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Author Topic: Why is fan-fiction despised?  (Read 10529 times)
Ezram
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« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2008, 02:28:24 AM »

Is there an actual list detailing the common mistakes of fan-fiction authors? I may want to try writing some myself one of these days...
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« Reply #16 on: January 13, 2008, 11:57:26 PM »

Welcome to the life.  My hobby is screenwriting. I got into it from "Cinematic" or plot arc style gaming.

Some tips here are generally considered as what not to do:
[But all rules can be broken, if you are good enough to pull it off.]

Do at least minimal research, or don't write about what you know nothing about.

If you don't know about sled dogs, or handguns, or things that are commonly known to people in their field, you might mess it up. Huskies, for example, sleep under the snow, they dig and make a mini igloo.  So if you write some story where "the sled dogs huddled in a pile for warmth, but froze to death overnight...it's unrealistic. Do research at a library.

Don't use a strange / unexpected point of view.
The point of view of a gun, as it travels from man to man. [Except in this case, the "Dead Man's Gun" broke that rule, and made for a pretty good TV show...because the stories were about people with the gun, and how the gun affected them, not the  gun itself and how it felt.]
Don't do the point of view of a parachute, or an eggbeater.  People can't relate.

Don't write about a single idea.
In a good story, the experience is primary, not the message. A story shouldn't be reducible to a single idea, "guns are bad...religion is bad...A hungry man needs to eat." and should raise more questions than it answers.

Don't have too many Characters.
Determine who is necessary to the story, and remove everyone else.

Vary the names, make them distinct.
Two-syllable names with diminutive endings have the same effect, "Vicky, Billy, Danny."

Don't start with expository material, start with the story.
You don't want to go into a long spiel about how the nuclear weapon was developed, just focus on the situation at hand.

Don't ramble on with descriptions, page upon page of the wind, the trees, the sky.

Don't do formal introductions:
"John, this is Jane.  Hello, Jane.   Pleased to meet you, John.  Have you met Bill? No, I don't think I've had the pleasure."  Bleh.

Get to the story.  Don't keep people wondering what is the story about, when is it going to start?   

This is one thing I like about the GC Briefings. Establish the mission, gear up, pick agents and allies in supplies, resources, etc, and go.

Good stories intrigue readers from the first sentence.

Do not write the following:
"It was only the wind."

This is a story based on Anti-climax.  A threat is built up by describing mysterious noises, sights, sounds, and sensations.  The character's terror is developed by describing
various fears and possibilities, and perhaps recent atrocities in the vicinity.  The end reveals that it was all caused by a cat, a raccoon, a possum, a shutter, a loud clock, wind in the trees, moonlight in the mirror, a child's wind-up toy, character's own heartbeat.

The Thinking on the Park Bench story.
A character stays in a single, relatively confined space for the whole story.  While in that place the character thinks, worries, plans, whatever. Before long, the readers realize that the character is not going to do anything, nothing is going to happen in terms of action, or drama.  The character is not interacting with other people, but reliving past interactions.  Problems will not be faced, but thought about. Troubles will not occur, but they will be remembered.  Often, this lack of motion signifies a lack of imagination on the part of the writer.  You must find a way to make up for the lack of plot, action, and momentum.  The missing kinetic energy must be generated by particular daring, wit, or ingenuity.

Two Philosophers in Jail Story.
Here, a small number of characters, perhaps only two, isolated from normal society, talk about life while not doing very much.
They tend to comment about civilization, philosophize about meanings, and squabble a bit among themselves.  Realize that giving portentous dialogue to philosophizing outcasts is self-indulgent, sentimental, and heavy-handed. 
The stylized setting makes all actions seem weightily symbolic, and the characters generally seem to stand for some major idea of the nature of man.

I can't wait to get my lottery payoff Story.
This sets up a character who will have his expectations dashed.
It dwells for pages on the joys expected, and then deprives the central character of whatever is desired. The beloved one never shows up, or is killed on the road, or drunkenly calls from a bar, or runs away with is pregnant by somebody else, or has really been dead for years.

