I got a lovely e-mail from a young lady a few days ago. She said that she was a fledgling fanfic writer, and wanted to know if there was any advice I could give her. I did my best, but afterwards, I kept thinking of other things I should have told her. I started making a mental list, and next thing you know, I’m breaking out the Semagic.
I’ve only written three stories ::clutches stories to my bosom and pets them::, so I don’t really feel qualified to give writing advice to anyone. That isn’t stopping me, of course. I’ve made a list this frigid Monday morning of writerly-type tips and hints, based on what I’ve learned as both an author and a reader of fanfic. It’s all only my opinion - hell, I may even be wrong! :-O
Without further ado, here are:
1. DO Keep your titles short. Do you know how sick I got of typing Just Another Saturday Night in Sunnydale? Plenty.
2. DON’T be afraid of using the word “said” in a story. As in, "Please Spike, it hurts," Buffy said. Yes, you can use “panted” if you want, go ahead, see if I care. But if you use “moaned”, “growled”, “purred”, “mewled”, and on and on, page after page, it can be distracting as hell. Of course, you don’t have to use anything at all, as in, “Oh, does it hurt, Buffy?” Spike grinned and twisted his wrist a bit more. See, that works as well. Some people don’t like it if adverbs are used to qualify “said”, as in “I think you can take it, love,” he said cheerfully. I myself don’t mind it...again, as long as it isn’t done too often *cough*J.K. Rowling*cough*. Everything in moderation.
3. DON’T write to please others. If you try to guess and second-guess what people will like, you will end up as frustrated and disappointed as Colin Farrell’s fiancé. Write the story you want to read, to the best of your ability, and be proud of that no matter what anybody else thinks.
4. DO know the emotional arc you want your characters to go through before you start your story. You don’t have to map out the whole plot in advance, but know what you want to happen to your characters’ hearts, or you will be rewriting and re-rewriting until you hate your story more than your ex-boyfriend.
5. DO use Spellcheck, or you deserve to have your pinkie cut off like those backsliding ex-smokers in that Stephen King story. Nobody minds the occasional grammatical slip or typo, but spelling mistakes are lame-o, my friend. Yes, please do comment and tell me how my spelling sucks out loud on a day-to-day basis.
6. DON’T use the word “pre-cum” in any story ever. That’s more of a personal guideline than a rule.
7. DON’T tell the reader, show her. Don't tell me Xander was excited. Say his legs were trembling, his breath coming in ragged, broken gasps, his hands desperately scrabbling for purchase on the wall behind Spike’s bed. It means the same thing, but the effect isn’t the same. Or, at least, I hope it isn’t. ::crosses fingers:: Give me the details that set the scene, and I will follow you anywhere.
8. DO fondle your thesaurus on a regular basis. Don’t use “ran” when you can use “sailed” or “shot” or “hurried”. Don’t use “hot” when you can use “feverish” or “burning” or “blistered”. This DO is trumped by #2, BTW.
9. DON’T use hair colour as a way to describe well-known characters, at least too often, please God. If we’re reading a BtVS fanfic, odds are we know Spike is a blonde, and Willow is a redhead. Don’t beat us to death with it. A personal pet peeve, nothing more. :0)
10. DON’T use clichés. I love clichés. They are fuzzy and comfortable, and they compactly convey exactly what I am trying to say. And they are booooring. They are a sign of lazy writing, IMO. Spike’s abs are indeed as hard as rock, but there must be at least one other noun other than “rock” on the face of the planet that you could use instead to describe them.
11. DO stick to one character’s point of view as much as you can. Keep to what Buffy, for instance, is thinking and feeling as Spike slowly runs his tongue up her thigh, no matter how you may ache to use your well-turned phrase that describes how Spike is feeling as he does it. I am not very good at following this advice, but I’m trying. At least stick to one POV per chapter, okay? I will if you will.
12. DO build the tension. This is Spike. Spike wants A. However, B and C stand in the way of him getting it. Good! Make it very difficult for Spike to get what he wants, especially if what he wants is to F B. Or possibly F X. Maybe even F A, although not in my stories. Sexual tension is never wasted, I am not afraid to generalize sweepingly. Which leads us to our next point.
13. DON’T get clinical about sex. Too much scrotum and cervix talk, and your story turns into a Grade 8 sex-ed film. Be vague if you want, vague is always of the good. If you say he thrust into her, we’ll know you’re talking about his penis. Really. If you do want to be graphic - and there’s nothing wrong with that, Lord knows - use the slang terms, which tend to pack more punch IMO. Remember, when someone’s panties get pulled off, fanfic readers know from the previous 4000 stories what the characters will end up doing. It’s finding out how the characters feel while they’re doing it in your story that keeps them reading. This is where all that sexual tension you've built up will pay off.
14. And most importantly of all, DO find a good beta and treasure her like the goddess she is. There is nothing that will improve your writing like the gentle yet honest feedback of an insightful beta.
I hope this was helpful, or at least entertaining. Feel free to add to the list, or tell me why I am so very, very wrong, or whatever. I’ll take it all!
Feed Poshcat Back to the Essay Index