So, you want to write better fanfics, eh?
By coming to this page, you've reached a point where you want readers to actually provide you with meaningful feedback. It is my sincere hope that this tutorial not only helps you when writing a fanfic, but also when you're writing your essays for your English classes and in writing letters to important people (you know, like Santa Claus ^.~).
With that said, I will tell you now that I am not a professional author. The advice I provide here is to be taken as a set of guidelines and suggestions as opposed to gospel. Every author, when reading a fanfic, will give you different advice on different things. For them, it's a matter of style. You need to determine your own style of how you write and express things. If you don't understand that, don't worry. It'll make more sense as you practice writing. As an example, my style is that I try to describe pokemon and their characters as actual living things you would see in the real world (ours, not the pokemon realm). Pokemon, in my style, have animal intelligence, like dogs or cats. They don't even speak with each other nor do they say "Pika-pi" or "Saur. Bulba!" They speak in grunts, squeaks, shrills, sqwaks, roars, barks, yips -- any noises that actual animals make. To me, pokemon are animals. They are trained to fight each other. So, commands are given as though you would to a dog, "Fetch!" "Sit." "Stay." "Fireball." ^.~ You get my point. That's just how I write pokemon. It's my style.
I am also not an English teacher. If you're unsure about how to spell something or if the grammar is right, ask your teacher! Consult some books on proper grammar! Use a dictionary!! I can't stress this enough. A very big key to being an effective writer is knowing the basics of the English language (unless it's not your native tongue, of course, but good spelling and grammar is important in any language). Nothing will throw off a reader more than when your spelling is an atrocity and you need an interpreter to figure out what you're trying to say. If you're not good with the basics, please make the effort to learn them. They will be essential to the quality of your writing, be it fiction or letters or email, and will be the foundation of your writing skills for the rest of your life.
Alright, I'm going to try and stop sounding like your dad. It'll be hard, but I'm going to try. ^.~ But please understand that they are very important, okay? Okay!
I've broken down this tutorial into a few sections. Now, I'll tell you up front that there will be a lot of reading here. It'll probably bore you to tears. But in my defense, you came to this page first because you wanted to write better. ^.^ Yeah, I know, I'm pretty sneaky. Okay, here's the breakdown:
2. Outlining - The Start To Finish
3. Flesh For Your Fantasy
4. Don't Be So Tense! It's Just My Point Of View!
5. Keep Reading It Over And Over And Over And Over
6. Is It Done? Dear God, I Hope So!
Let's jump into it! Click one of the numbers to jump to a certain spot or just keep reading!
You've Got An Idea!
Ash takes over the world!! Not a bad idea. Granted, he's just a kid and not into the Team Rocket ideals, but let's run with it. Ash is going to use Pikachu and just Thundershock all the world leaders and be the ultimate ruler of planet Earth. If all goes well, maybe he'll get the girl in the end (Misty). Okay, now we have an idea. There are a series of questions you need to ask yourself about this idea you have. These questions are just to get you thinking, they are not hard and fast rules. Frankly, some might not even apply:
2) How will it work?
3) Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? (This is not as obvious as you might think.)
4) How will it end? (This is really an important one!)
5) Does Jolt always ramble on like that and why does he like grilled tunafish sandwiches so much?
These questions may not always apply either. The point of these questions is to make you think, in spite of how painful it would be, about your story and your characters. Thinking about what the answers might be (and they shouldn't be short answers) will help flesh out your fanfic a bit.
But, part of a fanfic is the fantasy side of it. You're telling a story. So tell the story of how Ash takes over the world by using Pikachu and how he gets to have Misty at the end of the fanfic.
Also, try to be original in your ideas. It's really difficult, I know. There are so many fanfics out there, it's near impossible to come up with a fresh idea. But you see, this is where you can really shine. What hasn't Ash done? Maybe Jessie and James break away from Team Rocket because Giovanni has started to dabble in very illegal business activities. You've probably heard the phrase: "Think outside the box." It's tough to do this, but with a little practice, this can be easily accomplished.
Outlining - The Start To Finish
Outlining is not the end all of storywriting. For me, it's a personal preference. In fact, I learned my outlining skills from doing research papers in high school. It's a shame I didn't learn this when I was a freshman in high school because my papers would've probably made more sense. Nonetheless, it became a very valuable tool in both my academic and working careers.
In any case, your brain may well be organized enough to think through a story from start to finish. But not everyone is that gifted, so you write an outline. The cool part about this is that your word processor probably has this feature as part of the program. All you have to do it turn it on and viola! Instant organized thoughts!
I've provided an example of what an outline can look like. Again, this is just how I would set it up. The main topics would be chapters, then you go with main ideas, then down to main details.
2) He'll use Pikachu to do it
3) He'll get Misty too
C. Ash believes in himself and it will work!
D. He sets off to work out his master plan
So now you can see how the story will progress, some in big steps, others much smaller. Remember, you're not writing the story here; you're just taking notes. You keep doing this until you get to the end of the story - as you see it. As I mentioned before, you are the storyteller/writer. You are the one that has the story end. Work the details and ideas to reach that end. The outline will help you focus your ideas and keep you on track to get to the end of your story.
One important thing to remember about outlines, they are NOT set in stone. You don't like an idea, change it. It's really bad? Delete it. Put something else in. When fleshing out your story, things will begin to take on a certain life of it's own. This is okay as long as you don't stray too far from the outline of what you want to accomplish.
Flesh For Your Fantasy
Two pet peeves of mine from reading all the wonderful fanfics that make up the The Pokemon Tower are assuming that everyone knows what the characters are like (i.e. looks and personality) and providing their ages (i.e. Ash and Misty are about 15 and Brock is 20) before starting the story and using the "script" format for character dialogue and action description (i.e. MISTY: blah blah blah ASH: blah blah blah).
