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A Starter's Guide to Fan Fiction

Have you ever seen a show, or read a book, and wanted to add to it? Do you like writing? Why not write a fan fiction? 

Here at deviantArt, amidst the plethora of art galleries, is a thriving fan fiction community. Fan fiction, or fanfic, is fiction written by someone not affiliated with the franchise (i.e. a fan). Fanfics can be written about books, movies, television shows, video games, and even musicians. That's the beauty of fanfics. They can be about whatever you like.

In this feature we will delve into considerations to make when writing your own story (such as genres and character choices, common mistakes and writing tips). Please keep in mind these are just guidelines, and nothing is ever set in stone. Nor am I the absolute expert on all things (despite what I tell my children). These are merely things I consider when I write.

:bulletred: What Are You Writing About?

The first, and probably easiest, decision is which franchise to write about. You want to choose something you are familiar with. Also, be aware that some franchises have multiple continuities to consider. If you want to write a Batman fan fiction, do you want write about the comics, cartoons, movies or video games? Some of those have different versions to consider. To avoid confusing your readers, you should have a clear idea of which franchise you want your story to occur in. Of course, it's up to you how strictly, or how canon, you adhere to your chosen continuity.

Another choice at this juncture is whether you wish to do a crossover: two (or conceivably more) franchises together in one story. You should still have a firm grasp of which continuity you're writing about, if there is more than one to choose from. Choose your crossover fandoms carefully. They need to mesh naturally, if you want your readers to take your fic seriously. A Twilight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossover makes more sense than Star Wars and Sesame Street.

:bulletred: To Be (Serious), Or Not To Be (Serious): that is the question.

Like other literature, fan fiction comes in numerous genres or categories: humor, horror, romance, etc. Some genres are predetermined by their franchise (a Star Wars fan fiction is, by nature, sci-fi). Certain tropes have become quite popular in fan fiction: angst, hurt-comfort, fluff, to name a few.

When planning your fanfic, you should have some idea what kind of story you want to write. This will help when you pick your characters and with planning out both the overall plot and specific events. Don't worry, it's not set in stone. If your angsty, grief-fest becomes giggle worthy, feel free to change the genre.

:bulletred: Characters Make the Story.

Time to populate your story. You can choose to use canon characters, or create your own original characters, or OCs. With canon characters, you already have their personal traits and descriptions laid out for you. However, this creates the need to understand and anticipate their actions, in order to keep them 'in character.' Fans will notice if their favorite characters act out of place (and some won't be shy about pointing this out). This can make creating your own original characters - where you decide their personalities and quirks - an attractive option.

One unfortunate aspect of OCs, and it's found in quite a few fanfics and roleplays, is the infamous Mary Sue. A Mary Sue is an overly perfect character. He/she has little or no flaws, and outshines everyone else in the story. They can also serve as a type of wish fulfillment for authors, allowing them to insert themselves into the story beside their favorite characters. These characters are usually (and sometimes instantly) disliked by readers.

Here are some excellent tutorials on creating and describing your characters. 


The 1-Question Mary Sue TestThe ULTIMATE one-question Mary Sue Test
All right, well, here we go—A one-question Mary Sue Test. No 100 questions, 1,000 interpretations, very little math. Pretty cool, neh? Well, if you're taking a Mary Sue Test, there's only one question to be asked.
Here it is, the only question you need when wanting to figure out if you're writing a Mary Sue, and how to fix it (probably):
1. Why are you taking something called the Mary Sue Test in the first place?
Here, let me elaborate on that. Why are you here? Let's think about that. If you're just taking this for fun, you guys can either hang out or head out; this is meant in particular to those who were earnestly seeking a test to help make their character better (not that taking something in fun isn't something wrong, just giving you guys a heads up). And if you landed here by random chance, well, hey, you're as welcome as anyone else to stay and read, too.
First things first: Don't worr
Nobody Loves My Character!
On making characters lovable, in your story and online
Brought to you by Super Editor
Disclaimer: This is a troubleshooting guide, and it doesn't necessarily cover every possible solution. It's based on my own experience, and not every idea may fit every character or work. Please use your common sense and personal taste when applying this information. Thanks for reading!

It's every writer's nightmare: your characters, after all the things you've put them through and all the months or years they've inhabited your head, have been eagerly displayed to the public and received an unenthusiastic response. Your audience has not been enchanted. They do not drool, fall hopelessly in love, or draw fan art in droves. They don't even pick favorite characters or whine for more information! You've failed. Nobody understands your characters. Nobody understands you.
...Wait a second. Try again?
Deviants who regularly post OC stories and art are lucky: their relationship with their audien

:bulletred: Do You Know the Franchise?

This may sound obvious, but you need to consider it. You've picked the franchise, but do you truly know it well enough to write for it? Hard core fans will notice if you don't.  If not, that's fine! That's what Google, Wikia and Wikipedia are for. Research is invaluable. Also, read other fanfics for your franchise. Those will introduce you to fan-accepted terms. In the Transformers fandom, there are numerous terms that, while not canon, are widely used and accepted by the fans.

