Konshuu no Renai INTERMISSION – Fanfiction faux pas
July 3, 2006
It occurred to me the other day that I hadn’t done a Konshuu no Renai for a while, and though I feel that less people come to the site looking for fanfiction, I scouted round on Fanfiction.net for a pairing that I hadn’t done yet and wanted to do. Unfortunately, I rather like minority pairings, so fanfiction was either few and far between (and extremely bad) or far too voluminous to sort through. I did find an extremely bad Anita/Hisami lemon yuri fic though…(lemon meaning “+ dodgy sexual content”)
Reading through all the Nancy/Yomiko Read or Die fanfic I got extremely tired with finding fanfiction that I was dismissing on first glance simply because it looked unreadable, or that the author hadn’t paid enough attention to get names or spellings right. This annoys me on two levels – that I can’t read what could be a good fiction due to bad formatting, and that people can’t even be bothered to check their work before publishing.
So in this article, I would like to go over a few tips for the up and coming fanfiction writer, just to make sure that your fiction is not thrown straight in the Recycle bin without being given a fair chance. I must stress, these are not tips on how to write good fanfiction, merely how to write readable fanfiction. Please, if you do know any authors that suffer from any of these, then point them towards this article. For your sake and the entire fanfiction community ^_^.
1. GET A BETA READER (otherwise known as proof reader)
This is my single most important point to anyone starting out writing, especially if you are not confident with your English. There is no excuse publishing badly spelt fanfiction with wrong tenses and missing conjunctions, even if your mother tongue is not English. Just loitering on fanfiction forums, there are tens of people who would be happy to beta read your fanfiction for you, and many authors even offer their beta reading services on their sites (or you can just email them). There are even directories of beta readers, for example, Perfect imagination, where you can find beta readers willing to read your work and even state what parts of English you struggle with and would like concentrated on. There is seriously NO EXCUSE for not betaing your work, and it will increase the number of people who read your work exponentially, especially if you are from forn parts.
Secondly and no less importantly, the formatting of your masterpiece is as equally important as your spelling. Since beta readers may not comment on your formatting, it is important that you get it right as you write (as it can be a pain to edit afterwards).
Fanfiction is a very different medium than book based literature, mainly because people are reading from bright screens rather than inoffensive ink on paper. Therefore, making your text as reader friendly as possible is very important. I will assume for the moment that you are publishing this on Fanfiction.net with black text on white (and not one of those godawful sites with red text on black or similar).
To sum up in one line: People do not want to read huge blocks of text.
If you notice as I write on my blog (and in most other blogs), I put in paragraph breaks in every few lines or so, even when paragraphs are perhaps not required. When a reader’s eye scans down the page, it stops on the line breaks, and the most intensive reading is done on the words above and below line breaks, simply becuase it is less strain to separate the text from the surrounding words.
In A4 writing, you should probably aim to put paragraph breaks every 5-6 lines or so, and not have blocks of text longer than 10-15 lines(and even that’s pushing it). Also, start new paragraphs when new people start talking, it saves on confusion.
3. Research your anime
This may be a minor niggle, but being a fan of an anime, as you are likely to be reading a fanfiction about it, means that misspellings of important names are extremely annoying. If you have only watched part of an anime, look up the names on ANN or Wikipedia, for example before writing a fanfic. A little research goes a long way in the eyes of the reader.
I remember, for example, that there was a huge discussion on the Wonderland AzuDai forums as to the last name of Kaorin from Azudai. (I believe the agreed name is Aida Kaori now, so if you are thinking of writing, that is probably the name you should use)
Please please please decide if you are going to write in the 1st person (i.e. I did something), or the 3rd person (i.e. Kaorin did something) before you start writing. New writers may think at first that it is easier to write in the 1st person, but actually, it is much harder (especially with describing events happening away from your main character) and the choice is rather limited (think how many novels are written in the 3rd person!).
Switching between the 1st and 3rd person while writing is also a tricky business, especially in fanfiction, where it seems very clunky to read, and often invites confusion as to who’s viewpoint we are now reading from. The best thing to do is either to choose 1st or 3rd person and stick to it, or only change after chapter breaks (for example, having alternate chapters from a character’s viewpoint and in the 3rd person can work, as long as it is the same character each time).
Not too much please. I am tired of clicking through stories which are entirely composed of speech between characters and line breaks, with very little action in between. For a start, there is a name for pieces like this – they are play scripts, and should be formatted as such (with character names preceding each line, stage dicrections etc.)
Creative writing should be description with speech as an accessory. Monologues are all well and good as part of a larger story, but dialogues should have things happening in the middle of them, otherwise it becomes extremely difficult for the reader to visualise the scene and the reader gives up.
Also, don’t feel that you need to qualify each sentence with a “she said” or even description (such as ‘”Are you sure you want to come back with me?” she said, her fingers dripping with green goo.’) Sometimes forcing description after every line of speech can feel lumpy and interrupt the flow.
6. Miscellaneous tips
Also, a great tip is to proof read your own work as well as to get someone else to read it. Proof reading (although painful) allows you to assess whether your work flows the way you want it to and which parts require rewriting. Releasing your work without proof reading is like an artist painting blindfolded and sending his work off without looking to see whether its good.
If you do want to write a lemon (called PWP (porn without plot/plot? what plot?) in regular fanfiction), please read through your sex scenes and make sure they flow well. Also, please don’t start straight out with the sex. Buildup is required to write a good lemon and at least some storyline as to how the characters got there in the first place is required. I certainly don’t want to read a fic and rush headlong into Anita’s “stiff nipples” (Warning: not safe for work. Happens to be the fic with annoying misspellings of character’s names). Also, I’m tired of reading multiple variants on spelling of the word “tongue”. Get it right, people.
Multiple pronoun syndrome – It is certainly common when you start writing to run out of pronouns describing a character. Please resist the urge to drop to using “the blonde/brunette/greenhead etc.” or a character’s occupation (“ZA PAYPAAAR”) in place of “he” or “she” in a sentence if at all necessary. Joining sentences together to places where you need to put pronouns, or repeated usage of “He/she” or a character’s name is fine.
I hope this has been useful, though it is unlikely to stem the tide of badly spelt, badly formatted and just generally bad fanfiction that is belched forth by the internet fanfiction community, but I hope that it will at least help a few potentially good writers to realise that their work really isn’t all that bad.