Author has written 11 stories for Pokémon, Metroid, Cave Story, and Inheritance Cycle.
Hello! I am ScytheRider, a (Primarily) Pokémon fan fiction writer. Oddly enough, my name doesn't come from "Scyther", though that is a very nifty side effect. The name actually comes from the first multi-chapter fan fiction I ever wrote, which was an Inheritance Cycle fan fiction.
I am open to discussions and criticisms of all kinds, so feel free to drop me a line or catch me on AIM (adronscyther). Though, I am short on free time and I am distracted a lot, especially when I am in the process of writing a new chapter!
Me on DeviantArt - I often post progress updates here and chat with people. Also, you will find a copy of Silver Resistance with chapter-by-chapter commentary.
GeminiSaint on DeviantArt - Artist of my Scyther avatar. You may see this Scyther picture on the internet a lot, but I actually commissioned GeminiSaint to draw this for me. In payment, I shipped him a Wii -- he lives in a country where they are not sold in stores. Funny thing is, I've actually been accused of "stealing the picture off DeviantArt" several times.
kyrio on DeviantArt - Artist of the "Frozen Flame" in Silver Resistance's cover picture. This was also drawn at my request, so stop accusing me of stealing art, please!
July 18th, 2013
Season IV of Silver Resistance is in full swing, with me posting 2-3 chapters a month. I'm very happy about that. :)
I'm about to give my "Writing tips" section a brief revision, to reduce wordiness and increase conciseness.
My Fan Fiction
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Silver Resistance (Pokémon)- This is my flagship story. Originally supposed to be an attempt at a third installment of the profoundly beautiful and epic Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, it really expanded into something huge. The story started with a Prologue, a Charmander named Char, a Bulbasaur named Saura (My team from both games), and a desire to try to weave a story that lives up to the legacy of the games. Originally planned to be 40 chapters, it looks like it's going to end up 80 or more. Halfway Done!
Emerald Chronicles: A Frozen Flame (Pokémon)- A spinoff of Silver Resistance, set a few decades in the past. This is the story of Prince the Infernape and his ill-fated Silver Division, and what happened the last time the Call appeared in Ambera. Back in December of 2008, I wanted to try using reader-submitted characters, so I offered a prompt and planned to use them all in a "Bonus Chapter" of the story. Unfortunately, things started getting... really complicated. Eventually, I decided it deserved to be its very own spinoff story.
POKEMON: pOKEMON CHAMPION (Pokémon)- A "badfic". Why does this exist? Because I love dramatic readings of bad fanfictions. I just do. Obviously, inspired by Doom: Repercussions of Evil by Peter Chimaera, and Half-Life: Fulllife Consequences by squirrelking.
One Dragon (Pokémon)- A short story of a wild Charmeleon, written when I was in the mood for some dark writing. Supposed to be a seven-shot, but I didn't get very far. Chapter 2 is halfway written, and might be finished someday. In fact, the true title of the story is "One Man, One Dragon", but the human character doesn't show up until chapter 2.
Autophobic (Pokémon)- A continuation of Acrophobic by EkaSwede, which is on my favorites list. I really like Charmeleon, you see, so I felt the need to save the poor thing from death at the end of the story. So, with his permission, I wrote a part two, and tried to extend the story with a new chapter. What came out was something better than expected which really lived up to the original, and I'm pretty satisfied with the result!
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team Pokémon (Pokémon)- This was conceived and stared purely on a whim after reading a whole lot of stories based on the first Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game. It's... a parody of sorts, and probably won't be all that long.
A Disaster of Legendary Proportions (Pokémon)- This is a story I've been wanting to start for a very long time. It's my strange take on the fad of "rebirth" fics. The summary is as follows: "The gods aren't perfect. Sometimes, they make mistakes. Other times, they make epic, earth-shattering mistakes. And then there are the times they go one step beyond that. My name is Jasper. I was supposed to be a normal Squirtle, helping my team and my master advance through the Pokemon league. Instead, I became the biggest mistake the gods have ever made. This is my story."
Bright and Shining New Day: An Explorers of Sky Story (Pokémon)- On the fifteenth anniversary of Darkrai's defeat, Team Diamond is still going strong, proudly welcoming its fiftieth member in the annual Treasure Town festival. But when Hawthorn the Lucario unpacks a sack of loot from a recent Blizzard Isle mission, he feels a certain dizziness, a flash of light, for the first time since he could remember... Could someone from the farthest reaches of the future be trying to communicate with him? Could it be... Grovyle? And if so... can Hawthorn find a way to communicate back?
Eon Fable (Pokémon)- A reflective piece. A family of Eevee children grow up and part ways. Looking back on their evolution choice, they consider the things they still miss in life. and wonder if they made the right decision. Slated to contain new Eeveelutions. Directly inspired by Eevee Evolutions by Ruellia Zhang.
Rainwater (Title Pending) (Pokémon)- A mysterious team of dimension-hopping Pokémon kidnap a little Shinx from his reality. They tell him nothing about where they're taking him or what their purpose is, only that they have eight more to kidnap at all costs, and that he must help them.
Last Words (Metroid)- A one-shot about a Chozo elder who sees some things differently than his brethren, and is punished for it. This is OLD -- it was written in 2003. The whole thing was inspired by just one line that came to me one day: "Norfair... is a place we don't talk about." The rest of it just kinda came from there, and it tells a rather philosophical story about Samus' upbringing and the effect of the Chozo's traditions on her.
Testament of Light and Darkness (Metroid)- Another Metroid one-shot, this one revolving around the story of Metroid Prime 2 Echoes. It tells the story of A-Kul, the hero of the Luminoth forces in the great and devastating battle against the Ing, and how she managed to acquire the first of the ten sky temple keys years before Samus arrived to Aether. This is also rather old, though not as old as Last Words.
Oren's Blade (The Inheritance Cycle)- My old Inheritance Cycle fanfic, my first ever honest attempt at a long one! Saphira's first son hatches for a boy in the far-off land of Aephea, and the new Rider and his dragon spend a year growing up together before their training begins. Unlike most new rider stories, this one tries to explore emotions and philosophical elements instead of just running off to save the world.
