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Fanfic-writing Tips/Sounding board

Discussion in 'Author's Roundtable' started by Docta Corvina, Jun 11, 2012.

  1. bananban

    bananban Member

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    I take Mary Sue not to be synonymous with Self-Insert Character, though they occur largely together. Even so, too many Skyrim stories (and stories in other fandoms) have very poorly written main characters that are basically perfect to the extent of being boring and unoriginal. Too many Dragonborns are beautiful, despite the adventuring life they lead, unnaturally skilled at everything they try, a friend to all creatures, and have informed flaws that don't really effect them in any significant way, not to mention the often "tragic" pasts (read: dead parents) these characters have.

    Fleshing out a character realistically can never hurt, even if they are the Dragonborn of legend.
     
  2. Jersey Dagmar

    Jersey Dagmar Just in time for the fiyahworks show! BOOM!

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    I can agree with you in some respects regarding the character seeming to be perfect. But, I don't see how a character who has 'dead parents' is a tragic past that's cliche. Life is life, and it's often sad and tragic. And I think those who generally care about their characters, do flesh them out realistically.
     
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  3. bananban

    bananban Member

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    Life can be tragic, I agree with you on that but I often see people throw the "dead parents" thing into their stories very poorly, almost as a character description like "[insert name] has brown hair". They often don't handle it well and it comes off to me as an excuse more than anything else. A writer may throw in some part of the past that, to me, comes off as a cop-out for a sympathetic character instead of a real sympathetic character done through in-depth character development. (A kid with no parents obviously deserves much more sympathy than a character with them, right?) I've seen it handled very well and the character turned out to be very compelling, but it just depends.

    Of course, this is all subjective, I like writing characters with extremely generic pasts so I can let the events of the story shape the character. For inexperienced writers like this guide is pertaining to, I think it would be best for them to avoid throwing too much on their character. I know, from experience, that biting off more than you can chew is disastrous. Tragic pasts are often made shallow because an inexperienced writer doesn't know how to handle it. That's why I generally stay away from them and think they are cliche.

    I agree to some extent that a person who likes their character will flesh them out but that is not always the case. I have looked back on things I have written for a character that I adored (at the time), and found them to be horribly one-dimensional, often with the whole "tragic past" thing exacerbating the situation.
     
  4. bulbaquil

    bulbaquil ...is not Sjadbek, he just runs him.

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    Well, there's also the issue that (1) the parentless character can freely adventure because they don't have filial obligations to tie themselves down at home, and (2) it's bloody Skyrim and there's a war on, it's actually a bit unreasonable to expect everyone to have both parents still alive.
     
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  5. Start Dale

    Start Dale I got 99 problems but a Deadra ain't one.

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    A Listener in the Dark (with Poll) | Skyrim Forums

    This is the story i am working, though my character will be talented at what he does i am going to try and build in interesting flaws in the character that will appear through out the telling. One that is already becoming apparent. For originality i am staging my story well past the conclusion of the dark brother hood questline. My stories character is being based on how i played the game with my most recent character. So i feel i have a relationship with the central character and how to tell his tale. Not sure how i will flesh out his past but i will stick i think with only what is relevant to the plot.
     
  6. Ysarth the watcher

    Ysarth the watcher High Elf of the Skyrim wilds

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    Also, try introduce the personality of the main character in the first chapter, then build up, add on in progression. I've read some books that bored me into the first few chapters because I knew nothing about the main character
     
  7. bananban

    bananban Member

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    I don't mean that every character in Skyrim should have parents or a really happy past, I just don't like it when writers throw it in for the sake of throwing it in. I am in the process of writing a story for Skyrim (which I will soon post to this site), and my main character has no family, they all died in or before the Great War. I only briefly make a reference to this fact when my character talks about inheritance he was left. I don't develop it because this fact about his past influences neither his personality nor his decisions. I don't mind tragic pasts, I mind tragic pasts for the sake of tragic pasts, when the author uses it cheaply in the hopes that it makes a character more in-depth or sympathetic (which it doesn't, at least for me).

    I'll be sure to take a look at this, thanks. To me, it sounds like you have good intentions with making an in-depth, realistic character. I can be very nitpicky with things I read, when I hear that you have the intent to make the story high-quality with good character development and such, it makes me that much more confident in what I am about to read. I'll check your story out right away :)
     
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  8. Rayven

    Rayven Global Moderator
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    I get what you're saying about the orphan thing, bananban. One of the gripes I have about a lot of the Disney flicks is that most of the time, the mom is dead. And it's a huge crutch/plot device.

    I'm certainly not saying stories about characters with deceased moms should be written. But those whole orphaning thing is a bit overplayed.
     
  9. Docta Corvina

    Docta Corvina Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I could see the more general argument against using tragedy/tragic elements to fill in characterization gaps. I would agree that that's not something necessary if a writer is able to flesh a character out enough. I would say that dead parents, if they are in fact a prevailing detail of the character's life and not merely a bullet point - especially if the parents died late enough in the character's life so that they clearly remember them - it's something that can likely have an effect. Of course stories and characters will vary; how the writer utilizes such a facet is where overall differences in storytelling come in, ie. that of more experienced vs beginning writers.

    My story's character (a Breton from Cyrodiil) has a Legionnaire father who was killed in Skyrim under very shady circumstances, and it's the whole reason why she's in Skyrim in the first place. While she supports the Legion in the civil war and believes in that cause, it's not her main concern. Her main and very personal quest is finding what happened to her father and to pass on that information to the rest of her family (mother, sisters and Legionnaire brother). Of course other things come up while she's there, but it's a fact of her life that has vastly influenced her present situation. His death is quite raw for her, having only been notified of it a few months prior to the start of my story.

