So, this originally started out as a writing lesson for a friend of mine on FanFiction.Net, but it turns out that everyone else I've shown it to has loved it. So I decided to post it here on LiveJournal, and this is officially my first post.
I hope you guys enjoy this. I had fun writing it.
Word definitions are formatted as follows:
Word – (how the word is used). (definition of the word). Example: (1) example with word. (2+) elaboration of the word in the example if possible.
Your - a possessive. Of or belonging to “you”. Example: This is your pie. This pie belongs to you.
You're - a contraction of the words 'You' and 'are' or 'were'. Example: Are you sure you're going? Are you sure you are going? Are you sure you were going?
Definitely – an affirmation. Absolutely; unequivocally; a strong affirmation of intent. Example: I am most definitely going to that party tomorrow! I am absolutely going to that party tomorrow!
Defiantly – an action. An act of defiance or rebellion. Example: The prince stood there defiantly. The prince stood there rebelliously.
Definatley – Not even a word. DON'T USE THIS!!! IT IS NOT A WORD!!!
Were – a past-tense adverb to describe what “you” or “we” are doing and when. Past-tense form of “are”. Alternatively used as a negative form of “are”. Example: You were going to the store when you saw the cat. Example 2: We were going to go away for the weekend, but we were interrupted.
We're – a contraction of the words “we” and “are” or “were”. Example: We're going to leave for California in a few hours. We are going to leave for California in a few hours. We were going to California in a few hours, but the trip was canceled.
Compliment– a positive verb, sometimes a noun. Praise or form of congratulations; kind words; a positive reinforcement. Example 1: How kind of you to compliment me so! How kind of you to praise me so!
Complement– an adjective, adverb, or noun. A pair; comes along/goes with; a match or counterpart. Example: The ranged fighter complements the melee brawler, and vice versa, because the ranged fighter can take care of opponents the opponents the brawler cannot see or get to, and the brawler serves as a shield between the enemy and the ranged fighter, who is not as well protected. Reiteration: The ranged fighter is the melee brawler's counterpart, and vice versa, because the ranged fighter can take care of opponents the opponents the brawler cannot see or get to, and the brawler serves as a shield between the enemy and the ranged fighter, who is not as well protected.
(... forgive me, for I cannot write just a sheet of tips. I have to write a whole damn lesson or else I won't be satisfied. So what's going to follow will be rather lengthy, and if you don't want to read it through, you can skip around to whatever you want.)
Now we go on to the lesson proper. To make these examples as easy as possible, I'm going to use a simple example story.
Story Name: The Apple That Fell out of the Tree
Subject: An apple falls out of a tree and hits the ground
Plot: Story opens up with the apple falling out of the tree, and ends with the apple landing upon the ground
This 'story' is going to be used in a lot of examples I give you. It's simple, and provides some amusing possibilities.
First off, let's change that title. That title isn't going to appeal to anyone older than 8, and that could be pushing the limit. You want to have a title that will catch the attention of the reader, and also give a little about what the story may be about. This could be a character name, place name, name of some plot-important object, the subject, or something like that. You can also use synonyms, metaphors, or anagrams to help it seem more interesting or enticing.
To make a good story title, you're going to want to try and keep it short and sweet, but as descriptive as you possibly can without giving the whole damn story away. It's surprisingly easy to give away the whole plot with the title. And if you're a person who likes to try plot twists, it's not very good if everybody knows about it beforehand, especially if it's because they read the title.
So let's redo the apple story title, shall we? Remember, we're trying to keep it short and sweet, and make the title as descriptive as possible. I'll examples of a few types of titles (character name, place name, synonym, metaphor, all those).
Story Name: The Apple That Fell out of the Tree
Subject: An apple falls out of a tree and hits the ground
Plot: Story opens up with the apple falling out of the tree, and ends with the apple landing upon the ground
Possible Title Alternatives: (Subject Title) “Falling Apples”, (Place Title) “The Apple Tree”,
(Metaphor Title) “In the Gravity of the Situation”, (Synonym Title) “Raining Apples”
Or sometimes, if you aim for humor, twitch the plot a bit to allow for a better title. So instead of just a fall to the ground, let's make the tree at the edge of a gigantic cliff, shall we?