The easily predictable ending / nothing new Story.
The bully, attacks a helpless victim, the victim, not helpless, attacks the bully.


The i-cried-because-i-had-no-cigarettes-till-i-met-a-guy-who-had-lung cancer-story
This story type is primarily designed to teach a lesson, using stereotyped characters, harmful results of bad behavior, or good results of good behavior.

The Weird Duck [My Character is Chaotic Neutral] Walking story.
This story type focuses on a character who is strange and different.  We are given many examples of his (sometimes bad) behavior, but no insight into his character.
Instead, show what is driving him, what is he searching for, what is he missing, that makes him do what he does. Otherwise it's just a weird character, a mystery with no real clues.

The from nothing to nothing Story.
This shows a character that is rigid, and dull, and doesn't change.  The loser who tries, only to lose again, the cheater who cheats again, the alcoholic that goes back to the bar, the suicide that succeeds.

The Nothing to Everything Story.
In this story, a character totally overcomes some character problem, in the span of a few days or less.  But, a major, permanent change in personality is difficult to make plausible.  Behavior lies deep, and is rooted in responses and habits that cannot simply vanish in a wish, or a phrase.  The way a person has behaved, or the way people have behaved toward a person affects everyone for a long time, whether they like it or not.

Hope some of these help. I have hundreds of pages of notes on stuff like this, and other writing tips.

- Merxiless

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Ezram
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« Reply #17 on: January 14, 2008, 02:21:33 PM »

You offer up some very sage advice  Cheesy.

What genres interest you?
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« Reply #18 on: January 14, 2008, 02:49:25 PM »

Hard Science Fiction, Espionage, Space Opera, Technothrillers, Westerns, Fantasy.

Not all in that order. 

Here's some more tips:

Don't try to tell too many stories at once. - Too many plots, and subplots.
A story that has too many subplots uses up time to explain what's happening, and the scene changes required are confusing to the reader.

A beautiful complex story is often complex, not because of a complicated surface, but because of an impressive depth, texture, and description...the feel of it.

Don't write stories with bad endings, where the last lines are:
And then I woke up from my horrific dream.
And then the alarm rang, and I realized, how glad I was to be alive.
They're bringing my supper now, I guess they'll shave my head later, before the execution.
He realized that he was alone, and slowly blinked his four eyes.
It's not a bad place...warm, dry, and nice padded walls. Here's the nurse with my medication.
The guillotine blade fell swiftly, severing my head from my body.
"Doris, it was a wonderful time, and I'd love to marry you, but I'm gay."
He slowly drew the thin razor across his wrists.
He slowly shook out the whole bottle of pills in his hand.
He slowly put the muzzle of the gun against his forehead.
He slowly kept walking into deeper water, he did not look back.
He pulled the sheet of paper out of the typewriter. The story was done.

What's wrong with these lines? They surprise the reader, but who wants to read a story just for the last punch line?  It makes the whole thing invalid, and not worth th effort in reading it.








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Ezram
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« Reply #19 on: January 14, 2008, 02:55:04 PM »

Can endings where the protagonist(s) dies be done well?
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« Reply #20 on: January 14, 2008, 03:00:32 PM »

Can endings where the protagonist(s) dies be done well?

Richard the III, Hamlet...

The trick is that it either has to be telegraphed or meaningful. Even a story where a suicide or meaningless death occurs at random still needs to provide enough hints to make that the book is on some level about meaningless death.

It's easier to pull off correctly if the protagonist is not the view point character.
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« Reply #21 on: January 14, 2008, 03:31:16 PM »

The key is if you are going to kill off your protagonist, have them win some sort of moral victory, so that their death is not meaningless.

In most heroic tragic stories, the protagonist is killed, forced into exile from society, or is not able to integrate into society, via a curse, or ongoing quest.

