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How to Write GOOD Fan Fiction

What is GOOD Fan Fiction?

Fan fiction, like all other forms of entertainment is nothing if not subjective. What one person likes to read will naturally deviate from what someone else enjoys. This is why the tag system exists. However, most readers will agree that there are certain things that make good fan fiction stand apart from the rest.

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Choose your deviations from canon wisely.

You only get so many “hear me out”s before you lose your reader. People seek out fan fiction because they want to read about characters that they’ve grown attached to. Whether they are from a show, a book, or a video game, these characters are important to readers and if you change them too much (especially right off the bat), readers won’t be able to connect.

There’s nothing more irritating than opening up a fic, excited to read, only to find out that the characters have been changed beyond recognition. So let me say it one more time for emphasis:

If people wanted to read about original characters, they would.

If you have been writing about a specific character for a long period of time and feel confident in your ability to write them in a way that does them justice you will likely be able to get away with more changes. However, if you are just starting out, don’t bite off more than you can chew. The ability to capture the personality of an established character and extrapolate on how they would react in specific situations is a skill that needs to be developed and just like any skill, it takes practice to get right.

Tips for Beginners

Start out by only changing one thing.

This can look like a change in scenery, like an AU (alternate universe) of some sort, the nature of a specific relationship between two characters, or a singular plot point deviation. As you gain more experience and become more comfortable, it will be easier to throw in multiple changes and tropes at once. However, if you struggle with creating a product that you are happy with, try starting with only one major change.

Alternate Universes

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For the purpose of this explanation, alternate universes encompass every potential universe type that places the plot and characters in a different scenery. These types of fics always start with a question.

  • What if the cast of Haikyuu were adults working in rival coffee shops?

  • What if the cast of My Hero Academia had graduated UA and were working as heroes?

  • What if the cast of Harry Potter was placed in a universe without magic?

Even without changing anything else about the story, these changes in scenery require the author to think about plot consequences that might change the outcome of the story by themselves. For example, if the Harry Potter universe didn’t have magic, how did Voldemort try and kill Harry but fail? What did that look like? What sort of organization would the Death Eaters be and why would they be trying to kill Harry’s parents in the first place?

Then, depending upon your answers to these questions, that’s how you’ll get your story.

Alternate Universe Examples

  • Coffee Shop AU

  • University AU

  • Future Fic

Alternate Universe Writing Tips

  • Stay true to the characters and how they were originally written. Readers should be able to recognize the characters right away despite being placed in an unfamiliar setting.

  • Bring in canonical relationships and plot points. If a character’s brother died when he was young, keep that in the story and instead extrapolate on how that character would handle that sort of development in the new universe.

Relationship Changes

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Sometimes the source material already contains enough canonical interactions that all you’ll need to do is expand upon their already existing relationship. This sort of relationship might look like two characters who were clearly interested in each other but the story didn’t go on long enough to see fruit. Or perhaps its a “right person, wrong time” type of scenario. However, other times, you might be just living on scraps and maybe the characters don’t like each other in canon or they just don’t interact. In these cases, you may need to get creative.

Relationship Change Examples

  • Draco x Hermione instead of Ron x Hermione (Harry Potter)

  • Zuko x Katara instead of Aang x Katara (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

  • Sanji x Zoro (One Piece)

  • Lucifer x Alastor (Hazbin Hotel)

Relationship Change Writing Tips

  • Do NOT change the characters just to fit each other. The point of these fics is to play with the relationship between two, already existing, characters, not ham fist them together just because you want to.

  • How would they get there? Take the time to find out. I am of the opinion that you can get any two characters into a romantic relationship in a way that makes sense, if you take the time. A great example of this is one of my personal favorite ships, Zoro x Sanji. Canonically, they are always at each other’s throats, Sanji is a lady obsessed womanizer, and Zoro borders on asexual with his general lack of interest in anyone. However, if you take where they are at in canon and take some liberties with their internal monologues, its very doable. Perhaps one of them gets hurt and the other has to take care of them because it’s what Luffy would want. Then, as the hostility dies down, they learn more about each other and get closer. This doesn’t mean their interactions would change, per se, but maybe instead of true irritation and anger, their banter could develop a sexual subtext.

Singular Plot Point Deviation

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Like the alternate universe section, singular plot point deviations always start with a question. However, unlike the alternate universe trope, the stories occur in the original, canon universe, but with one crucial difference.

Singular Plot Point Deviation Examples

  • What if Luffy went into the marines like his grandfather had wanted? (One Piece)

  • What if Sam and Dean’s mom never died? (Supernatural)

  • What if everything was the same but secondary genders existed? (ABO)

Singular Plot Point Deviation Writing Tips

  • Stay faithful to the nature of each character. If a character was dealt a different hand in life, which pieces of them would change? Which would stay the same? That answer depends upon who they are as a person. If Husk never stopped being an overlord (Hazbin Hotel), would he still have the empathy he has now? Is that empathy part of who he is as a person or a result of dealing with the consequences of his downfall? Regardless of your answer to that question, he would probably still be the sassy asshole he is in the show because that seems to be more based in his personality than anything else.

  • Consider the ripple effects of your change. If you make a change that would wildly change the plot of the story and you’re fine with that, great! However, if you aren’t fine with that, you need to consider how to re-integrate aspects of the story in different ways. If Malfoy secretly came from a muggle mother, why would he not like Hermione (Harry Potter)? Instead of being a magic supremacist, maybe he hates poor people on principle. Or maybe he’s a misogynist. Or, perhaps he takes his deep rooted self hatred for what he is out on her.

The possibilities are endless and like I mentioned before, there isn’t a right or wrong way to write or read fan fiction. However, there are things that you can do to make the quality of your final product better.

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