Tips To Write Better Fanfiction
So, you want to write a piece of interactive fan fiction? I've done it a few times and it's easy to see how people can fail. This serves as a simple guide of tips on how to not suck at writing fanfiction.
Fan fiction isn't a very popular genre on this site, mostly due to the high amount of low quality stories in the fan fiction category. I calculated the mean of every story in the fan fic category on 6/10/2018, and what is it? Well, shortened, it's 4.10. Yeah, not very good. The lowest rated featured story for fanfiction is also a high 4; compare that to fantasy, where the lowest rated featured story is a high 6, or sci-fi, where the lowest rated featured story is a mid 5.
Why does fanfiction fare so much worse compared to the other categories on the site? My theory is that, since not everyone is going to be familiar with the work, they either won't read it or will and rate it based solely on how well they can understand what's going on rather than how good the story actually is. You'll find people rating a fanfiction story lowly because they weren't fans of the original source material and as such didn't understand the story. Of course, there's also the fact that fanfiction draws in people who aren't good at writing or are just starting out, and decide to use an established setting since it'd be easier than coming up with their own.
So whether you're new at writing and want to try it out by writing in a setting you're familiar with, or you're experienced and figure what the hell, might as well get a featured story, here are some tips on how to not suck at writing fanfiction in particular.
Tip #1: Never Assume Your Audience Knows Everything
You might be the biggest fan of Super Robo Fighters X, but maybe Joe over there hasn't even heard of it. If you're going to write fanfiction, don't assume that your audience is just as familiar with the work as you are. Don't drop terms on them that they may not know without some sort of explanation. The easiest thing to do is to ease us into the world, maybe include some lore books here and there or start us off with a prologue about the main character's childhood and have us learn about the world with them. Do NOT have info dumps about every new thing we see, let us figure out some things for ourselves.
Tip #2: Keep The Timeframe Ambiguous
The easiest way to write fanfiction is keep it in an ambiguous timeframe. The worst thing you can do is set it at the very end of the original work, because then you have to explain pretty much all that's happened in the work that got us to this point. Instead, make it so it can be set at any point in time in the work so that it can work as a standalone story in its own right. Alternatively...
Tip #3: Make It An Alternate Universe
This is a lot easier and allows you more creative freedom. You can either make this blatant (IE sticking the characters of a science fiction story in the old west) or subtle (IE putting your own spin on the original work's setting and characters but still keeping it in the genre it originally was). I'm a fan of the subtle approach when I write fanfiction, and I also combine it with tip #2 so that you can still pretend that it's a part of the mainstream universe if you feel like it.
Tip #4: Don't Cater To Fans, Try To Draw In New Ones
Unless you're writing about a famous superhero or Star Wars or what have you, chances are not everyone is going to be familiar with the source material of the fanfic you're writing. So, rather than trying to cater to fans (which you can still do), try to draw in new ones by writing a good standalone work. If people like it enough, they might be intrigued and look into the original work. And at the end of the day, it might mean more people like the thing you like, so win-win.
Tip #5: Don't Suck At Writing
To end this article I'll give you the best advice anyone can give you: don't suck at writing. Look at other articles that deal with writing, practice, share your writing in the writing workshop or creative corner forums. Learn to take criticism well; most of the time, if someone criticizes your writing, it's because they want to see you improve, not because they want to see you crash and burn. And most importantly, have fun, ya nerd.