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Wanna get better at writing or reviewing fanfiction? This is the tutorial for you!

This tutorial explains how to write good fanfiction, and to give good reviews.
 
Writing Fanfiction
 
OK, well it's simple. The very first thing to do in a fanfiction is to decide on the plot, the series you're going to write about and the categories. It's better to decide on all of this in the early stages. Or you could always do what I do and merely sit there and write it out and see what it comes out as, but it'll be much better if you plan it out slightly.
 
So, the plot firstly. The plot is basically what happens. An easy way of doing it (for me at any rate), is to think out the summary and go on from there. Try to make the plot interesting, something that will catch people's eyes. Something that seems simple and dull will probably appear simple and dull from the eyes of others. So try and make it an interesting storyline with little twists in the story.
 
Then you should decide on the categories:
 
Action/Adventure - A bit self explanatory. Basically it's a fanfiction where there's a lot of action and adventure. If you're writing a Sonic fanfiction which would be considered similar to a Sonic game (don't ask it's the only way I can think of wording it), then it would probably be considered Action/Adventure.
Angst - Depression. Stories which take a character(s), and make them sad. You can put the characters through emotion/physical pain.
Drama - Something that generally centres on the actions of the characters. Dramatic fanfiction.
Horror - Pretty self-explanatory. Fanfiction that is meant to be scary and fear-filled.
Humour - Self-explanatory. Basically a Fanfiction that is meant to make the readers laugh. A funny story, in other words.
Mystery - I'd describe this category as the 'crime stories' category. Basically mysteries that need to be solved.
Parody - Imitating of another's work, usually poking fun at the original. It may be offensive if you do a parody of another author's work, so most people do them on movies etc.
Poetry - Pretty self-explanatory. Not really a 'story', but literature nonetheless.
Romance - Self-explanatory. Love stories, and possibly one of the most popular categories especially in Sonic fanfiction.
Suspense - These stories have constant apprehension, and leave the author constantly wondering what is going to happen next. Similar to thrillers, but the damage is more psychological than physical.
Tragedy - A fanfiction that is tragic normally features great loss and misfortune. Death is probably one of the most tragically seen in fanfiction.
 
Then it would be best to decide on the age group:
 
G - Directed towards children aged 5 years or older. There should be no real violence, no adult themes and no language.
PG - Directed towards children aged 9 years or older. There can be some violence, but fairly little, no adult themes and very mild language with no swearing.
PG-13 - Directed towards teenagers aged 13 or older. There can be some violence, minor adult themes and some language, though swearing should be kept to a minimum.
M - Directed towards those aged 16 and older. There can be more swearing, some adult themes not too explicit and violence can be slightly hardcore.
NC-17 - Not for anyone under the age of 17 or 18. Contains adult themes such as sex, a lot of violence and limitless swearing. Only adults may be able to handle these.
 
So there's your story. You have your summary, your age group and your categories (normally up to two categories per fanfiction). Now time to write it.
 
Now you write it in your own style, but there are some things you need to strengthen your mind and help you improve. Try not to make your chapters too short; most readers like to read longer, more in depth chapters.
 
Spelling
 
A major turn off for readers is if the spelling is appauling. There are some who can look past them, but not if they pounce out at you from every single corner. So I recommend you use Spell Check on Microsoft Word. If you don't have that, then proof-read it yourself carefully a few times, or ask someone else to do so. Simple spelling mistakes can come a lot easier than you might think. The word 'does' has been mispelt by many authors more than once.
 
For example:
 
"sonic gazzed around the area and fond amy sitting on the swings alon he relized that he couldnt leeve her alon not this time he walked over to her, noing that this time, he wasnt going to mess this up"
 
Now look at how slightly tidier it looks with the spelling mistakes corrected:
 
"sonic gazed around the area and found amy sitting on the swings alone he realized that he couldnt leave her alone not this time he walked over to her, knowing that this time, he wasnt going to mess this up"
 
Punctuation
 
Another thing that may peeve readers if you cannot use it properly. First off, all letters start with a capitol letter. Well, duh! But I have seen many fanfiction writers forget to put the first letter of a character's name as a capitol.
 
Let's look at that paragraph again as it is:
 
"sonic gazed around the area and found amy sitting on the swings alone he realized that he couldnt leave her alone not this time he walked over to her, knowing that this time, he wasnt going to mess this up"
 
You must always use capitol letters for the first letter of a name of a character or place or at the beginning of a sentence.
 
