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So, You Want to Write Fan Fiction: An Introduction to Writing Ponies & General Writing Tips with CD!

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A fanfic author reading, being satisfied with, self-editing and self-doubting their latest chapter repeatedly, to the ongoing impatience of their readers, 1867, colorized

Fan fiction is the unsung champion of fan content, in this fandom and any other. It is perhaps the easiest art form to create - after all, all you need is a keyboard and an imagination. It's for this reason that fan fiction is the king of fan content, with visual art, its queen. Literature is literally everywhere, and our fandom was boisterous enough in its creativity to create its own website dedicated to the art of written works, FIMFiction.net.

Accessible as it is for beginners, however, it is a difficult art form to master, because frankly, writing is hard. Instead of capturing a single scene or theme, you are stringing together many, while working to capture your reader's imagination through using your own, (typically) without the aide of attention-grabbing artwork, animations or music. You juggle pace/passage of time, character interaction and growth, description, proper language mechanics (grammar/usage), plot (depending on the genre you're writing), and so on. Even the most seasoned writers are always improving and defining their writing the more they write.

There is good news, though.

Fan fiction is even more accessible than traditional writing, because your characters are already fleshed out for you, and more importantly, your audience already knows them well. While the writer of an original novel must struggle with the creation of original characters, then labor to make their audience care about these characters by giving them developed personalities and motives, fan fiction writers' struggle comes from replicating the personalities already established, and building off of them in a meaningful way. This is typically easier, and less time-consuming than doing everything from scratch.

I'd like to point out that fan fiction is not a 'poor man's alternative to writing', as many people outside fandoms still ignorantly believe. Fan fiction is simply a genre of writing, one way to write, just as poetry and classic story writing are. Derivative works based on past works are what make up a large portion of our creative culture, in and outside the professional business. There are writers who've been hired to essentially write fan fiction to expand the greater universe for franchises like Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons, and if our century-old copyright laws ever get updated to properly include the internet, we could see the day fan fiction becomes a viable job opportunity.

Alright, that was a lot of exposition. Let's have another exploitable book meme - you've earned yourself a treat for making it this far!

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Enough novella, yes? Let's get on with some structured tips.

Tip 1: All writers have a 'voice', their own unique writing style, which they discover naturally the more they write.

An author's writing style is like their cutie mark, their passport, their ID, their name tag or their belly button. It is entirely unique to them, and it tells you what genres that writer thrives in writing, as well as what patterns they may use throughout their stories. It is how they start stories off, it is how they describe things, it is in the vocabulary they use. Discovering your writing style is a major milestone in your growth as a writer.

If you're just starting out, you probably don't know what your voice is yet, and that's perfectly fine. It doesn't happen right away, and probably won't until you have numerous stories in your library. One trick to finding your voice through fan fiction is writing short stories, and sticking to just canon characters. Pick a character, maybe two, from the show and create a oneshot around them. It could be anything. The simpler the story, the clearer it will become for you to discover what you gravitate towards in your writing, because you won't have to worry so much about character development or a greater plot. Heck, you may even find you enjoy oneshots and, like me, only have one story over 10k words to your username.

Tip 2: Write your canon characters like you're writing a script for the show, and only deviate from this when necessary.

You're writing fan fiction, and as we've already hit upon, that means you are writing characters that your audience already knows well. If your canon characters are off-key, out of character, it will be obvious. Nailing your canon characters is, I would say, one of the more important things to master in fan fiction writing, because at the end of the day that is what a lot of people read fan fiction for - they're not there just to read about your original character, they want to see more content with the characters they enjoy.

Writing in-character isn't hard, you just need to be mindful of your character dialogue and character actions. Unless you're writing an Alternate Universe story, you are taking that character from the show and thrusting them into whatever premise you have in mind, not borrowing that character's basic concept and molding it outside realistic proportions.

As we got into earlier, your first few stories should focus mostly, if not entirely on canon characters, so this is great opportunity for you to hit your stride in in-character writing. If you're not sure how a character would react in a certain situation, just look to the show for examples of when they may have reacted to a similar situation, even if it's only similar in the type of emotion they're feeling.

Tip 2.5: Always have insertable memes in a lengthy rant topic, or your readers may get spooked and press that back page button.

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Tip 3: 'Show don't Tell' is as equally valid in fan fiction as it is in other story writing. Grammar/mechanics are a muscle memory skill that will improve the more you write and read.

I decided at the start of this topic that I wasn't going to go into detail about grammar/mechanics, or the absolute basics of writing. All of that stuff can easily be looked up, and most of you have probably learned about it in school. That said, I did want to make a few points about these things on a more general scale, for those who may be foggy, or are unclear on what certain things mean.

