Heya. I'm Lanky Nathan. Is that my real name? Perhaps, but then what kind of name is that?
I know a great deal of readers and writers are rather intrigued by gender-swap fanfics and the whole, what-would-happen-if-such-and-such-swapped-bodies. Well to all those people, I would like to share with you an anime that hits this topic perfectly. It is called Kokoro-Connect and it is about 5 friends, 2 boys and 3 girls, who find themselves swapping minds at random. Yes, it has the usual humor associated with such a topic, but then it really gets deep with some extremely relevent questions about psyche health and the way a person can be destroyed assuming their darkest secrets are brought to light. I strongly urge anyone interested in this topic to go and watch it right now as you will be astounded by the thoughts it provokes.
I also want to help out a fellow author who is completely amazing, yet way, way, WAY under appreciated. The story is a Bleach fic called Guardian by Eilwynn and it is a character study on Ichigo and how he interacts with the world around him. The story is written beautifully and brings out a whole other dimension to Ichigo as a character. The depth she dives into him makes him feel so real. Honestly, if you love a well written story with near no errors and flow like the best authors, do yourself a favour and read it.
Pointers to writing a good story
You want help? Read on. (Updated 04/09/2016)
Firstly, grammar. You wanna write a story that everyone loves? Make sure you have flowing sentences, little to no errors and the correct spelling of character names. If you don't know how to spell something, go to the wiki for it! Wikipedia has pretty much every anime/manga of note on there with details (and spelling) of pretty much every necessary point you'll need. If you have a story that reads well, then that's the hardest part fixed. Also, if you use Japanese in the story, MAKE SURE IT'S CONSISTENT! Having Japanese with the translation as attack names can be really cool and help improve the mood of the story. Having 'Hai' spotted through out sentences gives the feeling you're a bit of a weeaboo. It's cool if you want to use something like this to make the story feel more oriental, but make sure it is consistent. Have every 'yes' as 'hai'. That way, it doesn't disrupt the sentence structure and flow of the paragraph.
Secondly, detail. You gotta have an interesting plot with great attention to detail. Don't try and write a whole fight in a single paragraph because it sounds shallow and rushed. Same deal with a story. You want your character to do something cool like a quest? Take a while to set him up. Don't just have him jump straight into it because it is unimaginative and sounds 2D. Flesh things out and give the build up and journey some beef! What I'm saying is write details. If you think something sounds too painfully fake, it could be because you tried to fit an entire days worth of information into those 2 or 3 paragraphs. You gotta remember not to get too deep too, else it gets repetitive and boring ie. a train ride that takes an entire chapter. A fine example of this is Dragon Ball Z. Remember how they would stand around for like 20 episodes before a half episode fight? Yeah, don't do that in your story. (Not to knock DBZ because it is AWESOME but come on :\ )
Thirdly, diversity. You gotta write something interesting. Something different. If you follow the trend, that means readers are going to be sifting through 1000 stories that sound exactly the same. This means that even if you have written it incredibly well, by the time they actually find it they'll be like, meh, read it before. All the good stories you read on here all have something unique about them. That's what sets them apart and makes them enjoyable. So try think, what will YOU do that is completely different? Something that has never been done before? What will make your story stand out above the rest?
Fourthly, character recognisability. 'What the hell is that?' I hear you ask. To put it simply, it is writing the character In Character; like cannon. People come to read about their favourite character doing other things that they always wish they did in the original series. If you then write a story that has the main character completely OOC (Out Of Character) from the first sentence, the reader will be like, 'who is this? Yeah, it has my favourite characters name, but they're nothing like them! They are basically an original character the author has created and simply tagged on the main characters name so that I'd read it.'. If you want to change and grow your character into something more mature/powerful/dumb/playful, either find a point in the time line that allows you to do this without interrupting more recent events too much, or make it subtle. Start the character out exactly the way they are in cannon and then slowly change them over a period of chapters. This will make the change gradual and easy to accept. Some people have the ability to write characters OOC from the get go that are still amazing, but they usually have been writing for years.
Fifthly, re-read. I cannot stress this enough. You're concept of grammar might be perfect and you may also have a flawless plot line cranking, but you are human and as such you WILL make mistakes, whether that be a missed word, words doubled up, typos or words that have no space between them. If you re-read, you will spot the majority of these mistakes. Do it twice and you'll smooth out any you missed first time round. Do it three times and you have a high chance you now have no errors. That's not to say you still won't miss some though. I re-read every sentence, every paragraph, every scene, every chapter multiple times before I post it. After I post, I then go back and re-read the chapter online and still more often than not spot one or two things I missed. So comb over your story intently people, cause if you're anything like me you'll need to. A helpful tip is to read the story out loud to yourself as you go back over it. That helps highlight a number of errors you'd otherwise miss.
