A Guide To Writing Fanfiction
(No, Seriously, A Real Writing Guide II)
Chapter One: The Plot (Dun-dun-dun!)
Oh for the love of all that's holy! Head for the hills! I spy a plot on the horizon!
Okay, you guys, listen up: as much as you apparently believe it, plots are not devices of Satan. Or whoever the devil is in your culture. Plots are incredibly useful writing tools that steer your story.
Before I start in on the beef of this chapter, I would like to point something out. If you could, please, do this interactive exercise with me, I would be ever so grateful. Okay. Open up a new tab or Internet window. Now go to: http: / www . fanfiction . net. Yes, really. Trust me on this.
Now log in.
Are we all caught up? No stragglers? Good. Now, after you're logged in, on your screen you should see a bar full of all of the wonderful tools the site makes available to us writers. Yes? Excellent. If you would please meander on down to the "Stories" link.
Now, go to "Guidelines" section, if you would be so kind.
I am now going to quote to you some text that can, in fact, be found on the EXACT PAGE you were just directed to. (Italics, bold, and underlines mine.)
does not filter content and is an open system that trusts the writer's judgement. However, there is an inherent responsibility that falls to writers as a result.
Here is a list of conducts that should always be observed:
Spell check all stories and poems. There is no excuse for not doing this. If you do not have a word processor that has the spell checking feature, use a search engine such as to find one.
Proofread all entries for grammar and other aspects of writing before submission. 'Hot off the press' content is often riddled with errors. No one is perfect but it is the duty of the writer to perform to the best of his/her ability.
Respect the reviewers. Not all reviews will strictly praise the work. If someone rightfully criticizes a portion of the writing, take it as a compliment that the reviewer has opted to spend his/her valuable time to help improve your writing.
Everyone here is an aspiring writer. Respect your fellow members and lend a helping a hand when they need it. Like many things, the path to becoming a better writer is often a two way street.
Use proper textual formatting. For example: using only capital letters in the story title, summary, or content is not only incorrect but also a disregard for the language itself.
The site will take immediate action when the staff are alerted to them.
Entries not allowed:
Non-stories: lists, bloopers, polls, previews, challenges, author notes, and etc.
One or two liners.
MST: comments inserted in between the flow of a copied story.
Stories with non-historical and non-fictional characters: actors, musicians, and etc.
Any form of interactive entry: choose your adventure, second person/you based, Q&As, and etc.
Chat/script format and keyboard dialogue based entries.
This means that all of you out there with PWP (plot? What plot?) stories, chatroom fics, "hot off the press" entries, and non-spellchecked writing are technically in disagreement with the Terms of Service you agreed to when you first joined the site. This also means that every single one of you is eligible to be reported and banned from the site.
And so now I offer all of you this series of guides, and recommended guides by other writers on the site who have an idea of what they're doing. I'm not a perfect writer; however, my dream is to one day be a novelist. I read at least five books a week – and I rarely ever dip that low. I'm pretty high up there in English scores. I feel that I can at least provide a fundamental understanding of the rudimentary workings of the elements of a story.
A plot is exactly what your English teacher told you. See, there's this cool diagram thing that goes with it, but since we can't exactly insert the image I'll just tell you what goes along with it.
-This is where you introduce your character. You might not even start out with their name or their hair color or what they do in the morning. For example, "Anna Marie rose, yawning, out of her bed," is not an interesting sentence. What you want is something referred to as a "hook," i.e. something that catches eyes and draws in readers. One of my favorite books starts out like this: "The building was on fire, and for once, it wasn't my fault." Now, does this interest you in the least? Why yes. Yes it does. You immediately start asking questions: who set the building on fire? Who's running? Does the narrator usually set buildings on fire? What's going on here?
And, naturally, you want to read more.
The Exposition is where you "expose" your character, your setting, your time (late 1800s, early 3000s, A.D., B.C., what?), and, near the end, the beginning of your conflict. Now, exposing doesn't mean revealing everything about them from the fact that they're blonde to the name of the pet turtle they had in second grade. Exposing your character means giving the audience a sense of who they are and what they're like. Are they a smart-ass, or are they meek and shy? Here's where you let them know.
Keep in mind: in the Exposition, the reader starts out knowing nothing. While you do need to explain things well, remember that too many details are just as bad as too little. Balance is necessary when being descriptive. If you overload the senses, readers will become confused, and that "Back" button will begin to look very tempting. Too little detail, however, makes your story sparse and dry…and, frankly, insanely boring.
2.) Rising Action
- Rising Action is, I think, fairly self-explanatory. Writing it is sort of difficult, however.
One of the most common problems I see in otherwise decent fanfiction is the lack of pacing. That's what Rising Action is about: pacing your story so that things don't seem too rushed. Once the character is "exposed" to the beginning of the conflict, everything's not going to happen at once. If they have a strange dream about a girl trapped in a cave, they won't get called in to see the Oracle and be sent out on a quest the very next day.
You need to think about it logically. In Rick Riordan's books, things don't happen immediately after Percy has a strange dream or premonition. Instead, a few days pass, allowing the dream or feeling to reoccur and the story to progress a bit. Then, either the hero himself takes action or he is forced into action through the Oracle of Delphi. Heck, it's like that in all books. A hero never just launches himself into a quest because of one possibly fleeting thought.
