5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Fan Fiction

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Fan Fiction

By on Oct 26, 2015 in Fiction, Writing & Editing

8432968631_962dcdfdb0Fan fiction, as the name implies, is fiction written by fans, set in a universe created by another author. Most of the characters appearing in fan fiction have already been created by the original author, although there are cases where the writer includes original characters. Writing fan fiction can be beneficial for new writers – it allows them to discover how well they can write, whether people like their writing, since fan fiction is posted online where readers can comment and review. Reading fan fiction allows fans of a lot of fictional book series or TV shows that have ended to re-enter the universe they love and read about the lives of their beloved characters. So, where can this go wrong? Read below to find out some of the most common mistakes writers make when writing fan fiction.

1. Characterization

There is a truth in fan fiction – it’s written by fans. And while the fans are good writers, they are not the original author. This is why the most common mistake in fan fiction is the characterization. A sign of good fan fiction is when the characters sound just like the original characters created by the author. This can take a lot of work – just because you’ve read the original book one hundred times, doesn’t mean that you know them inside out. You need to analyze their thoughts and actions to ensure that the characters you will be writing about will resemble the original characters. Also, beware of having them take actions that are out of their character – and if you do, make sure that there is a valid reason why they are acting that way.

2. The Mary Sue

Fan fiction writers often create original characters that interact with the characters of the universe they are writing about. The mistake they often make is creating a wish – fulfillment character that is nothing more than self-insertion. Yes, we would all love to go to Hogwarts and be friends with Harry, Ron and Hermione, and while fan fiction seems like the perfect place to indulge in that fantasy, it will not please the readers if your character ends up being perfect. Mary Sues are always pretty, extremely powerful and end up saving the world. But here is the thing – Mary Sues are frowned upon everywhere, both in the world of original fiction, and in the world of fan fiction. If you do wish to create a character of your own and insert it into an existing fictional universe, then make the individual as real as possible. The character will need flaws, and might not interact with the main characters as much as you wish, but if you have a good story, the readers will love it.

3. Point of view

Another common mistake of fan fiction is points of view done wrong. There are three common points of view: first person (where the narrator refers to themselves as “I”), third person limited (where the narrator refers to the protagonist as he/she, and only has as much information as the protagonist), and third person omnipresent, where the narrators knows everything. To avoid confusing the readers, choose one point of view and stick with it. Yes, you can switch points of view, however, never do it in the middle of a scene. Let the scene end before you switch to the point of view of another character. Also, if you’re writing in first person, then don’t switch to third person later on in the same chapter. Otherwise you’re just confusing the readers and coming across as inexperienced.

4. Not using beta readers

Before you post your fan fiction anywhere online, make sure to edit it for inconsistencies, wrong words, or simply run a spell – check to ensure everything is polished. If you don’t have the patience to do this, then get someone else to read it. A common presence on every fan fiction website out there are beta readers – people who will be the first to read your fan fiction and point out any inconsistencies with the original universe, the characters, the plot of your own story, misspelled words and mixed tenses. Grammar is important, always, in both original fiction and fan fiction, so if you’ve decided to write in the past tense, don’t switch to present tense. And if you have, your beta reader will be the one to point out that mistake to you.

5. Not having a plot

Yes you’re writing fan fiction, and it doesn’t need to be perfect. But, that doesn’t mean that you should tell a story without a plot. Every good story has a plot, even in fan fiction. Don’t forget that every action, in both original and fan fiction, has a suitable consequence. Your story will need a solid exposition, middle and a solid ending. Additionally, plenty of fan fiction writers write too long fan fiction stories, where the story goes so far away from the original direction that the chapters near the end seem to belong to another fictional universe all together, when compared to the chapters in the beginning. Your story needs to end somewhere, and it’s better to cut it early, rather than let it get out of control.

Image credit: sisssou on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As an art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.


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