EmpressTuiLa’s Guide to Writing Fanfiction
There are a lot of novice writers out there, including those who are still debating whether to write or not, so I’m here to provide the basic rules for good Fanfiction. Why am I making this? I’ve read way too many stories written so poorly that it’s driven me insane. So for those of you who want to avoid people writing bad reviews, or just simply worried if your story sounds good, then follow these simple rules and you’ll be fine. (As a warning, I do get a little testy in this so forgive me if I sound angry…which I do)
#1 For the love of all that is good fanfiction, DO NOT USE IM-SPEAK!!! Things like: omg, lol, ttyl, thx, u, u’re, l8r, brb, and all of the others. Refrain from your texting habits! People want to read a story, not something a second grader who can’t spell wrote. Along with this, don’t use smileys! Yes I have seen XD in a story before…it was sad.
#2 Do NOT cut in the middle of a scene in your story with an Author’s Note (A/N) or just a random comment or question. People don’t want to read your opinions during the story. It’s like pausing a movie every time you want to say something that no one cares about. Save it for either before the chapter starts or after it ends.
#3 If you’re going to write a story, be sure to go back and re-read what you wrote to check for errors such as grammatical errors and misspellings (yes that’s one word.) The quickest way to lose readers is by having so many simple errors that could be easily fixed occur over and over and over. It’s annoying and people don’t want to take the time to figure out what the heck you’re trying to say. My advice: Re-read your work before posting or have someone else edit it for you, like a beta. (Note: a beta-reader is someone who basically acts like an editor, checking for errors and giving you suggestions on how to improve your writing.)
#4 Ok, this is a real pet-peeve of mine that everyone always seems to do. Point. Of. View. JUST PICK ONE! Do NOT switch back and forth between character POV’s and the author’s. It’s annoying and really confusing, making the story hard to follow. If you absolutely cannot resist switching POV’s then alternate them with the chapters. One chapter will be in one character’s view, and then the next chapter will be of the other character, but continue the story. Don’t go back and repeat what happened in the last chapter just in a different POV. Also, when you alternate, make a pattern that’s easy to follow. For example, Character 1 for one chapter, Character 2 for the next, Character 1, Character 2, etc…I only suggest this if you absolutely CANNOT refrain from switching POV’s. If you can stop yourself then pick one and stick to it. Easiest is author’s point of view, also called reader’s point of view. But it’s also fun to do a first-person story that comes from the main character’s POV, but I recommend that for when you’re more experienced with writing.
#5 This is a big one, plot. If you’re writing something, especially that’s multi-chapter, then make a story that’s in-depth and interesting! Stories progress gradually, not suddenly. Example of a sudden plot progression: The protagonist and antagonist meet in one chapter and absolutely hate each other. Then in the next chapter, they’re suddenly in love, confessing their true feelings. NO NO NO!!! You have to have detail! What happens that causes this love? How did they go from hate to love? There has to be progression. That’s what makes a story! The journey between those two points is usually the main part of the story that’s supposed to really capture the reader’s interest and hook them.
A good way to understand this concept is to simply read popular fanfiction, and I mean the ones with 100+ reviews. They’re the ones with the good plot and excellent story progression.
#6 I mentioned this briefly in the last one: Detail. Is. Key. Without it, you’re basically screwed. What is the easiest way to add detail? Use adjectives! If you don’t know what those are then you shouldn’t be writing. Stop flunking English and pay attention, then you can pick up a pen and write. As I was saying, you need to describe things in-depth. Instead of “She wore a pretty dress.” Try describing it using flashy adjectives. “She wore an elegant dress, long and flowing, barely touching the ground. It was a deep shade of crimson red and hugged her thin body perfectly in a way that flattered her slim figure.” I could add a lot more to that, but you get the point. Also, when it comes to descriptions, colorful adjectives don't just go for clothing. I'm talking about describing scenery, emotions, pretty much everything. Now there is such thing as too much detail, that is when your sentances become way too wordy and it seems to take forever to just get one point across. A tip that will help: Make it so that your readers can easily picture what you’re describing perfectly in their minds. (See? That was a helpful tid-bit from English class.)
#7 And finally, probably the biggest one of all: Mary Sues. I could go on and on for hours about how much people HATE Mary Sues, especially here on dA! If you don’t know what those are, here’s the definition as by urbandictionary.com. A female fanfiction character who is so perfect as to be annoying. The male equivalent is the Marty-Stu. A Mary Sue character is usually written by a beginning author. Often, the Mary Sue is a self-insert with a few "improvements" (ex. better body, more popular, etc). The Mary Sue character is almost always beautiful, smart, etc... In short, she is the "perfect" girl. The Mary Sue usually falls in love with the author's favorite character(s) and winds up upstaging all of the other characters in the book/series/universe.
Ok now that you’ve had your dA 101 lesson for the day, let’s continue. Avoid Mary Sues as all cost!!! Easiest way, give your character flaws and weaknesses! In retrospect, your character is human (bare with me fantasy writers, you’ll get my point) and humans are imperfect. Flaws and weaknesses in a character is what makes them so realistic and how the reader can relate to them, it isn’t about their gifts and talents. Create a past that has tragedy, grief, anger, something! Now I'm not saying to write them an unrealistic past filled with tragedy beyond belief. What I'm trying to say is that writers need to create their characters in a way that the readers will easily be able to relate to them. Another thing you can add to the character's personality, and often good for comedy, give your character fears. Believable and bizarre! Another good one is personality flaws. Arrogance, shyness, loud, annoying, talkative, way-too-happy-for-their-own-good, naïve, easily angered, extremely sensitive, gets into fights constantly, and so on. Think about your own flaws, the flaws of your favorite tv/movie characters and adapt something like that into your character’s personality. In short, you got to make your characters believable. Flaws and weaknesses are key!