In Hindsight (Title pending) (Animorphs)- What if, in Back to Before, the Animorphs had kept their memories? Is hindsight as powerful a weapon as it seems? With it, will they repel the Yeerk invasion, or will they only manage to destroy themselves?
A Tribute to Cave Story (Cave Story)- One afternoon, a friend of mine noticed that a lot of her friends and I had AIM status heralding the long-anticipated arrival of Cave Story to WiiWare. She asked me what Cave Story was. This is the response she got. Written very spontaneously, but has a nice ring to it.
Fan Art: The Last Ember by Kyrio
Fan Art: Asking Too Much by Gorsecloud
Fan Art: The Predator Who Protects by Night-Owl8
Fan Art (Commissioned): Resistance Team Ember by Delthero
Fan Fiction: It's The Fear by Ro9ge
General Writing Tips
Here is a summary of many of the idiosyncrasies of writing I have learned during my time on this site.
It might be very different than what other people will tell you, but in my heart I believe that everything I say here is true.
1. The most important part of writing is not what you put into the story; it's what the audience reads in the story that you did not put there. When it comes down to it, you're not actually the one bringing the thoughts, feelings, concepts, and interpretations to the table. Your audience is. Despite your best intentions, the story which your writing evokes in a reader's head is going to be vastly different than the one which you may have tried to express, as the reader's mind fills in all the blanks between the lines, supplies their assumptions, paints all the pictures, and makes their own interpretations about what your story means in the context of their life. In a way, you're not telling your story so much as you're helping them to tell theirs. So never forget to thank your readers for their dedication -- they are indeed the real reason for your story's popularity!
Whenever you're feeling writer's block because you think your writing sucks, remember this rule. Remember that you're not actually the one doing the work! But the readers need at least something to go on if they want to finish the story in their heads, so don't leave them hanging! Get writing!
2. Learn to understand the nature of criticism, or it will hurt you and keep you from continuing. This is a hard one. You know that T-shirt that says "I can only please one person per day, today is not your day, tomorrow isn't looking good either"? Well, it has a grain of truth to it. If there's one thing the human brain does well, it's latching onto an idea very tightly, and viewing everything else in terms of that idea. Heck, that's what inspiration comes from in general. But when you get a criticism, you might be very tempted to become obsessed with that one person's opinion, and that one person's opinion alone. Suddenly, all the raving reviews from everyone else, all the positive feedback and the devoted fans you might have, all the pride in your work... it will all suddenly not matter to you, as you become bent on pleasing just this one person who cut you. And the sad part is, that one person might not even care. That person might not be part of your target audience at all, having come into the experience expecting something else entirely, and complaining that it's not what they expected. That one person might be jealous and not even want you to succeed at all, or enjoy watching you flail and fail. Yet, the temptation to put on blinders and focus only on their opinion is overwhelmingly high.
It is important to understand that this is a completely irrational and wrong reaction; if you let this take hold of you, it will destroy you. Instead, remember never to focus solely on the words of the criticizers; always weigh them in balance with the positive feedback. Learn to judge the criticisms on their merits. Let them take you into the minds of your readers and feel their emotions. Some have a grain of truth to them, others are filled to the brim with truth. But it's important to see the criticisms for what they are, and not to let them mar your vision of your own work and make you forget all the things you're doing right. And in the end, realize that you have every right to disagree with the criticism if it is in direct contradiction with what you're trying to do, and to just completely ignore it if you feel it has no merit.
Some people want to help you. Some people want to hurt you. Some people only want to help themselves. Don't just respond with emotions; learn how to tell the difference and react accordingly.
3. "Mary Sues" are not bad, they are just aimed at a younger audience. Most readers frown upon characters without flaws whom the whole universe seems to revolve around -- but there was a time when their own heart pined for such simple, child-like, consequence-free fantasy, too. Everyone needs this at some point or another; it leaves a deep impression on the heart that lasts for a lifetime. Unfortunately, when you grow up, you tend to look back with disgust at the childish ideas of others, and you feel the deep urge to help the children along their path in life by making them see the brutality, pain, unfairness, and tragedy of reality -- encouraging them to "grow up". That is the core reason why Mary Sues are rejected by the heart; they represent the kind of whimsical, restrained naivety of a child who doesn't know anything about the world and refuses to take the step into maturity. But this is the reason Mary Sues are sometimes strongly accepted by some readers, even though they are resented by most others; they actually do speak to the hearts of those who are hindered in maturity, or are truly just young. But remember that you can't force someone to grow up. That's something that they have to do on their own.
And while you might look down upon the poorly-written Mary Sue characters you find, remember that many of your favorite fictional characters probably would fail a Mary Sue litmus test, too! Everyone still has a bit of childishness left in their hearts, and that is how it should be. Avoiding Mary Sues in your own writing is as simple as understanding the feelings and expectations of your target audience.
4. Fan fiction is not shameful, as long as you understand its place. There are many who frown upon the entire craft of fan fiction. They will say that fan fiction is a crutch for true, original ideas and writing. And while this is true to an extent (albeit a very small one) in that works of fan fiction are generally not something you can put on your résumé, fan fiction has a very real use and purpose to an aspiring writer. Fan fiction is a completely different beast than other forms of writing, complete with its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. But once you realize what these advantages and disadvantages are, you might soon find fan fiction to be an invaluable tool in your journey as an aspiring writer, and that it is nothing at all to be ashamed of.
When I say the word "Bulbasaur," you might immediately know what I'm talking about. You can conjure a Bulbasaur in your mind's eye; you can hear its voice. And most importantly, you might feel a flurry of endearing emotions flood into your heart. Nostalgic memories might flood back to you from your childhood from when you fought through Kanto with your trusty Bulbasaur in Pokémon Red, memories of battling and trading with friends, or of watching the TV show. So if I introduce a character named Saura the Bulbasaur into a story, all those emotions are automatically going to be attached to him. You're going to be viewing, imagining, and feeling Saura in a stencil of your childhood. So Saura may seem to be a cool character, but in reality, 95% of the work has already been done for me. It was a shortcut, allowing me a basis to work with a wide range of pre-existing emotions that are already strong in the hearts of those readers looking for Pokémon fan fiction. And as a writer, I can play with all those emotions in interesting new ways.
