How to Write Stand-Out Fanfiction

by , Thursday September 4, 2014
How to Write Stand-Out Fanfiction

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We all love a good fanfic. As a writer, it’s a fab way to honour a book, film, TV show or celebrity you love. But with so much existing material out there, creating a memorable and enticing story can seem like a daunting task.


But fear not! Whatever type of fanfiction you choose to write, follow these ten tips to ensure that your work stands out from the rest–and watch the readers flock to you!

1. Understand canon

Canon refers to the facts of the fictional universe as established in the original source material. For instance, we know that in ‘Doctor Who’, the Doctor travels around time and space in the TARDIS. If you suddenly negated this by swapping the TARDIS for an ice-cream van that would be a break from canon. To avoid frustrating avid fans of the original work, you should avoid this as much as possible, unless you explicitly announce that your fanfic is set in an alternative universe (AU). Even then, be sure to keep the logic of this universe intact.

2. Don’t put your subject on a pedestal

Remember, not even professional writers are perfect. Found a plot hole in the original source? See if your story can find a way to solve it. Similarly, no celebrity persona tells the whole story of the person behind the image. Sure, Harry Styles is a total dreamboat, but when incorporating him into a story, remember that there is a person beneath the popstar–with *gasp* flaws and all! This leads nicely onto the next point.


3. Reveal a character’s hidden depths

Taking familiar faces as your subject matter is what fanfic is all about, and there’s nothing more iconic than a valiant hero or brilliant baddie. Whether your character is fictional, or a celebrity, consider that there may be more to them than meets the eye. For instance, in ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood-Prince’, we find that behind the character’s ice-cool, arrogant exterior, Potter’s nemesis Draco is haunted by secret fears. Think about other characters where this might be the case.


4. ...but don’t make them totally unrecognisable

It may seem like stating the obvious, but people are attracted to your story because they’re already in love with the characters from the original source. So whilst you can explore new sides of their personality, remember what makes them memorable in the first place. Keep their backstory  and motivations in mind, and let these facets inform your future development of the character. So, while they may be more to a villain than meets the eye, don’t go overboard a give your readers a Draco in Leather Pants.


5. Consider a cross-over with care

Cross-overs, if done right, are a fantastic way of bringing originality to your work. If you’ve ever wondered how two brilliant + dynamic characters from different sources would interact, create an opportunity to explore this. However, you should come up with a convincing reason for the two fandoms to interact–maybe uber-sceptic Sherlock is puzzled by a case that seems to have supernatural causes, and calls for the Doctor’s assistance. Having characters simply bumping into each other in the street is boring and implausible.


6. Whisk your characters away

Thrust your characters into a new setting, complete with its own specific set of challenges. We mentioned AU’s earlier–perhaps 5SOS are living in a dystopian colony in outer space! However, you don’t have to break from canon to introduce a new setting. Maybe Sherlock and Watson decide to take a break from rainy London and end up solving mysteries in South America. The possibilities are endless...


7. Don’t neglect your original characters

If you’re including your own original characters in your fanfiction, remember that their personalities should be just as well developed as those from other sources. It’s easy to get caught up in your idolisation of Luke Hemmings or Taylor Swift, but make your own characters more than just a blank slate for the reader to project themselves onto–no one needs another Mary Sue.


8. When it comes to genre, think outside the box

Remember: you don’t necessarily have to stick to the original genre of your source material. For instance, you could downplay the thriller/adventure elements of ‘The Hunger Games’ in favour of psychological family drama, as you explore Katniss’ fraught relationship with her widowed mother. Get experimenting!


9. Show, don’t tell

Your teachers have probably never stopped banging on about this, but it’s worth reiterating. When writing fanfiction, it’s tempting to keep referring back to the original source, particularly to entice readers who may not know the intricate ins-and-outs of the fandom. However, a lengthy written summary of past events or character histories is boring. Be more subtle, and introduce this slowly through dialogue and flashbacks, for instance.


10. Don’t get bogged down in detail

Every writer has a vivid mental picture of how their characters and settings are supposed to look. But remember to leave something to the reader’s imagination! You don’t need huge amounts of detail describing your character’s every outfit change, unless it specifically serves the plot. Besides, if you’re talking about a character that is already represented in visual media, the reader will have plenty of images to go on.


11. Get feedback from fans and newbies alike

Share your work with the rest of the fan community too for informed feedback concerning your take on the fandom. But also think about showing your work to trusted non-fans. As they are a bit more emotionally removed from your subject matter, they can make fantastic proof-readers, considering the quality of your story as a work in its own right. So make the most of the Movellas community!

What are your top tips for writing brilliant fanfiction? Share your secrets in the comments!



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