Welcome back to Kylo Ren-inspired fanfiction-writing time! Okay, I lied about the “emo” part. Eventhough the Twitter handle Emo Kylo Ren is pretty entertaining, your first fan-inspired story does not, I repeat, does not have to be at quite that level of annoying… Mainly, because the genre already lends itself to annoying fangirl/boy tendencies. (Don’t believe me? Oh, you’ll see…)
So, how do you write your own fanfiction story, sans said emo-ness?
In the previous post, I talked about planning your first fanfiction story for a favorite movie, television show, video game, etc.: motivate yourself; pick a place to start from in your favorite series; stick to the actual events in the series (at least to begin with); and as you plan how to write it, avoid alienating your readers. All important tips for being successful in the fanfiction universe—and these are also good tips for planning any story. Where you don’t want to alienate fanfiction readers by avoiding the actual events and characters in the series they are familiar with, you don’t want to alienate readers of normal stories by having places and people appear in ways that don’t synch with reality either, because you’ll cause your readers to ‘pop out’ of the reading experience and lose interest.
Now, some things to keep in mind as you draft those first few chapters…
- Keep it real. So, you’ve already selected a time and a place in that story that you like the most. (And, you can even pick a theme of the series that you’d really like to write more about.) It’s best to hone in on one thing that you are/can get very knowledgeable about. The more specific and detailed you can get, the more realistic and therefore enjoyable your story will seem. Few people will get ‘popped out’ of your story and say ‘ugh, that would never happen.’ It’s a fanfiction, so we already know it definitely hasn’t happened in the series, but again, you don’t want to alienate your readers all the same… like in your Dragonball Z Downton Abbey fanfiction.
Ex: All his heroic misadventures with super saiyan Lady Sybil and super saiyan William inadvertently affected Lady Mary’s failed romances with other men in astounding magical ways. The secret is… nobody actually dies in Downton Abbey. They live on as powerful demigods—and how!
- Make good characters. You always seem to hear about Mary Sues, but I’m sure Mary Sams (does that even translate?) exist as well. You will be writing characters that already exist, and fans will expect to you to keep close to canon. Also, you have a fun chance to make some new characters too. A good quick and dirty rule to help you avoid writing too-perfect characters that don’t feel realistic, are hard to care about, and that your readers resent: Give every character a serious flaw, put each one at risk, and never write yourself into a story. I was once told that you don’t write yourself into a story because you can’t know yourself as intimately as a writer needs to know and manipulate and endanger, and even kill off a character. Knowing yourself takes a lifetime. Hopefully, you will finish and publish your fanfiction after only a few weeks or months.
Ex: Super saiyan Matthew Crawley is all powerful, but he misses Lady Mary a great deal and this often causes him to lose focus during his battles. The hurt is tearing him apart (Lisa!) and Matthew became a villain for about five years before deciding to atone and rejoin his friends Sybil and William in a final, epic battle… though they still fear they cannot trust him.
- Develop a good plot. Plan your characters and outline your plot first, then write. You can grow outside of what you planned; that’s fine. But this way, you won’t feel so lost when the ups and downs of storytelling and trusting your original vision kick in. Every story needs an exposition (take the time to describe the setting and what the characters are up to at the beginning); a middle (this is not exactly the climax, but it is the biggest conflict of the story, what sets up all the dominoes before they fall); a three-fourths climax (now, the dominoes begin to fall and havoc is wreaked on all the major characters); and finally, a conclusion.
Ex: We hope Matthew may one day get through his grief and re-unite with Lady Mary after he and his friends’ secret mission to collect the lost dragon balls scattered throughout the Yorkshire countryside. With the power of the Downton Abbey dragon balls, they can regain control of the demonic dungeon underneath Downton Abbey that’s been the real source of Mary’s unhappiness.
- Write it. Fanfiction is unique in that you write it “live.” That is, you can post one chapter at a time, get feedback, and then post the next chapter the next week, or even the next day. It’s a great chance to make it even better every time you go around, as the story develops. By the end of it, you may have something that really shows off your writing skill because readers were able to see how you started and how you resolved issues with storytelling by being creative and strategic.
- End it. Again, you don’t want to cause your readers to resent you, because the story just drones on. And, in reality, things do come to a natural close eventually. The more realistic something feels, even if it is a fantasy story, the less ‘popped out’ of the story your readers will feel. If you write a sequel to your story, think of it as a tree: you want to deepen its roots and grow its branches. So, you should add more backstory, tie in new characters related to that backstory, expand the horizons of your story so that there are more and better things for your characters to do than they did in the first story. Don’t just recycle the same old stuff.
Ex: Please do end your series and not write and write it for twenty years until Julian Fellowes kindly asks you stop pitting all his deceased characters against one another as powerful zombies in an anime-style bloodbath.
Now, I think you’re ready to go. I highly recommend www.fanfiction.net for publishing your first fanfiction story. Use a pen name to help free yourself and push past what you would normally write if you knew everyone on Facebook was watching. Good writing involves taking risks, and you don’t know how far you can go until you go there. I think every writer needs that kind of safe space when they start out.
Also, on websites devoted to fanfiction, there is already a healthy audience of readers and novice writers waiting to enjoy something about their favorite video game/tv show/movie and if they love something or hate your work, they’ll comment. And, all that feedback is good for you if you want to become a good writer. Trust me.
If you never get any feedback, don’t worry. At the end of the day, you matter, and the fact that you’re writing matters; not that people are reading your story and choosing not to comment for whatever reason. (They probably don’t know what to say or just smile to themselves and click the window closed when they finish and go back about their business. It’s likely not about you.) The hardest part about writing is just ‘coming out of the closet’ so to speak, so taking that first step is something to be proud of in itself.
Oh, and by the way… Now that you’ve become a writer, welcome to the dark side. 🙂 Thanks again, Emo Kylo Ren!