So it would now look like this:
 
"Sonic gazed around the area and found Amy sitting on the swings alone he realized that he couldnt leave her alone not this time he walked over to her, knowing that this time, he wasnt going to mess this up"
 
Secondly, never forget your full stops. Notice that the above paragraph has the necessary capitols; Sonic and Amy's names. Of course, it's obvious to tell that this paragraph is missing full stops. Try reading all of that in one go! So adding in full stops is important, to make it look right. So adding them in, now see what the paragraph looks like:
 
"Sonic gazed around the area and found Amy sitting on the swings alone. He realized that he couldnt leave her alone. Not this time. He walked over to her, knowing that this time, he wasnt going to mess this up."
 
Notice how much tidier that paragraph looks. Notice that with the full stops, you can now add in capitol letters after each sentence.
 
Now what comes next in this paragraph? Apostrophes. Apostrohes are raised commas used to denote either possession or contraction. So look at that paragraph above. Now I'm going to add in apostrophes where they are needed:
 
"Sonic gazed around the area and found Amy sitting on the swings alone. He realized that he couldn't leave her alone. Not this time. He walked over to her, knowing that this time, he wasn't going to mess this up."
 
Tidier, huh? So that's one paragraph now fixed. Or could it possibly look better? Of course it could! In certain places, uses of colons and semi-colons. Don't worry, even I can't tell the difference sometimes! But thinking on it, look at the difference now:
 
"Sonic gazed around the area and found Amy sitting on the swings alone. He realized that he couldn't leave her alone; not this time. He walked over to her, knowing that this time, he wasn't going to mess this up."
 
I have added in one of those ( ; ) and look at how much tidier the paragraph is now.
 
Now onto speech. For speech, you must use speech marks. Speech marks clearly hint at speech. Mind you, I have seen a lot of authors using other things to work as speech marks. They aren't the same. Apostrophes might work as them but it won't be nearly as tidy.
 
So let's look at this speech, with the added in puntuation and spelling corrections:
 
Hello Cream Tails muttered. Cream merely looked up and muttered Hello Tails.
 
Now what is wrong with this? Of course, no speech marks for one thing. So let's add those in:
 
"Hello Cream" Tails muttered. Cream merely looked up and muttered "Hello Tails".
 
Now that looks somewhat better, but still not quite right. Whenever you use speech marks, you need to add punctuation inside them. If the character is asking a question, you always use a question mark like so:
 
"How are you today?" Knuckles asked his friend, the white bat named Rouge.
 
If they are shouting, or exclaiming or shocked, then you always use an exclamation mark like so:
 
"Cosmo!" Tails exclaimed, completely flabbergasted yet in a good way, "I don't believe it!"
 
And if they're neither asking a question or exclaiming/yelling, then you use either a comma or a full stop. So look at the one between Tails and Cream again. Let's add in the necessary changes:
 
"Hello Cream," Tails muttered. Cream merely looked up and muttered "Hello Tails."
 
Well, there's a difference, as you can see between whether or not you use a full stop or a comma. If there is something following the speech, you use a comma like so:
 
"Charmy, that was mean and you know it," Vector told the young bee in a somewhat firm tone.
 
As there was a bit after the speech, a comma is used. However, if the speech is at the end of a paragraph, you use a full stop like so:
 
The young boy raised his eyebrows, looking somewhat pleased to see his friend, "Hello there Sonic."
 
Also, an important thing about speech; never put full stops outside the speech marks like this:

She smiled to herself, knowing that she had achieved her goal, "I love you".

Fulls stops do not follow speech marks in that way at all. The ending speech marks that mark the end of the speech follows the full stop like so:

She smiled to herself, knowing that she had achieved her goal, "I love you."

So that's a bit about speech. Also, what else must you remember when using speech marks? A new speech is always on a new paragraph, thus preventing confusion on the reader's part and it looks tidier. So let's change the part with Tails and Cream's chat:

"Hello Cream," Tails muttered. 
 
Cream merely looked up and muttered, "Hello Tails."
 
In fanfiction, it is better to leave two spaces when paragraphing than one. Most people do it that way when writing fanfiction, to make it easier for the readers if nothing else.
 
Repetition
 
Not to be done too often. I admitedly repeat myself and have trouble with some repetition but it's easy once you get the hang of it. Now in Tails and Cream's speech, there was some repetition. Could you spot it? Both Tails and Cream 'muttered'. Bit dull, isn't it? Best to broaden your vocabulary and pick another word for Cream.
 
"Hello Cream," Tails muttered. 
 
Cream merely looked up and replied, "Hello Tails."
 
Now have a look at a piece from one of my own fanfiction works and see if you can spot the repetition there:
 

Sonia married Bartleby when Eggman died, just like they originally planned it. Nevertheless, Manic and Sonic were not exactly the happiest about it, considering they quite disliked Bartleby, and he quite disliked them. But they merely shut up and got on with it, considering they knew how much Sonia really loved Bartleby, though she hardly ever went into it.

