Fanfiction is a creative and enjoyable past-time. Although fanfiction writers use existing worlds, stories and characters, fan fiction has a merit of its own. Fanfiction stories often expand on creators’ stories. Fanfic writers present more situations, character relationships and endings that the creator could ever imagine. This is why I really love fanfiction.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to fan fiction possibilities but there are a few things to keep in mind when writing. These are words of wisdom I have picked up along the way when reading about fanfiction and writing fanfiction:
- Avoid Mary-Sues or Gary Stus: Create compelling and interesting characters if you’re creating original characters. Readers will appreciate a well-rounded and unique original character. Keep characters in-character if you’re using existing characters. Make them behave in ways readers would expect, based on the fandom. Some people like to use out-of-character characters and usually warn people ahead of time. But it’s more impressive when you can make characters believable.
- Check your spelling and grammar: Sometimes it’s wise to search for a beta-reader that will help you with your stories. Making sure you have impeccable grammar and spelling will show that you’re a careful and professional writer. We all make mistakes from time to time but if your story has lots of errors it doesn’t look good.
- Use white space: White space is any space on a screen or piece of paper that is free of writing or markings. This space is important because it makes reading easier for people. Ensure that you leave enough space between paragraphs and bits of dialogue: don’t make them too long or short, and use some kind of marker when there’s a scene change. For example, when you upload a document and edit it on fanfiction.net there is a horizontal line you can insert onto the page. I often use this to break up my story when I’m introducing a new setting or new characters. Asterisks work well too.
- Focus on quality, not quantity: It’s better to focus on the quality of your work rather than the quantity of reviews. Many fanfiction writers obsess over how they can gain more attention from reviewers. But it’s more important to make sure your story has an interesting plot, well-rounded characters and engaging dialogue. All these things will go a long way in gaining the respect of your readers rather than their attention.
- Recognize copyright laws: I’ve been told fanfiction falls in a grey area because you aren’t profiting off copyrighted works but you are using copyrighted ideas for your own enjoyment and personal use. To be on the safe side and show respect toward creators, I usually add a disclaimer in each chapter, which affirms that I don’t own the copyrighted material. I also explain why I’m using the copyrighted material: for personal use. There’s some material that you can’t use in stories at all. For example, fanfiction.net provides a list of authors who don’t want their work copied in fanfiction stories. Check out fanfiction.net’s rules and guidelines tab under ‘Publish’ for more info.
- Interact with readers and writers: When you respond to reviews it shows your readers you care and it creates a dialogue rather than a one-way exchange. Be honest but kind in your reviews: it’s more helpful to constructively critique someone’s work than constantly praise it. A compliment is nice and you should use it in a critique but ignoring spelling, grammar, inconsistency and weak spots in a story doesn’t make someone a better writer. Being kind and honest also applies when you respond to reviews; if someone takes the time to constructively critique your story try not to become upset or defensive. Becoming defensive will show that you aren’t open to advice or improvement. This defensiveness can carry over into your responses and turn people off. Remember, most people will not mean to offend you but help you.
Fanfiction can help improve your writing, build your confidence and inspire you. The community is great as well; there are many forums, groups and discussions you can join. Most users are very respectful and encouraging: this is a rarity among online communities and is part of what makes it so enjoyable. So remember to have fun and write for the love of writing; this will always make it meaningful for you as a writer.
Any thoughts or tips on fanfiction writing?
The article “What Can Trade Publishers Learn From Fanfiction” is particularly interesting. I recommend reading it.