Now pretend I introduce an original character named Jark the Norgwat. What's a Norgwat? How are you supposed to feel towards them? What do they sound like? How do they act? Well, that's all very hard to say, because they don't exist. So you have no prior emotions attached to them. Unlike with a Pokémon, now I'm starting totally from scratch, and if I want to attach feelings to them, well, that's going to take a few dozen pages. Maybe a few dozen books. With an original work, the emotional basis just isn't there, and I have to create it all by myself! And not only that, but it's going to be hard to find an audience looking specifically for a story about Norgwats, so it'll be hard to get immediate feedback on my writing techniques... whereas there are always thousands of readers looking for stories about Bulbasaur.
Fan fiction's primary strength is that it allows you unprecedented access to a large, unbiased audience who are already emotionally attached to the subject matter, eager and willing to read your work! It's an opportunity you can't quite get anywhere else; it's generally hard to get such a pure, clean sampling of like-minded individuals representing your target audience. Even communities which claim to welcome and critique original works can't boast the numbers and the open-mindedness of a large, pre-existing fandom. It is true that if you wish to be a famous, world-renowned writer, you're going to have to branch out eventually. But fan fiction an excellent starting place, and I'd dare say that it might be the best.
Finally, I will leave you with this thought: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is a fan work. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is a fan-interpretation by Chunsoft of Game Freak's original universe. It can really change your conceptions about fan works when you consider that many books, movies, and video games are already works by fans who were hired or otherwise allowed to contribute to a series they are passionate about. So yeah. In some cases, it's not just a starting point, but a finishing point, too. And sometimes you can put it on your résumé after all.
5. "I suck at summaries" is the worst possible thing you can put into your summary. Writing, in a nutshell, is the art of summarizing your own ideas. If you suck at summaries, you suck at writing. But let's be honest, you actually don't suck at summaries, do you? I think you're just giving up too easily! After all, you did post at least one chapter of a story. So buckle down and at least provide your readers with the story's concept or the story's starting point. Come on, you can do it!
6. Writer's block happens because you have nothing to say. Stories on sites like these usually go on infinite hiatus shortly before or after entering the second act. Why? Well, it's simple really: During the first act, you're brimming with ideas because you're establishing everything in the story for the first time. And for the third act, although you're not there yet, you're brimming with ideas because you already have it planned out in intricate detail how the story's going to end. But... what happens between then and now? That's anyone's guess, including yours. If you forget to fill in the middle of your mental story outline with nothing but vague ideas, because "I'll just think of it when I get there", you might be in for a bad surprise! Dead space in your timeline is dead space in your creativity. Just like that moment of awkward silence in a conversation when there's nothing to say, you're going to find yourself stuck because you can't continue your story without thoughts or ideas to express! My advice is: plan for this, learn to see it coming miles in advance. And before it comes, ask yourself what kind of statements you want to express with those undefined chapters, or whether you can afford to just leave them out, and remap the timeline so that they don't have to happen.
7. Writer's block also happens when you think you have something to say, but it turns out you don't. Has this ever happened to you?: You're sitting in math class, trying to wrap your head around the idea the teacher is trying to teach you. Suddenly, it CLICKS. You get it. You're so happy, because now everything you've learned in class finally makes sense! And it continues to make sense, until three weeks later when the test is handed out. You stare at it for a few minutes, then realize in horror that you only know how to do the first few problems... the rest are too complicated and confusing for you to grasp at. This happened because you mentally oversimplified the idea. While you may have actually understood the concepts at one point, you never explored your understanding of those concepts enough for them to stick. So you kept remembering that moment when it clicked, thinking that you understand everything perfectly, never realizing that you actually forgot everything just moments after first grasping at an understanding.
The exact same thing happens in writing. You may have an awesome idea for a scene, but when you finally get there... you draw a blank. Nothing. This is due to a wonderful little mechanism in the brain called distillation of thought, or, as most people would call it, forgetting. And I say it's wonderful because it actually is. Your ability to forget things is a strong determining factor to your intelligence; it allows you to disregard distracting, superfluous thoughts, and retain only the most relevant thoughts. It also lets you cull down useless droves of stored knowledge by learning to see them in terms of patterns. The only downside is, your brain is constantly doing this, without you knowing. So you can go through life feeling like you remember some knowledge, until you actually try to remember it and realize that you don't remember as much as you thought. So that awesome finale battle scene that you went over in your head a million times? It's not safe.
Here's my advice: you can't prevent this from happening, but you can help to soften the blow. Write down your ideas as they come. I cannot possibly stress this enough. Write down plot outlines, ideas, loose details you want to include, while the ideas are fresh in your head. Because those ideas don't stay fresh for long, even if they feel like they do. So do your future self a favor and leave them notes!
8. Don't think big. Think small, and big will happen all on its own. The worst cause of writer's block? It's simple, really, especially in fan fiction: it's mostly just caused when the writing doesn't feel rewarding anymore. Maybe you're not getting enough readership, and the end of the story just starts to seem too far away that it's just not worth it making the journey anymore. And it's all because you bit off more than you can chew. Many of the dead projects on sites like these are due to writers who convince themselves they will write a 100-chapter epic that will visit every corner of the world and make profound, over-reaching statements that will change the fandom forever. Then they are surprised to find themselves burned out 20 chapters in and don't see the point in continuing.
Really, the secret to finishing projects is to choose a small, well-defined idea. Choose an idea where you can see the end in sight at the very start of the project. If you do this, I promise you that the idea is going to grow and blossom beyond the confines of your expectations, as it continues to inspire you with fascinating ideas and unexpected themes along the way. The same thing happens to large stories: plan a 100-chapter story, and it will probably come out as a 300-chapter story -- if you can stick with it that long. Instead, why not plan a 10-chapter story and watch it come out in 25 chapters?