 

How many times did I use Bartleby's name? Three times. We could afford to chop off at least one, possibly two. Instead of using Bartleby's name so often, I could have simply used the word 'him'. A lot of authors do this, but it doesn't take long to get past this stage. Of course I cannot change the first one, so it has to be the other two...:

 

Sonia married Bartleby when Eggman died, just like they originally planned it. Nevertheless, Manic and Sonic were not exactly the happiest about it, considering they quite disliked him, and he quite disliked them. But they merely shut up and got on with it, considering they knew how much Sonia really loved her husband, though she hardly ever went into it.

 

Better, huh? Make sure that you try not to repeat yourself too often in fanfiction.

 

Character Development

 

There is a little something in fanfiction known as 'OOC'. What does it stand for? Out of Character. OOC basically means the character is behaving in a way they would not normally do. OOC-ness isn't the most serious issue to deal with, but its something worth considering. A character being OOC can be a good thing in possibly showing a side to that character that not a lot of people would know about. But it can be a bad thing, it may be irritating for your readers. Here's something you might find somewhat amusing:

 

"Oh boys..." Cream whispered at some young teenagers. Now at sixteen years old, she wore sexy clothing showing off a lot of her body, and often gave seductive glances to every boy passing by.

 

We know for a fact that Cream is no slut. That may be something irritating to readers. Yes, granted, when Cream is older, she may be slightly different in personality. But Cream would probably still be similar to her childhood self in some little ways. It takes a lot more than a few years to shake off that little girl we know her as. So yes, character development. Characters can change through character development, which isn't done in five seconds, but slowly.

Look at this one:

"I HATE YOU AMY!" Sonic screamed, unable to take anymore, "WHY DON'T YOU JUST CURL UP AND DIE SO I CAN LIVE IN PEACE?!"

Sonic would never say such a cruel thing. If anything, this is dreadfully out of character for Sonic. He would most likely calmly tell Amy to leave him alone. He may get a bit irritated, but he would certainly never tell Amy he hated her, nor would he ever tell her to curl up and die. The horrible fact about the above piece is that you see it a lot, especially in Shadow/Amy stories. Try not to OOC characters as much as that.

 

Writing as a character (characterization) is also important. To really get in touch with the story, a few tips can come in handy. Try and imagine you are that character, try to think about how that character would be feeling. For example, let's look at one of my fanfics, Because of You (I'm using my fics so that nobody will get offended if I use theirs without permission...):

Her death left me distraught. I couldn’t stand the pain I felt, so I hid myself away. The others tried to talk to me, and get me to open up, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. I knew as soon as I faced even one of them, I would break down, and I didn’t want anyone to see me cry anymore.

Try and invision this scenario. You are Tails. The only person you ever truly loved has died at your hands, yet you feel your best friend could have done more to save her. What would you feel like? This was where the idea stemmed from. Of course Tails would be depressed about Cosmo's death. Of course Tails would probably feel the blame lay with Sonic in a desperate attempt not to blame himself, to help remind himself that he loved Cosmo. Because that's how I would have felt myself if I were in that same situation.

How about another scenario? You're married and never thought you would be, to the woman you love. You don't want children, yet you find out that somehow that your pregnant/your wife is pregnant. You want to do the right thing, yet you don't know what that is. Your selfish need is crying for a way out of having this baby, yet you don't want to be selfish either. What would you do in this situation? Write it down as if it's that character experiencing it.

Description

Ah yes, description. Another important factor in writing. Thinking on it, would anybody want to read your fanfiction if it had little description? Probably not. The better you describe it, the more likely you are to hook in readers. Description enables readers to imagine the scene clearly in their mind. When making novels or writing long multiple-chaptered stories, there is never too much description. But when it comes to one-shots, don't go overboard with description by using tricky words that probably nobody understands, but try and describe it the best you can.

Imagine the character in your story is at... say... a park. Think about what the park would look like and describe it as fluently as you can. Picturing the area in your mind helps you to describe it.

Fluency also helps you in describing things from your story. Being fluent means your language is powerful and emotive. Choppy writing that doesn't seem to hold much emotion in it will not hold a reader's interest for long. To keep them interested in your story, use powerful language (and by that I don't mean swearing) that can really make a reader think about what may happen next.

Surprises and Cliffhangers

Something that may also hook readers in. You head along a straight path in your fanfiction, then something happens which throws you off course. That is a surprise in a fanfiction, because the readers won't expect it.

An easier way of putting it is in this scenario; Life is absolutely happy for you. Everything is going your way. You're with the person you love, you have your own place, you're independent... then suddenly you find out you lost a life-changing amount of money and you're being forced out of your home. Everything is changing for the worst. That would be a surprise (in fiction).

