How To Write Fan-Fiction
Writing fan-fiction is just like anything else. If you approach it with a formula that works, you can write some pretty good, and pretty epic stuff. I know this for a fact because I’ve been writing up stuff for almost twenty years.
Now I have found, over the years, a formula that works for writing some good stuff. I didn’t use it in the beginning because I was new to not only writing, but also to the internet. In fact, a lot of my early stuff lacked in planning. My first prose was a mishmash of various fandoms, merging the universes of Aliens and Predators, Mega Man, X-Men, Star Trek, and a little bit of X-Files. I still look back at the fic, and shake my head, wondering what I was thinking. I had a general idea of how the fic should go, but I kept throwing stuff in.
As the years progressed, my stories found more structure. I started planning stuff out, making little changes to how I want things to go as I type them up. Very rarely do I write up something that doesn’t have a lot of planning to it. This is why my entries of Learning Gen-X Style in the Marvel Mayhem group are so well developed, even though I post them once a month.
Since I‘ve seen my fair share of works that are both wonderfully good, and completely dreadful, and I was also asked if I would share my methods with others, here they are.
1. First of all, pick something you are a fan of. This is one of the most crucial points. If you are a fan of a particular television show, comic book, book series, video game, or any form of media that attracts public attention, this is a good start. Fans of something put heart and soul into their stuff. They come up with fun stories, fueled by their imaginations. People who are not fans of a franchise, or generally vindictive people come up with hate filled garbage.
2. Pick a genre you like. Anyone who has read my stuff can tell that most of my stuff is more dramatic. If you are a person who has a humorous side, I suggest writing comedy. That is terrific for the light hearted, and comedy also gives you leeway when it comes to breaking character. It also allows you to effectively break the fourth wall, adding to humorous moments. Other genres can allow the breaking of the fourth wall, but it is easiest for comedy. The other main genres, in my opinion are drama, which is good for developing relationships, and action, which is good for those that like to have a good deal of fights. There are various sub-genres, and they allow different elements to be added.
3. Decide the type of story you want to do. If you do an adaptation, where you take something like a game and put it into prose, you have an existing element that you must build off of. What the writer adds is levels of personality to the characters. It also allows you to add some background to the locations mentioned in the subject of the adaptation.
If you do an original idea, you can come up with various situations that could, or could not, appear in the series you do. It will not be considered canon, or part of the main series. Other written works can reference it, but for the most part, it is mainly non-canon. A perfect example showing the division of canon and non-canon are the wikias Memory Alpha and Memory Beta of the Star Trek fandom. Alpha references the movies and television series of Star Trek, where Beta includes the books and works of fandom. It is a prime example of how the two mirror each other, and diverge where needed. It is important to remember that anytime you create fan fiction, you diverge from the main series.
Finally, if you decide to do a crossover, you must remember you are working with more than one source material. It also helps to come up with a plausible reason to have the two meet, depending on the two sources. For example, I have seen a crossover of Generation X and Harry Potter that has a very good pretense. I, myself, have done a crossover in the past as well, featuring Generation X and Carmen Sandiego. I will admit that it isn’t one of my better works. The fact is the more common the crossover, the more the rules apply for both original and adaptations.
4. Planning is important for long stories or series. If you have an epic story in mind, plot it out. You can have a basic plan in mind, in the case of Generation X, Emplate attacking the school, you then have to add to it. How did he attack? What was his plan? What is happening with the characters as the attack is coming? All these are questions that you have plot out. Also, you have to determine the style that you are writing in. Do you use third person limited, third person omniscient or first person limited. Each point of view works for various subjects and characters. Most of my stuff is from the point of third person limited. That means it is from the point of view of a character, who knows what they are thinking, but never what the others are, except from clues the other characters leave them. On occasion, I will deviate from that, if I must set up a scene.
5. Keeping in character is somewhat important. When you are dealing with an established character, you must keep in mind what is established about the character. For example, if you were writing a Harry Dresden fan fiction back at the time of the fourth books production, or the time setting of the fourth book, you could effectively write the character as Thomas Raith as a manipulative white court vampire who doesn’t mind tricking Harry Dresden. Once the truth of Thomas Raith is revealed in the sixth book, Blood Rites, that he is Dresden’s half-brother, that idea isn’t as plausible, unless you work from the prior point in time. As I stated earlier, once you write a fic that deviates from the main timeline, you can get away with other facts being in there. You can incorporate the other facts that are revealed as the series continues, especially if you keep writing a series, but you must keep the established facts. It keeps characters believable.
6. Keep in tune with the genres and series. This is important in so many ways. Mysteries need to keep some elements in play, such as keeping identities secret. Even as I wrote the first issues of Learning Gen-X Style, I kept the identity of the spy secret because I wasn’t sure who I wanted it to be. If you do that, you can surprise people who even expect things to happen. In comedy, keep things lighthearted. If you are doing a fic based off the game Final Fantasy 7, you don’t have characters from Final Fantasy 9 from showing up, unless there is an appropriate plot device joining the two.
7. Break the tension every once in a while. This is more for drama, mystery, action, or horror. Every once in a while, throw in a light hearted moment, or even dark humor. If you don’t, people who read the story will get overwhelmed, and you might end up overwhelming yourself.
8. The case of Mary Sue. The Mary Sue is both the friend and foe of the writer, and here is why. Beginning writers, who are fans of a series, out of their own fantasies, put themselves in the story. In some cases, this is a help, since thinking up pure original characters can be tough when one starts out. The sad thing is that ‘Mary Sue’s end up being too perfect. All the people get along with them. They are always nice to everyone. They perfectly fit in to the group. Too perfect is bad.
Richard Cale, who is a character I created when I first started writing Generation X fan fiction, is in some ways a Mary Sue, but in other ways, he is not. His outward appearance is similar to mine, and some of his characteristics are mine as well. He also has quirks that lead to him being opposite of me. While he is well off, and in a position of power, I work for what I have, and shun that power. He developed over time into what he is, and I go to great lengths to keep him that way.
Mary Sue’s, if done right, are a good thing for beginning writer. As they develop their skills, they can come up with more original characters. They sometimes become a crutch, but in the end, if a writer avoids perfection with the character, they work out well.
9. Inspiration is everywhere. This is the truth. Some of my own ideas come from something I catch a passing glance of. Other times, it is something I hear. You never know where the inspiration will come from. Just keep your mind open, and when you need to, jot it down.
10. Never forget the importance of pen and paper. In this day and age, we rely on spell check and grammar checking device on the computer. The problem with that is that we eventually tire of the screen, and rely on them so much we over look other problems. The computer doesn’t always catch all the problems. Whenever I finish a rough draft, I print it out and proofread with a pen in hand. It is amazing how many times I’ve caught ‘there’ and ‘their’ being switched. Also, when you read it that way, you catch some things that don’t make sense. I also keep notes about stories in pen and paper. I have a couple mini notebooks just for story plotting.
11. My last bit of advice is key to any writer, of any thing. Realize when you are pushing the envelope too much. If you find that you are putting in a scene that can 1) push it out of one genre completely, 2) push it into the purview of an older, more mature, reader, or 3) find your work has your characters in a lack of clothing for a majority of the story, you are pushing it too far. There are specific genres for each of these issues. Like with any other work, they have a place, and sometimes you have to find a way to get those ideas out, and separate.
If you have any questions, or even want to brainstorm, feel free to drop me a line. I may not know about all the possible topics for fan fiction out there, but I try to keep my mind open to all possibilities in the world of prose.