We know how it is. You’re tolerated in your videogame fan community but could stand to be better liked – respected, even. It’s a noble goal, but how can you achieve it? Clearly, it’s no longer enough to simply like the object of your fan-affection. Anybody can do that. No, for some insane reason, today’s fans must compete to demonstrate their love through wider creative expression.
There are three main avenues for those who wish to take their videogame fandom to the next level: drawing fan-art, launching a webcomic or penning the best damn piece of fanfiction the world has ever squinted at in confused pity. Just consider it: the limitless possibilities afforded by your imagination, a world of self-crafted adventures starring your favorite gaming chums. Here at The Escapist, we want to help you realize those dreams. We can’t promise to make you the finest fanfiction author on the internet, but by God we’ll try to make you just as derivative as all the rest.
1. Scenic the Hedgehog
First, you need a setting. Your selected location will have a direct impact on your masterpiece, so choose wisely. Pre-existing levels from your game of choice may appear to provide an obvious background, but aren’t terribly ambitious. You won’t earn any fawning LiveJournal comments with your account of another robotic bee attack on Green Hill Zone. To gain recognition, you need to be a little more obtuse. Why not put Crash Bandicoot on Neptune, enter Aeris in a dirt bike championship or send Diddy Kong off to war in Napoleonic France? If you’re having trouble thinking of a setting, just steal one from a favorite book or television program. Doctor Who, Harry Potter and Firefly all have terrific ready-made settings, eager to be rendered more ludicrous by the insertion of a bunch of videogame characters.
1(b). Canon Fodder
Thanks to the abundance of gaming spin-offs, it can be difficult to assert which parts of your preferred game are still canon. For example, after ten billion games, a couple of television productions and a comic, the world of Sonic the Hedgehog is now extremely complicated. You can be sure that if your narrative setting accidentally deviates from the canon then somebody in your readership will be upset. Feedback like “Issue #3 of the Official Sonic Magazine clearly states that Knuckles would have been involved in underwater Black Ops at that time” is best avoided. And adhering to the canon of something as sprawling as Final Fantasy is near impossible without some kind of degree from the University of Square Enix, and frankly that’s far too much effort.
Avoid such troubles altogether with this simply phrase: “It’s set in a parallel universe.” Ta-da! Your harrowing story of Dr. Robotnik’s lost years as a meth addict on the mean streets of Philadelphia just got the all-clear.
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!”
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.
4. Wizardly Word Weaving
Words are vital. Your Dark Messiah-Bratz Ponyz crossover will not succeed without good writing. Good writing means choosing the right words. Gather close, prospective fanfic authors, because we are about to reveal the secret of successful writing: adverbs.
What makes a blockbuster sentence like “Hurriedly, the Prince of Persia stealthily made his way towards the eerily lit corridor; as he cautiously edged quickly forwards, he anxiously considered the prophecy which accurately depicted the tragically hued events to come” work so well? Lots and lots of adverbs. Instead of forcing the reader to deduce the actions and motivations of a character, you can use the magic of adverbs to just tell them.
Adverbs, in tandem with their good buddies, adjectives, are invaluable for creating melodrama. This is what will keep your readers flocking back. Your characters shouldn’t just look at one another, they should cast long, lingering gazes. Sorrowful, mournful gazes, timeless as the wind itself. Gazes which maybe – just maybe – will pierce her enigmatic soul.
The level of melodrama we’ve just demonstrated would be suitable for, say, a mundane breakfast scene or workplace chat, but you should ramp it up a little for the really important events. Chapter headings like “The Shadows Linger,” “Persecution” or the stalwart “Crossroads” are another excellent way to hint at something really deep without actually communicating anything of any importance.
5. Love and Marriage, Horse and … oh God
And so, to love. Love is a delicate issue and takes skill to write well. Fortunately, we’re here to give you the shortcuts. Once again, you have two options if you wish to add some romantic spice to your work: syrupy relationships written in the manner of immature high school crushes, or deviant porn.
Slushy romance is easy. Use what you’ve learned about language to aid you here, but also consider making use of setting too. Think how much mileage there is in patriotic Banjo being posted to Afghanistan as Kazooie plays the role of his military wife. Remember what we’ve mentioned about the power of melodrama; lengthy internal monologues are a must. Litter them with angst, regret and insecurity, and you won’t go far wrong.
Whether you like it or not, the mere act of penning a fanfic may attract a crowd hoping for some erotica. Yes, certain elements are only tuning in to your Shadow of the Colossus series in the hope that Wander will eventually shag Agro. That’s just how it is. There’s also a strong chance that some of your readers are getting off on details you thought were innocuous, like Agro eating too much and feeling a bit full, or Wander being lifted up onto somebody’s shoulders. Should you decide to embrace the dark path of erotic videogaming fanfiction, our advice is to aim for the rafters. Choose characters with as many appendages as possible and go nuts. You’re guaranteed to find an audience.
Follow the steps outlined in this handy guide and you – yes, you – could soon be penning Daikatana: The Trilogy. No need to thank us. Your winsome prose will always be thanks enough.
Peter Parrish is a freelance writer. If this guide actually proves lucrative, he expects a commission.