Story Name: The Apple That Fell out of the Tree
Subject: An apple falls out of a tree and hits the ground 10,000 feet below
Plot: Story opens up with the apple falling out of the tree, and ends with the apple splattering upon the ground
Possible Title Alternatives: (Humor) “An Apple was Never Meant to Fall This far”,
(Humor) “Really High G-Forces of Death”, (Humor) (modify the last one a bit) “FUCKING HIGH G-FORCES!!!”, or something as equally silly
Try and make your story title something that you would see in a bookstore, and go “Hot damn! I gotta reads me some a that!”. After you say that, go get some proper English grammar lessons.
Alrighty, leaving the titles... and now we move on to:
Personally, I believe this should come first in a sheet of tips and how-tos, and so should a couple of other things, but I write 'em as I think 'em. So now we move on to characters.
First off... let's start with you. We're talking about writing fan-fiction, and we want to try and attract readers, right? So let's start with the character of you, the author.
As a statement to all fan-fiction authors of the world who have tried this, you are NOT a fictional character!!! Sorry, this may sound mean, but you are not a ninja, you are not a wizard, you are not some long forgotten hero, you are not the reincarnation of some long forgotten hero, you are not a king, you are not the reincarnation of a king, you are not a god, you are not a fallen god, you are not the reincarnation of a god tragically stricken down by the forces of evil long ago in the times of yore. Also, you are not more powerful than the main character, you are not the main character's arch nemesis, you are not the main character's best friend, you are not the main character's teacher, you are also not the main character's girlfriend, their boyfriend, their lover, sister, brother, cousin, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, second-cousin twice removed, long lost father, half-brother from another dimension, or even their reincarnated cat! In fact, you don't even exist in this universe! One thing that can chase readers away is to try and insert yourself as a character in the story.
On to the next bit. OC's. The dreaded Original Character. Personally, I think it's harder to come up with a good original character than it is to come up with a good original plot-line. Plot-lines are easily changeable and fixable, whereas an Original Character is not. Sure, you can import and move an OC from story to story, but you have to remember to BALANCE THE CHARACTER!!!
Have you ever heard of the term “Mary-sue”? No, it's not a cute little name for a southern, down-home gal, it's actually the term used to describe over-powered, unbalanced, clichéd, lame, and (for the gamers) god-moding female characters. I don't know what the male equivalent is, but for the moment, we're going to apply the title “Mary-sue” to them, too.
Now, you may want to go “Hey! This is my story, so I can do whatever the fuck I want with it!”. And you are right. You're the author, you have control. It's your story, and you are the one who's writing it. You can do whatever the fuck you want to with it. But, as you and many authors may claim, you are supposed to be writing to entertain the audience, aren't you? I don't find Mary-sues very entertaining, and if you look around, you'll notice that a lot of other people don't like them either. So don't write a Mary-sue!
To avoid a Mary-sue, you do not want to give your original character any of the following qualities:
A) Powers greater than the norm that can not be beaten by anyone or anything
B) A super-awesome ability that allows them to beat anyone or anything
C) A super-awesome item that allows them to beat anyone or anything
D) Anything that makes them unbeatable, invincible, unkillable, or indestructible
E) Ridiculously stronger than the main character and is involved with everything the main character does, but lets the main character do/decide everything and/or doesn't do anything other than create uber-pwnage when called upon
F) The hottest new clothes that make them amazingly sexy
G) An inexplainable sex appeal that makes those of the opposite (or same sex, whatever) uncontrollably lust after them
H) Amazingly stylish looks that makes them sexy
I) The hottest new clothes/hairstyle/accesories
J) The perfect figure that makes everything that walks go “Hot damn! I wanna piece of that!”
K) A perfect personality that makes every character fall in love with them, even though, logically, some of the characters in the story should hate this character.
