Author has written 3 stories for Final Fantasy VII, Valkyrie Profile, StarCraft, Sekirei, Familiar of Zero, and Halo.
The weak adore pairings, the strong adore plot. Give me that plot. Give me powerful characters with strong development. Give me competent composition and the active voice of GOD. Suspend my disbelief, engage me in a story, immerse me in the characters, and I will read anything.
-something i read on the Spacebattles forums, struck me as particularly relevant to this site.
-All of the following is accredited to - Ozzallos -, look im up on an author search, hes got a bunch of stories to his name and what ive read has been pretty damn good. and the following might be a pretty good indicator of why...
Not every time. Not all the time. But in most cases, the following should serve as a guide on how not to fail at writing fanfiction in nearly any genre you care to tackle. Sure, there are always exceptions to the rule, but if you have to ask yourself if you're that exception, then you probably aren't and should defer to the advice below. For those who have stumbled across this before, I've edited this introduction to be a fraction more professional in nature and slightly less abrasive, but you can still blame my overuse of the word 'fail' on DCG.
1) Your summary fails. It really does. This is the hook, your foot in the door. Avoid asking your readers questions here and avoid references to other parts of said fic. "What if Ranma fell into the world of Mario and saved the princess?" HE'LL EXPLODE INTO GOOEY CHUNKS AND SHOWER THE MUSHROOM KINGDOM WITH CRIMSON RAIN, DROWNING TURTLES AND PLUMBERS ALIKE IN A LAKE OF MARTIAL ARTS CARNAGE. Seriously, don't give your reader a chance to answer that question themselves. Next time you read a summary that's formed into a question, please remember the above reply. Secondly, such summaries impart no useful information to your audience. Likewise, "Continuing from part five, review my ass please" is similarly annoying. Hey genius, I didn't read part one. What's that about again? Convince me I should take the time to read chapter 1 before even considering part five. Be creative, give them a little bite of what to expect. Most entertaining is "I'm bad at summaries." The amount of fail in that statement could light Crystal Tokyo for a couple hundred years and encourages nobody to read your fic.
2) Your Grammar/Spelling fails. This is a direct indication of how much you care about your fic, and therefore how much we as readers should care about the fic. Every time you fail miserably at this, Chuck Norris kills a kitten. What's worse, you know you're failing and release the fic anyway. Don't cry when you get reamed by your reviewers. Why you aren't molesting the spell/grammar check function at a minimum is beyond me.
3) Your Plot Bludgeons fail. What is a plot bludgeon? You know, those pieces of information you impart on readers so obvious it hurts to read. An example of one I recently encountered-- Ukyo was really a flat chested man, unwraps himself to reveal that fact and say, "heheh, I can't believe I keep fooling them!" ...And i would have gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for those darn kids. Okay, so you want to get a point across to the reader. Great. But very rarely is there call to light your plot point up as a huge neon lit Las Vegas strip sign. Learn subtlety. Weave it naturally into the story. Ranma is a genius! Great, but tell me a story about it, not as an outright fact. Exceptions do exist, though most don't apply to you anyway.
4) Your obscure plot fails. Big rule... The more obscure/complex your plot is, the more it needs built up through detail and story telling. Likewise, the more important an event is in that plot, the more attention you need to pay it. Glossing over critical events is not allowed. Zap! Ranma is a female permanently now and feels suicidal. Huh? What? Ranma got mad and killed his father for all the injustices visited upon him. Whoa there, Tex. Might want to tell us what triggered that rampage or what led up to the critical events that you insist require only one sentence of explanation. If you have something weird going on, your readers might like to know some basic information... Like who, what, why, how, where, some history, motivations, etc...
5) Your Dialogue fails. (revised!) This mainly pertains to the structuring of said dialogue, not the content. The Pope will visit you tonight and rape your keyboard if you ever post a page full of dialogue without framing and context again. Don't assume your reader knows who's talking. Tell them who is talking. If you're feeling frisky, tell them how that character feels when they're talking. maybe the expressions on their face. What they're doing. Characters never just "said" anything. They never should just "reply". Dialogue is like a picture... It needs a frame if you're going to hang it on the wall properly. Of course, you could just nail it up there, but that's why you fail.
6) Your Shallow characters fail. Believe it or not, not everybody has read your favorite series. I KNOW! It's tough to swallow, but it's true. Take a moment to tell us a bit about their appearance. Detail their mannerisms though story telling. Sure, you can assume that if they're reading in a certain section they probably have at least basic knowledge of the series, but frankly that's a poor excuse not to embellish your characters with detail and depth. Sure, everybody knows who Optimus Prime is (did I just use him as an example? Yeck), but your story will fail less if you paint him in color instead of black and white.
