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Missions. I think it's safe to argue that they're kind of a big deal around here. Perhaps even the biggest deal. There wouldn't really be a PPC without 'em. So as you can imagine, it's important to write missions well. The following workshop is the first installment of a three-parter focusing entirely on just that. 

I'm going to be talking about the process PPC writers should go through before they start on their story. That includes picking out a suitable badfic to spork and plotting out a rough outline of what will happen during the mission. As is typically the case with these things, each installment will consist of my own observations and techniques before concluding with a little exercise.

Pick Your Poison

Badfic isn't exactly hard to find. Fanfiction.net and other such websites have made poorly written fanfiction available wherever and whenever you like. The trick is finding the right badfic.

The ideal mission-worthy badfic is not necessarily one with something objectionable or strange happening in every other line. That's all well and good for a MST, but you are essentially using the badfic to tell a story of your own. Stories aren't just "agents watch and snark;" they have plotlines, rising and falling action, and a climax. Whatever badfic you choose should lend itself to creating those aspects of fiction.

At the same time, the badfic can't be so light and unremarkable that it's just reduced to a sideshow for your characters. Interludes are a more proper outlet for stories revolving entirely around agents and agent-related shenanigans. The badfic informs the shape of your writing, just as a bottle informs the shape of the liquid inside it. Missions need to balance showing off the foibles of the badfic with the actions and reactions of the agents.

Along a similar vein, try to avoid pre-writing the mission in your head and searching for a badfic that best fits it. If you can't find something that fits just so, the mission is either rendered moot before it was even written or you have to twist a less suitable fic so that it works in your framework. The end goal of a mission should not be to get your agents the best loot or the most minis.

Blurbs are a good place to start. Obviously they can't tell you everything, but if you see misspelled words or ridiculous scenarios touched upon in the summary, that's obviously a good indicator of what to expect. Give anything that catches your eye a quick skim through; a more intense reading should be left until you start work on the outline (which I will touch on in a second). I personally like to make a list of sporkable badfics just in case something doesn't quite work out with the first one I find. I also note on said list which of my agents would work best given each badfic. 

Here are some other things to keep in mind when looking for a story to spork. Let me just note ahead of time that these are meant to be guidelines and not rules. If you think you can make something out of a super-long badfic with scenes of gore and gratuitous sex every few chapters, then you are welcome to try.

Length

The forty-chapter epic about the platinum-haired girl at Hogwarts who can channel the spirits of long-dead wizards to help her may seem like a promising target for the PPC, but there are some issues that come with that. Longer badfics mean more potential work for you as a writer. There's more content to peruse through, more scenes to write, more charges to collect, and so on. This in turn makes more work for both your betas and your audience as a whole. Cutting off the story early is a legitimate work around, but you shouldn't do that all the time. Shorter badfics can provide a fair amount of missionable content if written for properly.

NSFW Content

Not everyone wants to read about graphic violence or sex. Chasing after badfics that contain scene after scene of gut-wrenching gore or over-written nookie could severely limit your audience. It is possible to write around showing said content, but you need to be careful not to run into the problem of agents describing the scene to each other as if they were intermittently going blind:

Agent Guy Random: Wow! Can you believe that Korra just ripped off Amon's head and then danced about in his entrails?

Agent Anne O'Nymus: Aye, because I'm standing right here and saw the whole thing.

Agent Random: Uh... right. Just checking.

Notoriety

Picking a badfic because of how infamous it is within a fandom is problematic for several reasons. First off, you're running the risk of not living up to audience expectations. The ins and outs of something like "My Immortal" are extremely well known at this point. It's been read through and spoofed countless times over. That can put a lot of pressure on you as the author. You also need to remember that we are here as writers and not fanfiction police or trophy hunters. We shouldn't be in this because the badfic "deserves" to be put through the wringer (see the next point below) or for the praise received by sporking it. We should be here to make good stories and have fun.

Your Reaction

I often see some PPC members talk about a badfic that "needs to be killed" or how a badfic made them so mad that they had to write a mission about it. This is something I've never really understood. Writing angry does not necessarily lend itself to better missions. If anything, it creates a sense of vindictiveness that puts me ill at ease. That's an entirely different debate altogether, though. Choosing badfic should not be about one's gut reaction. That helps, to be sure, but I've found that reading through a potentially missionable badfic with a detached sense of observation is far more useful for the purposes of selection.

Outlines and Notes

Once you have a possible spork-worthy badfic picked out, you should read through it several times. The first (and possibly second) time should just be as a reader. What works? What doesn't? Are there any scenes that boggle your mind with how bad they are? How are the original characters, if there are any?

You should then read the fic as a PPCer. Put the mission into Google Docs (or just take written notes if that works for you). Find those lines or scenes that stunned you before and imagine your characters reacting to them. What would they say or do? How would they take those original characters or ridiculous scenarios? I find that it sometimes helps to write out those brief scenes. They might not make it into the final cut (most of the ones I wrote ended up either severely altered or completely dropped) but they can help inform where you might go with the story.