L) An amazing amount of charisma that can change a bad guy's heart and turn them into a good guy, even though said bad-guy has given up everything to achieve ultimate power (coughItachicough)
M) Something about them that makes everybody just go “Gosh, that guy's swell!”
N) Overrides everything the main character says about every decision and is always right
O) Anything that makes them better than everyone else, and liked more than anyone else, and just generally amazingly awesomely sweetness
P) A tragic past that, even though they're responsible for whatever happened, nobody blames them for it and forgives them anyway
Q) A tragic past that, even though they had no control over it, they still feel guilty about it
R) A tragic past that results in them getting super powers, but they're reluctant to use them
S) Angsty or depressing qualities that makes everyone and their grandma feel sorry for them, even though in real life, it would be really fucking irritating
T) An evil twin
U) An evil twin with super powers
V) An evil twin with super powers that can totally own the main character
W) The same powers as the evil twin, but somehow their powers are stronger than the evil twin's are, and is the only one that can defeat them, even though the main character logically should be stronger than them. Either of them.
X) A murderous split personality that has already resulted in the death of the main character's obviously and totally less fabulous bitch of a girlfriend, and everyone knows it was the split personality that killed her, and nobody holds it against them anyway because they “just can't control it”.
Y) A murderous split personality that has already resulted in the death of the main character's obviously and totally less fabulous bitch of a girlfriend, and nobody holds it against them because they “just can't control it”, so instead of getting them psychiatric help, or even just killing them outright like they should, everybody lets life go on.
Z) Same situation as above, and somehow everything works out in the end, and now they're the main character's new girlfriend, even though they killed the main character's old one, and he doesn't care and loves her anyway because the old girlfriend was a tyrannical bitch anyway who just wanted the main character for his looks and money, and the evil split personality goes away because they are just so amazing that they can work out a mental problem that severe by themselves without any help
AA) Anything that can't be explained, anything that makes them somehow inexplicably stronger than everyone else, anything that doesn't make sense, anything that gives them an overwhelming advantage over any other character even though they are obviously weaker
BB) And lastly... anything that resembles you, your personality, your friends' personalities, your boyfriend's or girlfriend's personality, your clothes, your stuff, your name, your pets, your family. In the end, YOU cannot be in here.
If your character has any one of these qualities, chances are they have at least one other of these qualities along with it. If you have more than three (and in some cases, even one) of these qualities in your Original Character at any given time, you have stepped into the realm of Mary-suedom.
Moral of the story: Make every character make sense. If they don't make sense, or can do things that don't make sense, and nobody can make sense of them, then chances are you should go back and re-write that character.
If you can make sense of the character, and they are balanced, then your OC is good. If your OC starts out powerful, but becomes balanced later on due to some incident or another, that can be okay, too. However, it is not okay for your OC to start out super-weak, and then due to one incident or another, or some amazing hidden ability that they never knew they had before, they become so uber-ultra-ridiculously strong that nobody can beat them, no matter how hard they try. That is a Mary-sue, and therefore it is not acceptable.
... and I lied, the evil twin/sibling thing can work, but only if you do it right, and do it tastefully. Otherwise it reeks of Mary-Sue.
Using Characters and Setting Up Situations
Using characters is a lot harder than it sounds, surprising as it may seem. Many people think they can just take the character, put them in some situation or another, and make everything okey-dokey instantly without any side-effects or repercussions.
That is not how the art of good story writing works. True, with good story writing, you can put them in a situation and have them resolve the problem or whatever it is, but there is one thing you have to remember, and that is the law of Cause and Effect.
If one thing happens, then another thing will happen. This chain may continue on like an infinite chain of dominoes, or it can stop right their after the first effect. But never will 'nothing' happen. Never can someone do something, and then have nothing happen to them, whether it be positive or negative.
Character A has been told that the corridors of the Dark Fortress of Hell have been riddled with large amounts of amazingly lethal and painful traps. Character A goes waltzing gaily throughout the entire fortress, alone, and single-handedly kills the evil lord within, who was also supposed to be amazingly powerful. The world rejoices. Happily ever after.
