A younger self spent time writing fanfiction. I even managed to gain some traction to my surprise and delight. Unfortunately, adulthood brings all kinds of responsibilities into the mix. Stories had to be put on indefinite hiatus. It's a tale as old as time. I might try my hand at concluding them a la cancellation. They would technically be abandoned stories, but at least it would be understood that I did what I could while I could and put me in a place where I can perhaps move on to other projects.
Current Anime Interests: Re:Zero, RWBY
If you are an aspiring fanfiction writer, below is a Guide to Writing Fanfiction written by MortalOne. I found it on several authors' profiles back in the day, but the advice still applies.
Guide to Writing Fanfiction v1 by MortalOne
Writing fanfiction can be a fun and invigorating experience and it is one that I recommend for anyone who has more than a passing interest in a story. That said there is good fanfiction and bad fanfiction. Sometimes you see authors go “I won’t post another chapter until I get 30 reviews,” or you see complaints about how the author isn’t getting the feedback that he or she believes is deserved. There is such a thing as good fanfiction and such a thing as bad fanfiction. This guide is meant to help steer authors towards writing good fanfiction. At the end of this guide is a collection of some of my own personal thoughts about specific things that work and don’t work, but otherwise I avoid telling people exactly what to write or what not to write as much as possible.
This is version 1 of my -- that is to say, MortalOne's -- guide to writing fanfiction. Amendments and additions will be made when deemed necessary.
Step 1: Know what you’re getting into.
Like it or not, writing fanfiction is a big commitment. You don’t have to be a total otaku who can quote passages from the manga line by line, but if you plan on writing an epic length story then consider an entire winter holiday break dedicated to your story. Most people don’t know what they are getting into and end up foolishly beginning an epic length type story that they will never even come close to finishing.
The best thing to do if you want to write fanfiction is to immerse yourself somewhat in the community. Talk with other authors about your ideas and read lots of stories. Be careful, however, and make sure you recognize the difference between canon and fanon. For instance, many people have Kakashi show blatant favoritism towards Sasuke even prior to Wave. This is fanon, not canon. Kakashi was not seen in the manga showing favoritism towards Sasuke until the chuunin exams. A good story will account for these kinds of details, not leaving gaping holes in the characterizations without just cause. You will understand what I mean by “just cause” later when I discuss out of character (better known as OOC) behavior.
Also, before you finally make plans to begin your story, make sure that you understand the terminology and the storyline. Find a Japanese to English translator if necessary (there are plenty of those online). An example that sickens me is abuse of the term “Sannin.” If you’ve followed the manga at all, you know that the Sannin are Jiraiya, Tsunade and Orochimaru. If you know any Japanese at all, you know that “san” means three and “nin” is for “ninja.” The Sannin are the “Three Ninjas.” That is the nickname given to them by Hanzou. It is not a rank, nor an indication of power anymore than “Shika-Ino-Chou Trio” is.
If you’re unsure of your ability to write an epic length story, it’s best to start out with a smaller test story. A one-shot or a several chapter story that retells a particular arc (rather than the whole canon storyline), or fills in missing history (such as that of Naruto’s parents) would suffice.
Step 2: The Plot Bunny
A story is started with a plot idea, or “plot bunny.” Plot bunnies come in two forms: the type you start sketching into an outline in your mind and the type that you just start writing.
The second type of plot bunny should generally be avoided. Sure, you may want to just start writing, but you may run into a jam if you don’t plan things out properly. When writing these kinds of ideas, it may be best to sit and wait before posting the story. You may or may not feel like you have a suitable plot to continue. I have several dozen ideas written out on my computer that I will probably never finish because I realized I would be writing myself into a hole. There is no shame in that. Do not publicize based on impulses; too many people in this world do that already.
Let us assume that you are dealing with the first type of plot bunny, one that you are sketching out in your mind into an outline of a story. Either that, or consider a plot bunny you started writing and now you are outlining the rest of the story. The plot bunny alone will not make the story. Even if we find the idea interesting, our interest in it will fade if you do not follow through. Plan an ending and consider key events. You can still make changes to these things, but without an intended direction to follow your story will go nowhere way too fast.
