Writing good fanfic can be quite a task. Going in, you need to know a lot about who and what you are writing, if you want to make your readers believe you. You have to know your characters, you have to like them, and you have to know where you are taking your fic. Plus, it helps a lot if you have a basic grasp on grammar.
That's what this section of "All that Glitters" is aiming for: to help you, the aspiring author, write better, more believable stories. In this section, you will find both helpful tips for getting a better grasp on the show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and its fantastic characters, as well as a basic grammar run through, so you can learn a useful something for everyday life. I have arranged this page into four tables: the first is general show stuff; the second is for writing categories; the third is for writing characters; the fourth is for grammar. To jump to anywhere on this page, simply use the links provided.
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|Know Your Show
Before you start spitting out sentences unto your word processor, know what you are writing about, show wise. Keep a timeline in your head of what happened when. If you forget, always use an available episode guide. You don't want to confuse your readers with talk of events that never happened in the showverse (unless you write a futuristic Buffy story; see writing futuristic buffy fic). Don't make up things just because you don't recall what really happened. Also, know the basic premise of the show. Understand the purpose of the show and basic plotlines. Trust me, it'll help you write more believable fic.
|Know Your Characters
If you are going to write the Buffy cast, know a little about them. Know what they look like, who they are, how they are connected and get a feel for their actions. You should know their quirks and their crushes. Know what drives them. Character bios are a great way to learn quickly about your characters. Understand their lingo and speech. For instance, the Scoobies have a totally different, hip jargon than Giles does. It is much harder to write believable banter if you can't get them in character. The best way to do this is read over a couple scripts. Build from there. And one more quick tip: in general, don't write characters you don't like, unless you're going for a silly fic. When authors attempt to write in characters they don't like, they tend to poorly develop or use them, especially in drama or angst fics. For more information about writing individual Buffy characters, see the table on writing characters.
|Creating New Characters
Creating a new character can be hard. You need a clear picture in your head of what that person looks like, how he speaks, acts and what drives him. There is much more liberty in making up someone new, and in a lot of ways, it is easier. You don't have any set limitations or restrictions on how he has to be because you are creating him; no one else knows what to expect. The key to writing really great, loved (or hated) characters, is to put a bit of yourself into them, that way you can write from the heart. Use your experiences in your characters, which will make them more real. Where this becomes hard, however, is when you have to recall the character's memories and separate him from the original Buffy cast. And remember, you have to keep him true to how you created him. Don't envision someone who hates alcohol and then have him wind up at a bar knocking them back. Your audience will lose faith in you.
|Making Bad-ass Bad Guys
If you're planning on creating terrifying, heartless bad guys, here are a few short tips to help you keep them scary. One great way to create a bad guy is to make him utterly insane. He doesn't need huge, detailed motives to drive him. He can simply want to blow up the world because it'd be fun, or he likes the look of fire. Take simple ideas and run with them. Give him a nervous tick or something. If you'd like to have a more structured villian, I recommend having a solid motive before writing him. Revenge is a common idea, but that can get tiresome unless you jazz up the storyline or the villan. Also, bad guys are usually portrayed as using lots of foul language, but you don't have to do that. The Mayor, for example, was, in my humble opinion, Buffy's best villan. He had that quality of insanity, but he was also a very layered, well-rounded character. Try incorporating all these ideas. Oh, and just for the record, villans can be everyday people. If you want more of a drama-type story, try using ideas like Xander's "abusive father." That easy idea can found monumental fics.
Mary-Sues are original characters created by the author. They can be either male or female. Whichever sex, however, they are always portrayed as being loved by all the good guys, hated with a passion by all the bad guys (sometimes not, sometimes the bad guys lust after them) and just generally adored by everyone else. They are usually center stage in the fics in which they appear. They can do no wrong. They are strong-willed, independant and courageous. My advice about Mary-Sues: stay away from them. However, I do recommend them to new-coming authors. They can make for great stories, and they help authors gain a foothold in the fic world. But the more seasoned a writer you are, the less you should write them. If you are going to write them, you should have a dynamic plot to rope the reader in, and work the angst or drama or suspense--whatever--to its fullest. It will generally drown out the obnoxiousness of the Mary-Sue involved.
|Know Your Dialoge
As I mentioned briefly before, you should know your characters' patterns of speech, especially since you're writing using characters of a show. People will read your fics expecting to see the characters they know and adore. You don't want to let a reader down; besides, a lot of authors write for the feedback, and realistic dialoge will help get that. The way to write great, memorable dialoge is to, first, read a real Buffy script and fall into the dialect. Then, incorporate that speech into the dialoge. Also, remember, although you'll usually want some filler banter between characters (helps create an atmosphere), try to put some real meat in there. Drop in some pithy words. Make them cryptic or symbolic. Give your characters something to play off of.