7) Your short chapters fail. Hardcore. Mainly, because they give you very little space to impart critical plot and/or knowledge to the reader, forcing you to condense a lot of information into a short blurb. This normally leads to failures 2 through 6. Similarly, you drag out scenes that really should be combined into one flowing work. For example, watching Ranma wallow in angst for several short chapters while not really taking the story anywhere is not fun. It's like watching an episode of Dragonball Z once a week. It's excruciating.
8) Your derivative plot fails. Wheee! Ranma loses his memory after being locked as a female! Most readers are not opposed to this on average, but before you go thinking you're Stephen King, remember two things: He's dead, and assume it's been done before and buy a six pack of originality down at the corner 7-11. Your story/chapter needs a hook, no matter how good it is. Just because it has been done doesn't mean you shouldn't try your hand at it, but do your research on the competition before you just dive right in.
9) Your reviewers fail. Actually, no they don't. They're entitled to their opinion. Don't get defensive and don't argue with them because you're inherently insecure about your work. Self-confidence is required when facing your reviewers and actually debating their opinion on your work is bad taste. Honestly, why did you even bother posting in the first place? If you're writing for enjoyment, they shouldn't matter anyway. If you're writing to improve yourself, take notes. Nothing says insecurity and ass like a running review war. Yes, reviewers CAN be wrong, but so what? Arguing with them is a waste of your time anyway.
10) Your Alterverse fails. What do you get when you strip your main character of his canon personality, kill off all the supporting cast and send him off into another crossover series? You get one big bucket of suck. Any story where you can replace the main character with the name "Ed" and not know the difference automatically fails nine times out of ten. Do yourself a favor and assume you aren't that tenth time. Why did you even bother choosing that character and series to begin with if you were just going to piss all over the story and abandon it next chapter? Ha ha ha! Ranma doesn't have a curse, lost all his memories to the neko-ken and has been training with Bruce Lee in the cyber-wars of 2010! O.o' Of course that's ridiculous sounding, but its amazing how many aspiring authors totally divorce the characters from their original canon so completely. The sooner you accept the fact that you should scrub these fics from your hard drive with a brillo pad, the better.
11) Your Cause and Effect fails. Logical continuity will save plots that have no right being saved. Even yours. Thinking things through to their most logical conclusion is the hallmark of a well written story; as opposed to just going with a theme that sounds good and plowing though cause and effect like a semi plowing through a 30 car pile-up. When you're writing up a plot device, think the consequences of that path through and write the story around those consequences. Outlandish plot points are fine toward this end. You want Naruto to be a sexy demon slayer? Great! But think over. How you get there will make or break your fic, and generally the most easily explainable means toward that end are the best ones. Ask cause and effect questions at every stage of your fic. For every decision your character makes. For every action that happens in their proximity. Treat them as real people. How will they react? The more you have to justify those reactions and the more outlandish they sound, the more you are failing at it. This failure not only runs hand in hand with Fanfiction Failure #4, but has far reaching consequences in other failures at well.
12) Your plot vehicle fails. Because you obviously don't know how to drive. Stories are divided up into vehicles and destination, and one without the other is absolutely worthless. In fact, reading this particular failure to execute is like salting your eyeballs and dipping them in vinegar; something that can be avoided with some good ol' common sense. Harry Potter the magical girl is not a plot in and of itself. It's a way way to get to your plot. How Harry Potter becomes Queen of the magical girls is. That's your end destination, and everything in your fic should revolve around getting there. Fics without an end destination have a shelf life before your readers become as tired of reading it as you are of writing an endless, go nowhere exercise in futility. Your reader base might laugh at first, but all you've really done is sentence them to a slow, lingering death; though this can be reversed by simply remembering where you're going. Fics without vehicles, however, are always immediately fatal, mainly because how you're getting to that end plot makes no sense what-so ever. You tried to insert BS instead of substance in your point A to B plot, and it's a failure strongly related to number twelve. Harry Potter the magical girl queen is a laudable goal, but if you can't substantiate a way to make that happen, its best you leave that one to the big boys and girls.