I've been guilty of not providing a description of my characters in my earlier stories, so I make it a point to describe them from the start. As for the "script" format, I can assure you that your grammar teacher would not appreciate you turning in a creative writing assignment like that. The only time a format like that would be acceptable would be to some powerful people in Hollywood. And unless you're an exceptionally good writer, your stuff won't be read by them, so there's no point in using the script format.
So, how else are you supposed to give description information to the reader? Believe it or not, this is the easy part of the story. You get to describe your characters -- flesh them out! Make them real people. Make it so that if you did it well enough, they would suddenly appear in front of you (this was a very cool black and white Twilight Zone episode, for those you who remember). Plus, the proper format for dialogue is also shown below.
Okay, so we've got Ash trying to take over the world, right? Using the outline above, here's how I'd do it:
See what I mean? You don't know this character's name, but you have a pretty clear idea of what he looks like and you can easily guess who I'm talking about based on the description. Then I give the name and age through the girl so now you know exactly who he is and how old he is. You even know the girl is Misty because Ash called her by name, but I provided a description first, so you know she looks like too. Now, if they were dressed differently, you would know this too, if say the setting was at a formal New Year's celebration.
And now, Ash and Misty are three-dimensional characters of your fanfic and no longer two-dimensional drawings on your TV screen.
In a related note to this, it also applies to background and scenes. In my example, I simply described a cliff and that Ash was looking out to the sea with some breezes blowing about. It's not much, but it gives you the general idea of where he's at. Without it, he's just floating in some unknown space. Further down the story, I could provide the name of the city he was in and maybe a little background about it (i.e. a seaport village, a bustling metropolis, etc.).
Remember, you are the storyteller, and thus, the eyes for the reader's imagination. You need to describe what and who's there so that the reader will be able to follow along with the characters and join them in their journey - be it Ash's desire to take over the world, James' hidden passion for Jessie, or Meowth's obsession with money. You, the fanfic writer/storyteller, need to tell the reader what is there, then lead them through your story. You're basically the white rabbit that Alice follows in Wonderland.
Don't Be So Tense! It's Just My Point Of View!
This is two-fold topic having to do with verb tenses and points of view. I've more or less touched on the verb tense when it comes to good grammar. There's no best tense to write a story. Usually, it's written in the third person past tense, unless you, as the author, are assuming one of the character roles, then it's first person. Here's an example of the third person past tense:
Here's the first person past tense:
The present tense is a little tougher, so I'm not going to try it here. You can see that all the action verbs are past tense, then I switched points of view from third to first, as Ash. I went from telling the story to being in the story.
When it comes to points of view, don't state it outright (i.e. Misty POV,etc.). That's what the third person is for - to explain who it is, what is going on and what they are doing or thinking. Here's the first paragraph from the top of this page. Remember, that was from Ash's point of view, now we'll switch to Misty's point of view:
Here in Misty's point of view, you could read Misty's thoughts. You couldn't do that from Ash's point of view at the start of this page. So, when providing a point of view, don't state who's it is - just be it; describe the world through their eyes.
Keep Reading It Over And Over And Over And Over
You're probably familiar with the practice called proofreading. Here is where you check for errors, be it typos or incomplete sentences or just wondering what the heck you just wrote. Usually, I do one of two things - or both - to ensure that I've got a quality fanfic or part written.
You can just put the story down for a few days or a week and simply not look at it. It's tough sometimes, I can understand that, but you'll find that when you come back to it, your eyes aren't so used to reading and typing the story, and you'll pick up some mistakes you hadn't seen before.
Another method of proofreading - have someone else read it. Now, here is (usually) a true test of friendship (or love from a parent). Any friend or parent who cares about you will be as honest as possible with you regarding what you've written. Not overly brutal (unless your story really stinks), but honest enough to help you where they feel some improvement should be made. Listen to what they say and please don't get upset by what you hear. They honestly are trying to help you.
I point out this last bit because when you write a story, it's a very personal experience. The story becomes your baby. You'll feel that it's perfect the way it is and no changes are needed, no matter what. However, conversely you want people to review your stories. I can almost guarantee that visitors of the Internet will be very harsh to you, if they feel your story totally blows. So, I can only suggest that if you are going to publish your fanfics, be it here at The Tower or elsewhere on the Net, you will need to thicken your skin against what you might hear from other people. If you take flames too seriously, then you shouldn't publish your work in a public forum.
However, to play the devil's advocate about flaming, obviously, you need to consider what the flame actually says. If it says something like "Your story sucks!" with nothing to suggest for improvement, then this criticism shouldn't even stay in your mailbox. However, it's those "flames" that actually do provide some ideas or suggestions in your story that you should consider more seriously. Again, it's in the tone of the flame itself. Do remember that a bad review does *not* equal a flame. To me, a flame would contain personal insults, but that's simply my opinion.
Is It Done? Dear God, I Hope So!
Well, yes! That's about it. Once you've read it over and over, maybe had someone else read it and get their feedback on it, it then becomes time to submit it! Huzzah!
The whole thing about knowing it's done is because you sat down and took the time to really think out how a story should read from start to finish. You can even use some of the above tips in your schoolwork to write essays and research papers (and believe me, you will want to know how to do that). If nothing else, this tutorial can be used as an exercise in critical thinking - or more simply, to think things out to a solution or an ending. Your scholastic career may not live or die by this, but this exercise can only help you.
But that's it! Thanks for taking the time to read this tutorial. I hope you learned a lot and please feel free to ask me any questions through the Contact Me area.
Good luck and have fun!