I wanted to write this post since forever.
As you may know, one of the main topics I write about here are Fanfictions.
Please note that I’m not a professional writer or anything of the like. Everything expressed in this post is taken from my own experience and it doesn’t represent educational material.
I think everybody knows what I’m talking about, but if you don’t then here’s a kind of definition:
Fanfictions are stories in which the characters from books, TV series, movies, comics, games that already exist, are taken by the writer and put into a plot of their own invention, which may or may not respect the original lines.
Quick note: There are also Fanfictions about singers, actors, you tubers… but I don’t really like them.
This post won’t be a description about the kind of stories, content rating, and the commonly used terms and stuff like that. I’ll just put some reminders when necessary.
If you want more information about the topic, read the article here
This post is meant to give suggestions and advices to both Fanfiction writers and readers (Also a reminder for me).
Being in both the categories, I’ll write what I gained from my “experience” (if I could use this term to define my long time presence in this category) out there, indirectly admitting my own mistakes as well.
Where to find Fanfictions
Actually, almost everywhere around the internet. I will make a list of the sites I visit more often
There are some sites which are specifically build for fanfictions:
-Fanfiction.net: I’ve been on this site from quite a long time now. It’s full of Fanfictions about fictional characters (there isn’t so much about singers, actors and real people in general). This site is kind of an extension to Fictionpress.net, which is a platform made just for original stories.
It’s easy to browse, even though it’s not said that you can always leave reviews if you’re not signed in (it depends if the writer allowed anonymous comments). If you’re not registered, you can’t leave kudos;
-AO3: It’s a platform that recently appeared, personally I don’t have an account in here, but I happen to often read fanfictions on it. Also in here, there’s more about stories from fictional words (Especially Japanese comics and cartoons. Manga and Anime for the stingy ones); I am not sure about the reviews, but if you don’t have an account, you can leave kudos to the writer;
There are sites that don’t have this specific purpose, but in which you can find lot of Fanfictions:
-deviantArt: This platform is more known for drawings and photography, but it actually contains lots of literature as well, even though the original writing here is more common;
-tumblr. : In this site, which was made for blogging, there are several blogs that are just dedicated to Fanfictions; you often can find posts about fanfiction recommendations, which bring you to one of the sites above. Fanblogs can contain (it’s very common actually) fanfictions written by the same author of the blog as well as other people.
Please note that some Fanfiction writers have accounts in both FF.net and AO3, as well as running a tumblr. blog and they often can have a dA profile. So, don’t be surprised if you find the same fanfiction on different sites.
Other sites that I don’t visit so often, but that are still recommendable:
-LiveJournal: There are also several doujinshi translations here;
I know, it’s not so nice to use this word in a post that is about suggestions, but I think some discipline should be present in every aspect of our life.
Be nice and polite to everyone
It’s the internet we’re talking about, and free hate is easy to find (Trolls, if you know what I mean).
If you’re posting something for the world to see, you don’t have to be surprised if people don’t like what you write, so if they leave a review that doesn’t pledge your story, don’t answer with bad words and insults. That person is not insulting you, but it’s making you a favor.
On the other hand, if what you read it’s not in your likings, explain the writer why you didn’t like the story using nice words.
Even though the phenomenon I’m going to describe now it’s not just limited to the fanfiction world, but to the Fandom more in general, it could be reason for useless fights, and of course I don’t like this to happen: The Pairings(*) and Headcanon(**) wars
*Pairings: Have two (or more) characters involved into a somehow romantic relationship. This could be canon (originally mentioned in the story), or fanon (more common in this world, when fans pair up two characters for their own reasons);
**Headcanon: Particulars that are not mentioned in the original story, but purely made up by fans(Ex. “Prof. Oak was a champion before”)
With fan wars, I refer to people fighting over which pair is more bonded and what headcanon is the most correct. I’ll give you an answer: none of them.