Also take note of where your agents might interact with the original canon: locations, characters, that sort of thing. Have they been altered and to what extent? How do your characters take this alteration? Again, writing brief scenes might help.

You should also consider the non-mission bits of the story, if there are any. Does it start in the RC? What are the agents doing? Will those actions echo throughout the rest of the story or are they just one-off things? Where and how does it end?

With those bits as a guide, start sketching out the mission in broad strokes. I like to go from beginning to end with separate sections for each chapter of the badfic (if it has chapters, of course), but you might prefer outlining the conclusion first. This doesn't have to be very detailed, as I just mentioned. The concrete nitty-gritty should be saved for when you start on the actual mission.

Once you have a satisfactory outline, you're ready to actually start writing... which is where the next workshop will begin.

An Example

While scoping out the Young Justice section on the Pit, I come across a story called "Everyone Dies Someday ." It takes place after the series ended. Just over 3,500 words and not yet finished, but still very promising missionwise. It features a female protagnist with undefined yet still potent powers capable of kicking around multiple superheroes. Oh, and she has the ghost of a dead canon hero in her head. Or something. It's not very clear. Beyond that, there are rampant misspellings, POV shifts, OOC canons, and other delightful things typically found in Suefics. Although I could use my DIAU crew due to this being a post-ending story, the main character convinces me that this is a job for Laura and James.

After reading it through a few times, I start looking at it piece by piece. The first chapter is just an author's note description of the main character. Not much to run with there, but I might be able to do a bit with James reacting to the note depending on when in his PPC career this is taking place. The next chapter sees the MC rescue a kid, trounce several members of the team with simple moves (including Superboy -- must be an off day for him), and get stuck with tranquilizer darts twice. All very good bits.

The part where the MC takes down Superboy is stuck in my head. I'm sure my agents would have something to say about that. I write out a very rough scene:

I saw Superboy looking down at me and behind him a few feet away was Lagoon boy, I wasted no time and quickly swept Superboy's feet out from under him.
The hero toppled motionless to the ground. Laura stared, her mouth agape, as the Sue darted around the motionless Lagoon Boy and fled out into the hall. 
James shook his head, as if waking up from a bad dream. "I'd ask if that really just happened," he said slowly, "but I feel like the expression on your face is evidence enough."
"But-- but that's Superboy!" Laura exclaimed, ignoring her partner. She gestured to the prone Superboy, then to the doorway through where the Sue had escaped. "You don't leg sweep the clone of Superman! It'd be like trying to kick down a tree! A tree made of bricks!"
"A tree made of-- you mean like a building?"
"Don't start with me, Pittman!"

I go through the rest of the badfic like that, take notes and occasionally writing scenes. When I'm complete, what I have looks something like this:

  • Introduction (RC, late 2012 - James is still a relative rookie; first mission in YJ?)
  • Chapter 1
    • Author's note and description of MC - James is put off by booming voice, but Laura just shrugs it off
  • Chapter 2
    • First person fic; setting up crash dummy
    • How did Mount Justice come back? It blew up!
    • MC takes down Beast Boy, Blue Beetle, Robin, and Superboy
      • Laura is peeved about the nerfing of superheroes
    • MC has ghost of Kid Flash in her head; this is not explained
      • Agents debate over if this means the Sue is possessed; Laura has never heard of such a thing being possible
    • Saves people, but doesn't want to save people
    • Missing punctuation, erroneous spelling, poor paragraphs
    • Mini: Blue Beatle (mini that hums Beatles tunes?)
  • Chapter 3
    • Miss Martian and Tigress both get whalloped the by MC
    • Why is Nightwing here? Didn't he quit?
    • MC codes a computer virus in seconds
    • Changing POVs (results in teleporting crash test dummy)
  • Chapter 4
    • Tragic backstory revealed: MC's brother was killed by Justice League when they were being mind controlled by Light... for reasons (note to self: rewatch episode to see if JL was sent to randomly wreck stuff)
      • Also revealed their secret identities (which wouldn't matter for guys like Barry Allen, TBH)... for reasons
      • Laura calls serious BS; James questions why the Light would care enough to go through this whole setup
  • Chapter 5
    • MC still being held prisoner
      • Laura questions why this is, considering she's not a criminal (besides attacking the team)
    • More POV changes
    • Nightwing takes her out for a burger, but gives her a sedative/pain bracelet
      • Agents confused at sedative that causes pain
    • Agents move in as the MC eats her burger
      • Incapacitating Nightwing is priority - Sue has rendered him and other heroes incompetant?
      • Could use the sedative/pain bracelet to knock down Sue
      • Could ghost of Wally (or whatever it is) play a role?
      • Possible method: leave her in Mount Justice as it blows up (again)
  • Conclusion (James getting more comfortable with the job)

The Challenge

Pick a badfic and write a mission outline using some of the methods I suggested. I'd also like to see one rough scene written as I did in the example. Does this method help you in any way, or do you prefer prepping for missions in another fashion? Leave your thoughts along with the outline and scene.

Have fun, good luck, and stay tuned. This is merely the beginning...

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