Author has written 1 story for Secret/Legend of Mana.
I'm just an unusual guy trying to find his way in the world. One of my goals in life is to one day release a successful series and become a published and renowned author. I enjoy reading stories that are different and that set themselves apart from the rest.
The Dos and Don'ts of Writing
When it comes to writing, there are many things that writers do that I personally see as mistakes and in some cases story killers. I've seen some of these trends, tropes, and clichés in more than just fanfiction. I've seen them in books, movies, video games, etc. Here are just some tips and things to avoid when writing a story.
1.) Avoid Prophecy
Personally, I hate seeing prophecies inserted into stories because to me they're a cop-out. It's a way for the author to avoid giving the character(s) actual agency. Agency is basically what a character wants. It is what drives them to move forward. Prophecies create a situation where the character(s) reacts to a situation rather than choosing to do something. It forces them into different roles and their actions are dictated by the prophecy. Everything the characters do usually ends up revolving entirely around the prophecy. It's the difference between having to do something and wanting to do something.
In regards to agency, some people have made the argument that Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach is a flat and boring character. A flat character is one that is one-dimensional and/or uninteresting whereas a round character is interesting. The question here is "What would Ichigo be doing if Hollows weren't attacking or the Soul Reapers never appeared or the Quincy never attacked?" A lot of these situations Ichigo was either forced into or dove into to protect/save his friends and family. "Would he have trained and fought these different groups if none of his friends, family, or even Karakura Town were in danger?"
A character can still be interesting if they're forced into doing something, but them having their own agency and showing what they want outside of or separate from these types of situations can give a better look into and greater depth to a character that the reader might not have gotten otherwise.
The other big problem with prophecies is that no one ever questions them. I've seen some people tear apart prophecies in some fanfics, but they're few and far between. Too often do the characters just blindly follow them without question, despite how vague and open to interpretation/debunking they are. I'd love to see a character in a book or movie hear of a prophecy and basically just rip it to shreds and explain how stupid it is or even manipulate events to make someone else have to deal with the prophecy instead of themselves.
2.) Your characters should overcome challenges and build themselves up through their own efforts.
Going hand in hand with prophecy, there are nonsense power-ups in way too many stories, oftentimes in Shonen manga, but they can be found elsewhere. These boosts in strength are usually the result of a character getting angry and suddenly beating someone who was mopping the floor with them not five seconds ago. Or, a character will have some hidden power that usually stems from who their parents or ancestors are.
3.) You don't have to torture your character to write a good story.
I see this way too often in most of the stories I come across, especially SI and OC stories though it can be seen elsewhere. The writer will have the main character go through some type of pain or anguish in usually one of the following ways:
--I had no friends growing up/I have no friends.
--I have no girlfriend/My girlfriend left me for some jerk.
--I was bullied.
--I was raped and/or molested.
--I was abused at home by a family member/foster parents/step parents/etc and/or they tried to kill me.
--I was in the army and my friend was killed.
--My father/mother/sibling/grandparent/cousin/aunt or uncle/other relative/best friend died from gunshot/sickness/car accident/stabbed/etc. (This one is especially bad writing when it happened over 1 year prior to the start of the story. It's okay for the main character to not want to talk about something like this with someone they just met or for a person to still feel sad or miss someone. However, they shouldn't start bawling their eyes out at the memory of that person. I've seen numerous stories where someone the main character knew or was close to died when they were a kid or like 10 years ago and they start crying right when the subject is brought up. That's ridiculous. It's okay for them to feel sad, but there is such a thing as coming to terms with a person's death and keeping them close to you in your memory/heart.)
--A mixture of any of the above.
The reason why putting your character through these types of cliche hardships is bad is because it feels like the writer is forcing the reader to form a connection with the character when such a process should be natural. Doing it this way feels artificial. A writer should act like a stenographer when writing a story. They should just let the story flow and write/type down what happens to the different characters and what the different settings are like and so on.
4.) These tropes/cliches need to die:
--Can I call you mom/dad/brother/etc?
I personally find this to be terrible. The reason why is because it usually happens very quickly with little to no time having passed for a connection to form between two or more individuals. For instance, I've seen stories where two people have met and in the same chapter or the next one, the younger character will call that person mom or dad or something else along those lines and the older character will refer to them as their son/daughter/child.
This idea is even worse because of the ages the characters usually are. If a character was very young, like 5 years old, then it might be okay for them to see a much older person who takes care of them as a guardian or parental figure. Since someone so young needs taking care of and hasn't grown up that much, then room is opened for that type of connection to form. However, the characters I normally see do this are teenagers or young adults. Even if the character had crappy parents, a person that old shouldn't call someone else their father or mother. Just think about the type of reaction you'd get if you were 20 years old and called a person you just met your mom. Referring to a close friend as a brother is fine since that shows how close two people are.
--You're not actually human/You're actually my son or daughter
This can kind of go along with the point about a character referring to someone they just met as their parent. Not incredibly often, but enough to be noticeable, I've seen stories where the main character is either transported to another world or stays home and in both instances runs into a non-human being. They'll be told that they aren't actually human and that they are the child of the person who's speaking to them. Oftentimes, the main character will have grown up with a loving human family and this member from another species will appear to them when they're a teenager. The problem here is that the main character doesn't question this enough, if at all, and completely throws out all their cherished memories and past with those they grew up with. They accept this new person and act like they wanted to meet them their entire lives when, in actuality, the main character has never meet or heard of this person before. It's like one big middle finger to the character's family and makes them seem like an asshole.
