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Submitted on
September 17, 2012
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106 (who?)
WARNING: There be snark ahead.

Disclaimer: These steps assume that you have an intriguing premise for your story. If your premise is boring, overdone or just plain pointless, then you needn't bother with the following advice. You've already successfully alienated readers. Congratulations!

1. Grammar? Spelling? Ha! Who needs it?

     Okay, so it's fanfiction. I mean, fanfiction for crying out loud. Why should grammar matter, right? because, srsly, its like noone expects this tobe the next great american novel or anything like that, i mean i'm just, writing a story about characters from a movie or tv show or whatever and my plot is super good so ppl will totally love it and not care if i mispel a word or something and who cares about comas or semicolons or stuff like that;and i no the readers will leave me lots and lots of awesome reviews cuz my story is badass take that bitches!!1!

2. The full page paragraph totally ROCKS!

      I'd give you an example, but the awesomeness that is the full page paragraph may cause you to faint. No, really. I hate it when authors break up their prose into more palatable chunks. Pfft. Wimps. A new paragraph for dialogue? A new paragraph for a change in the narrative, action, or character exposition? So yesterday. We're on the brink of a paragraph revolution, I'm sure of it. Mark my words, by 2020 the publishers will be on board, and all of our novels will come in a single paragraph--500 pages long. Aren't you excited? I know I am. VIVA LA PARAGRAPH REVOLUTION!!

3. Genuflect to my prodigious vocabulary (aka I have a freaking Thesaurus, baby!).

      The point is not whether or not my readers can understand more than the articles in my stories (articles, not from a newspaper, but meaning words like a and the; and if you didn't know that right off the bat, I daresay you might not be smart enough to read my brilliant tomes). The point is to show you just how sagacious I am. Or to prove that I do, in fact, own a Thesaurus and am determined to find the most obscure words to replace the clear, simple ones you might better comprehend. What? You say my street-smart, dropped-out-of-school-in-the-seventh-grade character would never use a word like perspicacious? Excuse me while I revolve my oculi.

4. Pass out adverbs, cliches and unnecessary words like candy. Oh, and please, please overstate everything!

      Okay, so this step alone might not get your readers backing away from your story like it's a coiled snake, but it really, really helps. Don't go searching for more powerful verbs when an adverb can modify a boring one easily enough. Why write "he shouted" when you can say "he said loudly"? And please, for the love of all that's good and wonderful, don't be concise--ever. If you own a copy of The Elements of Style, throw it out now. Omit needless words? Ha! Every word matters. If I, as a reader, have to dig through your prose to discover the story, then you helped me burn some calories. Reading should be hard work. And, I don't want to be "shown" anything. I want you to repeat stuff over and over again so it finally gets through my thick skull. Beat me over the head with your story. I demand it.

5. It's all about the details--the teeny, tiny, completely insignificant details.

      It's so annoying when a writer leaves things to my imagination. Gah! I don't want to have to use my brain when reading a story. I want you to tell me everything. Everything. I want to know every single movement your characters make (and you get extra points if you make judicious use of your prodigious vocabulary for those descriptions). I want to know what people are wearing, down to the underwear. When you describe a room, you damn well better tell me if there are dust bunnies under the paisley couch--especially if it has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. I don't care if it slows the story down to delineate what every character had for breakfast that morning and how well they liked it, at least I didn't have to waste my imagination trying to think for myself. Because I'm not smart. None of us readers are.

6. On the other hand, details aren't really that important--even if they do matter to the plot.

      One of my beta readers is always on my case about The Gap. She isn't talking about a clothing store with overpriced fashion. (Old Navy is way better--and we won't mention the fact that it is, in actuality, owned by The Gap.) My beta keeps harping on this crazy idea that even though I know everything that's going on my characters' heads--their motivations, what's going to happen next in the story, etc.--leaving out details which are pertinent to the plot will confuse people. Next, she's going to tell me that readers aren't telepathic. Nuts!

7. Holding my story hostage is the bestest way to get reviews/comments/feedback.

      It's only fair, right? I put my heart and soul into my story--blood, sweat, tears, the whole nine yards. I sold my firstborn to the devil to get my muse to cooperate. The least my readers can do is leave me a review. And it had better be a review lauding my brilliance (no concrit, plz), or else I'm not going to update. I may never, ever write another story again just to spite my ungrateful readers. Oh, and I'm going to make sure they know it in my author's notes: "You want to find out what happens after that little cliffie? Well, REVIEW, dammit! I need at least 64 reviews before I'll post the next chapter. You owe me that much and more." In fact, if I don't get a gazillion comments on this post, I will never, ever write another blog entry again. That'll show you!