9. Details don't mean anything without context; don't expect readers to care about your lavish details until you first give them something to care about. There's a tiny difference between "depth" and "fluff". That difference is a hook. If you've hooked your reader, they'll enjoy your droves of details because those details will be helping them to explore something they care about. But don't make the mistake of thinking that the details are the hook. If you first put forth the colorful descriptions of the setting, the character development, the world-building, and so on, readers aren't going to find a hook in that. They'll find it pretentious, and leave. This doesn't mean detailed descriptions are bad; even "purple prose" can be touching sometimes. But it's mainly all about order of operations. You have to make your hook first.
So, what is a hook? Simple: an unanswered question, or an idea that poses many unanswered questions. It's something that begs to be thought about, considered, or answered.
For an example, I could create a hook by telling you, "On the way home from work yesterday, I met a homeless boy on the street corner."
How old was the boy? Was he hurt? Did he look poor or beaten up? What was he wearing? Did he say anything? What did you do? Did you talk to him? Did you give him money? All these questions would be going through your mind if I just stopped there. And it means, as a storyteller, I've hooked you. I've made you latch on to my ideas. Now I can start expanding upon the story, because I know you're paying attention. Otherwise, you'd just be sitting there with your eyes glazing over the words, thinking "How long is this? I want to play Minecraft."
10. Guide your reader. Don't leave them to figure things out on their own. Have you ever been reading a novel, and realized you were confusing two of the characters for each other? Have you ever been able to recognize a character's name, but forgot who exactly they were? Have you ever read something that doesn't make sense, making you realize you must have missed something or misunderstood something? Have you ever skimmed a paragraph you didn't want to read, and hoped that if you missed something important, it would be explained again later? Or have you ever read a novel that was so detailed, complex, and heavy, that you couldn't follow it closely, but still tried to follow along because you could just barely understand what's happening? If so, then you are in the majority of readers. If you're a writer, don't presume that every reader is following along perfectly with every little detail you place in the story, and memorizing everything. Here on sites like these, readers are diverse. You have readers of all ages, genders, reading levels, cultures, and even languages! You have readers that are hanging on every word you say, and readers that are zoning out sometimes, missing things. Put yourself in their shoes, and write with them in mind. Don't leave them behind.
Near the beginning of the story, help your readers learn who the main characters are. Give your characters names that vaguely hint at the personality of the character, and are more than just one-syllable names. Describe the characters in some small way whenever they speak or appear.
If you imply something which you want the reader to pick up on, explicitly state it. Have a character talk about it or reflect upon it, or at the very least, give them hints to lead them in the right direction. Don't leave the reader to figure it out on their own. That is, unless you want it to be a surprise; then you can keep it secret. But if there's something you need the reader to notice right now in order to appreciate the ongoing story, just explain it outright.
If you want to surprise the reader, explain why the twist is surprising. Just a little throwback after the reveal will do the trick.
11. Spelling and grammar are like clothing: they are the bare minimum requirements for being taken seriously in public. Mistakes happen, and readers will forgive you when you make spelling errors here and there, or forget to fix a sentence after copying and pasting it around. But if you downright disregard the importance of spelling and grammar, if you feel that ignorance is bliss and that you don't need to conform to it or learn it, then either don't publish your work, or swallow your pride and find a beta reader who can take care of it for you. This is not elitism; this is necessity. If you want to be taken seriously, you must learn to present yourself to be taken seriously.
12. Hyperbole is the single most horrible thing to ever happen to mankind and you should destroy all traces of it from your writing. Well, not really. But at least understand what "hyperbole" is: it's artistic exaggeration. Hyperbole is when you make purposeful overstatements in your writing, such as "He stubbed his toe, and horrible, breathtaking pain shot through his foot", or "When she heard the truth, she felt like the entire weight of the world was crashing down upon her shoulders". It's okay to use this technique for effect, but many writers make the mistake of using it all the time. When you turn every single emotion in your story up to eleven, make every single feeling as intense as you can, you numb your readers down, and they'll stop taking your overstatements seriously. What you really want to do is create a wide range of emotions, so that when you actually do need to hit those emotional heights, the readers don't roll their eyes because you already told them that everything else was just as intense. So instead of saying that a character's feeling is the strongest, most powerful thing they've ever felt in their life, why not tone it down and describe exactly how that emotion feels, without going overboard? That's far more interesting and believable.
13. Hold EVERYTHING you type to the same standards as your writing, even when nobody else does. Be one of those strange people who insists on using nearly perfect spelling, grammar, capitalization and punctuation in everything you type, be it fan fiction, forum posts, private messages, instant messages, e-mails, or -- get this -- text messages. Yeah, the things you type on phones. txt-spk is for wimps. Instead of "r u gon b l8?", dare to be different, and type "Are you going to be late?" Acronyms? LOL. Don't use them. Instead, say "Wow, that's hilarious." Chat logs in your MMORPG? Yeah, there too. When's the last time you've seen someone type out "Great game!" or "Be right back, getting a bite to eat!" Bottom line: the moment your fingers hit the keyboard, you get into your writer's groove.
There's a very good reason behind this, and it's not because you're trying to be a pretentious hipster and overachiever, even though people will accuse you and mock you of this at every turn. (Some of them will honestly be impressed, too, even though they won't admit it). The real reason you need to do this is because your brain uses the same center for ALL writing, whether in your story or in other areas of your digital life. If you practice being long-winded whenever you type, you're going to find it much easier to let your ideas flow into one another, and into your story. You're going to find your voice, your narrator's character, and hone it. You'll learn to spell many words by heart, and proper sentence syntax will become second nature. Many people don't realize just how much they're hurting their writing, and making it hard on themselves, by slipping into an "informal" writing mentality whenever they're not typing something into their word processor. It's like practicing table-manners when you're eating alone at home; don't do it, and you'll find yourself accidentally being a slob constantly when you eat at restaurants, even when you know how manners work!
If you don't believe me, you'll just have to trust me on this one. You'll thank me later.
