The Secrets of Writing Fan Fiction People Will Read

By Wayne Schmidt

Contrary to popular belief, strong plots, interesting characters and suspense-filled scenes don't determine if someone will finish reading a piece of fan fiction. These are important but readers will log off long before they have the chance to find out if a story has these elements if they don't see that the author has used the secrets of good Internet writing: proper format, correct spelling, showing instead of telling, avoidance of repetition, and smooth style.

Proper Format: The first thing a reader sees is the appearance of a story. If it looks confused, jumbled and hard to read he or she will go elsewhere to find something easier to follow. Limit each line to six and a halve inches long on the monitor. The number of characters this works out to depends on the font but it's usually sixty-five. Longer lines force readers to track so far from side to side that it's uncomfortable. Skip a line between paragraphs; it breaks chapters up into easily digested pieces. Avoid typing in the text-only format; the replacement symbols for boldfacing and italics make a story look messy and don't convey the impact real boldfacing and italics provide.

Correct Spelling: It's hard work for a writer to make a reader feel like he or she is living in the story. A single misspelled word breaks this spell. Use a spellchecker and avoid this pitfall.

Showing Instead of Telling: Readers want to experience a story, not just be told about one. Showing that a woman is beautiful by describing her creates more of an experience for readers than telling them she is beautiful. It's even more effective to show now attractive she is by describing how other characters react to her beauty.

Avoid Repetition: Like misspelled words, repetition reminds readers that they are reading a story instead of living an adventure. Avoid this by: making sure the same word isn't used twice in the same sentence, not starting two adjacent sentences with the same word, using pronouns in place of character names, not using a specific literary technique (like a flashback) more than once in a story, and not showing that someone's excited and also telling the reader that they're excited by saying that they did something excitedly.

Smooth Style: This is the easiest of all the secrets to master. All it takes is proofreading, something few fan fiction writers do and their stories suffer from it. Every time a writer reads his or her own work they inevitably find out-of-place words, missing punctuation, or a more effective way to present a scene. Always proofread and rewrite. It'll smooth out the story making it easier and more pleasurable for the reader to follow.

~The End~

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