Writing Fanfiction Without The Internet Hating You
Possibly one of the most hated and feared things on the Internet is fanfiction. Those stories written by thirteen-year-old fan girls who want to get in Tom Felton’s pants and haven’t actually played any of the Kingdom Hearts games or listened to a single song of insert your favorite band’s name here.
So, due to it’s popularity and the 70% chance that the fanfic you just clicked on will make you either roll your eyes, cry, or want to troll, it’s no surprise that the internet makes assumptions about fanfiction and its quality. However, the other 30% of people that can write a fanfiction that actually know how stories work have been given a bad name. And if you aspire to rise from the 70 to the 30, or just want to get it right the first time, this article might be able to point you in the right direction. Surprisingly, it’s not as different from original fiction as many people are led to believe. It’s really just three basic elements.
Across the board, almost everyone agrees that the element that will make or break a story, particularly a fanfiction, is the characters. This is because more often than not, when we want to create fan works based off the original canon, it’s because we feel a deep connection to the characters, rather than the setting. So with a fanfiction, it’s vital to either keep the characters in-character or make plausible changes that befit the new background you give them. And besides, as Mibbian fooleish puts it, “you can't just take advantage of the fact that your readers likely are at least a little familiar with the source material.” In other words, you have no idea who might be reading your fanfiction, so make sure your characters are fleshed out, regardless of how big or small of a role in the canon they might play.
Even more difficult is the introduction of OC’s, or Original Characters. Unfortunately, these have been so poorly executed over the years that any OC mentioned is almost immediately labeled as a Mary Sue. So the key then is to have a well-rounded original character. Ask yourself: Does your OC have more powers or is more “special” than the main character of the canon? Are their strengths, weaknesses, appearance and personality befitting and plausible in the canon? These questions and more can help you develop an OC that will not only work as a character, but be pleasing to both you and your readers.
Setting and Canon
The second piece that makes a fanfiction a fanfiction is the world, or setting, or canon, whichever way you want to phrase it. You need to be familiar with this just like you would with the characters if you want to write something that people aren’t going to be flaming. For something like a band fiction or based off a movie/tv/book set in the real world, being familiar with the character’s backstory is typically considered the canon, though this is easier to twist. But when it comes to something more complex with a world of its own, say Inception or Harry Potter, the rules of the universe are almost more important than the character’s backgrounds. You might be able to get away with changing Harry’s parentage if you do a good job of explaining everything, but the minute he comes up with an x-ray vision spell, you’re treading in dangerous waters filled with trolls, flamers, and haters.
Of course, canon as well can be twisted successfully, and that’s where you run into AU or Alternate Universe. This is where we find fanfiction to be truly limitless, as long as you keep logic. But keeping logic is something that you have to do with any story. If the canon characters are now all going to be hosts of TV shows, then there still needs to be an element of the canon in some form (their personalities, for instance), otherwise you might as well be writing an original fiction. There’s a fine balance when it comes to writing a successful AU.
Yes, actually: Originality. Because of the sheer mass of fanfiction out there, if you can think it, it was probably done before. So you need to put an original spin on things. Maybe it’s tweaking the characters to fit your style. Maybe it’s switching the plot around a little and enjoying the results. Whatever it is, make it your own and treasure it. Make it work. As i saw sparks of Mibba says it, “the most important aspect of writing fanfiction would be having the ability to walk the line between putting your own spin on things and doing the characters justice.” In other words, originality within story logic and reason.
And with originality should come quality. If you’ve done justice to the original material, whether you’re write canon-based or an AU, whatever you come up with should be as quality as a published book. Fanfiction to fooleish is, “just a story you're trying to tell, whether the characters and settings are your own or not, and it shouldn't be of a greater or lesser quality either way.” And besides, it’s not like fanfiction doesn’t get publish. Wicked by Gergory Maguire is an example of a fanfiction that has been published, and even adapted into a Broadway musical.
So go out there, add some OC’s, write some AU, spell-check, and create a fanfiction that is worthy of praise and not flames.
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