The Fanatic Issue

The Fanatic Issue
Penning the Perfect Fanfiction

Peter Parrish | 3 Mar 2009 13:17
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2. Spritely Characters
Don't fall into the trap of assuming all the character work has been done for you. The shocking truth is that most videogame stars (particularly those of a pre-2000 vintage) are not terribly well developed, often possessing few notable characteristics beyond "likes collecting stuff" and "needs to rescue their girlfriend." The good news is this doesn't have to be a problem. Simply use your blank-slate heroes as mouthpieces for blunt exposition and force them into your chosen setting. Watch how we subtly introduce the characters of Mario and Toad to a nautical pirate setting and hint at a future conflict:

"Oh boy Mario!" squeaked Toad, bouncing his infamous mushroomy form up and down on the deck. "It sure is lucky how we managed to get this job on a pirate ship!"

"It's-a truly remarkable," chirped Mario as he groomed bits of pasta and salt-spray out of his thick, black, bushy moustache and gazed out over the waters upon which the short-staffed pirate ship they had fortuitously stumbled across was currently sailing. "But I-a wasn't expecting to bump-a into the governor's-a galleons so soon-a!"

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It's as if you're really there with them, isn't it? As you can see, we've established our setting, characters and plot direction with just a handful of lines. It's important to convey as much information as quickly as possible to prevent your audience from losing interest. Don't worry if it seems like a cheap way to tell stories. Even Shakespeare used this technique - Henry V is considered one of the most successful works of fanfiction of all time.

3. Losing The Plot
Once you've shoehorned your chosen characters into their setting, they need something to do. These "events" or "happenings" are what constitute a plot. They are the unskippable cut scenes of fanfiction. You need to make some important decisions here: Will your piece be light or dark? Is your tale going to be hyperactive, sugarcandy-pink and OMG SO RANDOM!! or a brooding slice of Gothic literature? Don't try to find a nuanced middle ground between these two story types; people will just be confused. Remember the "it's a parallel universe, silly" get-out clause here. It'll come in handy when you're explaining why Rayman just butchered the criminals who kidnapped and tortured Globox.

At this stage you should also consider how long your fanfic piece is going to be. Be careful not to blow a really solid idea on a short story - it's much wiser to stretch your material as far as possible. Charles Dickens understood this. His work was serialized, so the longer his novel ran, the more he was paid. This explains why his early work is mostly descriptions of tables and window panes. Learn from the masters. You won't be getting paid, of course, but by crafting a 30-chapter epic, you can ensure each section ends on a cliffhanger and keeps your audience salivating. Is it really possible to sustain a piece featuring the adventures of Dr. Gordon Freeman for 50,000 words? Of course it is! Just remember to include plenty of other characters to do the talking for him.

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