This is because no one can stand to be in the shadow of a hero all the time...typically because his most useful skill is killing a lot of people very efficiently.

Thus, Rambo goes back to Thailand...or walks the US with his duffel bag.

The man with no name rides off.

Bruce Banner can't be anything but the Hulk.  Once seen as the Hulk, he has to move on.

In the Omega Man, Charlton Heston's character sacrifices himself to save the children.

in the Bible, stories of sacrifice, and death.

Even Star Trek...Kirk and crew solve the problem, and ship out for the stars. Though his many lovers want him to settle down, he moves on, "Cursed" by the service, in a never ending quest, his "5 year mission." And we know, he's only going to be happy as a wanderer...taking on missions, saving people...risking it all.  "Risk is our business."





Many such stories are like that.

« Last Edit: January 14, 2008, 03:33:58 PM by Merxiless » Logged

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« Reply #22 on: August 30, 2008, 10:05:32 PM »

Have you written anything we'd know that sold? ... Not to trying to be rude, but I'm curious.

As to the other main topic on here about fanfic, I think being respectful of the genre and the existing setting is essential. I've seen some very definite porn fanfic on fireflyfans.net for a couple of the characters from the show and such. You have to wonder sometimes.

I'm on a Firefly PBP site (www.findingserenity.org in case you're interested) and we keep a solid watch on the canon in our cooperative storytelling, even to the point that interactions with the canon characters are limited to Badger, maybe. No one gets to play any of the canon characters and connections to them need to be cleared by the admins.

I can't speak for any of the other fanfic sites but I know the general rep is not very good.
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« Reply #23 on: September 03, 2008, 10:25:27 AM »

My two bits on the question:  Because generally unskilled writers do awful things with "beloved" characters.

The longer answer is that most of it is just bad.  Ever heard of slash-fics?  I have enjoyed good authors playing in established settings, but even when the author is good, they do better when they leave the canon characters alone.

The corollary question:  Is it fan fic if it's your characters in someone else's setting and they never interact with canon characters?
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« Reply #24 on: September 03, 2008, 11:17:03 AM »

It is in regards to the setting ... but not for the canon characters.
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« Reply #25 on: September 03, 2008, 07:48:10 PM »

The corollary question:  Is it fan fic if it's your characters in someone else's setting and they never interact with canon characters?

I'd say it depends on whether the setting itself is a "character." Is the setting itself distinctive? Does the setting tell a story?

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« Reply #26 on: September 08, 2008, 09:17:59 AM »

I've never thought of a setting as being a character, but I would consider making money without permission of the original author to be plagiarism.  Homages and fanfics are a credit to the author's talent in creating an interesting place, but so much of the fanfic is bad that the category as a whole is shunned.  Too much chaff to find the wheat for most folks.
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« Reply #27 on: September 08, 2008, 10:06:19 AM »

Of course, this thread being revived while re-reading some stuff raised an interesting question to me.

Technically, an established author writing a short story or novel in another author's world could be considered fan fiction. I was rereading Eric Flint's From the Highlands and John Ringo's Let's Go to Prague which are both set in David Weber's Honorverse. Incidentally, both are great espionage stories, and Prague is a great example of a Cal I or Cal 0 mission. Smiley

So does the epithet of fan fiction really have more to do with quality and publishability?
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« Reply #28 on: September 08, 2008, 10:31:30 AM »

So does the epithet of fan fiction really have more to do with quality and publishability?

Yes.  And a small slice of permission, or lack thereof, on the side.
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« Reply #29 on: May 11, 2010, 05:33:08 PM »

Those of us who can find the humor in the bad sci-fi movies on the "ScyFy" channel can find the humor in bad fanfic.  I still get a giggle out of the Man from Uncle fic I found where a paralyzed from the waist down Napoleon Solo and a blind Illya Kuryakin manage to tame and train a ZEBRA!   Shocked  But it was a fun story.
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