Ready to create your own story using your favorite characters? We’ve got you. Check out our top ten writing tips for fanfiction to help inspire stellar writing.
Fanfiction is having a moment. From Twilight-turned-Fifty-Shades to the After series, many writers are taking their favorite characters from novels, TV, and real life and creating stories that immerse readers in a world where they get up close and personal with their favorite personas. Writing fanfiction can be fun, but it can be challenging. We’ve gathered the top tips on how to write top-notch fanfiction that will keep your readers waiting for your next installment.
1. Toughen Up
Believe me, fanfiction readers can be a tricky bunch to please. Before you start writing fanfiction, you’ll need to ensure that you have a skin thick enough to withstand the criticism of your audience. Our best advice: take the comments that offer constructive criticism for your writing and leave the rest. All writers hone their craft over time, and remember that you still have learning to do can help you accept the comments that aren’t quite so kind.
2. Consider the Past
You aren’t inventing new characters, and you can’t change the lives they’ve already lived unless you’re writing a prequel. So, you must be familiar with the lives your characters have already led and can work their lived experiences into your story. It can be helpful to ask someone who is also a fan of the series you’re pulling characters from to read your work before you publish, as they’ll be able to let you know whether you’re on the right track when it comes to sticking to the story’s canon.
3. Get Familiar with Fanfiction Terms
The fanfiction world has its own language, and if you’re working to be heard by a fanfiction-loving audience, it’s key that you know the terms that are commonly used within the genre. Common fanfiction terms include:
- AU: Alternate universe. Suppose you create an alternate universe for your characters. In that case, you’ll need to explain the rules of the alternate universe so that your readers can understand how your characters will interact.
- Canon: Official lore from the original story. For example, Harry Potter’s Muggle upbringing is canon.
- Character x character: Used to signify a romantic relationship between two characters, for example, Captain America x Captain Marvel.
- Fandom: A group of people who enjoys a particular celebrity or character, for example, “The Taylor Swift fandom.”
- Fluff: In fanfiction, this term is used to signify happy-go-lucky content that’s usually romantic.
- Headcanon: A change in the canon of the original story. For example, Harry Potter was raised by a witch and a wizard.
- OTP: One true pair, meaning the two characters that you’re most looking forward to seeing together in your fanfiction.
- Ship: Romantically linking two characters.
- Y/N: Your name, a type of fanfiction that allows readers to imagine themselves within the story.
4. Name the Original Work
There’s no need to try to pull a fast one on a fandom by acting like you invented characters yourself. Be honest about where you’re drawing your inspiration. This is especially important if you publish your work, as copyright laws can land you in hot water. If you want to make money from your fanfiction work or plan to publish in a way that readers have to pay to access your work, it’s key that you have permission from the original work’s publishing company to keep yourself out of legal hot water.
5. Create a Compelling Storyline
A common pitfall of fanfiction stories: shipping two characters without creating a compelling story along the way. Your readers must go through rising action as they read your story instead of jumping straight to the conclusion. You know where you’re going, but you need to imagine your characters’ challenges if they were together in real life. It can be helpful to pull from your own real-life experiences when describing the trials and tribulations your characters face in romantic and platonic relationships.
6. Dig Into the Details
You already have the setting for your story in your head, but it’s new to your readers. Getting super-descriptive when creating your setting is essential for helping your readers immerse themselves in the environment you’ve created. Even if you’re describing a setting with which your readers are already familiar, it’s smart to describe where your characters are at. The environment they’re experiencing in as much detail as possible.
Remember, when describing a setting, you want to show instead of tell. “Mist collected on Bella’s forehead as the chilled points of pine needles brushed the goosebumps on her arms” paints a more vivid picture than “Bella walked into the woods.”
7. Consider a New Approach
While it can be fun to dig into the lives of everyone’s favorite characters, fanfiction can take an exciting turn when the writer provides context for the behaviors of a not-so-beloved character. For example, describing a character’s difficult home life can help readers understand why they act in an undesired way in the original story. This doesn’t just help readers engage with the material you create – it can also help them to see their favorite stories and characters in a new way.
The hit Broadway play Wicked is an excellent example of this, as the story takes audience members through an explanation of how the Wicked Witch of the West became so angry and evil.
8. Re-visit Your Favorites
Finding yourself stuck for inspiration when creating your next fanfiction hit? Go back and re-watch or re-read the stories that involve your characters and see if new ideas come to mind. Pay attention to details and look for nuances that could be further explained. While you may be tempted to go back and view or read your favorite parts for a second time, taking a step away and exploring parts that aren’t your favorite may inspire new ideas. If there are sections of the work you don’t like, pay special attention to what rubs you the wrong way, and think about exploring that aspect of the story in your fanfiction.
9. Interact with Your Readers
As we mentioned, you’re going to get plenty of comments when you publish a fanfiction story that becomes popular. Interacting with your readers is key to keeping them coming back for more. Engage in conversation, ask them questions about what they’d like to see next, and remember – your readers are there because they love the characters just as much as you do.
10. Revise, Revise, Revise
When you write an excellent fanfiction story, it can be tempting to publish it immediately, especially if you have an eager audience to read your work. However, taking the time to revise is critical. After you finish your work, take a day away, and then come back and reread it. Don’t just keep an eye out for spelling and grammar mistakes. You’ll also want to ensure that you don’t have plot holes, facts that go against canon, or characters acting in a way that won’t make sense to your readers.
To learn more, read our guide explaining what is a plot? We cover the basics for novelists and storytellers. Then, if you need help crafting a good story, why not employ one of our plot twist ideas?
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