Some Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Fan Fiction


DO write to what you know or love.

If you’re a fan of something and want to write a fan fiction for it, then great! Being a fan means you’re familiar with the material and the world in which the original story takes place so you’re less likely to make mistakes. It means that you’re more likely to be involved with the story you’ve created using that world or characters then if you’re writing what you don’t know that well. One of my fan fics, Sakura Ai, is a multi-crossover type of story and I get requests for a lot of different fandoms. As much as I’d love to write for, say, Inu Yasha I wouldn’t be able to do justice because I’m not familiar with the source material. By sticking to the fandoms I love I’m able to (hopefully) honor the creators and entertain other fans like me.

DON’T forget to use spellcheck.

I treat fan fictions how professional editors treat manuscripts. If there’s a typo in the first sentence or the first paragraph is grammatically a mess, what do I do? I click the ‘back’ button and move onto a better-written fic. It’s not that hard to spellcheck work when you’re done, or to simply Google any grammar information (lay vs lie) that you’re unfamiliar with. Yes, everyone slips up from time to time—and that’s fine—but constant spelling and grammar errors are sure to make me stop reading. Are my standards high? Probably. Did I commit this sin with my earlier fan fics? Definitely. It’s a learning curve, but the more you write and read, the more ‘rules’ you pick up and the better your writing can be.

DO your research.

This ties in with the first DO, in that if you’re familiar with the material you should be able to move around the world in which you’re writing without trouble. And, yes, you are the author and can change details to stories and universes with the smooth click of a keyboard. You can bring back characters from the dead, kill those you hate, and make anyone fall in love. However, sometimes it can help build your story’s reputation if you do you research, especially if you’re writing in the canon universe. There are hundreds of Wikipedia’s dedicated to entire fandoms, and they’re full of information about settings and characters and more. Plus even if you don’t throw all your research into the story, what you do have will show and will definitely be appreciated.

DON’T create a Mary/Gary Sue.

In the beginnings of fan fictions and more likely with author’s first stories, the main character is more often than not a Mary/Gary Sue. What does this mean? If your main character has a tragic past and/or mental illness, is extremely good-looking and popular with many romantic interests, are often the best at anything they try and very powerful, may have many supernatural abilities, often has many love interests (often in the form of a main character of the fandom), can sometimes be a self-insert/wish-fulfillment of the author, and is too perfect to be real then they’er probably a Mary/Gary Sue. The best actually-published example I can give would be Zoey from the House of Night series; I made it to book three and had to stop, because she was too powerful, too perfect, and too ridiculous for me to believe. Which leads me to…

DO create believable characters.

Yes, the phrase OOC (Out of Character) exists for a reason in our writing universe. However, even if the surly potion’s professor is suddenly incredibly friendly and nice it needs to be believable. Whether your characters are original or you’re playing with the creator’s, all of them should be well-rounded, have their own motives/wishes/dreams, and always have a reason for every action (whether it’s known to the character or not). Deep stories always have multifaceted characters, someone who may not be truly the hero or absolutely the villain, but there’s nothing wrong with having a character who is the antagonist—as long as they’re not the mustache-twirling type. What do they like? What do they hate? What kind of hobbies do they have? When you know your character then it can be easier to write them.

DON’T add unnecessary details.

I have wasted an immense amount of time in my reading just reading about what a character was wearing in every other scene, or what their hair looks like in an autumn breeze, or what they ate for every single meal of every single day that the story takes place. Please, please just tell the reader what they need to know or only what adds to the story. Is it important than Raven is wearing jeans today? Maybe it is if she usually only wears dresses. Do we care that Ron only ate a bagel with low-fat cream cheese for breakfast? Maybe if it reveals that he’s having body confidence issues. Do we need three passages in one chapter about Legolas’ hair catching sunlight, reflecting snow, and glimmering in the moon? Probably not. If it’s not important or to help set the scene in an important way then it only bogs the story down, especially if this is a repeated offense.

Fan fiction is a beautiful thing, truly. However, I usually tell people that for every great fan fiction I find, there’re three good ones and seven bad. It’s amazing that people bond and love these fandoms enough to spend vast amounts of free time writing stories that they probably won’t be paid for (“Masters of the Universe” which became Fifty Shades of Grey is the exception, not the rule). Every time I finish a great fan fiction I fall back in love with the fandom, because our universes never stop inspiring and creating new galaxies.

Oh and DO remember to comment on stories. Authors love that.

And DON’T read “My Immortal”, the worst fan fiction ever written, because your IQ will drop several points. That’s not my opinion, many others agree, because it’s that bad.