  • 'Show, don't Tell' is a cornerstone for immersive writing, and everyone should be doing it. To 'show' is to describe things in the moment, to describe a character's thoughts through body language, their movements through specific description. 'Telling' is when you sacrifice opportunity for description for using words . 'Telling' is the biggest pitfall for people in writing, asides grammar, and is extremely boring to read.
    • 'Angry, Spike picked up the scroll and threw it across the room.' This is telling. You're sitting in a bar and telling your friend about something trivial that happened last week. Nobody wants to read writing like this, Karen.
    • 'His teeth clenched and his chest filled with heat, and so Spike seized the scroll and hurled it clear across the room, his harsh grip having crumpled it behind repair.' This is showing. You describe emotions and actions instead of naming them, and you invite your reader to picture the scene, themselves.
  • Grammar/mechanics, as well as a wider variety of vocabulary are all things that will improve the more you read and write. Self-editing is important, but it's also important to have someone else look over your work when possible, as we often miss things when reviewing our own work. An outside eye will often be able to find patterns of word usage, errors and areas of improvement a lot more effectively than you can.

Tip 4: Decide on a POV, or Point of View, and stick with it.

Stories can happen one of three ways.

  • First Person, in where a given character is narrating the story from their point of view.
  • Second Person, in where a character is addressing you, the reader.
  • Third Person, in where you, the author, or a third party character narrates from their point of view.

Most stories stick with one of these categories. You can juggle multiple points of view from different characters, even having more than one type of POV in a single chapter, but this is some advanced sh*t and I would not recommend it for beginners. Third person is usually the easiest way to write for beginners, as it allows you the most freedom in description. First person is a great alternative for recollection, if your story is heavily character-based, and second person is...kinda weird, actually, I haven't seen second person that often and can't speak from experience on how to write it. 

Tip 5: Read in order to write. Reading other writers' works can inspire new ideas, widen your vocabulary and help you discover your own writing style.

I will be the first to admit that I still struggle with this one, as I tend to write stories more than I read them. The trick to remember is that you don't necessarily need to read fan fiction to become inspired for the one you're writing. As long as what you're reading is a story in some regard, it has the capacity to inspire. That said, something with a similar tone or genre will definitely have more obvious similarities to pull ideas from.

There's an old saying that says to never be the smartest person in the room - surround yourself with people as smart, or smarter than you. I believe the same concept applies to reading works. Always try to read something of equal, or higher quality than what you're writing, because that is where you'll find true growth. Never feel discouraged by finding authors farther along than you - they, too, were once where you are. 

More things I struggle with.

Tip 6: As you build your vocabulary, use description to paint atmospheres into your scenes, concerning both the environment and the characters in them. This is called 'tone', and is incredibly immersive for your readers.

The more you read and write, the more adept you'll become at using description to paint scenes. By describing certain things you'll be able to give off feelings for your reader, immersing them in the world you're creating. Take an excerpt from a story of mine, which aims to depict the cold and gloom of a rainy night, and the feelings of comfort and warmth that come from being inside.

Quote

The warm light from within seemed to all but beckon them, now. Fuzzy halos surrounded the many firefly lanterns lining the entrance hall, and the seemingly endless veil of rain at last showed its edge.

"Come on, let's get out of this storm," the bug monarch said softly, acknowledging his company with an affectionate hoof just behind his horn. To this, Calor's bright blue eyes curiously gazed upwards. "I don't know about you, but I'm ready to find somewhere nice and dry to relax."

Together, Thorax and Calor entered the hive, and as the archway passed over them the gloom of rain and cold was left behind. Thorax dimmed his antlers, and so too did the vibrant dome of magic around them dissipate. The fragrant smell of the hive's internal flora tickled their nostrils, overtaking their senses in a wave of aroma, and the more they moved, the more the structure's naturally insulative properties warmed their shells and elicited shivers of content. Even the wind seemed to have been barred passage to the hive's cozy interior.

~ Rain Curfews, by yours truly

Final Tip: Write every day, at least a little, to keep your skills sharp and always improve upon your writing. Even if you don't end up publishing everything, write a little every day.

I started writing fan fiction at thirteen, largely self-taught, and I was horrible. Come years later, I can look back and actually see how far I've come. Determination will get you far in life, and writing is no different. If you have the motivation to start even one story, do it. You might find you really enjoy it, and will start to carve out your own section of literature in this feelsy, colorful fandom.

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I'll be adding to this once I think of anything else to add.

Let's call this a first draft. Heh, writing terms!

  • Brohoof 6

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