--It's your fault.
This will usually occur in a dream sequence or hallucination, but this needs to die. Too often, something traumatic or terrible will happen in a character's life that is completely out of their control and they'll feel guilty or upset about it. Then, in their guilt/distress, they'll dream about someone who died, such as their parents or friends, pointing at the MC and saying "you killed me." Very rarely have I seen a character deal with this in the appropriate manner by either believing in themselves and knowing what happened wasn't any of their fault or by owning up to something that they actually did, but for justified reasons. Usually, the main character wakes up sweaty and cries someone's name or is reduced to a blubbering mess. There are even instances where a villain will mess with a character's mind to make them feel guilty or manipulate them.
I can't remember the name of the story right now, but there is a crossover between Warhammer and Young Justice where the Inquisitor shot a villain who tried to mess with his mind by disguising himself as the Inquisitor's dead mother. The Inquisitor just shot him and straight up says that he knows the guy isn't his mother since his mother died years ago. He didn't cry about it either. I feel this is the proper way to handle this nonsense.
--I have amnesia.
This has been done to death and its really just a cheap way of making a character seem interesting. What would be interesting is if a character was actually honest. Another issue with this is that other characters in a story will way too easily accept this and won't call out the main character on their bull crap. Sure, I've seen stories where other characters will be disbelieving, but they'll just shrug and might think of asking about the person's memories later. However, this disappears as the story moves along and none of the characters think to bring it up again. This way, it comes off as a pointless plot device.
--I need to go back home simply because I have to or I feel like I don't belong here despite me hating living back home (if I could even call it that).
This is one of the worst things I've ever seen in a story. This idea is usually paired with Number 3 above where I talk about how many writers needlessly torture their character to force a connection between them and the reader. Many times, I've seen a character be treated inhumanely to the point where they've almost been beaten to death or raped and the cops should've been called ages ago. Then, they find themselves in another world where their life is much better and they're not being mistreated and everything is grand. Then, out of nowhere, they say, "I don't belong here. I have to go back home." This is retarded. This isn't a proper reason to go back. If the character was an adult and they had a young child or someone they needed to look after, then that would be a reason many readers could empathize with.
When writers do this, it feels like everything that character went through and all of the development they went through happened for nothing. It's like it all got flushed down the toilet thus rendering the story pointless. Picture going on a nice vacation where you can have fun and relax only to come back to the same old crap once your trip is over. If there was some kind of payoff, where the main character got back at someone in a funny way like getting them sent to prison or having their lives destroyed, something befitting of proper punishment, then it wouldn't be nearly as bad. But this almost never happens, at least in SI and OC stories.
--A person doesn't need to share all or any of their secrets or history, especially not with someone they just met.
I've seen this idea more outside of SI and OC stories, though it has still happened there. The scenario usually goes like this: The main character, let's say Harry Potter, will display some type of ability or power that he didn't want others to know about, but something like a monster attack will force him to reveal it. Immediately after the threat is dealt with, he'll turn towards the others who are glaring at him and are angry at him and he'll say, "I guess I've got some explaining to do, huh?"
This doesn't just apply to Harry Potter. He's just an example. This can apply to any other character. Why should the main character feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about keeping an ability of theirs secret? This situation almost always happens with people they met like 5 seconds ago. If complete strangers got angry at me for not telling them something personal, I'd tell them to piss off which is something that these characters should be doing. The character just met these people and complete strangers aren't entitled to anything. The main character should have more of a backbone when dealing with these types of self-entitled people in stories, but it rarely happens. I wish I'd see it more.
--The Self-Righteous Prick
Too often have I seen either the main character, SI, or OC butt into someone else's business and tell them how they should live their lives. Many times, they'll be incredibly preachy and go on these long-winded, sappy speeches that don't really do anything for the story and could be summed up in 10 words or less. And honestly, I know they're stories, but seriously, who talks like that in real life. What's even worse is when female characters fall for that garbage.
It's kind of a separate point, but too often have I seen a MC meet a woman and compliment her looks with a sappy speech that takes up an entire paragraph. She'll then want to jump into bed with him in the same or next chapter simply because "no one's ever said that to me before or been nice to me before." Sometimes, male characters will become friends with the MC or fall for this crap, but it's usually women. I see this as killing character and story development since I want to see relationships build between characters overtime like in real life. People can be very complex and can act very differently from each other. No character should instantly like or love any other character in a story, ever. It's just boring to read. All it is is a few honeyed words.
5.) Stop crapping all over your main character.
This isn't the same as physically torturing your character, but it is similar. This is where many or all of the other characters in a story make fun of the MC or look down on him/her and insult them. If the MC is treated like crap and is hated/disliked by the other characters, then why should the reader care about them?
6.) Remember the Senses
When it comes to writing, the sense of sight is very important. It helps to establish the setting that the story takes place in and creates an atmosphere that encompasses the characters and the events they find themselves in. Aside from sight, the most important sense in writing is smell. It's been said that smell evokes the greatest sense of familiarity in a person and makes it to where the reader can better relate to the character(s) that they're reading about. Don't forget about Taste, Touch, and Hearing. All of these can add that extra kick to make the reader want to keep reading that otherwise might not have been there.
For Example: "He entered the kitchen" vs "The scent of roasted garlic tantalized his senses as he entered the kitchen."
The second sentence sounds a lot better doesn't it.