14. Never be afraid to let yourself be influenced by other artists. What is the difference between plagiarism and inspiration? It's very simple: Plagiarism is stealing, inspiration is imitating. There is a big difference here. Plagiarism is like stealing someone's car and taking it for yourself; inspiration is like taking their car, disassembling it, learning how it functions, taking notes, putting it back together again, and building your own version of the car that is probably very different than what you based it on. Basically, when you read a work by another author, take notes of all the little mechanics, the techniques they use, the tricks they employ to make the pacing and the themes work, the word choices and phrases they use at certain parts... analyze the writer's style, choose your favorite aspects of it, and try to emulate them in your own writing. If there's a situation in your own writing that's tripping you up, read someone else's work and observe how they did it, and let them help you.
And if you spot something another author did wrong? A badly-executed idea? A fascinating plot thread they just seemed to drop? An interesting question with a half-baked answer? An awesome story with an ending you just hate? Dare yourself to do it better than they did.
There is nothing shameful about this. In fact, it's how every single artist on the face of the earth functions. People love to say "there is nothing new under the sun", yet they don't fully comprehend the implications of the claim: new ideas are very possible, but understand that they will all be creative combinations and transformations of already-existing ideas. So go on! Let yourself be influenced by things you love, including other artists. You'll be on your way to finding your own voice.
15. Write the villain the same way you write the hero. One of the biggest recurring mistakes I've seen in all writing, even in published novels, moves, and TV shows, is to make the villain a simple bully. Don't make the bad guy do bad things for no reason other than to make the audience hate them! You're missing out on all the potential, the powerful implications and tough questions your villain character could be raising! Instead, follow this guideline: Villains and heroes are the same kinds of characters: they both have hopes, dreams, emotions, opinions, and morals. They are both trying to accomplish something they believe is for the best. The only difference is that, in striving for his or her goals, the villain hurts others.
The best kind of villain is the one that makes the reader think, "Hey, wait... maybe they have a point. Maybe the villain is the one with the right idea, and the hero just doesn't understand it!", or "The villain couldn't control what he did. He was just a regular guy who got in over his head, and now he has to be defeated for the greater good. That's so sad. Why did it have to be this way?", or even "The villain is doing some pretty dirty things, but actually, the hero is doing some of those same things, and trying to justify it. Maybe they're not so different?"
Sometimes, the villain isn't evil at all; they're just a character who has a disagreement with the hero, perhaps over something trivial. Perhaps the hero and his childhood best friend have different favorite baseball teams, and grow up to become managers of those teams, and eventually face off against one another in the World Series. In this case, is either character actually evil? Of course not. The hero is merely the story's point-of-view character, and the villain is his rival. They might despise one another, but only because their life decisions and circumstances have forced them to. This makes the conflict between characters sympathetic and tragic. And guess what? This is realistic: everyone in real life thinks they're doing what's best for themselves at the time. This causes disagreements and conflicts to happen, sometimes leading to violence and evil, and it is tragic. Evil in real life is tragic, always. Try to capture that in your story.
16. Always strive to use words which are specific and concise. "Specific" means that your words evoke exactly the meaning you wanted them to evoke, and can't be interpreted in other ways. "Concise" means you achieved this effect using as little words as possible without sacrificing anything else. Learning to be specific and concise is a lifelong journey which can only be furthered by reading the works of others, learning new words, learning how to use those new words in context, learning phrases and figures of speech you might not have known existed, and lots of exposure and practice.
Bottom line: if you feel an emotion in your heart which you want to convey in your writing, don't settle for generic descriptions, clumsy composition of your imagery, and words that kinda mean what you want but kinda don't because you just don't know a better word for what you mean. There are always words for what you mean. There is always a way to say what you mean. It's not unusual for a writer to be composing a scene, and then to stop at a seemingly-trivial sentence and spend an hour mentally stressing over how exactly that sentence should be worded. That's normal. After all, the key to art is in the presentation. Always try to hit the nail on the head, and perfectly capture that emotion you have with words.
Also, if you feel that your vocabulary fails you sometimes, don't be ashamed to use a thesaurus. You might be reminded of those perfect words you already knew, but didn't think of at the time. Or you might learn some new words, which is always awesome.
17. Dialogue is a get-out-of-grammar-free card. Even the most hardened grammar nitpickers know not to critique you when your characters are talking -- and if they don't, tell them, because they've got it coming to them. Characters are allowed to ignore the rules of grammar. They can (and should) speak in incomplete sentences, speak in run-on sentences, use wrong word choices, dangle their participles, end sentences with prepositions, use made-up words, use double-negatives, and break just about any rule of grammar they want. This is an important step in giving each of your characters a unique voice that the reader will identify them by. In real life, everyone has a different grasp on the spoken language due to their age, their reading comprehension, their level of social skills, and so on; characters should be no different. When a character speaks, consider their personal language skills and their mood, and try to imagine just how they would express what they want to say, imperfections and all.
Note that this is not an excuse to write badly and get out of being criticized; you probably still have to follow the correct rules of sentence punctuation and capitalization, because those things can't be spoken by the characters and only exist in the manuscript you are writing. You may of course misspell words in your character's dialogue, but only if you are trying to imply the character is mispronouncing the words; using the wrong homophone (such as "your" instead of "you're") is still bad.
Oh, and by the way: if you are able to set up your story's narrator as a character, then even your narrator is free from the constraints of grammar! Just remember to be consistent with your stylistic choices. Also, under certain circumstances, you might even be able to break the rules of syntax, formatting, and other deeply-rooted language principles, just as long as there is a point to doing so. Remember the basic rule of artistic license: you must first be artistic if you want to use the license.
18. Save everything you write. So you're a few thousand words into your latest chapter, and you suddenly realize that you just don't like the way the chapter has started. You feel like it's gotten off on the wrong foot, that you're hitting the wrong notes, talking about the wrong topics, or overdoing the emotions. Well, no problem. We all make mistakes. Time to delete everything and start over, right? Wrong. Before you start over, save that deleted scene into a separate file, and archive it, no matter how bad you think it is. You never know when you might need to recover something from that scene, even something small; there might be a particularly clever sentence or description you created that can be used in the future, or there might be a cool theme that just wasn't ready to be presented yet. And even if you can't recover anything from it, it's still important to be able to go back and examine the train of thought you used, the artistic process you went through to get to the finished product. It's inspirational, helps you remember things you might forget, and your fans might love to see deleted scenes, too.
