Fan Fiction: Dos and Don'ts
Fan fiction is a brilliant invention. It allows you to delve a little bit further into the fictional worlds that you love and it can offer you new angles to stories you already know. Were you unhappy with how your favorite movie ended? No worries, someone will probably have written their own version of it, which you might end up liking more. If not you could write your own. Fan fiction is a great opportunity for young writers to practice their writing skills and improve. But best of all it offers you lots of free reading material.
If you want to make a try for it or if you are looking for ways to improve your fan fiction writing then look no further. You might find some of these tips useful.
Do Make Sure to Stay True to the Characters
This applies to original fiction as well as fan fiction writing. It's important that you know the characters and stay true to them when writing about them. You may have planned the story out chapter by chapter and know exactly what you want to happen but it can't always be that way. If the thing you want the character to do isn't something the character would do then figure something else out. And if you're really good and really smart then you'll figure out a plausible way for the things you want to happen to happen anyway.
Do Make Sure to Check Your Grammar and Spelling
Always run your text through the spell-check before you publish. Use the one in Microsoft Word or any other word processing software you use because the one on fanfiction.net is unreliable and can't help you half the time. Read through your text as well and keep an eye out for typos and any other possible issues. If proof-reading isn't your strong suit consider getting a beta reader. It spares your readers from getting distracted by all the typos or grammar issues and it spares you from having to go back and change it later on, which is much more difficult.
Do Make Sure Your Punctuation is Correct
Like I said earlier, if it isn't your strong suit get a beta reader. Always use "" around your dialogue and make sure to start a new line when a new character is speaking. On the subject of line breaks be sure to use them because nobody wants to read a text without line breaks. It is both annoying and demands too much effort on the reader's part.
Do Remember to Show and Not Tell
He did this and that and then he went there and there and he saw this and that and then he said this to him and then he did something else...
Don't write your stories like that. It's not interesting. Remember a character has five senses, (unless it's Spiderman), use them. Describe what they see, what they feel, what they hear, what they smell, and what they taste. Don't tell the reader what the character said, show them using dialogue. However if your character is telling another character about something, which you have already described in your story once, don't repeat it, simply tell the reader that your character explained this and that and then move on. The reader doesn't need to read about the same thing twice.
And the most annoying thing a fan fiction writer can ever do is:
Voldemort's POV: He stood up, glaring at Snape, who had grown pale...
Have you ever read a book that was written like that? No of course you haven't because anyone who ever tried to publish a book that was written like that would have been rejected right away. Your readers are not stupid. They don't need you to keep telling them whose point of view you're writing from. And if they do you have been too vague with your descriptions. Find another way to show your readers which point of view it is. And don't change your point of view too often. It gets tiring after a while. Try to limit it to maybe once or twice every chapter. Of course it depends on which fandom you're writing for. It may be that you're trying to copy the style of a certain TV-show but just don't do it too much otherwise you might just end up confusing yourself as well as your readers.
Don't Write Long Author's Notes
If it's too long a lot of readers actually skip them. The reason author's notes are there is to add stuff that is important to the chapter. It's not for posting pieces of rpg conversations and it certainly isn't a place to complain about the lack of reviews. Because there might be a reason for that. And it's not a place to reply to reviews. Send the reviewer a message instead. Although if you think a certain answer will benefit all your readers then post it. But keep it brief. They're there to read the story not your author's notes.
Don't Use Text Language
Unless of course it is important to include a couple of texts between characters in the story itself. This may be the internet but we don't want to read stories like this:
He looked at her and said, "Y r u doin dis 2 me? Ily u no that!"
We may be able to understand most of that but it still looks stupid. The only reason we even use that when we're texting people is because we're lazy. When it comes to writing fiction you can't be lazy. In fact if you write like that anywhere else than in a private message to someone your level of intelligence will be questioned.
Don't Write Yourself into the Story
Nobody wants to read those stories where it is so obvious that it's about the author and their favorite character falling in love and having super kinky sex. It doesn't matter what happens in the story actually. You will never be able to write a plausible character based on yourself. You'll be too scared to pass on your own flaws to your character and then you accidentally end up creating a Mary Sue. And readers hate Mary Sues. If you don't know what a Mary Sue is it is basically a character that is unbelievably and unrealistically perfect. It has no flaws and it's liked by everyone except the bad guys and it never does anything wrong. That's not how real people are, guys. And Mary Sues are boring and your readers can't relate to her. Or him. We don't want any Gary Stus either.
Don't Write for Anyone But Yourself
I know this may sound weird after I've basically told you what to do and what not to do. That was simply advice, advice that will please your readers if you choose to follow it. However don't let the readers tell you how to write your story. And I'm not saying you should ignore the criticism you get if your grammar is bad or your spelling or character-development. I'm saying don't write this story for anyone but yourself. If you want to break up a couple and pair them with someone else then do it. It's your story, you decide the plot. And don't feel like you owe your readers an update every week because you don't. Sure they might spam your inbox with angry messages demanding to know why you haven't updated in three months but fan fiction is a hobby. You decide when you write and how long your chapters will be and in which direction to take your story. Don't change any of that just to please others. You are the one in charge!
I hope you found at least some of these tips useful. This is what I have learned from seven years of posting fan fiction online.