8. Summaries are for the birds. Titles, too.

      (This probably should have been the first step, but I'm too lazy to copy and paste it in the right place.) I wrote the story, isn't that enough? Why do I have to come up with some interesting summary to elicit a greater readership? (Damn, did I just drop some badass vocabulary again? I just can't help myself; I'm that adroit.) It's so much easier to just say, "I totally suck at summaries, but I promise this story is the best you've ever seen. Please read and REVIEW!!" and leave it at that. I might add, "Yeah, the title is stupid, but I couldn't come up with a better one. Please read anyway! And REVIEW!!" I don't know about you, but when I see a summary like that, I have to read the story. It's got to be fantastic if the author is so speechless he/she can't describe it in 200 characters. Is it really the writer's job to hook a reader? Didn't think so.

9. Always, always obliterate the boundaries of plausibility.

      You ever hear of "suspension of disbelief"? Neither have I. There's some professional out there (maybe all of them, I don't know) who says we're asking people to suspend their disbelief when reading our tales. Apparently, the further our readers have to suspend their disbelief, the less inclined they are to keep reading. Poppycock, I say. If my sweet, gentle protagonist suddenly becomes a serial-killing dominatrix for no apparent reason at all, I'm just showing you how wide and varied my imagination can be. Or maybe, just to be cool, in my fantasy drama, I'll make the house turn into a rocket ship which sends my characters to a planet full of eyeball-eating zombies--even though I wasn't writing a sci-fi horror story. Or maybe, to make sure my story reaches the 100,000 word count, I'll milk every bit of angst, conflict, etc. there is, ignoring where natural resolutions should occur. I love the smell of plot contrivances in the morning, don't you? No? Meh, you're just along for the ride. Quit complaining.

10. Randomness and writing past the natural end of the story are what makes the world go round.

      So, I wrote this scene--totally badass--and there is no way I'm not including it in my story. It has nothing to do with anything, other than showing you what an awesome scene I wrote. It doesn't further the story at all. In fact, it completely interrupts the flow of the narrative. But it involves my characters, and did I mention it's totally badass? I have lots of scenes like that, and I'm going to put them all in my story. You're going to love them, I promise. Oh, and I'm so in love with my tale that I can't just end it. I know you desperately want to find out what happens after "they lived happily ever after," and I'm desperate to share that with you. You need to know who married who, how many babies they had, what their birth weights were--and all of it will be happy and fluffy. Because that's the happily-ever-after part. No more conflict, thank goodness. Who needs that kind of excitement anymore? Not me, and certainly not you.

11. The ultimate OC: Mary Sue & Gary Stu.

      Why do we write? Now, before you answer, I want us to strip away all of the academia and get to the naked truth. Are you naked yet? I am, and it's a little chilly but strangely liberating, but I digress. We write for the same reason we read: escapism, fantasy (and I'm not talking about the genre). So, why should we avoid writing self-inserts? Really. It makes no sense when you think about it. My readers want to know how I fantasize about being a fifteen-year-old linguistic phenomenon who knows every martial art and is a super spy. And they definitely want to read about how my seriously awesome alter-ego hooks up with the Goblin King or Spock--or both at the same time. Let's make a pact. Let's ignore any stupid Mary Sue/Gary Stu litmus tests from now on, and write nude. Er, I mean, write out our secret fantasies--paying no mind to character plausibility. Let's break these shackles, people!

12. Research? Authentic characterizations? Bah!

      Did you see Thor? I did and, adoration for Chris Hemsworth's abs aside, I'm determined to write a story based on Norse mythology--except I'm determined not to do any research, even though I know absolutely nothing about the topic other than Chris Hemsworth is hot. Who needs that headache? Oh, and I've got this idea where Sarah and Jareth from Labyrinth visit a fertility clinic. I've never been to one, myself, but it doesn't matter. My readers won't notice that I didn't bother to look up how a basic consultation might go--even the readers who have actually had that experience in real life. And I think Hoggle speaks with a cockney accent, right? A really heavy one, at that--like Hagrid from the Harry Potter series. (That is a cockney accent, isn't it?) I guess I could watch Labyrinth again to find out, but I don't want to work that hard. And an austere Vulcan who adheres to the ways of Surak could still say, "Dude, this party is totally bitchin'" even when he's not drunk on chocolate. Screw research. I'm going to write whatever the hell I want, and you'll enjoy it. And leave me reviews!

There you have it. If following these steps doesn't get those pesky readers to back off, you may have to resort to restraining orders. I can't help you anymore.

A comprehensive anti-tutorial for the fan fiction writer. (Many steps also useful for original fiction writers as well.)

There is some mild language. Ye have been warned.

Sources cited:
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. & E.B. White
Mary Sue Litmus Test

I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge my awesome writerly friends. Your complaints and frustrations (combined with my own) with lazy fanfiction helped inspire this how-to guide. Thank you!