Step 3: The Details of the Story
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Many people think that one plot bunny is enough for a story. You have an idea about how to change Naruto into something better and then you can follow canon events up until the point at which they no longer satisfy you. That is not enough.
In order to judge whether or not you will have a successful story, you need to look at several points: how original is your plot bunny, how greatly does your plot bunny change the canon world and how many plot bunnies you are incorporating. Seek to avoid cliché, overdone plot ideas. Naruto with an original bloodline is not enough to start a good story. There are times, however, when a single plot bunny is enough. Consider a story that goes something like, “Naruto has reunited with Sasuke and defeated Akatsuki and all seems to have ended happily, but Naruto discovers that the person he believes to be Sasuke may in fact be Orochimaru, only Orochimaru has memories only as Sasuke and doesn’t even know who he really is.” That single plot bunny introduces a new and unique path, never been done before.
Also, many plot bunnies will overpower a hero. A hero can be very strong, but the hero must be faced with challenges that are difficult. A hero cannot be infallible. When Naruto is given seven bloodlines, unlimited Kyuubi access, and a throng of powerful allies, his victory becomes a certainty. Invariably what happens is that the bad-guy gets ridiculously overpowered in a weak and futile attempt to match. The story serves no purpose.
On Realism and Effectiveness: Unless your aim is for slapstick humor, you should strive for a certain degree of realism in your story. People identify with things they can observe in real life. While some people have particular fascinations with superhero and archenemy archetypes, we can only effectively identify with those characters when we can identify with their motivation. Don’t overplay it; don’t underplay it. I get sick of reading sob stories of how Orochimaru killed Kyuubi’s children and I also get sick of stories about how Naruto decided to become a hero. To optimize the effectiveness of a story, characters should behave in believable ways even when their powers are completely unbelievable.
Even though few people can even remotely identify with the experiences of the protagonist of an action manga, the place that is usually most lacking in realism and effectiveness in fanfiction is the romance. Ironic, isn’t it? Again, characters should behave as believably as possible. Girls are not happy to share boyfriends and society does not look fondly on homosexual relationships. That does not mean you cannot write harem or yaoi/yuri stories, but it means that a good author should be careful in how the story is structured. Incest is an even bigger taboo. Certainly you can attract many people with fetish interests to these types of stories, but that does not make your story good.
Another issue with romance is that authors frequently rush through it. There’s “love at first sight,” a bunch of fluff, yadda, yadda. You bore me. In a good story that should be romantic conflict and also a gradually building of romantic feelings rather than waking up one day and saying “I love you.” Ideally, we should either be struck with relief that the pairing did happen, or the pairing should be forced apart (for instance, a character dies), or we should not even knowing what the pairing is until the end.
Another case of flawed romance can be found in people trying to idealize girlfriends. I’ve received reviews for my stories in the past where people wanted Hinata to be a slut, but just for Naruto. A virgin who dresses and acts like Anko, but only for Naruto. Uhh… nothing against those reviewers, but do they realize what they are saying? I would only consider having Hinata act that way if I was doing slapstick comedy.
Out of Character Behavior: Most stories contain at least one character who does not act according to character. With regards to Naruto stories, Naruto himself is usually that character. It’s important to realize when this is okay and when this is not okay.
Characters are most believably out of character when there is a reason given, a new motivation that drives them to behave differently. For instance, despite what many fans insist, it is unlikely that Naruto had assassination attempts made on him or that he was beaten by riots of angry villagers. Why you ask? Do you really think that someone beaten regularly, someone whose friends were murdered before his eyes, would feel obligated to protect the very people who despise him? Do you really think that someone experiencing those kinds of hardships would strive to stand out? The answer is no. Naruto was most likely ignored, glared at, and treated unfairly, but few if any people went out of their way to harm him. But when bad things happen to a young Naruto, there is a believable reason for him to hate Konoha.
Let’s consider an example of a somewhat believable change: Kakashi gives Sasuke special training even prior to Wave. This can work, but it’s not canon; it is OOC behavior. If you take this route, make sure to change Kakashi and Sasuke accordingly.