Rising Action also includes the majority of the journey of your quest. Once again, pacing is key. They can't complete a quest in three days, plus journey halfway around the world, plus fight off monsters, plus fall in instantaneous, burning, passionate love. It doesn't work that way. If you've ever gone on a long trip, you know that it's not like those cross-country road-trip montages you see in the movies. There are lots of boring parts, and these you don't need to write about.
What you do need to write about is the important stuff that happens. Say it's a Percabeth story. They could have a small, fluffy, potentially couple-y moment while on a train. Percy's hand accidentally brushes against hers and she blushes or something. Small moments that make some of the boredom dissipate.
While writing Rising Action, you must always remember to keep your final goal in mind: the Climax. The top of the mountain of the plot and the next step on the way, the Climax is the result of all this rising action. You want a great Climax, right? Explosive, ka-boom, something that completely blows away the readers? Then you gotta have good Rising Action.
See, in Rising Action, you're taking every single thing that can go wrong for the heroes and making sure something along those lines occurs. For example: Say that Percy and Annabeth need to journey to Florida to stop Echidna's wild rampage. Okay, we've already got the teen crush thing going on. Make Percy embarrass himself. Have him accidentally insult Annabeth, and she doesn't speak to him for a while. Other than that, what other sub-plots can we weave?
How about…a time limit? Say that Echidna is growing the largest, most dangerous monster of them all, and it will be ready in a week. But – and here's the thing – Percy and Annabeth only find out halfway into the week, which cuts their time to stop Echidna in half. And now, say that Kronos wants the monster for himself. So he'll be sending his minions after the two of them.
What you need to do in the Rising Action – what you need to do in order to achieve a good Climax – is look at the story and say, "What can possibly go wrong?" Then…make it so.
- The Climax is the pinnacle of your story. This is the point where the odds seem insurmountable; the bad guy is sure to win; the audience is on the edge of their seats, reading faster and faster – what's going to happen?!
All of the bad things you started in Rising Action are snowballing together, creating one big, massive, unpassable obstacle: Percy and Annabeth are still fighting, so they're not as strong a force as they could be; the time limit for the monster is an hour away from completion; and Kronos' army is closing in fast and thick around them. What do our heroes do? Will they survive?
The Climax is the point of highest tension in the story. This is the do-or-die point; this is where readers should be gnawing on their fingernails, desperately holding their breath in anticipation. This is the part in all of your favorite stories when your eyes were wide and flying across the page like a hummingbird. This is where everything is decided.
It's massively important, and totally undervalued.
You need a way to get your characters out of the hole you've stuck them in and save the day. This does not mean using a deux ex machina, which means using a god or higher-up force to leap in and rescue them. That can be fine in smaller scenes, but the climax is where the characters show their true stuff. Zeus swooping and smiting ass is not the way to show how much stronger and more mature Percy's become.
See, all throughout the story, your characters should be growing and maturing. Their views may change, their feelings might morph…anything can happen, and the events that occur shape the all. This is what you worked towards in the Rising Action – this change in the character that enables him or her to fight back that evil. The realization of a greater power within his or her self that shows them the way to take down the villain.
Alright, so Percy has realized over the course of their journey that even though he's the son of a powerful god, he's not too good to ask for – or to need – help from somebody else. So what does he do? He turns to Annabeth, and he tells her that he was wrong. He tells her that he needs her to help him.
So this effectively resolves their fight, and it shows character development: Percy has learned to be humble. Annabeth then is at her full potential, knowing that she is needed by the guy she (secretly) likes; this enables her to reach new heights, and overcome Kronos and his army, destroying the monster in the process.
This is the end of your Climax.
4.) Falling Action
- Another neglected but much needed aspect of the writing process, Falling Action helps slow down the frantic pace the story will have picked up in the Climax. The pressing problems are solved, and the immediate danger is gone; lessons have been learned and newer and stronger bonds have been forged. This is when Falling Action shines. See, here is the point where the heroes realize that they've won. They can go home. They can rest.
The first meeting between Percy and his father takes place during this stage. After Percy has retrieved the lightning bolt, the Climax is over. Falling Action includes the plane journey to New York, the presentation of the bolt to Zeus, and the meeting between Percy and Poseidon. See, it's not all about non-action. A lot of important shtuff happens in this period of the story. However, it tends to be rather short, and it is immediately followed by…
- It's over. The monsters have been slain, the nightmares are gone, conflicts are resolved, and loose ends are firmly tied up. Everybody's happy and content – well, except for the villains, but are they ever really happy?
So now what?
This is where everybody goes home until next time. This is where the goodbyes are said, hugs are exchanged, people promise to write, and they go their separate ways. (Sometimes. Other times, the new-found couple kisses just as the book closes. I like those endings. :))
Okay. A quick recap:
Exposition: Introduction to character, setting, etc. First start of conflict is introduced into the story.
Rising Action: The ball starts rolling. Dreams are had; a few days pass, and a quest comes along. Sub-plots pick up inside the main plot and move it along faster and make it more powerful, leading to…
Climax: Everything explodes all at once. Conflicts are at their peak; the world is falling apart. The characters make developments and realize their growth; after the epiphany, the evil is smote down.
Falling Action: Loose ends are tied up, and the journey home begins.
Resolution: Everybody says goodbye…for now. (Maybe…who knows?)
Well, that ends the first chapter of this fic. The next chapter will be out soon, entitled "Dialogue." Have fun and write well, guys!