Character Development and
I need not mention the many stories that
I've read where the characters were behaving in bizarre
manners (or Out-Of-Character [OOC]) or engaged in
questionable behaviour. Any fan-fiction reader would be able
to point out stories that have left a sour taste in
our mouths...be it with the main characters engaged in a
killing rampage, or else, the characters might be cursing
enough to colour the air blue, or...well, the list goes
I do not mean to disparage against OOC
stories, but I think that an important aspect is that there
should be enough background detail that would
explain/demonstrate reasoning as to WHY the story might be
considered OOC. I would point to Bouyer's Innocence in A
Minor as one of the most celebrated OOC/darkfic
stories of the SM-verse.
OOC-ness is related to the concept of
suspended belief (or disbelief), it applies when we
read fan-fiction. We are willing to ignore all of the
physical and scientific trivialities that would demand that
we question the 'basis' for the writer's assertations. In
stories that have characters behaving OOC, we question the
reasons why; if there is a logical disclosure of events that
lead up to the OOC behaviour, we too, are willing to suspend
disbelief to read the story.
What is 'suspended belief' (also known as
'Emotional Reality')? Ms. Jennifer Wand has offered a fair
"That's back to the concept of Emotional Reality, which is
one I bring up again and again when analyzing fiction. We
don't have to agree with everything a character does, nor
does their situation have to be "realistic..." but if the
emotions are real, we believe. That's the key to a
successful character. WE must believe that
(S)HE believes it. And it's the key to a successful
work of fiction, be it a movie, play, book, or comic, be it
realism or fantasy or sci-fi. It must be emotionally
a.f.s-m Article by Ms. Jennifer Wand on
Any story, regardless of character
presentation, needs to display character development. What
do I mean by development? Growth in emotional maturity?
There are many factors that influence the concept of
development: physical maturity, social development,
emotional maturity. Stories that feature character
development have captivated me simply because any story
where the character has learned nothing does not capture my
attention. A great part of reading fan-fiction is to see
character development aim towards directions in which the
canon story would never consider, such as: what-if stories,
i.e., what if the Senshi had never defeated Beryl? or what
if the relationship between Usagi and Mamoru never
existed... We could never see the original TV or manga
storyline take this direction but we explore these
possibilities in fan-fiction.
There are other times where development
of character might be shown in stories that extend beyond
the scope of the canon story. These stories might be set
before the awakening of the Senshi, i.e., within the Silver
Millennium, or some pre-twentieth century time...or after
the end of the canon storyline, both near and far
Usually character development has also
been seen side-by-side with story or plot-line development.
Some of the best writings that have offered insight into
various characters have little to no plot. The
poetry by Ross TenEyck:
Reflections: Ten'ou Haruka
Rabbit, little rabbit, little dumpling-head --
would you believe that I envy you?
In all my life, I have truly loved only one other,
and the fears of what may someday happen to her
are lead in my heart.
But you, little slip of a silly girl,
how many do you love?
Your guards, your prince from Millenia past,
the children you meet at school...
and me? No doubt; you love so indiscriminately.
How can you bear to love so many?
Little rabbit, how is it that you are so strong?
I will also point to the short paired
limerick by Chris Davies:
There was once a girl name of Rei,
Whose temper caused some folk to say,
"If she hates her that much,
Why doesn't she just clutch
Hold of a mallet for to slay?"
But these silly folk would not see
The love that was within this she
For the "sorta clumsy,
bit of a crybaby,"
Meatball-head girl called Usagi.
-- First posted to the FFML (Fanfic Mailing List) by Richard Lawson on March
17, 1998 as part of the
First Annual FFML Anime Limerick Contest
This limerick describes one of Davies'
most important views towards the Sailormoon universe in a
fashion that is short and succinct.
Similarly, I draw attention to a phrase
that has probably been hammered into readers and writers
Quality, and not quantity, counts.
Not every large story has been a quality
production, and it's much easier to enjoy a short,
well-written story than one that is full of errors as well
as being overly wordy.
