What is the Shipping Funnel?
(This is my very personally personal opinion, and you are welcome to disagree with my thoughts)
Shipping funnels are like black holes. Do you know how black holes work? They are extremely strong, dense gravitational objects that draw all matter and energy inward so that nothing, not even light can escape. Any light that passes near a black hole but isn’t drawn in is bent around it. Any matter that gets too close is sucked in forever, slowly swirling towards an inevitable fate.
Look, it’s not… that dark.
The shipping funnel is just something I see in stories where the penultimate, unavoidable end goal is the ship. And nothing, no person, no force, no plot will stop those two (or more) from getting together.
As soon as we enter the shipping funnel, we know from the very first sentence how, when and why these two will get together. Not just from the tags, but from the style and setup of the story. We know which characters will be orbiting helpers, which characters will be antagonists and how the story will play out and end.
And just like in a black hole, regular personalities and plot points seem to magically… bend around the idea of the OTP getting together as quickly and conveniently as possible.
Regularly nice characters become snarky and mean if inconvenient. Best friends become undying ship-helpers trying to get the OTP together. Any characters who have nothing to do with the OTP are conveniently forgotten, lost beyond the event horizon of the ship, and enemies? Well, they’d better lock those two up together when captured despite it making no sense.
A fic based around an OTP getting together isn’t bad. It’s the basis of most fanfiction. What kinda bugs me, again, personally, is when a fic is SO DETERMINED to set those two together that they either ignore basic existing plot structures, or make up very convenient ones to set up the OTP, even if those plot ideas and occurrences are unlikely in a non-ship setting.
It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that I find it kinda… boring. We know how the fic is going to end. They kiss. They end up together. When the setup and rising action of the fic are nothing but a narrow hallway of shoving the OTP together again and again it can come across like the fiction equivalent of clicking two barbie dolls together and going “Kiss! Kiss!”
Personally, in my personal, personal opinion, I need more mystery. I need more setup. I need more literary foreplay, if you will. If a side character to the OTP would normally be available to talk to or hang out with, make them available every once in awhile instead of always absent.
Have the characters in the OTP have regular lives outside of their fic-destined fate to fall in love. let your supporting characters have emotional arcs and plotlines that exist outside of your main character’s OTP life. Have a running sub-plot that we swing back to for interest. Let your characters grow and change and solve problems that have nothing to do with the love story at hand, and we help to lessen the massive gravitational pull of the ship funnel.