Sixthly, summary. A lot of people ignore this part and put down something stupid like 'I suck at summaries, just read and you'll enjoy it, I promise!' The summary is what catches the readers eye. It has to reveal a certain amount of the story's plot in a mysterious way that makes the reader think, 'what's the answer to that? I gotta find out'. An extended summary inside is cool, but it's the one on the main page that must be good because that is the one all readers will see.
Seventhly, goals. Do you ever seem to have problems keeping up your interest in a story? The thing here is that to complete a story, you must have an end goal in mind when you start it. If I were to just simply start writing for the sake of writing, I would lose interest very quickly. It's happened before. So the over all goal of the story is what will keep things fresh the whole way through. It's the aim from the first chapter and that's how it will finish. A story might be flowing really well up to when you end it but the thing is, if you were to carry the story past what you had planned, you wouldn't have any specific goal. What would you be aiming for? Each next arc? But how would you keep it interesting? The fact I have something that overlays the entire story allows me to weave in different plot points all through the story to make it more interesting. Take that away and the chapters will become shallow and strained. So like it says, 'all good things come to an end'. Listen to this quote because it will help you finish your story on a high note instead of it dying away to a whimper of what it was.
Eighthly, filling. Are you having a tough time trying to show character development and fill out the story? When going about planning a story, a brilliant way to develop a comprehensive plot line and characters is work backwards from the end. You know how hard it is to try figure out a maze from the start, but if you trace it from the end it's actually very easy? Well that's what a story is, a maze that YOU get to create. YOU get to choose how tricky it is, so if you're writing for kids, you only need a few twists and turns to keep it interesting. If you're writing for PhD students... let's just say you'll be aiming to confuse the hell out of them before you all bring it together in one final climactic boom. So start from the end and work backwards. Pick key events you wish to take place and place them in the timeline where they are to happen. Place the characters where they need to be to develop as individual beings, not just another name on the page. Expand from there, adding more and more details to the overall timeline and eventually you'll find that the whole story has wrote itself. So when it comes time to write the actual story, all you have to do is fill it out into fluent sentences, not dot points.
I do also keep a little space at the bottom of each story as I write in case I have a lightbulb moment and think of something awesome to weave into a future plot, but so long as you have the majority of the story done from the start, you should be good to go!
Ninethly, flow. Telling a story is not meant to be robotic. It flows like a casual conversation with your friends, recounts memories like your grandparents, surprises you like a brother hiding behind the door. Stories that do well are easy and flowing to read. Nothing is rushed, everything means something and both reading and writing it should be fluid, easy and pleasant. If you can read your story back to yourself and it sounds like how you'd normally talk, then congratulations, you've succeeded. If not though, get back practising until you cannot be differentiated between your writings and you talking.
Tenthly, keep mystery. One thing I regularly notice is that people go right on ahead and spoil every surprise they had in the making by either having their character blurt out all their strengths and weaknesses mid fight, or outright tell people what they plan to do in the A/N. Examples of this include special abilities their characters may or may not have, various characters they plan to introduce or places they plan to include. The biggest one though? Giving away who the pairing is!! Now I understand a lot of readers like knowing who's getting with who, but also know that that takes away a lot of the magic that can make a good story better. Good readers want good writers who will take them on an exciting journey filled with mystery, confusion, shock, horror and amazement. The best way to hold yourself back is to remind yourself, 'The people are reading this story through the eyes of this character. They can only know as much as the character knows, EVEN if they've read ahead in the original story'. Reel yourself in stallion and don't spoil what you have planned. Only show your secrets when it's the characters time to discover them.
Finally, title. You gotta think of something catchy, sharp and smart. Something like 'Naruto's Special Adventure' doesn't sound all that interesting hey. However, 'The Dark Eye in the Sky' sounds better doesn't it? That's because it hints at what the story is, instead of telling the reader outright what it is about.
There's probably more stuff that I could have said, but for the moment that wraps up the important stuff for me. If I think of anything else I'll add it in later. If you want any further details, just PM me.
P.S. After reading the above tips and then reading some of my earliest stories, you may find yourself asking, 'Why didn't you take your own advice with your first few stories?' The reason I haven't changed them is because it's a bit of a timeline of my own progression as a writer, having started out failing and eventually gaining the skills necessary to write a half decent story. If that isn't reason enough though, then just use them as an example of what you wanna try avoid writing.
For anyone who cares, here's a link to a full sized pic of the title picture in A New World - http:///art/A-New-World-The-Story-of-a-Lost-Shinobi-317882725