Fanfiction Writing Tips: Keeping Your Characters In Character
I’ve been writing fanficiton for a few years now and one of the best compliments I can get from a reviewer is being told that my characters stayed in character in my story. It just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
The truth is I work hard to make my characters like they are in canon. Whether it’s a movie, tv show or book, I usually want my story to fold itself seamlessly into the original storyline. Occasionally I will do something that is purposely AU* , but even then it’s usually only the storyline itself that is not canon, not the characters themselves.
With that in mind, I thought I’d write some tips to keep your fanfiction characters in character.
Watch the show, read the book, etc.
Okay yeah, that may sound obvious but it still needs to be said. You can’t expect to write really good, in character fanfiction based on only reading other people’s fanfiction stories or maybe catching half of an episode here and there. You don’t necessarily need to have seen the entire series, but you need to have seen at least seen some. This will help you hear the characters’ “voices” in your head.
Get a beta* who knows the show
Beta readers are wonderful people. They give us their time expecting nothing in return except for heart-felt thanks and maybe a dedication line in a story once in a while. Yet they can be one of your best resources. Find someone who really knows the show (or movie, book, etc) by reading their beta reader profile (fanfiction.net provides these, a very useful tool), reading some of their fanfiction stories and most of all by dropping them a line and finding out more about them. Some betas only proofread for spelling errors, etc, so be sure you find one who gives editorial advice as well.
Write up bios for characters
This is a little tip that my writing coach gave me when I was working on my first novel. Up till then I had everything I knew about my characters stored in my head. Not a great place for all that info, since sometimes it’s not as easily accessible as you would think. This works for original characters, but it also works for fanfiction characters as well. Start writing down what you know about the characters you’ve chosen to write about, using resources like the show’s official website, fansites, etc. Write down anything you want to remember, especially if it will be relevant to your story, and keep it on hand. Then as you write your fanfiction story, refer to your notes to make sure you’re not putting in dialogue, plot points, etc that are incorrect.
Listen to your reviews
Getting a review that says “I think [insert character name] was a little OOC* in that last chapter” is harsh, but it can also be really helpful. I myself got just such a note on a story I wrote last summer. Yeah sure, at first I pouted a little bit, but then I decided to get more info. So I sent the reviewer a message and asked just exactly what it was that made her feel that way. The result was a very nice message giving me some more details that were very helpful in understanding how this particular person felt about the character. I didn’t necessarily agree with all of it but I definitely kept it in mind as I continued the story. Because if one person felt that way, there were likely to be others who did as well.
Overall I’m not saying that you can’t write AU storylines and take characters OOC, but just be sure that is what you intend and you warn your readers that is where the story is headed. But if your intention is to write a fanfic that stays within canon, then I hope these tips were helpful for you.
As always, I love hearing from you guys as well so if anyone wants to share their own tips for keeping characters in character, feel free to let us all know with a comment.