Using Screenwriting Tips to Write Better Fanfiction
Last month I attended that huge multi-media event in San Diego known as Comic-Con 2010. There I attended a panel called “Writing for Television” and found it very interesting that many of the tips they gave to aspiring tv writers, could also be used as tips for writing fanfiction. So I decided to do a post about it and give you guys the benefit of the advice too.
Know your show.
In the seminar, they stressed the importance of knowing the show before you attempt to write a “spec script” (speculative screenplay) for it. Not only should you watch the show, you should study anything you can get your hands on about it – read articles online and in magazines, watch behind-the-scenes videos, read interviews with the actors and anyone behind the camera, and basically get every tidbit about it that you possibly can.
The same can be said for fanfiction. Most people who read fanfic want their characters in character, and a storyline that is consistent with the show. That’s not to say that you can’t write things that are AU (alternate universe), but if you’re just starting out in fanfiction it’s best to stick to the basics. So follow the same advice and do what a prospective scriptwriter would do – study your show.
Stick to the show’s normal routine.
In the seminar they talked about the folly of trying to show off your superb writing skills by turning in a script that was widely off base for the series. If you’re writing one for Desperate Housewives, for instance, you don’t want to include vampires and werewolves. Yes it’s imaginative but it’s not what the script readers are looking for, causing your script to be tossed.
Unless you really want to write an AU fanfiction (and make that perfectly clear up front to your readers by stating it in the summary for the story), I’d suggest following this advice as well when starting out as a fanfic writer. Let people see that you can write the characters and storylines they are familiar with before moving on to the more unusual stuff. That way you can build yourself a readership of people who might be more willing to follow you on your journey into the AU storylines.
Have a strong “A” and “B” story.
When writing a script for most dramas, they said that there should always be an “A” storyline and a “B” storyline. The “A” storyline is where the action comes in, while the “B” storyline can carry more of the emotion or simply center on other cast members.
This can be extremely useful when writing fanfiction for a show that has a large cast or when you want to write more than just one theme in a story (like hurt/comfort and romance, for instance). You can take one or two main characters and have them carry the bulk of the story with lots of action or drama, and then in the background have another storyline going that is maybe more humorous, or vice versa. This will keep things more interesting for the reader.
Write what you know.
Yep, we even got treated to that well known writing mantra at the seminar and, while I’ve heard it at nearly every writing seminar I’ve ever attended, it took on slightly new meaning at this one. Even if you’re writing a story based on people you’ve never met and places you’ve never been, you should always write from what YOU know to give it that little something that makes it yours.
Writing a story about aliens or vampires, or even just people living lives you never will, may seem like something that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with you, but that’s not true. There is always a human aspect to any story, an emotional element that you understand. Remember that you know more than you think you do and try to always be looking at life in a new way. Just had a breakup? Well how about adding heartbreak to a character, but give it a twist by having the character initiate a breakup in order to keep someone alive.
Watch your grammar and spelling.
Another oldie but goodie. Turning in a spec script with a ton of glaring errors is another sure-fire way of seeing it make its way straight into the trash bin faster than you can say “spell check”. Not taking the time to proofread your work (or have someone else do it for you) shows the script readers you have no respect for them and in turn, they will have no respect for you.
Same thing goes for fanfiction. If you’re new to writing and know that spelling and grammar aren’t your strong points, get someone to help. Fanfiction.net is great for this because they’ve set up a way for people to volunteer their services as a beta (people who proofread and edit fanfiction). These people are invaluable to a newbie, so feel free to take advantage of their kindness. There’s nothing that throws off more people from reading fanfic (me included) than overly sloppy work. A few mistakes here and there aren’t so bad but if the errors are constant, they can take away from the story and make it nearly impossible to read.
Got a fanfiction issue, question or problem? I can help! I am now offering fanfiction consulting/coaching services to anyone, in any fandom, writing any type of story. If you’re interested in a consultation, just email me at Moki@mokisfanfictionblog.com to get a free evaluation and find out what I can do for you.
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