Thoughts About Speculation in Storytelling

Warning: The following contains a few light spoilers from “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

Last night, I took part in a bi-coastal virtual watch party of the latest Disney animated film, “Raya and the Last Dragon.” The world of the Kumandra and the conflict that’s imminent across the land played out before all participants of that party, and with that came the all too timely lesson of finding the will and openness to trust others.

After the film, we all hopped on a Zoom call and shared our thoughts about it, and when talking about the characters themselves, the following question came up: Do you ship Raya with Namaari?

Now for those who don’t know, to “ship” two characters means that you want to see those two wind up together in the end, romantically. It’s a common thing in the pop culture world (especially if you have a Tumblr account), and for a film from a company that has yet to produce a project centered on a fully confirmed LGBTQ+ character, I can see why viewers may be so taken to see the two as compatible with one another at that level. In fact, Kelly Marie Tran recently confirmed that she played her character to be gay, for if the creators had decided to go in that direction with her.

When I was directly asked this question, I made it clear that I’m not into shipping. There are two reasons for that: 1. I don’t have the mental bandwidth for it and 2. I don’t like speculating; not just about potential relationships, but in the general scheme of storytelling.

That might sound weird to hear, but it’s true. I really don’t care for speculation. I don’t like shipping, I don’t like wondering if casting rumors are true or not, and I don’t care for creating head canon for where the direction of a story that’s not of my creation is going to go. Aside from wanting to preserve my mental bandwidth, other parts of my rejection to speculate is the need to just have the facts and confirmations straight up, as well as my feeling to not intrude on a story that I did not officially contribute to. The latter is of similar reasoning for why I don’t care for fan fiction either. As someone who’s a writer, I always feel the need to exercise my skills by focusing on creating my own original content.

But sometimes I wonder if by choosing not to speculate that it could be a disadvantage to me in the long run. One of my goals is to write for TV one day, and odds are that if that ever happens, I’m probably going to be starting off by writing for an IP. Will I be able to exercise the ability to contribute to a story that’s not of my creation if the situation demands it – particularly if that situation is a job?

A part of me feels that yes, I do have that capability, especially if it’s a world that I’m familiar with. Within recent years, I’ve been applying to screenwriting competitions and programs, and one program in particular requires all applicants to submit a spec script based off of a show that’s on a list they make available to choose from. I would always choose shows that I’m familiar with and it’s because of that that I’m able to conjure my own stories set within those worlds, with those characters, and hopefully make it feel as if it’s part of the existing canon.

So yes, I can write within an IP, but as with anything else I do, I can always get better, and perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to speculate every now and then, without devoting a good chunk of time to it. With that said, getting back to last night’s question, do I ship Raya with Namaari? I would say no. There’s too much history of a feud there already that nearly destroyed their world, and even though they’re able to come to common ground by the film’s end, I’m not even sure if I could even call them friends. Acquaintances perhaps, but that’s it. While there’s definitely room to develop a friendship, I do not think that a romantic relationship is likely between those two. I am not getting that feeling from them at all.

Speculation in storytelling: Some live for it, others not so much. While I’ll still continue to exercise the notion to not speculate, I’ll admit to being open to it once in a while, as I’m sure it will help strengthen my ability in writing for IP in the long run.

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