Titles can be one of the most important things to a fic. You want your title to be clever, to grasp the reader from the beginning because that's often how someone chooses a story. Be inventive. Play around with words in your head. Think about your plot and try to wrap the title around it. Titles can be symbolic, straightfoward, silly or random. You choose. But always try to be original.
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Now it's time to pick a category, that is the style in which you write the story. I've done an entry on several, including angst, drama, future, humor, romance and suspense. There are plenty more choices--like horror and sci-fi--but I decided not to include them. Can't do everything. However, if you're about to write any of the aforementioned categories and aren't sure how, you're in luck!
|So You Wanna Write _______ |
So you wanna write angst. This can be a fairly easy or hard thing to do, depending on your experiences. The whole point of angst is to make your characters suffer for what they want. For example, generally, my fics tend to be angst-based around either Buffy or Xander striving to be with the other. You have to make them want it bad. You have to dangle it in front of them, then yank it cruelly away. If you can do that--if you can torture you characters ruthlessly (without physically harming them)--then you can write angst. I've found the key to writing good, gut-wrenching angst is to base it around your true life experiences, then embellishing that ten times over. Make it more dramatic than it seems. Oh, and a vital element to any angst fic is dialogue (for more info on dialogue, click here). If you can't write realistic, heart-tugging dialogue, you should probably choose another category because this one won't be as powerful without it. For some examples, see the fanfic archive of this site.
So you wanna write drama. Drama is a very complicated idea in and of itself, and the drama stories tend to be the same way. They have intricate plotlines that usually involve some sort of loss (typically a main character death or equally horrific tragedy) and then a coping period. Drama can be anything you want it to be because your own life is a drama. Basing it on your own experiences can lead to great, moving shorts. If you expand upon your own past, or better yet, the character's, then you can write fantastic trilogies and more. A main key is to play upon the reader's heart-strings. You want to make your audience "Ooh!" and "Aah!" or cry and laugh. Drama can overlap with angst, and you can take your characters on a rollercoaster of good and bad. The main thing about writing this stuff, though, is that you can't be afraid of length. To create dramatic, amazing storylines, you usually have to expand on a single experience, let them explore the issue and their thoughts. That's not to say you can't write a short, but those have to be concise, carefully constructed and executed, otherwise you'll lose your audience.
So you wanna write future fics. These aren't just a type of fic, but rather a common thing done by Buffy writers. It involves setting your story years from a particular event or episode. First of all, you need to choose a category of writing: angst, sci-fi, fantasy, drama, etc. Then you should let your audience know what the time frame is and after what episode or season (i.e., ten years from "Becoming"). From there, you can write however you so choose, but always keep in mind that only you know your true intentions for this time jump, so you have to explain what has happened in the past for the audience to be able to accept it. For example, if it's eight years down the road from "The Zeppo" and Xander is now a general in the army, you should incorporate memories or dialogue from his past that let the readers know why he is where he is. Always keep in mind that you are writing for someone else, so don't just jump fifty years without giving us a clue why.
So you wanna write humor. Really all you need to create funny fics is a great sense of humor. Makes sense, huh? You want to write something that will make your readers fall out of their seats, howling with laughter. The great thing about humor is that there are no restrictions, no guidelines. As long as you make your audience laugh, then you don't need to keep the characters in character. You can make settings surreal without explanation. You can make boys become girls or day become night. Just remember to write a warning so that Riley-lovers won't get offended when you design twelve ways to viciously kill him.
So you wanna write romance. The most important thing to remember before starting a romance fic is that romance is different than angst. You can have a romance fic with angst, but they are two separate things. Romance generally focuses on those fluffy bunny feelings one gets with a girlfriend/boyfriend. People will go in expecting to read about kisses, hugs, lovey dovey stuff as well as sex. Keep in mind that this does not mean it has to be NC-17! You can write a romance with sex, but don't be graphic enough to qualify it as NC-17. After all, romance movies can imply or heavily suggest sex and only be rated R. To write a successful romance, handle the theme in a mature way. Bring your characters together, let them explore their feelings, and don't be afraid to mix in some other categories like angst or humor. And give your audience lots of kissies.
So you wanna write suspense. There is an art to creating suspense that involves more than leaving your readers hanging. You want to leave your characters hanging, too. You have to craft your idea and your story carefully so that you don't let your ending or your plot twist show before you're ready. A lot of times, suspense and mystery overlap. The key to these stories is surprise. Catch your characters and your readers off guard with surprising events, unexpected plot twists and unanticipated endings. Go with your instincts. Frequently, suspense isn't just its own category, but a technique for writing in general. Try mixing it into your other fics.
