June 19, 2014

Keeping Fan-Fiction Fresh and Interesting

The harsh eastward wind slaps the sails to the side, a team of twenty attempting to keep the galleon in the windlane's safety. The ropes, beaten down from weeks of constant stress, moan as they're arranged and rearranged. Upon the vessel, only a single being is freed from the work; She sits curled up in bags of rice and clutching a leather-bound journal and pencil, glancing thoughtfully at the ceiling. 

I was recently asked over Twitter by a certain @GamingCentral405 if I had any tips for fan-fiction. I decided that replying or DMing my advice just wouldn't do the topic justice; There's so much to say and I'm sure that more than just one person may benefit from a few opinions on what I think makes fan-fiction great. Looking to start a new project? Wanting to freshen up and edit some work to submit? There may be something here for you.

Disclaimer: Many of these tips are common for not just fan-fiction to be taken into consideration, though within this list there are exceptions. I'll be referencing my fan-fiction as much as possible. Enjoy the post!

From Great Beginnings Come Great Followings

This is something so important that I would likely frame the title of this section. It is said that around the first 200 words of any sort of writing are the most crucial to keeping them engaged. For many writers including myself, I tackle this by immersing the reader in the setting related to the character's mood when I first begin. This is evident in On the Streets of Dogs, where the sky is directly related to Warwick's feelings in a deliciously indirect fashion.

When you write beginnings, put forward your strongest skill. Is that dialogue? Give your main character a little room to monologue. Introduce your cast in a tavern chat. Is action your specialty? I'm jealous. Fire a few shots from the east and let your characters react. If you feel like your beginning is something that would keep YOU going, there's a good chance your readers will agree.

The Bendier, the Better

Here's something that's incredibly important to fan-fiction. Most P101 players know the story of the pirate whose parents died, causing them to take refuge on Skull Island to search for El Dorado. The same goes for lots of stories - You don't want to re-tell Goldilocks word-for-word; people know it. I was once shown a good picture book of the Big Bad Wolf's testimony when questioned about the three little pigs. Who would have thought he had a cold and sneezed the houses down? If a writer can put an intriguing twist to a familiar story, the readers are pushed just far enough away from their comfort zones. I'll rattle off a few good examples:

A Survivor's Word - One Eyed Jack is a character that normally stays in his tavern. A to-be-exposed leg of the journey is exactly what my exiled swashbuckler decides to do when the rabbity mister is taken by the Armada.

On the Streets of Dogs - This is a narrative form (and retelling) of a side quest in Nautical (Pirate101) Marleybone. The side quest is a werewolf story molded to the alleys and then further investigated when a single line of dialogue from the game (in which enemies think the playing character is the were-man) is exaggerated.

It's All About the Conflict

There can be near-tangible, easy-to-relate-to characters. The setting can be breathtaking. The action can make the reader cringe and cry and laugh with everyone else, but fiction can't set sail properly without a conflict to be constantly worried about. The conflict is the obstacle in the main character's way to success.

It's almost like crossing a street. You're the main character and your goal is to get to the other side. The conflict is that cars are going really fast and you don't want to risk getting hurt. There's an easy solution to this, sure, but an even better conflict arises when there's an issue with an immediate solution. Say there's no crosswalk, for example. Is your character the type who will yell until the cars stop or the type that will express their frustration by repairing bicycles during rush-hour? It's up to you. What matters is a good conflict that is simple enough to understand but compelling enough to get your readers excited and worried for your characters.

In fan-fiction, this is just as important as the compelling "twist" to what people are used to, as mentioned above. Within the oddity, there needs to be a goal to achieve. For Warwick in On the Streets of Dogs, this is to find out why Bones so quickly snubbed him from what appeared to be an interesting case, the conflict being that he's not only followed by the frothing masses, but as well by his shifty past.


As with all stories, there's something in every single one that makes them unique. Fan-fiction is a wonderful challenge to this philosophy as writers take a familiar topic with already interesting facets and from those divine even more. Many fan-fiction authors can agree that getting a nice compliment or re-share of their work is a very good feeling, and these three tips, while simple, are the things I keep in mind. In fact, as I was writing this post, I had

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