If you're a Microsoft Office user, I recommend checking out OneNote if you aren't familiar with it. I find it a particularly useful piece of software to save archives of deleted scenes, as well as character sheets, plot outlines, and other collections of data an author would find useful to collect.
19. Don't kill your story by promising not to let it die. This epidemic is so bad, it has practically become a meme. Say you're writing a story, and you don't update in a long time. Maybe life got in the way, or maybe you lost interest, or maybe you couldn't figure out what to do next. For whatever reason, the story goes on the back-burner for a while. That's fine. Months later, you might one day suddenly remember the poor fans you left hanging, and wish to leave them a note saying that you're not dead and the story will live on. Don't do this. This is the death knell for your story, and it's not just Murphy's Law. There's a very solid psychological reason why. See, when you've gone a long time without updating a story you wish to continue, you probably won't feel inspired to write it anymore -- instead, you'll begin to feel a sense of shame, and a sense of responsibility to pick it back up again. Like it's a burden sitting on your shoulders, sitting in the back of your mind forever. Like it's something that's not really fun, but you know you should probably do. At this point, that sense of burden and obligation is the only thing keeping the story alive, and is the story's only hope to continue. This, by itself, is not a bad thing; learning to write when you're not inspired is a very important skill for a writer to learn, since emotions are unreliable and are fading in and out all the time. It's also one of the hardest skills to learn. But if you write that author's note in an effort to convince yourself that you're not giving up on your work (and let's be honest here, you really are only doing it to convince yourself), you'll suddenly feel relieved from that burden, freed from that shame -- and it's never going to come back. Congratulations, you've just cut off your last remaining thread of motivation to continue the story!
If you really have to write that author's note explaining your absence, try one of the following things:
Just be honest to yourself and your fans, and announce that the story is dead. Even if you do, there's no reason you can't resurrect it again later if you wanted. I'm sure people would be pleasantly surprised.
Write your author's note, but in it, don't make any promises. Just explain your situation without making promises or estimates about the next update. In fact, admit that there's a great chance the story might not continue, but you haven't decided yet. This is also a very honest option.
Don't post your author's note until you have an update ready, and post them both at the same time, with the author's note first and the update after it. This will prevent the "death knell" effect from happening, because the sense of relief you feel will become positive conditioning associated with finishing and posting an update. That, and it's much easier to continue a story from where it left off when the bookend is not a long out-of-character ramble.
20. Don't reboot your fan fiction. A "reboot" happens when you get to a certain point in a story and realize that it's not working, but you've written too much of it to just throw it away and let it die. So, you cancel the story and start it over from the beginning, planning to use the same overall plot and the same characters, but rewriting and retooling every single scene to fix errors and match the new vision you have for it, and maybe changing a bunch of plot points you had come to regret. This is an awesome, awesome idea... if you're writing something that you are planning to submit for publication, such as to make money. Awful idea for a fan fiction.
Seriously, if you're working on that original novel you've been tinkering with for years... yeah. Do it. Overhaul the thing (just don't forget tip #18!). This is where a story really becomes polished and starts to shine, and becomes a true representation of your talent and skill. But a fan fiction is a completely different beast! Since you're mainly writing it to get immediate feedback from the community, going through the same story a second time just isn't going to be the same for you or your fanbase. You'll lose inspiration much more quickly, and you'll lose fans, and eventually you're going to start questioning why you're putting so much effort into gold-plating something that's never going to pay you back in real money. Besides, if you've really improved so much over the course of the story that there's such a noticeable difference between the beginning and the latest update, then the fan fiction has done its job, and it probably won't be able to do its job a second time.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with going back through your story to make minor changes, like fixing typos or rewording clunky paragraphs you don't like. But never go into it with an intent to overhaul the story; trust me, there's just no point, and it won't work. When it comes to fan fiction, leave your mistakes in the past, let them go, and just focus on making the rest of the story as great as you can!
21. Your story is open to your own interpretation; sometimes, the best plot twists surprise even the author. Have you ever found yourself making outlandish "wild mass guessing" predictions or crazy conspiracy theories about your favorite story, wondering just how it's going to end? Ever find yourself endlessly pondering who's going to live, who's going to die, who's going to fall in love, who's actually secretly related to who else, who is actually good and who is actually evil? Ever wonder if the story is all just a dream, if the characters were dead all along, or if saving the world will actually doom it? If you've ever been a fan of any long-running series, you probably know what it's like to anticipate and guess at all the wild twists the story has in store. It's a very good skill to learn, especially if you're a writer, because you can use that same skill when writing your own story.
Sometimes, the secret to forming good plots (and, by extension, good plot twists) lies in leaving your options open. Regardless of what you have outlined or planned, remember that things don't exist until you say they exist and things don't happen until you publish a chapter that says they happen. Explain ideas in pieces, leaving parts of the idea flexible so that you can tweak and refine the idea as you go without having to re-write previous chapters of your story when you suddenly have a new brilliant idea. Leave possible branching paths for your story to take, and don't make up your mind for certain until you get there.
In leaving your story open to your own interpretation, you can become a fan of your own series, and your crazy conspiracy theories become actual options as to how you can progress your story! This helps your story thematically, too, because your continued reasoning for the path you will ultimately choose will exist in the subtext of your writing, making for excellent foreshadowing. It also helps you form a special connection with your reader, as your reader's ongoing perception of the story comes to resemble the same perception you had when you were writing. It's also a great way to pull off a great twist; inflexible plots can easily become predictable, because the themes and subtext will all blatantly point to the inevitable conclusion, whereas it's a lot harder to predict something if even the author isn't one hundred percent sure where the story is headed!
This technique works especially well in fan fiction, where stories are slow-paced and spread out over the course of updates, leaving a very long time for you to reflect upon what you've written and plan for the future of the story. If you're writing a manuscript that won't be published or presented until it's totally done, it's a bit harder because of the temptation to just keep writing until you hit writer's block, rather than taking a breather at the conclusion of each chapter and thinking about where the story is headed -- manuscript writers often find themselves going to back to insert their awesome ideas into previous chapters or overhauling the entire story because they thought of a better direction they could take things. That works too, but it just takes much more time and effort!
