This will be my last post for The Scrap Pile. I wanted to leave you all with something meaningful, so here’s a few words on writing advice, rules and taking chances.
When it comes to writing advice, whether from a book, a blog like this, or someone critiquing one of your works, always judge it for yourself.
Read it, synthesize it in your mind, and then decide whether it’s right for you, and the story you want to write. This is especially true when listening to comments on your specific work. It’s your story and ultimately you have to make the decisions about what it is and isn’t going to be.
If you post to fanfiction.net beware they are purging, and apparently purging quite a lot. They are not telling writers until after the fact, and haven’t been very communicative to writer’s requests.
Make sure all your stories have K (G) rated titles and summaries. I’ve read that “kill” was getting flagged as well, so be generous with your edits.
If you have naughty stories, back them up just in case.
These seem to be the two most common problems, though I’ve read slash is been hit more than others.
Buffy and Dr. Who have have been pretty brutally hit. Twilight, Harry Potter, Pokemon, Naruto, Sailor Moon and several others have had a great deal of stories removed as well. Thank you Alixe75 for this information.
There are two common problems people tend to have when writing description and exposition. There’s either too much or too little. There’s a balance that you need to find among your own writing style and what your audience is comfortable reading. But, before getting into that, I just want to quickly define these two things.
This includes descriptions of people, places, and things (objects, weather, etc.), and it can be either physical (how it looks, smells, tastes) or non-physical (emotions, feelings).
A building that’s described as “dark and empty except for the dust on the furniture and scurrying of mice” has been given a physical description. Whereas a building described as “vacant but for the souls of the dead prowling the halls and breathing whispers of ice on passersby” has been given both. Most of it’s non-physical, but the “whispers of ice” implies it’s cold.
This includes the information the author drops in to give the reader background or information that is generally too complicated to explain through action or dialogue.
When you read a chapter that begins with Beth and Bonnie going to the local town hall meeting to debate installation of a traffic light, and there are two paragraphs about the history of the town, those two paragraphs are exposition.
Flutter-Pony is an Australian author who has been writing fanfic for five years on and off. Currently, she writers primarily for Glee. Please welcome her with me.
It starts with that feeling in your tummy, little flutters of curiosity. You begin to hang on every word they speak and you see them everywhere you go. Holding hands in line at the grocery store, canoodling behind shelves at the public library. When you start calling your housemate ‘Mulder’, you know it’s gone too far but it doesn’t matter, you are in love with a love story.
You’re favourite fictional couple, or ‘Ship’ if you roll that way, can quickly become your favourite hobby, and the internet (God bless it) is bursting with fellow love junkies, desperately searching forums and chat rooms for their next hit. The network TV show, the trilogy of books, they can no longer satisfy the hunger.
Then drifting in like a love song on the breeze comes Fan Fiction. And it is glorious. Hours can be spent hunched over your laptop with starry-eyed devotion. You can see every longing glance between Jack and Kate on that deserted island, you feel every trembling touch between Booth and Bones and you know, with everything that you are, that Castle and Beckett are the end game.
Summaries. Oh yes, today we are talking about those things everyone hates to write, but must if they want their story read.
I know you don’t want to write it, I know you struggle, but the summary is very important. It’s how you advertise your story, how you ask readers to come and take a chance on you and your work. People have limited time and there are hundreds of things they could be doing aside from reading your fanfic. There are probably things they should be doing instead of reading your fic too. This why you want to include a summary, and not just a summary, but an intriguing summary.
The biggest thing to remember when writing a summary for a fanfic is that it isn’t just a summary. It’s a pitch. That means you need to combine the two elements when you construct one.
Taking this down to its basics, the elements of a fanfic summary are who, what, and why. On which characters does your story focus? What is the problem the character(s) faces? Why is this a problem/what’s preventing them from achieving resolution?
Today is about characters that didn’t work. These are characters introduced into an already established work that didn’t work out, and a brief explanation for why. At least, it’s my opinion for why they don’t work. I do expect people will disagree with me on both why, and whom I’ve picked. This is just an exploration into characters, to continue with our current theme.
Also, tomorrow I’ll do characters that did work.
1. Monica Reyes – X Files: Seasons 8 & 9.
This is actually a bit painful, because part of me really did like her. Or at least, I liked the idea for her (and the actress), but the writers totally dropped the ball. She didn’t come off as quirky and open-minded as they intended, a counterpoint to John Dogget, but rather, she appeared flaky and awkward. Even awkward could have worked, especially since the rest of them had so much confidence, but they didn’t explore that properly. They also didn’t give her much back story, and no real motivation behind her willingness to help Mulder and Scully.
Bottom line: She had potential, but the writers failed to realize it.
2. Jess Mariano – Gilmore Girls: Seasons 2-4 (mostly).
He was an asshole. I was the same age as Rory, so my friends and I all watched this show, and they all love him. Jess was designed to be a brilliant, charming, and sexy bad boy. Unfortunately, his intelligence was overpowered by his arrogance, and there’s nothing charming or sexy about a whiny, emo teenager. The only thing Jess added to the show was drama between other characters, and that may have worked if he’d been sympathetic at all. Since he wasn’t sympathetic, it just made him all the more unlikable. Though there was one sense in which he did work—teenage girls favor love triangles, and Jess was the other guy.
Bottom line: They took an already unlikable character and made him completely unsympathetic.
3. Ashley Seaver – Criminal Minds: Season 6
Leaving aside the actress herself and all the behind the scenes drama, if this show hadn’t set itself a fairly high standard of realism, she may have played better. Suggesting experienced FBI agents would take a trainee on a case, because her daddy was a serial killer is more than unrealistic. Suggesting that the FBI hierarchy would assign her to the BAU right out of the academy is ludicrous. To make matters worse, they gave Seaver virtually no personality (except the daddy issues), and never developed her. My last squabble is that she added nothing, and in fact, took away from the other characters (implication being that they needed her help).