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The third vital ingredient in storytelling are the characters. Writing good, well-developed and actualized characters makes the story because they are the stars. This becomes even more important in fanfic. Because you are writing a story involving the characters from a TV show or whatnot, you need to be true to their pasts, manners of speech, catch phrases and more.
Below I've listed six of the most frequently written characters in BX FIC. Since I don't have the time or the space to give pointers on all of Buffy's characters, I've chosen six (Buffy, Xander, Willow, Angel, Anya and Giles) that I see most often portrayed in BX fic and scribbled down some important tips in order to write them well.
|Writing Buffy Characters Well|
Things to remember when writing Buffy Summers... You'll want to remember that she's had three Watchers: Merrick, Giles, Wesley. She was a Slayer before she attended Sunnydale High. Remember how she came to Sunnydale: she was expelled from her first high school for burning down the gym. Buffy has super strength, superb fighting skills, a strong immune system, great strength of character and a good head on her shoulders. However, when a fight concerns her friends or family, she will risk everything she has to save them. Although she is a strong girl, she's given into her weaker side and chosen to hide from her problems before (ex. "Anne"). She is human! And she can be very sensitive, especially when dealing with men. Buffy uses hip lingo, and some of her patented words include: "wiggin'" and "slayage." For more detailed info on her character, seek help in the bios section.
Things to remember when writing Xander Harris... His full name is Alexander LaVelle Harris. Although he is (currently) the only member of the Scooby Gang without some sort of power, he has a tremendous heart and, with that, tremendous strength. He comes from an abusive and unsupportive household. He has dated Willow (when they were five), Cordelia and Anya. Xander has had "love" affairs with Ampata (the Incan mummy girl), Miss French (a She-Mantis disguised as a teacher), every woman in Sunnydale (briefly, and due to a fluke with magic) and Faith, with whom he lost his virginity. Dawn Summers also had a crush on him. Xander would risk everything for his friends. He does not attend college at the moment, and has had dozens of jobs. He is the clown (oddly, clowns were a long time fear of his) of the group and often adds his unwanted two cents. However, Xander can be aggressive and determined, too (ex. "The Zeppo"). When writing Xander, be sure you keep him both funny and sarcastic, but also thoughtful and caring. He is the eternal wiseguy. Xander also has the typical sex drive of young man--continuous. For more thorough info on our favorite Zeppo, head to the bios section.
Things to remember when writing Willow Rosenberg... Willow has lived in Sunnydale all her life and has grown up in a very strict Jewish household. She has always been Xander's best friend, and, consequently, developed a huge secret crush on him. Willow is a computer genius/hacker and loves school. She is very intelligent and bookish. Remember that Willow is typically shy and quiet, very much the wallflower. Contrary to that meek exterior, though, Willow possesses a very strong heart. With her skilled Wiccan magic (which has slowly made the transgression towards the dark arts, however), Willow can work most spells, including conjuring and invoking. For a long time, she dated and loved completely Oz, the werewolf, and she gave up her virginity to him. However, as they went off to attend UC Sunnydale, Oz left to find himself, leaving Willow alone. Then she met Tara and fell in love with her. Willow can be a difficult character to master, but remember that she is not the popular type. Keep her helpful and generous and intelligent. Also, she tends to ramble, and she is a cute and naive girl. A detailed character guide to Willow can be found in the bios section.
Things to remember when writing Angel... "The face of an angel." He is a vampire of 241 years. Made in Galway, Ireland, in the 1700s by Darla, his other, demonic persona is known as Angelus and is particularly vicious. He was feared for many years as a beast and merciless killer. Eighty years ago, he was cursed by a Romany gypsy clan, and his soul was returned. Now, Angel is the tough, brooding type when he is near Buffy. He is skilled fighter and seeks redemption. Buffy has been his one true love and also his one true pain. After Buffy's graduation and the showdown with the Mayor, Angel left for LA to do some good fighting bad guys there. He even opened his own investigative services, Angel Investigations. Accompanied by Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn, Angel seeks to take down the dirty lawfirm Wolfram & Hart at any cost. He had a human son with Darla (before she died) named Connor. The key to writing Angel is to capture his brooding self, show his sadness at his past and illustrate his pain. Also, since he is a vampire, he has a strong sense of revenge and hatred. He is very determined to save this planet and find his place in it. More info can be found in the bios section.