13) Your Characterizations fail. Didn't we already visit this one? No, we did not. Characters are the lifeblood of your fic, and since your plots are obviously bleeding out, let me impart a bit of wisdom concerning them. KNOW YOUR GODDAMN CAST. Simply doing so is what will set you apart from your failing brethern, giving your fic an ever so slight chance to win. Canon will tell you everything you need to know about them: Their likes, dislikes, general disposition and best of all- repeat after me kids -how they will react to any situation you write them into. Not only does an authentically written character lend credbility to your story, knowing how they will react in regards to canon is solid fanfic gold for your readers. Even when you OC the hell out of the cast, this rule is vital just so you have a baseline, since you will at least know what you're doing to a given character when you take the mary sue torch to their ass. Building realistic characters also requires a grasp of Rule #11... Good character behavior plus cause and effect go hand in hand-- to the point where the story plot points will all but write themselves because you did your job as an author.
Fanfiction Failure Metarules for Writers
Things to look out for as an author to help you win more than fail at fanfiction.
Fanfiction Failure Metarule #1-- Readers will absolute love a completed work but will invariably pick apart and inadvertently attempt to destroy it if given a hand in its creation. Be especially wary of open forums and chat channels in this regard as they usually have opinionated folks who haven't ever written anything or anything in nearly forever. Either have a healthy self image or screen your pre-readers carefully to avoid this failure.
Fanfiction Failure Metarule #2-- The phrase "...that's just another excuse to (plot device)." indicates you are dealing with a person of below average insight as to how fiction is written. These people should not be allowed to influence your work in any way because everything is a means to an end and is therefore "an excuse" to achieve that end. For example; "...(plot device) is just another excuse to lock Ranma as a girl." This is an empty statement attempting to hide behind factual expertise; a bludgeon used by particular readers that don't get their way or don't approve of your plot. It contains no value beyond personal opinion and should therefor be treated as such.
Fanfiction Failure Metarule #3-- There is no impossible in fanfiction. Every once in a while you'll run into that anal retentive plot nazi that will say it simply can't be done like that. It doesn't matter what 'that' is because 'it' simply can't be done and they are, of course, the foremost authority on such matters. Normally this advisement is made by people that don't know they're closet creativity thieves; people who don't realize that their favorite series usually has either plot holes you can drive a death star through or that same series has Lucky God martial Artists, Flying airships, and springs of drowned Asura-zebra-octopi-phoenix-yeti-bulls. Sadly, their disagreements usual come down to little more than opinion of what is in reality- say it with me -magical bullshit. As such, these people should be given as little creative share in your work as possible. All that said, there is a difference between the broken ideology of "can't be done" and the more realistic "shouldn't be done". Consult the Rules of Fanfiction Failure for a head start on those.
Fanfiction Failure Metarule #4-- "It's been done before!" is never an excuse not to do it again. Some of the best works you will ever read in fanfiction "have been done before" and it's still amazing how these will be the first words out of reader's mouths when running an idea past them- even though they absolutely HAVE to know somewhere in the back of their mind that this is an empty statement, because half the fics they enjoy "have been done before". Don't take this one personally. It's reflex. Smile, nod and continue writing anyway with Rule of Fanfiction Failure #8 somewhere in the back of your mind.
Fanfiction Failure Metarule #5-- Fanon is not a sin. That's right folks, its time to drop the rosaries and stop going to those cleansing ceremonies because contrary to what you have been led to believe, fanon is not the end of the world. What is the end of the world is not knowing the difference between fanon and canon. Even if you don't know, your readers will and there's a good chance that your fic will deserve the smack-down heaped upon you even as your pitiful cries of "no flames" go unnoticed in the fic summary. Fanon often personalizes a fic and can- and I stress can -make it better than the original source material, but like Fan Fic Failure #13, knowing what you're doing to canon before you rape it at the alter will make or break a fic.
Fanfiction Failure Metarule #6 -- Do what they tell you not to or shouldn't. Who are 'they'? They are the know-it-alls of fanfiction; even other authors. This particular rule is a close cousin to metarule #3 and has served me well over the years. They tell you not to put specific dates in your fic? Do it. They tell you that writing about X will only cause problems. Go for it. Not only will you set your work apart from theirs as unique, your readers will appreciate you tackling subject matter others are afraid to touch. Trusted prereader advice should always take precedence over this rule, but always keep it in the back of your mind. Asking yourself 'why' somebody advises against certain material is half the battle whether you take their advise or not.
The Situation in Hell
The following is supposedly an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term. The answer by one student was so "profound" that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well.
Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?
Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.
One student, however, wrote the following:
First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving.
As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different Religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell.
With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.
This gives two possibilities:
1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.
So which is it?
If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, "it will be a cold day in Hell before I go out with you", and take into account the fact that I went out with her last night, then number 2 must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over.
The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct . . . leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting "Oh my God."
THIS STUDENT RECEIVED THE ONLY "A."
Humor is the spice of life and the best medicine.