At the end of the day, it's called "the creative process" for a reason; it happens procedurally, with a beginning, middle, and an end. If you can learn to make some things up as you go along, you can use that to your advantage.
22. If you want to imbue your writing with power and move your reader's heart, learn what "themes" are, and how to control them. You might have heard the word "theme" before, perhaps from a literature or language class, or perhaps in the context of "theme song" or "desktop theme" or something like that. But, do you really know what they are, what role they play in your writing, and how important they are? Many aspiring writers don't know, and even many accomplished writers only have a loose grasp on how to handle theming, perhaps because they are able to work with themes by instinct without really understanding what they are accomplishing. Well, I'll try to give a little crash course on the basics of theming, just because it's so important to every aspect of the craft of writing.
A "theme" is something like an abstract concept, like "love" or "death" or "friendship" or "suffering," which appears in your story over and over again in different ways.
Themes are what a story is about underneath the surface. On the surface, a story is about characters, places, things, and events, but if you go beneath the surface, it's all about themes, and is held together by them. Your story is about characters finding love, characters suffering death of loved ones, characters exploring the nature of friendship, and so on. You might say that a theme is the meaning or significance behind a story; when someone asks you, "what's the point of this story?" the answer should be one or more of the themes your story covers. Themes are the core of any emotional work; themes are what make a work emotional. They are what give a story gravity; they are what make a story joyful or depressing or exciting or epic. The art and skill of controlling the thematic elements of a story is often called "directing" the story.
Themes are also important because they form the bulk of your writing, allowing you to transition between plot events by discussing them or illustrating them. For instance, say you're writing a story about a man whose brother is slain by an evil villain, and so he goes on a rampage of revenge to slay that villain so he can be at peace. Well, it's a very basic plot, right? So... how do you get from the beginning of the story to the end?
If you look under the surface of the specifics, you can find that this story contains a handful of different themes. Friendship, loneliness, revenge, hypocrisy... many different themes could rise in this story. You can decide which themes you like best, which ones fit the character the best. Then, you can explore them.
Friendship? Have a flashback, or several, that shows just how close these brothers were.
Loneliness? Show just how empty this murder has left our main character. Have him discuss this emptiness with other characters, think about it constantly, or perform rituals and traditions he once did with his brother. Have him pray to his brother, or constantly mention things he'd do with his brother if he were still alive. Have him find other characters who live happily with their families, and show how he reacts to that.
Revenge? Show, every chance you get, just how much he hates the villain. Write entire scenes about how he schemes to get closer to this villain just for the chance to run steel through his chest.
Hypocrisy? Ask the reader some tough questions. Is what this guy is doing right or wrong? In one scene, imply that he's justified, but in another, imply that he might be just as big as a murderer as the villain is, perpetuating the cycle of violence. Frequently flip between these two viewpoints, leaving the reader to weigh the facts and make their own decisions about whether he's justified.
And whoa! Just with four themes, already you have dozens of ideas for scenes that you can write to pass the time between actual plot events. Your story concept now has meat on its bones!
Some stories have dozens of themes that work together. Some stories have themes that exist only for one chapter, or one arc, and are resolved quickly. Some themes appear out of nowhere, and you won't see them until you write a bunch of chapters and realize what you've written. If you can learn to manipulate the themes of your story and follow where they lead, you'll soon be in control of emotional, coherent stories that ebb and flow with the ideas you present -- stories that are so much more than just "X happened, then Y happened."
23. Learn to feel the rhythm of the words. Words are musical; they rhyme, they have rhythm in stressed and unstressed syllables, they have patterns of consonant and vowel sounds, and they have many other different varieties of tone and form. It can be an especially tricky task for a writer to find just the right way to express their ideas; finding a string of meaningful words is just not enough! The words must also be pleasant to the ear.
The musical quality of words can be used to your advantage to imbue your prose with extra layers of power, meaning, or clarity. Like a song, it can guide the reader through emotions, highlight ideas, and draw parallels or prevent confusion between different thoughts presented in the story. This skill, however, is not a skill one can simply be taught. It must be picked up from experience and learned by instinct. Here are some tips which might help you to appreciate and explore the musicality of the language in which you compose your stories:
Don't speed-read all the time. Speed-reading is awesome if you're short on time, but if you're in no hurry, try to sit back and enjoy the way the words build and tell the story. In fact, imagine a voice in your mind pronouncing every word you read. Imagine that this voice belongs to a storyteller who tells the story around a campfire or on a stage before a grand audience. Imagine the tones and inflections in his or her voice. If you're up to it, try reading some passages of the story out loud, just for practice, enunciating the words as dramatically as you can manage.
Read and write poetry. The whole purpose of poetry as opposed to prose is to highlight all these interesting little devices used to make language sound musical: meter, rhyme scheme, syllable counts, and so on. These devices also occur naturally in standard prose, but in poetry, they are in the spotlight. Look up some classic poems and study them, and try to emulate their style or format with your own poems. But above all else, just enjoy them! Poetry is awesome. If you find some poetry you really like, you'll start to understand just what words are capable of when arranged properly.
Learn to appreciate music -- even music with no lyrics. It is a little-known fact that music is interpreted by the mind as a separate language! Therefore, every time you stimulate your appreciation of music, you also improve your grasp of the written and spoken word. Find some music you like and listen to it many times until you memorize it, then try to hum the melody or recite the lyrics from memory (the WHOLE song, not just the catchiest part). If you play an instrument, learn to play more songs. Explore genres of music you are not familiar with, or even those you do not normally enjoy, and try to find even the slightest redeeming qualities in them, or the rare exceptions which you actually like. Ask yourself if the lyrics of the songs you listen to match with the message of the music they are set to -- many times they do not -- and try to write your own original lyrics to the melody.
24. If something's obviously necessary for the story to advance, don't play it up for suspense. "Suspense" means that readers desperately want to know what happens next in your story. The most basic way to provide suspense is to give your main character a strong immediate need -- such as the need for survival -- but give no indication of how that need could be fulfilled. For instance, trap your hero in a room with no exits as a ceiling slowly descends upon them. In this case, the readers will be thinking one of two things: either "Does he survive?" or "I know he survives, because he's the main character, but how does it happen?" -- in doing so, they will be hooked. Another common way to provide suspense is to give your character a choice between two things, where it seems as though they need both choices, but can only have one. For instance, make your character choose between saving the life of his wife or his daughter.