Things to remember when writing Anya Emerson... This young lady was originally introduced to us in "The Wish" as a Vengence Demon, a demon of scorned women, named Anyaka. Through Cordelia's wish, she was able to meet Xander and was instantly attracted to him. Once she became human, she realized the limits of mortality and feared Death. However, as a human, she experienced human emotions and quickly fell in love with Xander. Anya now works at Giles' store, the Magic Box, as an associate. She has a deep love of money. Human customs are still very foreign to her, though, as evidenced in "The Body" when she could not properly grasp the finality of Joyce's death. Although she and Xander were engaged, that chance turned sour on their wedding day when Xander left her at the alter. To write Anya, keep in the front of your mind her greed, naïveté and ignorance of human culture. She is also very blunt, often offending people. Anya tries to be thoughtful, too, and she really does care for Xander with all her heart. Frequently, Anya is used as comic relief as well. She has a strong sex drive. Make her stumble with her emotions. Read all about Anya in the bios section.
Things to remember when writing Rupert Giles... Giles, as he is called, is originally from England and a long line of Watchers. When he was young, he dabbled in the dark arts with some friends in rebellion to his destiny. However, he did receive his training as a Watcher and moved to Sunnydale in the guise of a school librarian, becoming Buffy's second Watcher. He is a father figure to Buffy, but he also fiercely loves and protects all of the Scooby Gang. Giles is very knowledgeable in general, but is especially skilled with his demon encyclopedias. He is a technophobe, hating computers with a passion. Once he had a great yet short-lived love affair with Jenny Calendar, and later had a girlfriend named Olivia. He has also been linked with Joyce Summers. In order to write a good Giles, remember that he will do anything for Buffy. He is a sarcastic sort of person and quick to argue, but he almost never jumps to conclusions. If you want to write a really complex Giles, incorporate his dark past and his dark side. Show his intelligence and be sure to recall his British accent. Also, he has certain ticks, including consistently cleaning his glasses. Oh, and he is usually portrayed in tweed. More about Rupert in the bios section.
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The last item that makes a story complete is your grammar. This not only includes careful proofreading for superficial mistakes such as the use of the wrong word and mispellings, but also proper use of grammatical techniques. If you want your readers to respect you and your vested interest in the show, you NEED to have decent grammar. Also, your handle of grammar can become the difference between a good story and an AMAZING story.
better resources. better fanfic. better bx.
Below is a fast run-through of certain areas of grammar, including commas, quotation marks, semicolons, fragments and general no-no's. For more grammar rules and techniques, I suggest you check out the essay at Beloved by the Zeppo by yours truly and Duchess or go straight to the source at Grammar Guide.
The comma is the most used piece of punctuation in writing. It represents a pause, so when you read, you remember to take a moment to breathe. Without it, sentences would make less sense and could actually have different meaning. Some cases when a comma should be used:
1) To connect to separate sentences with the same context using 'and,' 'but,' 'so,' 'or,' 'for,' 'nor,' etc.
"I was hoping to get to the store today, and then I was planning on going to church."
"I wish I could help, but I have no time."
"There was no front door, so he climbed in through the window."
2) It is NOT necessary use a comma if you use 'and' or 'but' in short clauses:
"I was hoping to get to the store and then to church."
"I was fun but nerve-racking."
3) Use a comma in lists of more than two things:
"I need to buy shirts, hats, socks and shoes."
4) Use a comma when a sentence starts with an introductory clause:
"As we shopped in the grocery store, I tried to remember what we need to buy."
"Running as quickly as possible, she raced for the tree in record speed."
“Since time immemorial, vampires have roamed this Earth.”
5) Use in 'if/then' clauses:
"If we're fishing today, then I need a pole."
"If that's what you had in mind, count me out."
6) Use in a series of clauses:
"First, we went to the store, then to the mall, then to church, and ended up at home."
7) Use when you have an order word or a word that indicates a sequence:
"First, I drove to the mall; second, I picked up my sister; finally, I went to bed."
"Again, I drove to the mall."
* Note—Don't use if those words have no pause with them or if they end the sentence, i.e., "We stopped there first." "I drove home again."
8) Use if it interrupts the flow of a sentence:
"We went, first, to the market, then to the store, and eventually back home."
"I can, if you want, take you home, Xander."
9) Use when directly addressing someone:
"Excuse me, Mr. Giles, what can I do?"
"Come again, Xander?"
10) Use a comma with 'which,' 'who,' 'whose,' etc.
"The car, which had a new engine, ran smoothly."
"The woman, who lived nearby, stopped to see how he was doing."
"The man, whose hair was brown, picked up my tab."
11) As a general rule, do NOT use with the word ‘because’.
12) A comma is optional with the word ‘too’. It’s a matter of personal preference.