Or how about your favourite couple is on their honeymoon, everything is going great, they're getting real mushy... and suddenly Eggman attacks them from out of nowhere, and the chapter ends? That is a cliffhanger (this idea was used in Flash's fanfiction, Honeymoon of the Year)

Another thing is cliffhangers. Sure, loads of people hate them, there's no denying that. But cliffhangers are brilliant in a storyline. It's bound to keep a few readers waiting for your next chapter, eager to know what happens next. So yeah, using cliffhangers every now and then is a good thing.

Can we swear in the story?

Swearing in fanfiction isn't often done, unless the story is rated M or over. Swearing is better off left to dialogue (speech) or some kind of quote. Putting it into narration may disturb the readers. The words "hell" and "damned" is possible to make an exception for. Another possibility for making an exception is if the story is in first person, because the story is being told how that character sees it. Other than that, swearing should be left out of narration. Swearing should be left out all together if the story is rated PG or under.

Bashing

If you write a bashing fic, don't expect everyone to be uber happy about it. Bashing fics are truly frowned upon by most fans. Though everyone does enjoy a bashing fic of a character they don't like, not everyone does. So the most sensible thing to do is to avoid writing them altogether. If you do write one, you have a higher chance of getting flamed by fans of whatever it is you're bashing. So avoid it. I have seen loads of Sonic bashing fics, and have seen quite a lot of them get flamed. I myself was sickened by one in particular. So yes, avoid bashing fics or risk getting flamed. That's what it's like in this fandom and nothing is going to change it anytime soon.

Using foreign words

Try to keep this to a minimum. I cannot deny I get annoyed when I see foreign words pop up in various stories. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using them, but keep in mind that it may irritate some of your readers. I mean, what would you prefer to see?

"Ai shiteru Sonikku..." his lover whispered, allowing herself to run her hands through his stray quills.

Or:

"I love you so much Sonic..." his lover whispered, allowing herself to run her hands through his stray quills.

I know I'd prefer to see the second one. But meh, loads of people have different preferences. Yes, feel free to use these words in your fanfiction but not so much where it may irritate readers. Remember, they may not know what these words mean.

Write it the way YOU want!

An important factor. Yes, keep all of this in the tutorial in mind, to help you mentally improve your writing skills. But when it comes to plot, and what you say exactly, that's down to you. Don't let anyone tell you how to write your fanfiction. Sure, you can accept suggestions and ideas, but if someone bosses you around telling you what should happen, ignore them. You are the writer, you write it your way. But remember to always try to improve yourself when writing, or else you won't get very far.

Reviewing fanfiction

Yes, I know. Everyone reviews in the way they want to. But these tips should help you and the author improve:

1. Be honest about what you see. Yes, if you think a story needs some improvement, don't just shrug it off and say 'Oh wow, your story is great!' - how exactly does that help the author improve? Be as lenient and as kind as you can when giving reviews, yet be honest as well. Try not to be rude.

2. Be neutral. Look at both positive aspects of the story and the negative. If you can't find any negative, comment only on the positive. If you cannot see any positive, either be as nice as you can about it or don't comment at all. But don't look at one side only if there are two sides to it. Looking at positivity only doesn't help the author improve though it gives them confidence. Looking at negativity only doesn't give the author confidence, even if it does help them improve and it will give them a negative impression of you.

3. Be nice. Try to word it carefully. Reviewing them in the wrong way may insult the author or offend them. You need to be aware of their feelings. They may not be very confident people who need to be treated delicately. Don't insult them, don't bash them, be nice. It doesn't take much effort.

4. No nagging. I have seen people getting nagged by people who call themselves 'critiques' before. If they need to improve, do you think that they will improve right off the bat? Not straight away. It doesn't mean they're not listening if they don't improve straight away. Nagging them makes you look like an immature flamer instead of a critique. If they haven't blocked you or did not respond to you, it may mean they may have taken on board your advice. Try to be encouraging instead of resorting to flaming because you feel they aren't listening. It does no good if you turn into a nag.

5. Patience is a virtue. The writer won't get better straight away. Adding to 'no nagging', it makes you look impatient if you believe that they will get it right straight away. Be encouraging and forget the previous chapters. Don't nag.

6. Don't be rude. Being rude makes you look like you know it all and that you believe you are superior. When reviewing, don't show off, don't make out like you think you know better than everybody else. Try not to be rude, try to be polite. Also, there are some authors that might find themselves offended by the use of sarcasm by critiques. If that's the case, try to avoid sarcasm in your reviews.

7. Think about the author's feelings. Writing out criticism is good for the author, but think about how they might take it. They might take it to heart, they might take it nicely. If you think they're going to take it to heart, change it to make it seem nicer. Soften the blow a bit.

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