    I guess all of this rambling is to say that, to me anyway, it's more about the "how" it's done, rather than the fact that it's used at all. Tragedy is a powerful genre - it is indeed unfortunate whenever it's misused or trivialized.
     
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  10. Necromis

    Necromis Well-Known Member

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    Yes, but sometimes that tragedy is the center point to the character or the story itself. How the loved one or parents die can impart a hatred or a fear that otherwise would not have exsisted for that person. They can be tortured by the nightmares of the event, or even their actions or inactions related to that event. I myself have a story in mind that has such an aspect to it, and it is in no way just a small part, but a integrall part of the main characters persona and flaws. He is haunted by it continuously even though he was only a child and could have not done anything to stop it. It will drive him to almost be killed because of his guilt over surviving their deaths.

    <pause> Man I just got really caught up in my characters head just now. Really a bit overwhelming sometimes when you embody that.
     
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  11. Start Dale

    Start Dale I got 99 problems but a Deadra ain't one.

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    Okay so to stop my DB tale getting stale i will be starting a Companion based tale soon as well. It will be in a different style to the first piece i am writing.

    For the first tale apart from direct experiences by a character most of the action is from an outside viewer perspective sort of like watching a movie and having the action descrobed to you. this would also be my current description of the writing process for the first piece: A listener in the dark. I started by developing a couple of elements to the story i wanted to explore. Then using key phrases i plot out the story arc, now i am writing the events action and dialogue inbetween these key phrases. Watching how i think the characters will behave in my head then transcribing that onto the page. Editing and then uploading as i go along. Right now i'm still on the third part.

    For my second tale which after a suggestion by a couple of fellow Skyrimmers 'Heh'. I'll be writing from the first perspective viewpoint of the one main character. My idea for this is to maintain that only action that happens to him is directly recorded as part of the story. In doing so i hope to make it a more personal tale to the character experiencing the events. That way as well i want to show the events happening outside of his sphere of knowledge as suddenly happening to him. This will be tricky as i will have to play the part of the character as i write this tale.

    Expect updates over the weekend.
     
  12. Start Dale

    Start Dale I got 99 problems but a Deadra ain't one.

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    Argh action sequences hard to write!
     
  13. Docta Corvina

    Docta Corvina Well-Known Member

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    BUMP!

    Now that there are more new faces in the fanfic area, I was hoping there might be some more folks willing to share their suggestions and tips for authors. :)
     
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  14. Janus3003

    Janus3003 Skyrim Marriage Counselor

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    Read your dialogue to yourself, out loud if you can. Ask yourself if anyone would seriously ever talk like that.
     
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  15. Janus3003

    Janus3003 Skyrim Marriage Counselor

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    Just to reiterate-
    Proofread everything, or you'll end up with dialogue like this:
    [​IMG]

    Seriously, that happened in a fanfic that's supposed to be serious. Same fanfic also taught me that women experience morning sickness and presumably other effects of pregnancy the first morning after conception.
     
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  16. Mannulus

    Mannulus Article Writer

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    I also wish to add something that I learned from English Composition I and II at my University.

    When starting a story, try not to tell the reader what it is about IF possible. Let them move into the story on their own and develop their own imagination for what the story is and what it is about as said before. Keeping this in mind however, knowing when to give some info at the beginning could be a major influence in story telling.

    A good example of when you would explain what is going on beforehand would include the environment or a timeline in word format. So maybe explaining that skirmishes have been growing as of late and *Insert characters name here* has finally reached his destination.....etc etc.

    Thought I would just mention it ;). Had to do a lot of story telling in my time. Too many perhaps.
     
  17. Neriad13

    Neriad13 Premium Member

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    I actually did the same thing once before, fully knowing that things don't typically work like that in the real world. >.> It was more out of plot convenience than anything else. A certain character had to know what had happened, but there was literally no other time that she could've found out. Thinking back on it, I really wish that I had come up with a more creative solution. >.<
     
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  18. Janus3003

    Janus3003 Skyrim Marriage Counselor

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    I think we've all done some dumb things in our writing. I've been meaning to rewrite one of my first fanfics with a very sarcastic overtone that makes fun of its many flaws.
     
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  19. Neriad13

    Neriad13 Premium Member

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    Haha, that sounds great!

    As for me, maybe I'll make it to a second draft someday and re-write that bit. :)
     
  20. Docta Corvina

    Docta Corvina Well-Known Member

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    Something I feel I should add here (I will also put this on the opening post)...

    When embarking on writing (be it fanfiction, original, etc.), I cannot stress enough that you take your time! Pace yourself. DO NOT RUSH. Especially if you realize that you have hurried your composition and you yourself notice the adverse effects it has on your work, you need to slow down and give it the attention it requires and deserves.

    Rushing a chapter, hurrying to get something done and posted, is often a detriment. You end up with not only missing grammatical and spelling errors, but also the richness of the content suffers. For example, you devote much less time to meaningful dialogue and character relationships as a result. You also may not address important plot points or present plot devices in as meaningful of a way as you might have desired or planned to, and the narrative can certainly suffer for it.

    So my advice is this: I understand that having content to post frequently is something that keeps people aware and interested in your work. But you are doing yourself and your story a disservice if you know you are moving too quickly and you find yourself having to apologize for things seeming "rushed". My "Kathodos" chapters, admittedly rather long these days, take me anywhere from 3-5 weeks on average to write. That's partly because I work full time and it's a free time issue. But it's also because I want to make sure that I'm addressing what I need to address, including what I mean and need to include, and keeping an eye on technical mistakes.

    Some people naturally write more quickly than others and that's fine. But just make sure that you're doing right by your story and giving it the time and attention it needs and deserves. It will more than likely pay off. :)
     
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