We’re most likely speaking about something that’s not in the original story, so it’s not objectively right anyway.
You can share other’s opinions or not. If you don’t, you can’t force the other to have the same likings you have.
It’s useless to argue whether Kuroko will marry Kagami or Aomine, I think the three would actually burst into laughs at this.
You can have your own headcanons, your own favorite pairings, but you’ve got no right to insult people because they “don’t share your philosophy”.
Another important rule is about fanfictions’ cover images.
As you know, if you ever used or published a Fanfiction somewhere on the internet, you can put some image as a cover of your story. It’s very nice, I think, but there are some parameters you need to respect.
If you like to draw your own covers, then there’s no problem, but I’m aware that not everyone (me included) finds its own drawings to be satisfying enough, so the possible solutions are three:
-Don’t use any art at all: in the end, in some sites the image size will appear so small that no one would ever notice;
-Use official art;
-Use fanarts by other artists.
The last one must be taken with gloves, in fact, especially for fanfictions that involve pairings that don’t exist in the original series, official art is almost impossible to find, while your browser will be filled with fanarts.
To use a drawing from another artist, you always have to ask them for permission, if this one is denied, don’t push over, if the artist accepts, leave credits and source to their profile, account, site etc…
Would you like to see pieces of your own story as a prologue to another one you don’t know about? I don’t think so. For the artists is the same.
Same speech goes for translations (in both fanfictions and doujinshi), always ask the author permission and credit them.
Tips for writers
Now that the duty part is done, let’s see what’s better do to write good Fanfictions
Critical Point One: Grammar
It doesn’t mind how great your imagination is, if a story’s not properly written, almost no one would like to read it.
Usually, the main issue is that a great part of FF writers are not native English speakers (or other languages if it’s the case), so it could be a little difficult to form sentences correctly and make a story with a good fluency (I know because my first language is not English).
Also for the native speakers, even if you’re mother tongue, writing is not always a piece of cake because you need to know how to do it in the best way.
-Mistakes are often driven by the rush of writing a story. Don’t publish your Fanfiction right after typed.
Turn off the computer, go have some coffee and cookies, talk with a friend, and then read your work all over again.
Use the grammar check system as an extra help and you will notice how your writing style could be improved;
- An outsider’s view can always be useful.
There are people who are specialized in correcting stories: the betas. On FF.net there is a section of the site dedicated to them. See which people are in your same fandom, like the characters and the kind of story you’re writing about (not all people like yuri/yaoi/Het or mature FF, even though they are in the fandom) and ask them to give your story an extra look. Remember to thank them once your story is published.
If you don’t want to contact a beta for some reasons, make someone you know revise your story. It’s better to choose adults over teenagers, but anyway you’d need someone who’s good at writing.
I understand that, especially for mature rated FFs, asking a person you know to read it, could be embarrassing, so what you can do is leave the reviews open for anyone and, whenever someone points out major mistakes, treasure the suggestion and modify your story.
-Practice is the key
Useless to say, the more you practice in writing, the finest your style will become (Of course if it’s done with some intention).
Reading is one of the best instrument to learn, and thanks to internet, is easier to get to written elaborates in a different languages.
Who said practicing is boring? If you don’t know what to write, but you need to practice, then there are different writing memes you can try on.
Writing memes are usually questionnaires that allow you to produce stories of any sort. There are several types of those, but they’re funny to fulfill (even though you can be scared of the results).
You can find different kinds of writing memes, according to what you feel up to the best.
Sometimes, nice stories can come out from them.
I suggest you some sites you can find writing advices and memes in:
-OC meme central: Different kinds of memes, they work both on original and fictional characters
-Fuck yeah character development!, YEAH WRITE!: both contain reading suggestions, memes, writing exercises and advices
-You can also find several writing memes on deviantArt by typing “Writing meme” on the “search” bar
Critical Point Number Two: Rating and warnings
I should have written this under the Rules paragraph, but whatever.
