Author has written 15 stories for Inheritance Cycle, Prince of Tennis, Bleach, Yu-Gi-Oh, Naruto, Supernatural, Lord of the Rings, Dragon Age, Legend of the Legendary Heroes/伝説の勇者の伝説, and Hunter X Hunter.
MysticLegend11’s Fan Fiction Writing Guide
The iron rule: Conflict is the heart of every story.
Conflicts come in all shapes and sizes. External conflicts, like Man vs. Man, or Man vs. Society create tension and an ensemble of characters, some canon, some original, and usually pushes the plotline forward. Internal conflicts, such as Man vs. Self, catalyses character development through complex interplay with external conflicts, which makes personal journeys touching, relatable, deplorable, and lovable, all at the same time.
Without conflict, fan fiction becomes pointless. The story then simply muddles on without a heartbeat, like shallow, although good-natured, fluff, or a forgettable, predictable vignette.
To make your story popular, choose a conflict that your target audience is begging to read (e.g. a popular pairing, a what-if decision), and introduce the conflict early. Make known who the protagonist and antagonists are, who the possible pairings might be, etc. Plan your story progression: exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution.
To make your story addictive, streamline and gather tension. Tournament organization is extremely addictive for that reason, because there will always be another opponent with more and more at stake. That analogy could also be applied to romance, warfare, etc.
Make the details memorable.
Think of “golden moments” of your favorite stories or movies: what makes them golden? Then be creative and create some of your own golden moments, and figure out the best way to set it up, whether it is a laughable joke, an embarrassing development, or a heart-lurching climax.
When I first think of a story, and I start planning it, I see glimpses of these small moments that really are the heart of the film, and then I work these micro-details by setting up a macro-plot. If there are too many, the story will feel too cluttered and forced. But without them, the story is entirely forgettable, and the reader clicks on the next link. Stephanie Meyer dreamed of a shockingly handsome man with an ordinary-looking girl in the woods, and that image became a springboard for the entire franchise.
Develop solid writing basics.
Learn when a sentence is a run-on or not, learn what dangling modifiers are, know when using italics is okay and when it gets too much. Become mature with your grammar and conventions. Do not try to appear cute by showing off too much knowledge of a foreign language or using too many exclamation points. If you do not understand something, google it. Ask people around you, and go through old-fashioned exercises.
After you have the basics down, experiment with different writing styles, different universe-appropriate vocabulary.
Some great authors have very purple, ornamental prose. Others are very simple and slick. Some hedge on imagery, others on metaphors. Some are very straightforward, while others ramble and run in circles. The best writers, however, are versatile: they can do all of these at the right time and at the right place.
Develop the ability to both tell and show.
Tell: She rode her bike down the winding neighborhood sidewalk at a leisurely pace. She had red scarlet strands in her hair, and mud streaks over her blue Keds. Every morning she did this, and every morning he would stare out the window, anticipating that maybe the next minute she would turn around the corner block.
Show: The gears in her bike turned furiously, powered by her youthful exuberance. The scarlet strands in her hair blew around her face like a fiery halo. After every soft rise of dawn she would follow the same concrete path, leaving a path of crushed autumn leaves in her wake. Nevertheless, every time a pair of dark eyes from a gray window would follow her around the same path, eyes of nervous curiosity and silent anticipation.
For most people, telling is easy. Developing the ability to show is much harder. Here are some tips: try using a wide array of subjects. The tell part had the following subjects: she, she, she, he. The show part: gears, strands, she, pair. What a difference! Try to not simply say what happens: rode, streaks, stare, anticipate. Instead add color to an incomplete picture by using sensory cues, and then let the reader discover what is happening on her own: exuberance, blew, halo, dawn, autumn, gray, nervous.
Use appropriate word choice based on the type and complexity of the genre and universe.
Reading widely and developing an appropriate, complex set of vocabulary is important. Remember what universe and genre you are writing for.
Modern: the blue-tipped feathers of the bird ruffled in the autumn wind; the driver slammed the brakes, and the Mercedes skidded across the pavement
Science fiction: the appendages of the teal pheasant creased from a sudden upward draft; the sudden break in gyration caused the wheels to screech across the concrete pavement
Fantasy: the gossamer plumage of fowl crinkled from the meadow's zephyr; the buggy whirled to a hurried stop, draining the karmic energy of the lapis lazuli
Notice the difference in diction even though the words fundamentally mean the same thing, just in different universes. This is magic at work, expanding (often borrowing) your vocabulary, which can only been done through reading and writing continuously. Analyze your favorite writer: if you were in the writer’s position and needed to express the same thing, what makes the professional so good at what he/she does? Are there specific styles and words that are more effective?
To write a solid action scene, pretend you are a sports broadcaster.
Action scenes are exciting. Imagine your favorite martial arts movie or the last sports game you were riled up on. Use lots of active verbs. Punctuate long paragraphs with some short sentences. Build the tension. Punch, kick, dodge around the forehead. Then slowly, ever-so-subtly, work to a CLIMAX! For me, action scenes have somewhat of a cinematic quality. Can you imagine what is happening like a movie? Then try to put it into words. Capture the excitement, pain, adrenaline, and emotion through the beauty of language as best you can. Vary your sentence structure, subject matter, and be concise.
Just keep writing.
Nothing will improve your writing like more writing. Listening to solid feedback will always help tremendously, which is why I recommend always having a beta reader, even if there might be a delay – in the end it is definitely worth it. But finding a beta reader who suits you is also extremely important: someone that is strict enough to catch errors and provide alternatives, but not too much of a hassle that you become discouraged from writing more. As a beta reader myself, I realized this critical mistake too late.
They say that to excel at a craft, you need to devote 10,000 hours, regardless of what it is: playing an instrument, programming a language, writing journalism, becoming an Olympian athlete, or writing fan fiction.
Best of luck to everyone, I hope this guide was worth your time. Send me a message for any reason at all – to comment on this, disagree, and I will be happy to discuss with you.