This, my friends, is what those with a sense of humor like to call a “Fuck No, Shut The Fuck Up, and Rewrite It Again” situation. It's dry, lacking in detail, Character A has officially become a “Mary Sue”, and it's generally ridiculous and lame to read. Instead, to make it more realistic and flavorful, it should go more like this:
Character A has been given an item that will protect him from some of the perils of the Dark Fortress of Hell, but will eventually run out of power. Character A, along with 9 other freedom fighters who wish to save the world, make their way into the Dark Fortress. However, two of them were killed by snipers on the walls as Character A pushes the rest ahead of him heroically. He barely makes it inside himself, and has an arrow embedded into his shoulder. As Character A and the group make their way towards the center of the tower, they almost reach the Dark Lord's Evil Chambers before the item stops working. 3 of the others have decided to sacrifice themselves for Character A so he can continue on with the mission as they activate the traps ahead, all of which result in the three's deaths. Just as Character A is about to reach the Evil Chambers, his best-friend-since-childhood (BFSC) gets a poisoned dart to the neck. After a few moments, he appears to recover, but something is off about him. The BFSC tells Character A that he is alright, and the group continues on and into the Evil Chambers, where Dark Lord is waiting on his throne. With a gesture of his hand, he instantly kills one of the other guys in the group, leaving only Character A, BFSC, and the two others who happened to be really good friends with the guy Dark Lord just killed. The two friends charge at the Dark Lord, swords drawn, and the Dark Lord destroys them before they can even reach the throne.
I'm going to take a break here for a moment just so I can do something...
You'll notice that the second paragraph is a lot bigger than the first paragraph, and is probably more appealing than the original, too. Another thing you should notice, is that also, once Character A does something, another thing happens, which in this case, usually results in injury or death.
But not every action results in death, and not every situation you write will be like this. Hell, you may never touch this genre of writing, and instead write stuff about how cute puppies and fluffy kitties are, or about some high school kid who doesn't know what to do or where to go in life. This is just providing an example.
Now to continue on, I'm also going to throw in a bit of a plot twist and a positive turn to the story (yes, contrary to what the example above has given, I can still make this story positive!)...
As the Dark Lord laughs evilly, Character A steps forward to try and avenge his fallen friends, but realizes that BFSC hasn't stepped with him. As Character A turns around to find what was happening, he feels a sudden stab to his side as his best friend since childhood betrays him! In retaliation, Character A bludgeons BFSC over the head with the previously useless protective item, knocking him out because Character A is too reluctant to kill his own friend. Character A turns around to face the Dark Lord, with the item still in hand, and charges, enraged because the Dark Lord has done so much harm to him and his friends. The Dark Lord discharges a bolt of dark energy, knocking Character A to the floor as the Dark Lord laughs at him. Character A stands up again, and charges blindly. The Dark Lord fires another bolt, and this one hits the item. But instead of knocking it away or destroying it, as they both expected, the bolt of energy reflects back and hits the Dark Lord, killing him instantly as he flies into a wall. The item disintegrates in Character A's hand, flowing around in magic dust, which then flows all around the room and out into the hallway. Suddenly Character A's dead friends are alive again, and the ancient Fortress of Hell is slowly fading out of existence. Character A is worshiped as a hero across all the realm forever, and everyone lives happily ever after. The End
See? Same basic plot as the Captain Lame-o version, but with Cause and Effect, detail, and more characters than Character A, along with tiny tidbits of background information to help provide reasoning for actions in the story.
To properly use a character, you want to take him, and everything he has done, is doing, or will do, and ask “Why? Why did this character do these particular actions?”
If you can't answer that, either now or in the future, you should probably rewrite, fix, or modify that part until it makes sense. If it doesn't make sense, then it can throw off the balance of the story, and if it throws off the balance of the story, then it can possibly destroy the story altogether.
Using a character can be a very tricky and difficult task, because if your character doesn't have a personality, or has a very flat personality, or seems to change personalities every few paragraphs, then it can and most likely will ruin your character. Now, there are always characters that the flip-flopping personalities can work for, but those are even harder to do than a normal character! You want to make the personality work!
