities? Have them duke it out in Atlantis! Your characters are all obsessed with gold and riches? They’re all fighting to claim El Dorado!

Props Department

Costume Designer

Casting Director

Stunt Department

Extra Credit

The Greats

  • Fate/stay night and Fate/Zero are your main meat and potatoes here, obviously. However, note that the two works do differ in a number of areas, and you can learn different things from each of them.
    • Fate/stay night has teenage protagonists and a heavier emphasis on idealism, in various forms. It also focuses mainly on one character, Shirou, and his interactions with the various other characters. An excellent example of extended character study.
    • Fate/Zero has adult protagonists, fewer traditionally heroic figures, balances the story’s attention on multiple characters (Kirei and Waver, in particular, get almost as much screen time as Kiritsugu does), and is generally darker by a significant margin (it has serial child killers, attempted rape, bloodier deaths, and even Cosmic Horror undertones). That’s what you get when Gen Urobuchi writes your stories!

  • Warriors Orochi is a video game that mashes together legendary figures from China’s Three Kingdoms era and Japan’s Warring States period, pits them against each other, and eventually teams all of them up to defeat a Big Bad from Japanese mythology and his sadistic right hand woman from the Fengshen Yanyi. And that's just the first game! A great demonstration of how you might write characters from East Asian myths and legends, and a kickass game to boot!

  • While not an Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny story, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a fantastic showing of how characters from classic literature can be crossed over and how they might interact with one another. Reading it will give you a better idea of how to write a balanced ensemble cast out of established public domain characters (after all, the mythical legends you’re writing about have their own canonical personalities, histories, and motives, and it’s in your best interest to aim for accuracy, even if you’re writing a primarily comedic work).

The Epic Fails

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