Crewing My Pirate Ship of Love:
An OTC Approach to the Question of Relationships
by Rana Eros
Discussions of OTPs and shipping are perennial favorites in fandom, to the point where I created an icon as a shorthand way of indicating my stance on the topic of pairings. The icon reads, "I don't have a pairing. I don't have an OTP. I have a ship. A pirate ship. It boards other ships and steals all the best booty." Except I've realized the icon only covers half of it, and not even the first half. You see, my pirate ship is manned when it goes searching for good booty. It's manned with my OTCs.
I don't think I've yet met a fan who doesn't get more attached to one character than the others in any given source. Reasons for the attachment vary widely: the character's just like the fan, the character's nothing like the fan, the character is what the fan wants to be, the character is what the fan wants to date, the character is a prime example of an archetype with which the fan is fascinated, etc. As with OTPs and pairings, though, OTCs are a bit more extreme than character preferences. The OTC is not only the fan's preferred focus, s/he's often the point of the fandom for that fan, and if that character leaves the fandom, or is shoved into the background, or is changed fundamentally, then that fan's reaons for being interested in that source are gone.
Fans with OTCs are often not inclined to read or write stories that don't feature their OTC. This is not a bad thing. Let me repeat that. This is not a bad thing. The reason I'm stressing this is because, like OTPers, OTCers will often get lectured or looked down upon for not reading "really good" stories because their OTC is not in it or is denigrated in it. The thing is, that story is not going to be "really good" to that fan, no matter how well-written it is. It's like reccing Supernatural fic to a diehard Sentinel monofan. Good writing only gets you so far, in fandom and in the prolit world. You've got to be interested in the topic first. Nor is lack of interest in particular pairings, particular characters, or particular fandoms a sign of anti-intellectualism, shallowness, emotional immaturity, or any other such nonsense of which both OTPers and OTCers have been accused, any more than a lack of OTPness or OTCness is a sign of a lack of investment in the fandom, or emotional coldness, or any other such nonsense of which non-OTPers and OTCers have been accused. I mean, come on, people. Let's all pretend that taste is not objective and fandom is a hobby and move on.
Anyway, OTCs impact shipping preferences in interesting ways. For me personally, once I pick up my OTC (usually within the first few episodes/few minutes of the movie/few chapters of the book), I start looking around for what characters I can pair hir with. Because, you see, I'm a shipper at heart. I'm just not a shipper inclined toward OTPs.
At this juncture, I should probably define how I'm using the term OTP. I've seen it primarily used two ways: first, there is the pairing the fan sees and likes and will not break up in reading or writing. Second, there is the pairing for which the fan sees the most canon evidence and/or believes the creator will put together at some point during the course of the source story. Sometimes the two definitions coincide in one OTP for one fan, but not always. In any case, I'm using the first definition here. There are a lot of pairings I view as canon OTPs, but I have no qualms about breaking them up in my reading or writing. In reading and writing, I'm more inclined toward anti-OTPs, as in there are pairings I won't read or write even if they involve my OTC. Two examples off the top of my head: Obi-Wan/Anakin and Sanzo/Hazel. In both cases, the first character listed is an OTC, but their characterization would have to be so changed from how I view it in order for them to take up with the second person listed, that they would no longer be characters I'm interested in.
The above is actually key to my way of shipping due to my inclination toward OTCs. A lot of fans seem to support OTPs because they like that particular dynamic between those particular characters. A lot of other fans seem to eschew OTPs because they like seeing a lot of dynamics between a lot of different characters. I write my OTCs in various pairings because I like to see how each relationship dynamic impacts my OTC. One reason I'm getting into writing threesomes, in fact, is because I love to see how the attention of a second character, along with the first, affects my OTC.
Also, like many OTCers, I believe my OTC should have all the love s/he can possibly get. *G*