Bottom line: Poorly conceived, poorly executed, and unrealistic to the point of insulting the viewers.
4. Anakin Skywalker – Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
He was a Mary Sue. Yep, I said it. Darth Vader was a Mary Sue when he was a kid. He never asked for anything, resented that he was a slave, grew angry at his mother for their miserable circumstances, or did one damn thing that was even semi-rebellious. He was the perfect little son, and it was a little nauseating. Not only was he a sweet, nice kid, but he played fair and was honest in a world where it wasn’t worth much. That isn’t endearing, it’s annoying.
Bottom line: Perfect is boring, and people don’t go to see Star Wars to be bored.
What characters have you seen that you feel didn’t work?
I seriously hate the limited formatting on tumblr. Makes everything so much more difficult.
There are few subjects that draw more tension and hostility than shipping. Correction: there are few subjects that draw more unnecessary tension and hostility than shipping.
I believe the term shipping originated out of the X Files fandom many years ago*, as a designation of one of two fan groups. There were the Shippers, who wanted a romantic relationship between Mulder and Scully, and the NoRomos, those who wanted to see only friendship between the two characters. The two groups were equally passionate, and often clashed.
Shipping has since become a term to describe a fan’s desire to see whichever couple in a work that strikes their interest. Most writers pick a few ships per show and focus on those, while others are more monogamous with their choices (like myself). I’m sure there are also writers who will ship every pairing imaginable on the show, and that’s their prerogative. That’s the wonderful thing about fanfiction, you can make anything happen or not happen as you see fit.
Yesterday, I gave you an overview of POV types, today I’m going to go through some of the considerations for each type.
In the professional publishing world, 3rd Person and 1st Person rule together, generally in harmony.
In the fanfic world, 3rd person is King/Queen and 1st person is the younger sibling that occasionally gets to do something cool.
New writers often start with 1st Person, because it’s easier to develop an engaging voice in 1st Person. It’s very intimate by nature, and so you don’t have to work as hard to develop a relationship with the reader. It also allows you to establish a lot of character through just voice. However…
For the purposes of fanfic, I would strongly, strongly suggest you stick with 3rd Person. Writing in 1st Person is a lot more personal, and incorporates a good deal of your own personality into whatever you’re writing. The problem you then run into with fanfic, is that these aren’t your characters, but someone else’s, and they have that person’s voice already injected into them. It’s very hard to adopt someone else’s voice in such an intimate POV, and readers are well aware of this. This is why 1st Person POV stories don’t get as many hits or reviews on them, because readers have difficulty associating their favorite characters with a foreign voice.
At least, that’s my theory.
I was taking a shower this morning, and there was this song stuck in my head. It was a song I liked, so it didn’t bother me. It did make me think of some of my reading material for my Criminal Behavior class, which made me think of Criminal Minds. It had come very close to putting an idea in my head when I read it, but had never quite materialized. The song plus the reading seemed to do the trick.
It wasn’t intentional. I wasn’t trying to develop another story idea. I was just thinking about how the character had experienced something similar in cannon, so what if hypothetical story (that I really wasn’t trying to come up with) connected to that. This led me to a dozen questions, to which my mind quickly supplied answers. Before I even realized it, I’d developed the skeleton of a plot, and a pretty decent unsub.
This little anecdote has three purposes. The first is to explain to those who don’t write, or those who’ve just started where ideas come from. I know a lot of fanfic writers have to look for ideas, because they don’t come naturally to them. That is as hard for me to understand, as it is for most non-creative people to understand the concept of having ideas randomly popping into your head from nowhere.
Neil Gaiman wrote a blog post on that ‘Where do you get your ideas’ questions, and in it said, “Firstly, I don’t know myself where the ideas really come from, what makes them come, or whether one day they’ll stop. Secondly, I doubt anyone who asks really wants a three hour lecture on the creative process. And thirdly, the ideas aren’t that important.”
This brings me to my second purpose. You’ll notice he said the idea isn’t very important, and he’s right.
I have a very strong creative drive that pushes me to write in general. I actually discovered a few years ago that I begin to get genuinely depressed without a creative outlet. I’m a much happier person, and for more pleasant to be around when I’m writing actively. Fanfic is less stressful and intellectually demanding than original writing, so it’s something I can keep up with even while I’m doing other things (like grad school as I am now). It also allows for far more creative freedom than original writing, where you need to conform to certain rules to make your fiction publishable.
My other reasons tie into your second question. What I choose to write depends on the fandom in which I’m writing. My first story on ff.net was a Crossing Jordan fic, which I wrote, because I didn’t feel like waiting the whole summer for resolution on the season finale. I wrote Standoff fiction because there were so few writers in that fandom, and even fewer who were good, that I just wrote instead of read. The X Files stories I wrote mostly because ideas came into my head. “Into the Darkness” I wrote partly to explore the perspective of a sadistic killer and get over some of my squeamishness. I started to write NCIS fic, because I wasn’t satisfied with how the writers were handling a particular storyline. Criminal Minds…similar to the X Files, I write for that generally because ideas come into my head. I think the dark tone of the show also fits with my style of writing better than many other shows. I also tend to write what I’m unlikely to see on the show, like romantic pairings, and can focus on my favorite characters. I wouldn’t necessarily say I want to see it, because I wouldn’t want at least CM to do most of what I’ve written, but it’s what I find interesting. To a large extent I write simply because an idea popped into my head, and I decided to roll with it.
I wrote a post on inspiration that I’ll try to post next week, which touches on some of what you asked about here.
Thanks for the questions, and feel free to ask any other questions you have. :)