Other writing tutorials by moi:

Writing 101: Why Good Villains Are ImportantA good friend of mine asked me recently to review a screenplay he's working on. It's an excellent piece, an action-packed sci-fi/fantasy with a very compelling protagonist. Overall I'm a tad jealous of his ability to create a completely new world and have the script read in such a way that I can actually see the potential film in my head.
There was just one problem, though. His villain (or villains, rather) fell a bit flat.
My writing mentor once told me the following: Your hero is only as good as your villain. Now, she didn't mean that your villain has to be good in the sense of being redeemable or even sympathetic (though sympathetic villains are my personal favorite). She was, instead, referring to the idea that no matter how fantastically 3-dimensional your hero is, if your villain is just a 2-dimensional bad guy, it's your hero who suffers.
Let me use the examples of two films from the Marvel Universe to further expound on this point. (I'm going to g
Bad Boys (Girls) in Love with Good Girls (Boys)How to Write Non-Dark Romance With Your Favorite Sympathetic Baddie and Hero(ine)
(AKA How to Redeem—kinda, sorta—the Villain Without Losing Their Fun Side)
I have a weakness and it’s “Sympathetic Villain x Hero(ine)” ships. Gets me every single time. Heck, they don’t even have to meet face to face, and nine times out of ten, I’m shipping them. There’s probably something deeply wrong with me, but my therapist seems to think I’m doing okay, so we’ll go with that.
As an avid connoisseur of controversial pairings like that, I’ve read a lot of fanfic over the years—a lot. And I’ve noticed certain trends in stories featuring the baddie falling for the good one. I speak mainly of the frustrating trope where the villain repents of all wrong-doing, makes restitution, and becomes a paragon of virtue—to varying degrees.
I get it. You’re looking at the bad guy and you wonde
  Basics: Your Narrative VoiceWhen I took my first serious steps on this wild and challenging journey called Writing, I was one hundred percent confident as to what kind of author I was going to be (if not entirely certain yet that I had the chops to do it). I was a sci-fi writer with visions of epic space battles and imaginative alien species. Action/Adventure, here I come! (Romance? Meh. Pass.) All told in the narration of third person limited, deep character point of view—past tense, thank you very much.
Ah, what wondrous, naïve times those were.
I believed that I had to find my One True Style and One True Genre before I became a real author because that’s what all the published writers I loved seemed to have: a niche. And I tried my very best to find mine. Oh, I was so diligent in sticking with my original plan!
And then I had a fit of whimsy and wrote a parody. Just a nothing little thing. I thought the urge to deviate from my carved-out section in the world of ficti
  Basics: Paragraph Breaks in DialogueA new paragraph is required for each character's dialogue (and by extension, if there is internal exposition without a verbal response). And sometimes, even dialogue from the same character needs to be separated by a paragraph break.
Example (of all):
"I can see how you might consider that an impediment to our relationship." His tone was absurdly calm. Didn’t he understand that he had just signed his own death warrant?
"You’re mad!" she hissed.
"No," he returned with a humorless laugh. "That would be much simpler."
She shook her head, unable to come up with a response to equal this brand of insanity.
"I did kill him." The chair creaked as he leaned forward, his expression falling flat. "I killed a traitor."
"What?" She could not begin to fathom what story he would weave with this circuitous logic.
Tom sighed again. “I had hoped to have this conversation in a less…awkward setting.” He lifted his hands, rattling the shackles on his wrists. “Candlelit
  Basics: Paragraph StructureI love North & South. It’s one of my all-time favorite classic novels (and yes, Richard Armitage in the BBC adaptation is yummy). I love that it’s not only a romance, but an eye-opening social commentary of the industrial age in England. Mad props to Elizabeth Gaskell for producing a mini-epic which has stood the test of time.
What I don’t love about North & South, however, is the odd mega-long paragraph every couple of chapters. My little eyeballs has a hard time keeping up with the narration without the much needed breaks.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, has been attributed with the quote: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” He’s not wrong. Writers need more than a grasp of grammar, characterization, and plotting. There silent details to consider as well which, if overlooked, could trip up your readers. And if your readers stumble too many times, they will back away from the story for good. Eve
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Raixander Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2014
This has made my day brighter and I was almost choked during my lunch.Dignity Laugh 
Obviously, I'm guilty for some of the points.  However, I feel so much better for being on the right track to that ultimate goal (if only the world runs exactly like this, I'm the queen LOL LOL).
Thanks for the brilliant post!
startraveller776 Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
:iconsupertighthugplz: So glad you enjoyed it! Thank you so much! And thank you for the watch! :iconbrohugplz:
augmented-arpeggio Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
omg u ttly undrstand mypain
startraveller776 Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
jespah2 Featured By Owner May 30, 2014  Student Photographer
Nope, you left out one. Why the hell are you saying please and thank you??!?!?!

Sheesh. No  one does THAT anymore.
startraveller776 Featured By Owner May 30, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
SaintsSauce Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I actually chuckled a little while writing this.
startraveller776 Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading.
SaintsSauce Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome. I also checked out one of the links in the description.
SaintsSauce Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I meant reading this. I apologize for the mistake.
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