You may have noticed that I've mentioned the “balance” of the story several (million) times, and that is for a very important reason. Balance is what can sometimes be the make-or-break for a story. If you have Mary-Sues, or something that throws off or destroys something about the story completely, you've just affected the balance. Balance is what keeps your characters in check, keeps your plot line in check, and tries to keep everything else in the story from getting out of hand. BALANCE AFFECTS EVERYTHING!!!
But, contrary to the what I have just said, balance it isn't everything. Sometimes, people want to be able to relate to the characters or events in the story instead of worrying about what's going on (these are affected by and affect balance as well). So that's why, the next subject we move on to is...
Character Interaction and Dialogue
This is, personally, my favorite thing to write and work on. And this is also what I think a lot of authors need to work on. So now we move on.
Character interaction and dialogue are what get things moving in the story. They are what cause things to happen. You could never write a story without any sort of character interaction, and many stories are bland and unappealing due to flat, uninteresting, and unemotional dialogue. These are like the heart and lungs of a story.
An example of flat, uninteresting, tasteless, lame, and generally unappealing crap dialogue:
“I will defeat you!” Orklog said.
“No you will not!” Brett the Necromancer said.
“Yes I will!” Orklog said.
“No you won't!” Brett the Necromancer said.
“I will so defeat you!” Orklog said.
“You so will not defeat me! I have secret evil powers!” Brett the Necromancer said.
“I will defeat you with my powers of good!” Orklog said.
“Good can't beat evil!” Brett the Necromancer said.
“Just watch as I beat you!” Orklog said.
Did that interest you at all? Me neither. So instead of having this lame-ball wad of boring, let's make it interesting. If you want an interesting conversation, the first step is detail. Add how the character says what their saying, what emotion they're feeling as they say it.
“I will defeat you!” Orklog said angrily
“No you will not!” Brett the Necromancer said haughtily.
“Yes I will!” Orklog said defiantly.
“No you won't!” Brett the Necromancer said, laughing in Orklog's face
“I will so defeat you!” Orklog said, his voice rising.
“You so will not defeat me! I have secret evil powers!” Brett the Necromancer said, his voice overpowering Orklog's.
“I will defeat you with my powers of good!” Orklog said in response.
“Good can't beat evil!” Brett the Necromancer said back in retort.
“Just watch as I beat you!” Orklog said loudly.
Alirght... not nearly as boring as Example A, now was it? But there is another problem... that lame-arse “OMFG YOU'VE OVERUSED THE WORD” 'saids'. You can't use a word too many times, or else it will detract a great amount from the entertainment value of the conversation.
So instead of using the word “said” so many times, we're going to replace a couple of saids from the example above. (I'm going to leave out the details from this part)
“Yes I will!” Orklog retorted.
“No you won't!” Brett the Necromancer replied.
“I will so defeat you!” Orklog screamed.
“You so will not defeat me! I have secret evil powers!” Brett the Necromancer exclaimed.
See? Now if you mix those other words with some details, instead of just having the ever so lame “said” every single statement, you'll create a much more interesting dialogue sequence. Try to avoid using said as much as possible, but if you can't think of any other word, at least add some detail to the statement.
But pretty words and details explaining what or how they said it aren't the only parts of dialogue that make a conversation interesting. To make a conversation truly interesting, you need to create interesting dialogue, and use actions from the surrounding area to help describe what's going on during the talking.
For example, Brett's rascally pet imp could have tried to interrupt the conversation.
“I will so defeat you!” Orklog shouted, waving his fist at the evil man in front of him. In his anger, Orklog never noticed Brett's pet imp's failed attempts at distracting him as it fluttered over Brett the Necromancer's shoulder, waving its penis wildly in the air at Orklog.
In a basic conversation, this rather humorous action may never have been mentioned, and thus that would be one more detracting mark from the potential interest readers may have in the story. But this far more interesting version gives us this tiny detail about Brett's imp and its failed attempt at distraction.