There is a special kind of suspense, however, that you don't want to use in your story. For instance, pretend you're writing a science fiction story where, in chapter one, the main character is trying to get admitted to the galactic military and become a space marine. Pretend he's sitting at home, waiting for the letter to arrive in the mail to see if he's been admitted or rejected. Here, you have two options: either he does get admitted, which is the obvious and expected result since him becoming a space marine is a vital part of the story's premise, or he doesn't get admitted, which means he must lead a boring life on his home planet, and there's no story. The readers want and expect him to become a space marine, and are likely just screaming at you to get on with it, so if you choose to play this up for suspense, you are stuck with a choice of giving the reader a story they would not want to read, or giving them something predictable. It's a lose-lose scenario for you.
If you must write a scenario like this into your story, and you absolutely cannot pick an unexpected third option, then do not play it up for suspense. Instead, merely document process. Describe the events, characters, and emotions leading up to the event, but don't try to project uncertainty onto the readers; they know what's going to happen already, and they don't want or need to be disproved. Just try to get on with the story, and get to the parts where the suspense doesn't need to be contrived.
25. Reviewing tips. The "Golden Rule" is to treat others the way you wish to be treated yourself. This holds true in fan fiction communities, too: if you wish to have popularity and attention, try giving your attention to other people. Heck, this is the way my biggest story got popular: for the first arc of the story, I promised people that I would review their story if they reviewed mine. After a while, it spiraled out of control as my story became more popular than I had expected, so I had to take down the promise, but it was instrumental in getting my story noticed in the beginning.
Obviously, sharing attention means that you will have to comment on the writings of others. Here are some tips on how to do this more effectively, especially on a fan fiction site such as this one.
Don't be pushy for attention. When reviewing, don't explicitly ask people to read your story. Don't push or nudge them in the direction of reading your story. Don't even mention your story unless you know that the author is already reading your story. Please be considerate; your review is about their story, not yours. If your reviews are impressive enough, the author will look at your profile and look at your stories all on their own, without you having to push them.
Write long reviews. I cannot possibly stress this enough. Serious writers love getting huge reviews. They are the greatest crowning reward a fan fiction author strives for. If you want to make another writer really happy, if you want to give them a huge burst of joy and inspiration, write them an essay-long review that threatens to hit the word limit. Go on, do it! Forget the "good story update please" junk. Those don't tell the writer anything; they don't explain what you liked about it, or what you are expecting, or what your state of mind is as a reader: something that is very important for the author to know. Besides, you're a writer! Writers are long-winded; that's what makes them writers. You can do better than that.
Discuss your impressions of the story. As stated above, try to give the writer an impression of where your mindset lies as a reader of the story; talk about which characters you like, which characters you want to punch in the face, what you think is going to happen, what you hope will happen, what you fear will happen. Try to notice metafictional devices such as foreshadowing, parallelism, theming, and point them out. Give the writer new ideas and frame them as your own humble speculations. In all, refer to tip #1: The real story lies in the reader's heads, not on the author's manuscript. Therefore, try to fill in the author about what story you are reading, so he or she can compare it to what story they are trying to write.
Downplay your criticisms. This one is hard, and it may seem unfair to you, but remember that fan fiction has a drastically different purpose than professional writing. It is for practice and experience in hammering out thousands of words and exploring our own abilities in a sandbox environment. Remember that you are not the author's literary agent or beta-reader, unless they ask you for your services, so don't act like one. What a fan fiction writer needs most of all is encouragement; if you spend most of your time talking about what they did right, rather than what needs fixing, they will be conditioned positively to explore ways to improve upon their strengths, possibly to the point where their shortcomings become forgivable, or they figure them out for themselves and work to fix them. Harsh criticisms generally cause authors to stop writing altogether because they fear that anything they try to do will end up wrong. This is not the effect you want to spread, because it is only through experience that a writer becomes better. Harsh criticisms only tell the writer what not to do; experience tells them what to do.
In general, if you have negative criticism to offer, follow these guidelines:
Words And Phrases I Use Far Too Much
(Because being aware of your own faults is the first step to improving)
- Suddenly (If I don't hold myself back, this word will appear in EVERY paragraph. I've got to find other ways around it.)
- Started to/began to
- It wasn't long before
- In all directions
- Before he could dodge (used at least once in every battle scene, since I'm awful at writing them!)
- Of course. Because, of course, it sounds cool, but, of course, it can get annoying if used too much.
- Horrible (Mostly "horrible feeling" or "horrible realization")
- That's when (That's when I realized... I use "that's when" way too much.)
- To the core (He was shaken to the core)
- Managed to (He managed to say something)
- Mighty (Mighty roar, mighty crash, and so on.)
- It was / almost / as if (He blinked, as if he had something caught in his eyes.)
Conventions I Use Far Too Much
- "Dialogue like this," I explained using an example, "where the line is split in the middle with exactly one descriptor phrase." -- This happens because I have actually spent my entire life believing that this is the only acceptable way to write dialogue. Everyone knows you shouldn't put more than one character's lines on the same paragraph, and I was under the impression that it was grammatically correct to put the descriptor phrase where the first comma would go. Lately, I've been aware of this issue and I've been trying to branch out and try new ways of doing it, but 99% of my dialogue still looks like this, because I haven't found many other dialogue conventions that are as effective and clear. But trust me, I'm trying to find variety!
- The trope "Rousseau Was Right", wherein no character is truly evil, because each character thinks that they are doing what's best at any given time, no matter how evil it may appear to an onlooker. If you don't stop me, I'll make every villain sympathetic and eventually give them all Heel Face Turns. This is just because I like good guys. I think good guys are awesome.
- Ellipses. Lots and lots of ellipses.
- Cliffhanger resolutions where nothing was actually wrong in the first place. While these are good for character development, they lose their effect if used too much. I must learn to cut down on them.