Let’s consider an example of an unbelievable change: Naruto leaves Konoha at a young age and returns to become a gennin, secretly bent on revenge against Konoha. A young Hinata instantly falls in love. This change is not very believable. Even ignoring the fact that a Naruto bent on revenge would not return until he was ready to execute his plan (you’ve already dug yourself into a hole if you’ve gotten that far), why would a canon Hinata fall in love with such an obvious villain? Canon Hinata is not some slut that will chase after any rising evil and it undercuts her character to give her that role.
Recognize when characters are in character and when they are out of character. Write your plot in such a way that it either keeps characters in character or makes them believably out of character. Seek to avoid making changes to a character that are not justified by your storyline.
The Importance of an Arc: Many people say, “Well, now that I have my ideas laid out, I can just blindly march through the canon arcs, changing them in ways that I find suitable.” An arc is a story within a story. The Wave Country arc tells the story of Haku and Zabuza and it is used to show Naruto and the readers what it means to be a shinobi in the Naruto universe (frequently denoted Naruverse). It shows Naruto the importance of life, protecting those that are precious, and builds the bond between Naruto and Sasuke. If you don’t plan to do that in your story, then why write about Wave Country at all? Similarly, the Mizuki incident is heavily overused. If Naruto already knows about Kyuubi and has made friends with Iruka, then why go through all that with making Naruto fail and then kill Mizuki? Just to learn Kage Bunshin? There are other ways to get him to do that. I have seen people make up pretty ridiculous excuses as to why Naruto should fail despite being ridiculously overpowered. Orders from the Hokage, orders from Kyuubi, or a sneaking suspicion that Mizuki is not who he says he is… the bottom line is that these authors are being lazy and unoriginal, regardless of how talented or untalented they may be. An arc serves a purpose. If that purpose cannot be achieved, then either give the arc a new purpose of equal value or replace the arc with other material. Sometimes it may be best just to remove an arc entirely from the storyline if that can indeed be done.
Crossovers and Crossover Ideas: Crossovers generally do not work very well. When a story contains fantastic elements, such as advanced technology, magic, or other paranormal elements, it is difficult to blend with another story. Do not blend stories liberally. This includes borrowing elements from one story and placing them in another. While it can work, it generally detracts from the story because it feels artificial; the more well known the character the more artificial it feels. You are not doing yourself a favor if you write yet another story where Naruto has a zanpakto.
Original Characters: Unlike most fanfiction guides, I encourage you to design your own characters. That does not mean that they should necessarily be given prominent roles or that they should be favored over canon characters, but that you can shape the experiences of your chosen protagonist by interactions with characters who behave in the right way to influence your protagonist. It is important, however, to avoid Mary Sue/Gary Stu characterizations as much as possible and to avoid self-insertions into prominent roles (it is okay to self-insert into a background role so long as that character never steals the spotlight, for instance you can give your own personality to the Hokage’s secretary so long as you aren’t writing long and drawn out scenes from her perspective). To see if a character is a Mary Sue, find your favorite search engine and search for a “Mary Sue litmus test.” Read instructions carefully and answer all questions honestly.
The power of an original character is that he or she can be shaped to your whim. You can harden your protagonist quickly by writing a friend or lover who gets killed off, or you can soften him up by having him or her fight a villain who was original a good-guy, but turned down a dark path. Remember that a character is largely defined by its flaws. The more prominent the character, the more important it is to show us the character’s flaws.
Writing the Story: There’s not much to say other than “take your time.” Don’t rush. Write the story neatly and professionally with as few mistakes as possible. Don’t just say “I don’t care” when dialogue doesn’t come out properly.
Before posting, you should edit the grammar thoroughly and run a spellchecker. Nobody whose opinion matters expects perfection, but it is offensive to the reader to have to endure a blatantly stream of easily avoided mistakes. When names and first words of sentences are routinely not capitalized, you cannot expect us to think of your story anymore seriously than we would think of a story written by an elementary school child.
I updated my profile for the first time in seven years. Appreciate your time. It flies. XP.