A person chooses what to read from the information tags given to the story and the summary. If something it’s not in their range of liking, they’ll discard it without a second thought.
Not everyone likes everything. There are people who are extremely sensitive to some themes, and the ones who are prone to more extreme reading.
It’s not said that a fan of a certain series seen/read all of it, and doesn’t want to be spoilered about it.
Not to mention that changes are not always appreciated.
If you don’t rate your story properly, someone can come across not very pleasant moments reading your production.
All sites have a very strict policy regarding mature and explicit contents(Mostly graphic violence and sex scenes), if you have the intention to write even one single sentence containing these themes, you’ll need to properly tag it.
There are multiple ways this can be done, also according to the site you’re posting to:
-Some sites ask you to tick a box before publishing your writing (ex. deviantArt). You must tick the box “It contains adult/mature content”;
-Other sites have filters for non-suitable for working (NSFW) tags (ex. Tumblr.), so always be sure to put #NSFW or #nsfw in the tag box;
-Sites like Fanfiction.net or AO3 have their own list to rate the content. Here, there are more choices. The mature content could be rated M, R18 or PG15; then there are also lower categories for example T or PG13 (suitable for teens, it may contain sexual or violent themes, but yet no graphic violence),
Since each site has its own rating system, here are two links to explain the more common:
All these recommendations to say that you’ll need to properly rate your work in order to avoid the readers unpleasant surprises.
In case you tag your FF as mature, it could be better to add an extra specific warning in the summary (like “Yaoi”, “Yuri”, “Gore”, “Blood”, “Character death”…).
Another thing you should always do is specifying some modifications you apply to the original story or characters. In that case, put an author note in the beginning.
For modification I mean:
-AU (Alternate Universe, when you put the characters in a dimension that is different from the one in the original story). Some examples can be:
1- Put the characters that in the original story are grown up and working in a high school;
2- Make characters from a fantasy universe live in the real world;
3-Adding prequels or sequels that are not mentioned in the original story ; mentioning the example of prof. Oak, like if he was from Kalos and lived part of his young life there.
-Character age: sometimes in the series (for example in Pokèmon), not all the characters have a defined age, thus is always better to specify which age you give to the characters, if this is a key factor for the story (ex. If you think that the Elite Four Lucian and Aaron are the same age, you’d better specify because the impressions a simple look can give are the most different)
-When a character has a different psychological profile: In this case you should write OOC (Out of character). For example, if Prof. Oak is evil
Spoilers: it may happen that not everyone watched the complete series or arrived at the same point in the game, so if in the story there are reference to a certain part of the series/comic/game, write on the author’s note some piece of advices like : “Spoiler alert: it contains description of events happened in chapter 23”
Genderbent(*) are very common in the FF universe, so better specify it before (ex. Fem!Naruto; Male!Sabrina).
*When a character that is male/female in the original series is of the opposite sex in the story.
In general is always better to point out when a character has a different form from the original. Usually these modifications are identified with the following formula [Different form]![Character name]
Some examples are:
-Chibi![C.n.], Baby![C.N.] to point out that an adult character is a baby in the story;
-Human![c.n]: means that a character that’s not human in the series is a man/woman in the fanfiction;
-Nyo![C.n.], Fem![C.n]: means that a male character is a woman
These are just few examples, the list can go on to infinite.
It can also rely to the character attitude or job (ex. Yandere![C.n], Policeman![c.n])
Warn if you put an OC(*) into the story. Remember you’re writing a fanfiction, not an original story. Not everyone likes to see this characters
*Original Character = a character created by a fan and put inside an existing fandom, in the case of fanfiction.
Specify the relationship in the pairings like Yuri, Yaoi, shonen-ai…
Of course, you don’t have to write down all the advices, for example if you put “Durarara!! Kindergarten AU”, it’s useless to write Baby!Shizuo, Baby!Celty Teacher!Simon.