The actions you use can be something like Brett's imp, or maybe a character's thoughts, or maybe the movements of the character's eyes. Your goal as the author is to help paint a picture for the reader using words to describe what is going on in the surrounding environment during the dialogue.
Just as a tip, you do not have to give some long paragraph after every single statement. Sometimes, your conversation can even go like this:
1 “You wanna go in?” Bill asked shakily, looking up in fear at the gigantic house in
2 front of him.
3 “Of course I do! What do you think I am? Some sort of chicken?” Fred said
4 indignantly, crossing his arms in front of his chest. He wasn't a coward! To make his
5 point, he took a step forward towards the terrifying mansion.
6 “Seriously, I won't think any less of you if you don't wanna go”
7 “I'm the one who suggested this!”
8 “Honestly, c'mon! It's just a house, there's nothing scary about it! Why do we have to
9 go in?”
10 “I think you're just trying to convince yourself. Just hurry up and let's go!” Bill took
11 a calming breath, waiting for a second as he tried, rather unsuccessfully at that, to
12 gather up the courage to move. Fred gave an exasperated huff, and walked around
13 Bill, grabbed his shoulders, and began to push him. After a moment of struggling
14 against the stronger boy's push, Bill finally gave into his fate, and began to move
15 forward by himself.
16 “Fine, fine... I'll go in! Can we just do it quickly, though?”
You'll notice that several lines of dialogue don't have anything after the quotation marks. This is perfectly fine, if you have only 2 characters, or a conversation between several characters with individually distinct personalities or speech patterns or whathaveyou. This type of dialogue also works if you have a situation where there is a conversation between several characters who's identities are not revealed to the reader. Like if you had a secret meeting in the middle of a dark night, and you wanted to keep the readers in suspense, you could just have the conversation, and no details. Those kind of things can work very well, depending on your story.
You should also take notice that in front of each line of text in this particular paragraph, there is a little number. Take note of line 10. If you were paying attention, you may have noticed that instead of having the actions of the speaker, I changed perspective over to Bill. This sometimes can be a rather tricky thing to do, as this may cause confusion as to who made what statement. However, if you do do it right, it can make a really nice accent to your story and serve to compliment to your skills as a writer.
Character interaction does not always come in the form of dialogue. Character interaction can be simply walking down the street and observing the surroundings and people around them. Character interaction can be two friends who recognize each others' subtle signals and body movements. Character interaction can be a super kick-ass battle to end all battles.
To make my point, character interaction is just about everything else in your story that I haven't already covered, and several things that I have. Character interaction can involve simple actions such as sitting, or even a complex description of a martial artist's kata and training. Character interaction can be a character making a speech, and the thoughts and reactions of the crowd who are listening (or maybe even not listening, and are instead carrying on their own conversations). Character interaction is two lovers kissing. Character interaction is a child chasing after a butterfly, with his friends running right along with him.
Character interaction is everything that isn't describing the setting.
If you do not have good character interaction, you do not have a good story. Proper character interaction is truly the most important aspect every story has, and is what truly makes or breaks a story.
This is something I want to see if you can do yourself. If you want some truly amazing examples of everything I've written here, read the following stories:
(FYI: They're all Naruto Fan Fics)
For the Love of my Friends:
Training for the Job:
From Ramen With Love:by Ryuuchi-the-DutchEroSennin by AsukaKureru by AsukaKureru by Desaix by Foxie-sama
These five stories are among the top 10 most amazing stories on FanFiction.Net, and are amazing pieces of art in their own right. (... Alright, so “From Ramen With Love” is more goofy than anything, and exhibits some characteristics of a hyper-active ten-year-old, but it's still amazing.)
So, after 5,171 words of tips, help, and, hopefully, fun, I bid you farewell for now, and good luck.
With much care, and I hope I helped you in some way,
-ChickenDeNoodleyNoodle the Third (ChickenDeNoodleyNoodleIII)
Post Scriptum -
You can always contact me by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any further help.
I had fun writing this, and I hope that you read it and learned something from it in some way.
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