Fanfiction writing is not an easy venue. There are many traps, and many, many, nasty people waiting to pounce on you the minute you post your first fanfic. This little essay of mine will hopefully help you through some of these rough spots, and make you a little more aware of the genre of writing you are placing yourself in.
A few things to get you started:
First things first. You have to know who and what you’re writing about. The first thing you do before writing anything down on paper (or on computer screen) is to watch the show you want to write about and become familiar with the characters. Although I have, in my time, written stories where the characters act horribly OOC (out of character), with experience I have realized that the best fanfiction is the story where the characters seem real. These are the stories where you sit back and say; ‘Yeah, I can see (insert character’s name here) doing that.’ A little OOC isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there are some things these characters just wouldn’t do (Piccolo and Vegeta falling madly in love? Come on, that’s horribly out of character if you’ve seen the series), so we need to bend their personalities a little to get them where we want them in a story. Just remember, too much bending is a bad thing. It not only irritates the reader (who really wants to see the character, not something that’s so horribly twisted it is no longer the character), but it is also in bad taste.
Step One: Study the characters
Get to know them intimately. You want to know these characters better than you know your best friend. Know them inside and out. Get a definite picture of them before you start to write. When you watch the series they’re in you might want to write down little things about them that you noticed. For example; In Gundam Wing, Trieze Khushrenada seems to enjoy roses quite a bit. He’s seen bathing in rose water, and carrying more than one rose around. In Final Fantasy VIII, Zell Dincht can often be seen moving, he’s rarely seen sitting still. Obviously he’s a person who’s, a; nervous, or b; energetic. These things you notice the characters doing can then be taken and elaborated upon. Remember, you aren’t creating these characters, you’re just using what has already been seen (or written) about them.
Here’s a non exhaustive list of Hobbies and Activities for Gohan to get you started.
Reading: There’s countless episodes where we see him reading various books.
Massaging: If you remember the Cell Saga, Gohan and Goku went training for a whole year inside the Room of Spirit and time. There’s a scene where they’re taking a bath together, and Goku advices Gohan to massage thoroughly his body or he’ll get stiff muscles the next morning.
Whistling: In the Slug movie, Gohan is whistling a whole song. And that’s because of his whistling that Goku is able to defeat Slug, since Namekian cannot withstand whistling.
Painting/Drawing: If you remember the 3 years when Gohan trained daily with Goku and Piccolo, there’s one episode where they have to learn how to drive a car and Gohan is studying in his bedroom. In this scene we can see him drawing on his notebook a picture of Piccolo and Goku driving a car. There’s also this scene near the end of DBZ where teenager Trunks come to Gohan and Videl’s home. If you look very closely you can see there’s a scene where they’re in front of a fireplace. And just above the fireplace there’s a big painting of Namek, which suggest Gohan did it. Also a bit later in the same episode we can see another painting representing the small island on the Kai’s planet where Gohan removed the Zeta sword from the rock.
Swimming/Fishing/Scuba-Diving: There’s countless episodes showing Gohan performing those activities.
Camping: In the Turles movie “Three of might” we see Gohan and the other going to camp in the forest.
Baseball: During the Buu saga, when Gohan goes to Orange School, we see he’s initiated to baseball. There’s also the fact, his good friend Yamucha ended as a famous baseball player for a team named “The Titans”.
Stargazing: If you remember well the Cell saga, there’s one episode where they’re celebrating Gohan’s birthday, and if you look carefully you’ll notice Ox king gave him a telescope.
Studying Fauna: There’s countless of episodes where Gohan do that, either getting fascinated by butterflies, dinosaurs, tigers etc…
Meditating: This was part of his training routine with Piccolo. Also there’s a scene in the Buu saga where Gohan has to meditate several hours while the old kai is trying to freed his mystical powers.
Tinkering/Engineering: During the first episodes of DBZ Piccolo left Gohan in the wilderness for 6 months. There’s an episode where Gohan repair an old abandoned Robot that he founds inside archaeological ruins. There’s also an episode where in order to escape the desert where he’s trapped, Gohan build a sand yacht, and after it crashed, he build a small boat of his own. In DBGT we see him working with Bulma to create the spaceship Goku, Pan and Trunks will use to hunt the dragon ball through space.
Fencing: We often saw Gohan using swords like in his first training in the wilderness at the beginning of the Saiyan Saga or while he tried to master the Zeta Sword with Kaoishin and Kibito’s help during the Buu Saga.
Bicycle Riding: In the original opening of the Buu saga we see Gohan riding a bicycle.
Surfing: In the manga, there’s a small illustration of Gohan wearing a bath suit and holding surf board above is head. In the original opening of the Buu saga we also see Gohan driving a car with Videl. And on the car they’re carrying a surf board.
Step Two: Study the series
You want to be able to create a world around the characters that feels true to whatever series they’re from. Even if you’re writing an AU (alternate universe) story, knowing the storyline of the series will help keep things in perspective. Also, the storyline is often linked to the characters, so knowing the story helps us (fanfiction writers) to know the characters better.
Step Three: Write down everything
Any random thought or observation you have while studying the series, write it down. Try to organize things later so it’s easy to look back while you’re writing. These notes may later give you ideas on what to write, or even give you insight when you experience writer’s block or some other such thing.
Step Four: Become part of a community
Every writer needs friends. Join a message board, forum, Mailing List, or just visit chat rooms and discuss the series and characters with other people. Don’t adopt their opinions, but do keep yourself open to new ideas. Other people will most often have interesting insights or ideas about the series and characters that you might not have thought about. Once again, take notes. If something catchy is said, write it down. Save it for later. You never know where these little tidbits might come in handy. This step is the most important step when you’re getting to know the series you’re writing for. And the friends you make might later be your closest allies.