Critical point number three: Original Characters
Before I mentioned the OCs, now it’s better explain why not always these characters are appreciated by Fanfiction readers.
It’s true that a fictional character is the original story writer’s original character, but unlike those, your own OCs are unknown and most likely unwelcome by the fans.
I also have several OCs in the Pokèmon fandom and seldom add them to my stories, but if the stories are followed, is most likely not for them.
Unlike a fictional character (whom the fan knows everything about), a character made by another fan has potentially no background in the story. Often the Original Character is presented like the hero of the situation and it can be bothering.
Do you mean I can’t put my original characters inside the story?
Of course not, you just need to introduce them in the proper way.
You can start by add him/her to some of your FF, before as just a cameo and slowly make their importance grow. The process must be very slow and gradual, because you need the reader to get used to something that’s normally absent in the original story.
Anyway, keep in mind that, thanks to the billions of sue-ish original characters around, lots of readers discard the fanfiction with the tag “OC” without even opening it.
Anyway, if your character is well build and suits the story, is not said your story will go unnoticed.
-Mary Sue Problems: blog that contains example on how a Mary Sues and Gary Stus usually appear in fanfictions;
-Fuck Yeah Character Development!: I already mentioned this site above, it also contains very useful tips to create good original characters.
Critical point number four: Flow of the story and time
More than an advise for you, this is a reminder for me.
Inspiration is a strange creature: it appears when the less you expect it. It’s the frenetic impulse that leads you to write flow of words without a break.
For one-shot short stories, this is not a great issue, actually, it’s not hard to connect events happened in few sentences.
On the other hand, it could be pretty difficult when the story is long, especially in multi chapters fanfictions.
It often happens that despite the beginning and the end of the story are clear in your mind, it might be difficult to properly connect them through inserting more events.
It can also be hard to find a proper end to a story with a great beginning.
Don’t start publishing a multi-chapter story until it’s completely corrected and finished.
What can happen is this:
-Proceeding with the story, there could be key modifications to apply on the first chapters for the story fluency.
If the story is still just in your personal folder in your computer is not a problem. On the other side, if your first chapters are already out and there are people following them, it’s almost impossible that they would go and read the first parts again, thus they will get lost in the middle of the story;
-You may think the story is rubbish and decide to delete it. If someone is following and likes it, this person can be disappointed by your choice;
-You lose your inspiration and the story lays there un-updated for years, people may delete your story from the reading list and you can lose readers even though the story was originally good.
If you have writer’s block troubles, you can use some memes. I found lots of them on deviantArt, searching the “Writer block meme” tag.
Other tricks I use whenever I have a writer block are these:
-Listen and look for new songs: music has always been a great inspiration to me, the effects of a good rhythm with meaningful lyrics is incredible, better than plums when you’re constipated. Give yourself some moments to completely enjoy music, if you’re walking it’s better;
-Search for fanarts/arts: sometimes, also just by looking at a picture, you may get tons of new ideas;
-Study, work or do an active life: if your brain’s not active enough, it won’t work at the best of its capacities, I am more productive when I have tons of exams to prepare and no time for writing than during the holydays. But don’t leave your studies behind for fanfiction, trust me, it’s not worthy;
Tips for readers
If you like to read, then this section is for you.
More than tips on how to read (in which I don’t know how to help you), in this section I will tell you what is the best way to show appreciation towards a writer.
-Send a review: if you liked the story, or want it to get better, why don’t you let the writer know? As I said before, a third person may notice something the writer completely misses. This will help him/her improve the quality of the story, consequently you will read nicer fanfictions;
-Leave kudos: Leaving a coherent comment is not always easy, because in some case, you really have nothing to say, or maybe you don’t have enough time to write. Adding a simple like is a nice way to show your appreciation.
I hope I got you bored enough.
Let me know what do you think about.
Did I forget some tips?
What are yours for writing?
I’d really appreciate to receive your comments
LONG LIVE PROF.OAK!