How to Write Mediaminer-Worthy Fanfiction
A/N: This is an article I wrote way back in 2006 that is now getting its VV repost for posterity's sake. Because I, being so knowledgeable in the ways of fandom, felt obligated to pass down my golden nuggets of wisdom to future generations of n00bie fanfiction writers.
I recommend copious note-taking throughout.
Warning: There is a lesson on R/NC-17 fanfics. Thus it’d be wise to expect a roundabout discussion of R/NC-17 material in that section.
Lesson I. Characterization
The most important thing to keep in mind when handling the characters of any given fanfic is it does not at all matter how the characters were portrayed in the canon. What does matter is how you want to portray the characters and what type of portrayal will attract the most readers. It's your fanfic after all, and thus, the characters are yours to mold into any shape you want. To demonstrate, here's an example of a fanfic in which the author puts no effort into “making the characters their own”:
"It's been two months." The speaker was a girl of small stature, meek and awkward, but lovely nonetheless, "I've been waiting for you for two months. You haven't forgotten me, have you Touga-sama?"
Touga Kiryuu said nothing at first, primarily because he had honestly forgotten the girl's name. Her face was familiar though, and if his memory served him correctly, she was quite the sensual one in bed.
Smirking, Touga raised his hand to touch the girl's hair, then let his fingers trail down the edge of her ear and down her neck, before resting his hand on the small of her back, the girl trembling slightly under his touch. "Of course I haven’t. In fact, I was just about to call you," Touga used his free hand to pull his cellphone from his back pocket, "When you suddenly appeared before me."
In this example, Touga is portrayed as manipulative and arrogant, a man who shamelessly takes advantage of others. Some may argue that the description fits Touga perfectly in the canon, and that only dim-witted fangirls would think otherwise, but the fact of the matter is, characterizing Touga like this just doesn't bring in the readers! The author's duty is to please the audience by bringing out the lovable prince Touga truly is on the inside! Here's an example of Touga the way he should be written:
"…You haven't forgotten me, have you Touga-sama?"
Touga recognized her as one of his loyal admirers, and immediately felt terrible for treating her so coldly. He flashed her a warm smile and responded, "I'm sorry for not keeping in touch, my dear. You're as beautiful as I remember you to be, as radiant as the sun itself. I'll have to send flowers to your room in apology. Can you find it in your heart to forgive a thoughtless man like me?"
"Of course I can, Touga-sama! I'd do anything for you!" The girl's cheeks were now burning red, "You're so kind and wonderful. I-I-"
Touga chuckled as the girl fidgeted nervously, and before he could stop himself, he leaned forward, planting a soft, gentle kiss on the girl's lips. Touga quickly withdrew and, avoiding the girl's eyes in embarrassment, apologized, "I'm sorry. That was rude of me."
In this excerpt, Touga is caring, modest, friendly, and shy at even the smallest kiss; exactly the kind of Touga fangirls want to see. Some may be so bold as to call this a "horrible mutilation of character," but I'm sure many others would call it a winner!
Similarly, if you include an original character in your work, it is perfectly acceptable to alter the personalities of regular characters, or even plot details, in order to better suit the needs of your OC. Your entire story could revolve around your OC, if you wish it. Here's a sample outline of an FMA fanfic that centers on an OC:
The fanfic begins with Ed about to be beaten to a pulp by Envy or some other Homunculus, when the OC comes in the nick of time to save him. The OC, Suki, is a fellow State Alchemist, and she is an even stronger alchemist than Ed or anyone else! She's also beautiful, intelligent, witty, and confident.
All the men become weak-kneed just at the sight of her, including but not limited to: Ed, Al, Roy, Hughes (even though he's married with kids, but for the purposes of this fic, let's say they died in a horrible accident), Envy, and even the Fuhrer. Even with all these men vying for her attention, Suki slowly begins to fall in love with Ed, and at the end, they get married and have a lot of kids together. Happy ending!
Some people may accuse this of being self-insertion fanfiction, but they're totally wrong! The author isn't inserting herself into the story; she's inserting an idealized character named Suki into the story! Big difference! Besides, this is what fans really want to read, a story about a character that has nothing to do with the original work.
OC characters or no, the most important thing to remember when writing fanfiction is to always tweak characters to your liking. Doing this is sure to bring you success in the fanfiction world!
Lesson II. Pairings
First off is choosing which characters you wish to pair up. The important thing to remember is that both characters in question MUST look good together. Otherwise, it just doesn't work. It doesn't matter whether or not the characters have any sort of relationship in the canon; as long as they look good, then it's a keeper. To demonstrate, let's take the cast of Naruto and see which characters can be paired and which can't:
Kakashi/Iruka: They look pretty good together, and Iruka even blushed when talking to Kakashi during that one scene early on! Admittedly, that's really the only time they talk to each other in the entire series, but that's good enough!
Neji/TenTen: They don't really seem romantically interested in each other despite being teammates, but they look pretty cute as couple, so this is a keeper too!