Writing the story:
Writing the story is sometimes the hardest part for some people. For me it was the easiest, the hard part for me is the research before you start writing. Once you’ve done your research though (and if you’ve done it well) the story writing shouldn’t be too hard. The most important thing during this process is NOT to share your story with anyone until it’s done. This might sound really hard, but it’s extremely important. More often then not the reason writers lose their inspiration is because they have received way too much input while they were in the process of writing. So, keep your story to yourself while you’re writing it. Don’t show anyone, under any circumstances (unless you’re writing the story with someone, and then an exception might be made).
This is very important! BEFORE you start writing, first figure out -why- you’re writing. If you’re not writing for you, don’t bother starting. Through all of this you must only write for you. The best fiction that you’ll ever write is the stuff that you yourself enjoy.
Step One: Brainstorm
I’m not going to tell you to write out a plot. In all honesty I write (or rather wrote) all the plots for my stories after writing the first few chapters. However, I will tell you this; Before you start writing, you need an idea. Something to base your story on. Maybe you think it would be cool to toss the boys of Argent Soma into a medieval setting. Or you were talking with your friends and someone mentioned that Aya (from Weiss Kreuss) looks like an angel. These ideas can be the start of a great story. So, write down any ideas you can think of. Things you would want to see in a story. Just free style write. Don’t worry about whether or not it makes sense. A lot of my notes for my brainstorming stages look pretty … disorganized.
One of my story came to life when I heard the song. From there I started to think about the characters in Final Fantasy VIII. So I sat down and wrote Chapter One. By the time I wrote Chapter Three I suddenly had the thought that it would be really cool if Laguna was really a clone. So that’s what I did. I played with that idea. In that particular series it could be pulled off because FFVIII is set in a futuristic world.
So play around! Listen to music, write down ideas that come to you while listening to the music. Just have fun. And, if you’re really stumped, ask a few friends what they would like to see in a story and if any of their ideas interest you, use them.
Step Two: Write
Don’t Try to insert yourself into the story
Don’t Use original characters. And if you must, be extremely careful how you do it.
Don’t Correct your work while you’re writing. (The first draft is just a rough draft, so don’t worry about grammar or spelling. Correct all that later)
Do Add a disclaimer, copyright information, your net name and email, any warnings that may apply (violence, explicit sex, profanity, and other things that might be in the story that others would find offensive), and pairing information (if you want. This is NOT mandatory but it can save some grief in the end).
Don’t Add author notes to the end of every chapter. Only have author notes at the end of the entire story.
Don’t Rush yourself. (Take your time! There is no rush. Besides, the story will be much better if you have taken your time)
Step Three: Correction
Once you’re done writing you’ll want to go back over it and fix the grammar and spelling, as well as other things that you may decide to change or take out. You might want to find a beta reader, they can be quite helpful, just remember; This is YOUR story, and if they suggest changing something that you don’t believe should be changed… don’t change it! It’s very important the you like your own work. If you can read it and enjoy it, then it’s probably as good as it’s going to get.
Getting your work read:
This is the hardest part of all this process. And the most important. No one writes essays on how to deal with the aftermath. Getting published is fairly simple. Find a website where you can post your work, or an Mailing List, or a fanfiction group, whatever, and post your stuff (once it’s completed).
Step One: Upload
Upload your work to an Mailing List (after making sure they accept fanfiction and making sure you’re posting the right series in the right Mailing List), or find a website or a forum where they accept fanfiction. If you’re really ambitious you can start your own website but that’s a whole other adventure.
Step Two: Network
Tell your friends about your work. Don’t beg them to read it, or pester them, just mention you have written a story and you’d really appreciate it if they read it. Keep your mind your friends interests when you do this though. If your fanfiction is in a series they don’t like, they won’t like your story either. Visit chat rooms, be nice to people and make sure that you’re highly visible. The more people you know, the more people will read your fiction, especially if you’re well liked.
Step Three: Relax
Sit back. Relax. If no one has read your fic yet, so what! You didn’t write it for them anyway (hopefully). All that matters is that you enjoy the fic. Everything else is inconsequential.
Once people have read your fiction, they’ll start making comments. Especially if your work is good. There are some things every writer needs to know about this part of the process.
Number One: Keep your head
If you’re receiving a lot of praise don’t let it stroke your ego too much. This can put a lot of pressure on a writer. So, if you’re receiving endless praise, accept it, but realize that these same people could turn on you the next time you write something. Don’t start to expect praise, or get cocky, you’ll lose your friends and your fans if you do. ALWAYS be nice to everyone who makes comments. Even the people who make not so nice comments. These people took time out of their lives to look at your work, so give them some respect in turn. They didn’t have to read, and they don’t have to read what you write next. Remember that.
Number Two: Criticism
You’re going to receive it some time. When you do, don’t let it rip you apart. If the person has something constructive to say, and are complaining about once specific part of your story, take that into consideration, but don’t let it ruin your enjoyment of writing. Criticism can sometimes be good, because it can help you grow and become a stronger writer. So don’t write off people who give you criticism. They can be your best friends sometimes. Be polite to them if you do respond to them.
Number Three: Back to the drawing board
Keep writing. Write, write, write… the more you write, the better you’ll get. Read a lot as well. As you do, you’ll figure out what you like and what you don’t. That’s important stuff to know when you’re writing.
Have fun. If you stop having fun, you need to stop writing. Fanfiction writing is a hobby. It will never make you money, so don’t do it if you’re not enjoying it.
Don’t be afraid to take the first step.
The best writers are the writers who don’t conform. These are the people who have original ideas, and don’t copy others. They have confidence, but are humble. They have a deep love for fiction, but first they have a deep love for the characters.