“I can do that, too.”
“I can do that too.”
|General Rules for 'Therefore' and 'However'
1) Use a comma with 'however' and 'therefore' when beginning a fresh sentence:
"However, he decided against flying, so he drove."
"Therefore, I propose we finish this deal."
2) Keep in mind, though, that 'however' and 'therefore' should always be used with a semicolon if in the middle of a sentence and connecting two similar ideas:
"I can do that for you; however, I must insist you help me some."
"We could fly just as easily; therefore, you don't need to drive, Oz."
3) If either word interrupts a sentence, simply offset it with two commas:
"This would, however, be risky."
"Hmm... I could, therefore, bring help."
The much-feared piece of punctuation, many people often overlook it and try to substitute it with a comma. However, this is a vital key for any writer. The semicolon is used to connect two separate sentences with either similar ideas (when a comma can't be used or they are too short to use a period) or two sentences that you want the reader to closely associate. It is also used with certain words, i.e., 'however.' Generally, it is merely a replacement for a period when you don't want the sentences to be too short, or you want to give the reader a different understanding of the relationship of the two sentences.
1) Use when connecting two separate sentences with similar ideas:
"The cake needed to cool; I set it in the window."
"Summer is the warm season; winter is the cold season."
"I like my bread with butter because I think it tastes better; Buffy likes hers with peanut butter."
2) Use when you want to show a close relationship to another sentence:
"Buffy likes hers with peanut butter only; she's finicky like that."
"Xander loves Buffy; she is his one and only."
"Because the day was so long and tiring, Willow wanted to go home and read a book; it was her favorite pastime."
"There was nothing Lindsey feared; he was the dark, and he was all pain."
These two dots actually tell the reader to pay attention. They are generally used at the beginning of lists or when you want the reader to pay close attention to the next thing you're going to say.
1) Use when you have a list:
"Today, we will accomplish three things: making money, saving time, and creating a new future."
"Here are the things you need to do right now: brush your teeth, comb your hair, clean the house, and stake some vamps."
2) Use to get the reader's attention:
"This was where his destiny lay: in the Alps."
"There was just one thing left he could not do: save himself."
The dash is an easy thing to master because you can use it for a lot of things; it's flexible. It's two hyphens right next to each other so they make one long dash. It can be used in the place of a parentheses or commas for more emphasis--to insert phrases that the reader should know at that point. You can also tag some clauses together instead of using the semicolon.
1) Use for parentheses or commas as more emphasis:
"He was ready to make the sacrifice--offering his soul--that would never leave him whole again."
"If Xander were to get out of this alive--which was not likely--he would tell Buffy how much he loved her."
2) Attaching a clause:
"There was not much left he could do--time was nearly gone."
Fragments are short clauses that are not sentences. They lack the verbs that make them into sentences. Typically, these are not allowed in proper writing, such as essays and so forth. However, I find that in fics and novels, you can sometimes make what you are trying to say more powerful if you just leave the fragment alone--usually in a lone paragraph.
EX. "There was no end for the burning hatred he sheltered in his heart. Why did everything have to turn out this way? Lindsey was so sick and tired of losing these battles. But now things would change; now things would go his way. Finally, he had a way out that was foolproof.
"That was all Lindsey need do for things to go right in his life. If he cut off his pain at the source, it would all go back the way it needed to be."
Okay, this is getting a little technical, but proofreading for this oh so frequent mistake may make all the difference to some of your readers. Typically when this is utilized is when you use the words “everyone,” “one” or other singular nouns. If you are planning on using the word everyone, you will want to use one of the following three words to make it “agree” with it: he, she or it. Since one is a singular word, that means that you cannot use “they” following it. To make this simpler, here are some examples, both wrong and then corrected:
Wrong: “The photo helped everyone understand better because they were visual learners.”
Correct: “The photo helped everyone understand better because he or she was a visual learner.”
Often times, this type of wording becomes awkward and confusing to your reader, and, therefore, it is best to stay to more specific phrasing, i.e., “The photo helped the students understand better because they were visual learners.” Other examples are as follows:
Wrong: “One tends to believe that they’re immortal.”
Correct: “One tends to believe that she is immortal.”
“One tends to believe that one is immortal.”
Wrong: “Everyone has a right to believe what they want.”
Correct: “Everyone has a right to believe what he wants.”
|A Lot & All Right
Quick note: A lot is TWO words, not one!!! If you use the word alot ever, I will wire myself through the web and beat you with your keyboard. Just kidding. But the same goes for all right. Many people believe that it is one word (alright), but that is colloquial—slang; and it is most definitely incorrect.