Some good advice:What I do, I try to get into the character's head and see what it's like in their shoes. I think about how the character would react to certain things in a scene and just kind of go from there. You've got to "become" the character in a way, just don't let the character become you.
#8 Kind of going off the previous rule is fandom characters who are waaaaaaay too OOC. Okay, guess I better put some definitions in here. Fandom characters: The main characters in a story/movie/tv show/etc. that fans love/praise/make fanart/fanfiction yadda yadda yadda. Basically the characters in whatever fanfiction you're writing that aren't an OC (Own Character). As for the main point of this rule, OOC: Out Of Character
SOOOO many first time fanfiction writers, unfortunately, don't portray the fandom characters to even remotely CLOSE to what they really are, ie changing their personality in drastic ways like making a normally ill-tempered, anti-social character start acting like a pre-teen girl who just got dumped for the first time (DRAMA AND TEARS). No. Just no. If people are making comments that the character isn't acting quite right, or seems off, or if they just flat out tell you they're way too OOC, then it's time to stop writing, go back and re-read what you wrote (like you should have done in a previous rule) and see what the heck is up with this character.
Alright, I can hear it now..."But Lucas just watched someone DIE! That would scar anyone for life and they'd want to seek the comfort of their friends! So of course he's going to cry!"
...If the guy has the personality type where he wants to bite the head off of anyone who even attempts to befriend him, he's not going to go crying to someone because he just saw a person die. And my guess is that this guy probably has a BACKBONE and will be able to get over it and move on. (Note that I completely made up this Lucas guy.) Now say if the death brought up a suppressed memory (that's in the storyline) which causes him a mental breakdown (that would LEGITLY happen in the show/book/movie, not something you just made up, it would actually fit into the real storyline) then that would probably be okay. I can hear more comments, so I'm going to answer you now. No this does not apply to JUST anti-social characters. This applies to EVERY TYPE. Girly girl with a pretty normal life and nothing traumatizing happens to her then she's suddenly a goth. No. Someone who can't tell a joke to save their life is suddenly a hysterical blast at parties. No. Someone who normally speaks very formally and properly is suddenly talking like a valley girl or a surfer dude. No. I think you get the picture now.
But what I want you to take from this is keep your fandom characters IN CHARACTER! Don't just go changing their personality on a whim to fit your needs. If they have to change their point of view on something, well HELLO!!! That's going to be part of the PLOT and one of the main OBJECTIVES of the FREAKING STORY! And it's not going to happen in 5 seconds. This goes back to the plot progression as mentioned earlier. But anyway. OOC-ness usually occurs in stories that have very fast plot progression and not a lot of detail. You should know how to fix those problems if you've been paying attention.
My advice: STUDY THE CHARACTER. Yeah, sounds boring, but it's actually pretty fun. If it's a manga character, go back and re-read the scenes with that character. Pay attention to how they act around certain people and things, pay attention to how they speak, and even how they dress! Yes keeping up with the character's fashion has to do with keeping them IN CHARACTER. If the character is from an actual book, basically the same thing. Read the descriptions of the character carefully and just pay attention to their scenes, their actions, and reactions. It's a lot easier than it sounds trust me. If you just take the time to get to know the character, then you'll be a lot better off and won't have to worry about OOC-ness so much.
#9 Finally some nice advice that doesn't have any threats in it! Story Outlining. Ok that may sound a little boring and like homework but honestly it's really helpful, I know I couldn't write my stories without an outline. Basically, what you do is you outline each individual chapter with the highlights or key points you want to happen in that particular chapter.
1. Amelia is picked on by bullies during Halloween
2. She runs away into the forest and finds the Holiday Doors
3. Opens the door to Halloween and drops in on the celebration
4. Flees to the cemetery after seeing Jack
Now usually my outlines are done with bullets and are much more detailed than that, but you get the point. The benefit of a story outline is that you can go back and see what major points you made in earlier chapters that you wanted to bring back in later chapters, like if you foreshadowed for something to happen later you can easily remember and see what it was. It's a great way to not forget things you wanted to happen and to organize your story so it makes sense and doesn't sound random.
A tip that will help: Keep a notebook with you for whenever you get your random ideas for your story. If you're like me, ideas come to you in the middle of the night and they're awesome but you don't remember them when you wake up in the morning. Having a notebook or a journal where you write all of your ideas is a great way to keep track of them and to not forget them.
Alright, well in closing, if you follow these rules of regular fanfiction (and fiction writing in general mostly) you’ll do fine in the author world. Sorry if I was kind of abusive or abrasive…It’s just that the fact so many people don’t follow at least one of these rules and just type away makes me nuts. True, some people do follow a few of these rules and they have talent, but they just need to polish their work up a bit. Honestly, I’ve been most all of these bad cases I’ve mentioned and I got better as I followed the example of the good fanfiction writers out there. I decided to create some rules to follow to better improve my writing and now I’m offering it to you. Anyway, I hope you learned something valuable today so find yourself an editor and get writing.