Lee/Sakura: EW, NO. I don't care how devoted, friendly, and sincere he is, Lee is WAAAY too ugly for Sakura!
After deciding the pairing, the next step is to decide what role each character will play in the relationship. No matter what the gender of the characters are, there must always be a clearly defined dominant half and submissive half. God forbid both characters have equal power in the relationship. If this means tweaking a character's personality to be more dominant or submissive than in the canon, so be it! Let's use another Naruto example to demonstrate what happens when the dominant and submissive halves of the relationship aren't clearly defined:
"Are you an idiot?" Sasuke yelled, grabbing Naruto by the shoulders. "Don't run into a horde of enemies if all you can do is swing your fists around like a moron! Just watch from the sidelines if you're that much of a bother!"
Naruto glared at the other boy, and smacked his hands off his shoulders, "Hey, asshole, you aren't my sensei, so don't boss me around!"
"I'm just saying you should think a little sometimes," Sasuke's voice grew louder with each word, "So I won't have to rescue you during each and every damn mission!"
"I never asked you to help me! And I don't need it either! Don't be so full yourself, jerk!"
As you can see, there is ZERO potential for cute love scenes between the two as things stand, and what's the point if it's not cute? So, we'll tweak things around a bit:
“…Just watch from the sidelines if you're that much of a bother!"
Naruto stared at Sasuke with wide eyes, before apologetically averting his gaze to the ground. "You're right. I'm completely useless, aren't I? I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He bit his bottom lip, fighting back the tears welling up in his eyes.
Sasuke eyes softened at the sight. He pulled the blond-haired boy into a tight embrace, and a blush immediately rose to Naruto's cheeks.
"No, I'm sorry, Naruto," Sasuke said softly, lovingly, "I should have never said something that horrible to you."
"I try so hard to be useful to you, but I can't do anything. I'm sorry."
"Shh. It's okay, Naruto. It's okay."
As you can see, Naruto is changed to become a more submissive character, while Sasuke is written as a gentle dominant half. These changes are perfectly acceptable, necessary even, as there is now the possibility of many cute situations between the two, and cuteness is everything in romantic fanfiction!
Going along these lines, typically immoral relations can be seen in a brighter light. In fanfiction, incest and romantic relationships between adults and prepubescent kids are perfectly fine, and should be treated as such! As long as it's true love, the 20-year age difference or the fact that they're siblings doesn't make their love any less pure!
Personality really doesn't matter much, so don't waste your time writing unique, interesting interaction between the characters; remember, cuteness is the goal with any pairing!
Lesson III. R/NC-17 Material
First off, every good mature rated fanfic has no plot. People read these fics for the smut, so why make the effort to write anything but?
The best thing about adult fanfiction is that no experience is necessary! Everyone can write smut, from the smallest pre-teen to that pre-teen's mother. If you have no personal experience, all you need to do is mimic everything you read in other adult fanfiction. Really, following the crowd is your only option. In all likeliness, readers won't be able to tell the difference, so it will be as if you really know what you're talking about!
When writing sex scenes, remember to try your hardest not to directly name the reproductive parts. It's bad manners. Instead use such phrases as "forbidden area," "naughty bit" or even "the hole" to refer to said body parts.
Don't feel shy to incorporate rape into your fanfic as well. Many fanfiction authors carelessly use rape as a plot device without considering the psychological damage caused by such an act, and now you can too! Here are a couple common situations involving rape:
- Protagonist gets raped, and runs into the arms of his/her friend for comfort sex. This is totally, unquestionably realistic.
- Protagonist is raped by a seemingly evil character, whom the protagonist later falls in love with. Again, totally realistic because non consensual sex is the most romantic way to woo your loved one!
However, no matter how rough your fic may get, there should always be a good dosage of fluff present in each chapter. Have your pair cuddle often or have the dominant character whisper sweet-nothings to their partner. (Yes, this can be done in rape fics as well.) As stated in Lesson II, cuteness is the goal with any pairing, and the same applies to adult fiction as well.
Follow these rules, and you're on your way to writing quality adult reading material!
Lesson IV. Other Helpful Tips
- Unlike with respectable work, in fanfiction, punctuation does not matter. In fact, don't even bother to spell check your work. As long as your work is readable, there's no need to fret over little things like capitalization. The only exception to this is ellipses, which you should use much as possible.
- When describing the physical features of a character, it's wise to re-use the same descriptive phrases that everyone else uses over and over again. (ex. Heero's cobalt eyes, Duo's chestnut brown hair, etc.) Originality is good, but familiarity is even better!
- Author's notes are very appropriate to use throughout the fic. Random, unneeded side commentary saves readers the trouble of forming their own opinions by having your opinions shoved down their throat. Likewise, if you incorporate Japanese into your fanfic, it's good form to include patronizing translation notes every once in a while. It isn't really necessary, though, since your readers are anime fans, which implies that they should just know these things.