We ask: what does 'well-written'
Amanda Anderson points to:
-Grammar and spell checking are a must; as well as
-Know the characters
Of the three requirements/expectations,
grammar and spell checking as well as syntax and semantics
are first on the list to be discussed. As fanfic readers, we
have more often than not encountered an engrossing story (or
not) that was riddled with grammar and spelling errors. Not
only could we not decipher the descriptions because of
spelling errors, but attribution of paragraphs never occured
and we would not know who said what!
We don't need to drag out the stories
that continually use CAPITALs or else use too much !!!!$#@!
punctuation or too little which really makes reading
sentences look like a Madonna song so that we are left quite
Formatting is important to a story as
well. I look towards not only the file format as either .txt
or .html or .doc but also the presentation of the story.
Most stories on the 'Net are saved and read as .txt (a
Unicode Text File). Making a story HTML-readable will
increase the time to upload and download -- something that
is frowned upon by readers that do not read their stories
online. One of the most difficult formats would be either
.rtf (Rich Text Format) or else a file saved as a .doc
(formatted document). Both types of stories cannot be
directly read on line; requiring you to either carry the
same word-processing program as the fan-fiction writer or
else, to have a file editor/viewer.
Story formatting also extends to physical
or virtual presentation -- 72 to 78 column format is the
best. Any more than 78 and the text flows off of the page.
For all of those that write their stories on a word
processer, set the font to 'Courier' and the font size to 12. Save
the document as 'text with line breaks' in order to keep it
as the way it appears on the screen. Only the text and the
carriage returns will be saved and no amount of 'fancy' text
and formatting will be seen.
- SPELLCHECK, SPELLCHECK,
Grammar and spell-checking the
fan-fiction (as well as having either pre-readers/editors)
will go a long way towards making your work passable. A
heavy dependence upon computer spell-checkers have meant
that certain words will appear as errors and are
automatically replaced with another word -- potentially
changing the meaning of the entire idea. I offer words from
FFML Guide: How to Write Really Good Fan-fiction
by Gary Kleppe
(written in response to Richard Lawson and Joseph Palmer's
FFML Guide: What Kind of Fanfic Should an Author
Create?). [The Lawson/Palmer Guide has been posted
to rec.arts.anime.creative as
well as to the FTP anime
IS SPELLING IMPORTANT?
You bet. Stories with lots of spelling errors are a pain to
read. Take the following example:
"Oh, Gosunkuge!" Ranma pirred sedductively as she lesuirely
stroaked the boy's cheste. "Shou me waht it meens to be a
In the above sentence, the reader is distracted from the
scene by the misspelling of "Gosunkugi." The cure for this
is to *always* remember to run your fics through electronic
spell-check before posting. The above example would be
"Oh, Gonophore!" Ranma picked selectively as she elusively
streaked the boy's chaste. "Shout me want it meets to be a
Don't forget, its important too pay special attention to
you're homonyms, as their awl to easy two get wrong.
While on the topic of proof-reading and
pre-reading fanfics, I point to the importance of
pre-readers. Writing, like most other activities, is a
social effort. Even prior to release for general reading,
getting feedback from a proof-reader or pre-reader can
dramatically (as well as grammatically) change the story. As
a proof-reader/beta-reader, I'll often ask for clarification
of story points, or else suggest phrasing. Beta-readers are
not only the 'Litmus test' for a fanfic, it's also the first
opportunity to get response -- possibly setting in place a
positive feedback cycle.
Sometimes, the C&C and MST's of a fanfic
can be as much fun to read as the original work themselves.
Postings to the FFML with requests for C&C/MST treatment
have netted a site devoted to the MST works themselves: FFML Fun
Critiques -- with snappy one-liners that are trademark
of the various reviewing teams. If you're lucky, Chris Davies' EFR
(Experts Fanfic Review -- consisting of characters from his
Together Again stories) may take a look at your
story, or else, John Biles and the Mystery Science
Theatre 3000 (featuring Ami, Biles, and Bailesu along
with a guest) will offer comments. Even among Sailormoon
fan-fiction, there are MST teams: vis-a-vis, Sean Gaffney and his Senshi
counterpart, Tomoe Hotaru reviewed
Together Again: 1996 chapters; Flashman and his
team (his favourite Sailors: Pluto, Moon, and Sakura ^_^) --
reviewed Doug Helm
Hand (all twenty-five chapters).