A/N: This is inspired by the book How to Write a Novel, by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman, and is arranged in a similar format.
So, you want to write a great fanfiction? Do you really know the tools of the trade? No matter how many style guides you've looked at, and how much nonfanfic writing you've done, it's still helpful to look at the pitfalls many fic writers fall into headfirst.
There are quite a few problems that seem to be strictly fanfiction-based: problems I have never seen in other works. Some of these issues will probably leave you scratching your head, while others you yourself may have fallen prey to (I've made a couple of big mistakes in my first writing, too).
Let's start with a way to not begin your fanfiction. Here's a mistake I call:
Gilligan, the Skipper too…
Wherein the author forgets the point of fanfiction
Mr. Spock, who really should have been called Commander Spock, as he was commanding officer, and yet was called Mr. Spock by his crewmates, walked down the hall of the starship that was named the Enterprise, which he served on.
Mr. Spock belonged to a race of aliens known as Vulcans, who came from the planet Vulcan, and was highly logical, as their race was wont to be. This tendency for logic was often interpreted as emotional coldness, and Vulcans did almost always distance themselves from emotions. Mr. Spock, however, was only half-Vulcan, and had to work extra hard to contain his emotions. Many of Spock's crewmates tried to get him to show emotion. The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. McCoy, often did this by…
(Five pages later, and nothing more has happened….)
Sometimes an author writing a fanfiction for a work, forgets that their audience will probably be at least a casual fan of that work. The author goes on to reintroduce all the main characters and locations from that work to their audience, which just wants to see a plot with characters that they already know.
After all, someone who is seeking our Star Trek fanfiction will usually be familiar with Star Trek, right?
Once the action in a fanfiction has actually started, it creates many more opportunities for the author to mess thing up. Often, an author will not know how to properly balance dialogue with action, and when they're trying (unnecessarily, of course) to find creative replacements for the word "said", they end up with this:
The Elmore Leonard Tag
When the readers are amazed that the character could really chuckle that whole sentence
Batman had finally gotten Two-Face cornered in the abandoned warehouse. His hired goons were unconscious, their bodies strewn across the floor. Batman had Two-Face on his stomach, his left arm in a lock.
"Tell me where you're keeping the hostages," Batman twisted the arm.
"I'll never tell," Two-Face spat out blood.
"Suit yourself, Dent," Batman wrenched the arm.
"I hate you!" Two-Face, trying to break free.
For some reason, many authors forget that when you put a comma at the end of a snippet of dialogue, whatever action they say the speaker did afterward was what made the sentence "happen". Could Batman really have said words by twisting Two-Face's arm? It reads like a rejected screenplay novelization.
A lot of people make this mistake. I was one of them, probably because I read too many works that didn't have any editors!
Anyway, that's all for now. If you have any fanfiction problems you'd like me to cover in this series, let me know!