By: Sarah Lehman
Some of you may have already written/started writing fan fiction of your own, whether you knew about fan fiction before discovering this blog or not. If you haven’t, but would like to, I have a few basic guidelines and tips that you may find helpful. Of course, these are not hard and fast rules, but I feel it would be good to keep them in mind just to be safe. With a bit of luck, your story will become one of the most read/recommended stories of whatever fandom you’re writing for.
My Writing Process
Sometimes you have specific pieces of a story that you know will be included–events or details that you’ve already come up with or otherwise have figured out. I have found it’s easier to jot these down first, deciding where in the story they go (ex. Event A happens close to the beginning, while Event B happens somewhere in the middle) as you do. Once that’s done, it’s just a matter of filling in the blanks. Because this method of writing involves arranging pieces of a story and figuring out where they go, I like to refer to it as the ‘jigsaw method.’
Obviously, the more familiar you are with a fandom, the easier it is to write fan fiction for said fandom. However, there may be times when for whatever reason, you want to write a fic that uses a fandom you are not as familiar with. Should this happen, I strongly advise you to do as much research as necessary in order to be consistent. A lot of fans are very touchy about how much respect the source material gets–if a character acts in a manner inconsistent with their canon self, people are going to notice, and if you don’t provide a reasonable explanation for the OOC (out of character) behavior, don’t be surprised if you only get negative feedback.
In addition to OOC behavior, as mentioned [above/in the last post], there are several other things an author should be cautious about. Not only can fanfic readers react badly to mishandled canon characters, but also to poorly written original characters (OCs). Should you include an OC in your story, make sure they are not without flaws and do not get all the attention. Otherwise, that character may be denounced as a Mary Sue/Gary Stu (an overly perfect character whose sole purpose in the fic is to steal the spotlight and/or act as a way for the author to play out his/her fantasies)–a common grievance in the fanfiction world.
Another frequent issue is deviation from canon, specifically how much a story deviates from canon events and/or setting mechanics. For example, many series that involve the use of magic have a well-defined system set of rules for how it works–who can use magic, what acts of magic are forbidden, etc. Should your story involve something that goes against the system, you should come up with a reasonable explanation for the change, or you may receive derisive, nasty, and/or overly nit-picky comments. Mind you, that doesn’t mean you have to stick to the rules full stop, especially if you’re doing a crossover, or that you will automatically get reviews saying things like “you’re doing it wrong”/“that’s not how it works [insert insult here]”/etc. You just need to keep the details of the setting and/or plot in mind.
References and Allusions
While it is common for a fanfic to include mentions of canon events in order to provide some degree of context, many fanfic writers like to include references that are not necessarily plot-relevant. Sometimes, they may simply be acknowledging that a particular canon event occurred, like when A New Hope had Han Solo claim the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs,” and The Force Awakens had Rey mention that same feat (although she mistakenly said it was fourteen parsecs). Other times, they may be making a nod to an alternate continuity, such as the apparent cameo of the Golden Age Human Torch (who, despite his name, was actually an android) during the expo scene in Captain America: the First Avenger–in the comics, he and Cap fought alongside each other. (This might also be a reference to how Chris Evans played the Human Torch in the 2005 Fantastic Four movie) In addition, fanfics sometimes contain allusions to other series, like having a character mention “crossing the streams” (referring to Ghostbusters) or using the line “what’s up, Doc?” (Bugs Bunny’s catchphrase).
Hopefully you will find this advice helpful in writing your own fan fiction, but you should remember they are primarily suggestions. You might find they don’t mesh with your writing style or the ideas you have, and that’s just fine. There will always be critics, and some will leave harsh, insulting, or otherwise just plain rude comments, but don’t let them stop you from writing. And if you run into more objective problems like writer’s block, know that it is NEVER a bad idea to ask for help.
Until next time, stay tuned!
P.S. For those of you curious about what I’ve written, here is a link to my Archive of Our Own page (AO3 seems to be more frequented than FanFiction.net nowadays):