Perhaps the most common question a potential participant might ask is whether their story idea qualifies as a fix-it. For the most part, that’s up to the participant. Read on for a more detailed explanation.
There are a few things that do not qualify:
- Anti fix-it.
- You have to fix something in canon even if that fix leads to something undesirable. Destroying everything isn’t the challenge.
- One caveat to this is POV is everything. If your protagonist is a supervillain, them winning and destroying the “good” guys may be the fix-it. This would be a rare exception and your POV needs to reflect the destroyer of everything as the protagonist.
- The fix is to a problem of the author’s creation.
- Fix-it is about fixing an undesirable element in canon. If the thing you’re fixing is a problem you created, that’s not a fix-it.
- You can create a problem that’s not canon as a catalyst for your fix-it. For instance, you come up with something outside of canon as a reason for your character to travel back in time. And then they fix canon. In the case of time travel, fixing things might make a lot of stuff not happen. And that’s fine. Ripples are a good thing even if everything isn’t perfect.
- Fixing something in an AU/AR where canon setting has been completely erased.
- Some types of alternate setting AUs implicitly do not qualify
- If you’re writing NCIS people in a high-school AU, there’s no canon to fix. There has to be some canon element.
- This doesn’t mean you have to be heavily immersed in canon. Your character could have left their canon environs years before your story. Or your character could be raised by someone else. Your fix-it could be them getting a nice childhood. But it can’t be the cast of Criminal Minds fighting with the Rebel Alliance and Spencer Reid is a Jedi.
So, what is a fix it?
There are two main ways to approach a fix-it, though there are other minor ones.
- Make a change that fixes something and then let that change ripple out.
- Make a change that doesn’t fix things but ripples into the change.
We read a couple of plot summaries that would fit both models. They fix something and it ripples into a bigger fix.
One thing we always ask someone who sends a plot summary with the question, “Is this a fix-it?” is, “What is your fix-it element?” Weirdly, most people couldn’t answer easily. And that’s the key. You, as the participant, need to be able to articulate what you’re fixing. Outside of some basic guidelines, it’s not up to the challenge moderators to define what can or cannot be fixed or how that fix should be implemented. If you can’t pick out the fix, don’t expect the moderators to do it. (Hint: fix-it is a hugely common trope that can be found in most stories with a canon element. Don’t overthink it.)
If you can talk to your fix and explain how it ripples in your story, then it should qualify. Ultimately, you have to be the judge of your own plot.
A couple of common, generic questions:
Q: Can a pairing be a fix-it?
A: Yes. How is fixing that pairing central to your story/theme? If the pairing is the fix, the pairing should be central to the story, and there has to be some sort of canon hook. You can’t have a pairing fix-it in a high-school AU, for instance.
Q: Can the fix-it be tiny?
A: Yes. Tiny things can have huge consequences. The better question is how big are the ripples from your tiny fix? Do you understand the consequences of your changes?
Remember, fix-it doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. Sometimes fixing one thing breaks something else. This might be a realistic consequence of time travel—the big kahuna of fix-its.
Canon doesn’t have to remain intact just because you’re fixing something in canon. For instance, if canon is based on your favorite character having a shitty childhood, your fix of their shitty childhood is fixing something in canon (because the backstory is canon), and that fix might completely obliterate canon.