Okay, Let's Write!

Fan fiction is just like any other literature. It follows all the same rules: plot building, grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. Everything your school English teachers taught you applies here. Your fanfic will reflect the effort you put into it. A person who slops something together will have a sloppy fic. Take the time to put your best work into this. It will show, and your readers will appreciate your efforts. 

There are numerous writing tutorials on deviantArt that can help you plot out and polish your story. Here are some of my favorites:

:thumb278408483: :thumb305684371:

:bulletred: Plot It Out!

Plot, simply put, is a sequence of events that tells a story. Sounds easy, right? The type of story you're telling will determine how your plot unfolds. Mystery plots slowly reveal key information, while an action plot usually moves quickly between events. Plots can be simple and straightforward, or complex with multiple subplots (although those are better suited for longer stories).

:bulletred: Make It Look Good.

If you want your fan fiction regarded seriously, you have to treat it seriously. And that means writing it well. Check your grammar and spelling. Make sure your capitalization and punctuation is correct. Many word processing programs check spelling, and Word will highlight other grammar mistakes. If you don't have a word processor, Open Office is a free, downloadable program available here.

Inkfish7 has an excellent tutorial on grammar here. While it pertains mainly to dialogue, it has many invaluable tips.

While you are plotting and working out all your technical issues, don't overlook your presentation. How easy is it to read? I'm sure you've seen the dreaded "wall of text" - a paragraph that takes up a large section of the screen, possibly the whole screen. Walls of text are hard to read and strain the eyes. The reader loses his/her place, and they lose interest. On the other end of the spectrum are multiple one line paragraphs. This looks choppy and will read that way. This can work for a snappy, back and forth dialogue, but the whole piece should not read this way. You should try to balance short and long paragraphs.

On the internet, it is widely accepted to double space between paragraphs. This leaves a clear break between them, and some much needed white space to help with eye strain. Another option, instead of double spacing, is to indent new paragraphs. If it isn't double spaced or indented, it can be difficult to tell when one paragraph ends and the other begins.

When You're Done Writing, You're Not Done Yet

You've finished your fanfic! First off, congratulations! But before you throw it out onto the web for all to see, let's check a few things.

:bulletred: Have you edited?

I find the best practice after I've finished any writing, is to leave it alone for at least 24 hours (preferably more), then reread and edit it again. It's amazing how many things will stand out with a fresh perspective. Another good idea is to print up the document, and edit that. Seeing your work in a different format helps you see things you might normally miss.

:bulletred: Do you want to add a header?

While not required, and most fan fictions I see don't have them, headers help introduce your fanfic to the audience. They can contain the title, the series/continuity, warnings, rating, pairings (if applicable), a brief synopsis, definitions of any terms your readers may be unfamiliar with and any other relevant information. None of my fanfics have any pairings, but I list on every single one 'Pairings: None.' This lets potential readers know beforehand what to expect from my stories. DeviantArt thumbnails allow readers to easily see your header and decide whether or not they might want to read your work.

:bulletred: Which Gallery Do You Submit It To?

Fan Fiction has its own gallery, in a subgallery of Fan Art. Many fan fictions are mistakenly put under literature. The gallery structure is Fan Art > Fan Fiction > Drama, General Fiction, Horror, Humor, Romance, and Sci-Fi.

Here is an example of the submission screen, when using

Stash Submit Example 2 by SingingFlames


Here is where to submit through deviantArt's main submission process.

dA submit example 2 by SingingFlames

:bulletred: Preview Before You Post.

I'm sure you've seen it. I know I have, several times. You're reading something on deviantArt, either a piece of literature or a description, and in the middle of it is an out-of-place emoticon.

Where do these rogue emotes come from? Why are they there? :O

Simple. The deviant posted something that looked fine in his/her draft, but deviantArt has coded as an emoticon. Always preview both your work and your description before you post it up. Not only to preempt those emotes from sneaking in, but to check that the links work and all the formatting is correct.

And That's All!

That's the bare bones of writing a fan fiction. Fanfics are like any other piece of literature. They require planning and effort. Grammar, spelling and editing can't be overlooked. There are no shortcuts. If you put your best effort into it, you will be rewarded.

And the most important part? Enjoy yourself!

Project Educate's Community Week - A Starter's Guide to Fan Fiction!
Add a Comment:
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2012   General Artist
Hey, this is a great article! I bet it'll be really useful to a lot of writers. :)

Thank you for featuring me!
SingingFlames Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! I hope it will be! :)

You're welcome and thank you for writing such a great resource for us! ;)
PaDiYaFLAME Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is a nice article and should be helpful to those new to the whole fan fiction concept.
SingingFlames Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks! And I'm hoping so. :meow:
MattyReese Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Thank you very much for the feature! It's a pretty neat and helpful article! :)
SingingFlames Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks! And you're welcome! :meow:
Decadent-Depraved Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2012  Student Writer
A very astute summation, I think. Nice work.
SingingFlames Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! :blush:
Decadent-Depraved Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2012  Student Writer
No problem. ^^
Add a Comment:

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September 28, 2012
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