During my freshman year, my roommate introduced me to The Internet. Although I was already somewhat acquainted with its inner-workings (I’d already gone through the angsty Livejournal phase back in high school along with the rest of my peers), when I first started college I had yet to discover some of the amazing memes that The Internet had to offer.
My roommate also exposed me to something so terrible and yet so powerful that, once I saw it, I could never forget it. It was arguably the worst fanfiction of all time, the tale of a “goffik” seventh-year at Hogwarts loosely based on the Harry Potter series, entitled My Immortal (click to read). Oh, I was no stranger to the world of fanfiction, but nothing I’d ever read in the past came even close to the sheer idiocy of this story. A few weeks ago, my friends and I rediscovered My Immortal and began to perform readings of it because of how ridiculous it was. After our recent experiences with the story, a few of my friends asked me to blog about what makes a bad fanfiction (in other words, how not to write anything respectable). And thus, we begin…
The Weekend Five: Tips For Writing Really Bad Fanfiction
1. Don’t proofread or hire a beta reader because it will only stifle your creative process.
In fact, you can toss the entire editing/revising process out the window! With typos throughout your piece and words used incorrectly, you are actually leaving your work open for interpretation and keeping readers guessing. Were the characters “shouting” at each other, or were they “shooting” at each other? Was the character “scared” or “scarred” by a particular phenomenon? Most writers will argue that by correcting these typos, you will eliminate any confusion the reader may have, but some works of fanfiction suggest that mistakes allow the reader to apply his or her own meaning to the text. Who cares if that meaning is completely wrong?
2. There is no such thing as a Mary Sue.
Remember when that one mean reviewer told you that your main character was a Mary Sue — too perfect and unrealistic to exist in the real world? Well, he was just jealous that his story’s protagonist is much more flawed than yours. The key to creating the perfect bad fanfiction protagonist (because all bad fanfictions have original characters… see #4) is to describe the character in the way that you see yourself, but without all of the weaknesses. That’s right — your character should be a skinnier, better looking, more desirable version of you. Most of the other characters should fawn over your protagonist as much as possible, discuss how jealous they are of this person, and fall head over heels in love with him or her throughout the story. Bonus points if: a) You accidentally refer to the character by your own name at least once; b) You name the character after yourself; c) You name the character using an anagram of your own name. If reviewers continue to refer to this character a Mary Sue, be secure in the fact that these people merely envy your ability to bring such an inspiring protagonist to life.
3. Describe every scene in as much detail as possible so that readers won’t have to think for themselves.
Let’s go on a limb and assume that most readers have zero imagination. Therefore, they will greatly appreciate it if you describe every outfit your characters wear, every tear drop that falls from their eyes, every sound they make when they walk across a room, etc. The author of My Immortal does an excellent job of ensuring that the characters’ clothing choices are always accounted for. Observe the protagonist’s pre-concert beauty regimen: “On the night of the concert I put on my black lace-up boots with high heels. Underneath them were ripped red fishnets. Then I put on a black leather minidress with all this corset stuff on the back and front. I put on matching fishnet on my arms. I straightened my hair and made it look all spiky…. I painted my nails black and put on TONS of black eyeliner. Then I put on some black lipstick. I didn’t put on foundation because I was pale anyway. I drank some human blood so I was ready to go to the concert.” This sort of imagery reappears every time the protagonist experiences a change in wardrobe. Don’t you feel like you’re right there with her?
4. When in doubt, create an original character… or seven.
The liberal use of original characters (OCs) may not be appreciated in the world of decent fanfiction, but if you’re looking to write something horrible, it is the perfect way to create filler and manipulate the story. For example, if the world of Harry Potter is too small for you, feel free to add in as many unrelated characters as possible, and don’t even bother to link them to the actual series. You can also recreate pre-existing characters by changing their backstories completely and allowing them to act entirely different from the way they acted in the books. J.K. Rowling obviously had it all wrong, anyway.
5. Insert author notes into the actual story so that your readers can know exactly what you think about each and every scene.
It’s one thing to write a little note to your readers at the beginning of each chapter before the action begins, but Really Bad Fanfiction Writers take advantage of this within the text of the story as well. In fact, you can use it as a plot device! In the middle of a sentence, insert a set of parentheses with “A/N” to denote that it is an author note, and then write a note to one of your friends reading the story OR commentary on what is happening (A/N: Mom, you’d better be reading this!). In My Immortal, the author also utilizes these notes to explain her characters’ strange actions or outbursts, stating in her author’s notes that Dumbledore is using profanity because he has a headache, and that she is attracted to sensitive bisexual guys like “Vampire Potter.” If you didn’t explain it well enough in the actual story, you might as well insert an author note to get your point across!
These are just a few marks of a really bad fanfiction. Readers, what do you suggest? What are some of the most ridiculous plots you’ve ever come across?