Tips for Writing Songfics

Songfics have an interesting place in the world of fanfiction. When done right, they can meld a song flawlessly with a plotline, creating a wonderful experience for the reader, who will likely seek out the song in question if they don’t already know it.

Unfortunately, most of the songfics I’ve seen consist of copy and pasted lyrics with maybe three short paragraphs of plot between each line. This is a definite waste of potential, both for the song and for the idea that can potentially come from it.

So, I’m going to give you a few tips concerning how to make a good songfic, whether you’re doing a oneshot or a chapter piece.

The first thing you need to remember is that the song in question should, first and foremost, provide inspiration and a backdrop for the fic.

Let me give you two examples of songfic concepts. First, imagine a fic that is about one half of an OTP singing the song in question to the other half of the OTP. It is just one scene of the person singing, with the paragraphs between lyrics being thoughts of the characters involved. Now, imagine a fic where an important conversation goes on while a song plays in the background on the radio. As the talk gets more and more intense, the radio seems to get louder and louder until the heartbreaking lyrics overwhelm everything and one of the people just snaps. Which scenario sounds more interesting?

Now, I’m not knocking people who want to write a simple, fluffy scenario involving one person singing to someone else. As I’ve said before, I’m a huge advocate for fluff. I’m just saying that I’ve seen it a million times, and would love to see a bit more variety.

If you’re doing a oneshot, you have a relatively easy job. Just find a way to meld the song lyrics and/or the song itself with a singular scene. This could mean a direct correlation between what’s happening in the song and what’s happening with the characters. It could involve the song leading to a revelation for the characters in question. The important thing is for the song to have a presence. Also, try to actually work the song into the story rather than simply pasting lyrics and splitting them up with only a few sentences. I can’t stress that enough.

Another important thing to remember is that you don’t have to use the whole song. You could just have a refrain or line that keeps being repeated at the appropriate times.

Just keep it so that the plot comes first. Have a plot that is inspired by a song, and then put the lyrics in as needed.

When you do a multi-chapter fic, that’s especially true. One of my favorite Generator Rex fics, a fic titled “Breakeven” by Lina Trinch, was based on a song of the same name by The Script. The song itself is used throughout the story as a motif. Doctor Holiday is listening to it at the beginning, and is seen listening to it several time throughout the fic, usually when she’s thinking about Agent Six, or when she feels herself “falling to pieces.” (From the lyrics.)

The song inspired the fic, features predominantly throughout the fic, but isn’t the basis of the entire plot. The plot itself is a combination of romance, thriller, a touch of supernatural awesomeness, humor… You know, just read the thing. It’s awesome. The point is that the song is important, but it isn’t everything.

Another good way to write a songfic is to imagine your favorite AMV. Think of how people use the songs to correspond to scenes from the series, or a collection of (sourced) fanarts. Then, do the exact same thing with your chosen song. What scenarios would fit in with the lyrics, the tune, and the overall mood? Jot them down, and you have the basis of your fic.

I think the big question to ask is this: Can you imagine someone listening to your chosen song on repeat while reading your fic, and getting an awesome experience because of it? If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track.

Pick a song, add it to an awesome plot, and fly with the rest! As always, keep writing and improving, no matter what.

Peace out!

Non Means No!

Warning: This post is mostly a rant and talks about the prevalence of rape in fandom works and canon pieces, along with some disturbing trends that I have noticed over the years. If such discussions are not for you for whatever reason, you should not read this post. Thank you.

There are many fandom-related things that can easily drive me into a rage: people telling other people to kill themselves for their opinions, art thieves, people who post spoilers without warnings… But in the world of fan work creation, one thing reigns supreme in my kingdom of rage. This thing is a tag, a tag that needs to rot in the deepest pits of Hell. This tag is called Non-Con.

If you have read my Fandom Glossary, you know what Non-Con is. Non-Con, short for non-consensual sex, a pretty way of saying “Rape” without actually saying it. It’s a category of smut that, more often than not, involves forceful, non-consensual sex that eventually turns romantic and/or pleasurable, or a non-consensual sex scene that is much more sexualized than it should be.

Know what I like to call that? RAPE! That’s what I like to call that!

This is part of a very disturbing trend I’ve seen in the realm of fiction, a trend that romanticizes characters who force themselves on others, making them seem “tortured” or “dangerous” in a way that is oh-so-sexy. Worse still, the act itself is romanticized and shown as an ultimately pleasurable experience for the victims.

I first discovered this in my high school years, when I was just learning that gay pairings actually existed in the world of fiction. I was a huge anime fan at the time, so I naturally started seeking out Yaoi anime. I checked out some of the big names in the Yaoi-verse, such as Junjou Romantica and Kirepapa. The more I watched, the more disturbed I got.

You see, there was a common trend in these series. The “seme” or more dominant partner in any of these situations had a tendency to force himself on the submissive “uke” character. Sometimes, this meant major coercion. Other times, it meant statements like “If you don’t say anything, I’m gonna take you.” Other times, it was a full-blown assault while the uke vocally protested the entire time. All of these times were wrong and horrible!

I looked up common trends of Yaoi, and found out that rape is a common staple of many Yaoi works. The act of forcing his partner into having sex is meant to show the “uncontrollable passion and love” that the seme has.

Here’s a thought: If you love someone that much, why not try respecting them and waiting until they’re totally ready to have sex? How about that?!

As I grew older, I continued seeing this trend popping up, especially in supposedly-romantic settings. Remember how popular Fifty Shades of Grey was when it first came out? I know people who have said that Christian Grey, a person who raped his partner, emotionally abused her, and put a tracker on her freaking phone, is the ideal man for them.

We’re already familiar with the trope of the romantic, tortured bad boy. It seems that this obsession is taking a much darker and dangerous turn, one where even rape itself is being redefined.

Back to the Non-Con tag. The very fact that this tag exists infuriates me. It implies that what is happening in the story or art piece in question is somehow different from rape, when it isn’t. It tries to soften and sugarcoat a word that is too ugly for the erotic scenario the author is trying to create.

The scary thing is that it’s working! Most works tagged as Rape pieces, actually depict rape as what it is: horrifying, traumatic, and scarring for the victim. Meanwhile, Non-Con works show an eroticized rape scene, followed by some angst, then usually a romantic or sexual conclusion.

Now, I know that rape fantasy is a thing. Some people do get off reading smut of that nature. I get that, but couldn’t we perhaps make a Rape Fantasy tag instead? At least then, it’s being honest about what it is rather than restating a horrible term in a less horrible way.

What really gets me are people who tag their works as Non-Con pieces, and don’t add trigger warnings concerning rape. Anyone not familiar with what Non-Con means is certainly in for a nasty surprise. I may or may not be speaking from experience here.

Bottom line: Non-Con is a tag that needs to die. Also, what we see as rape and how rape is depicted in fiction, particularly romantic fiction, needs to be heavily looked at. Remember, there are people out there who have been convinced that Christian Grey is the ideal man. There are people who think that acts of forced sex are actually physical declarations of uncontrollable love. Worst of all, there are people who either won’t ask for help or won’t think they need to help someone because of this growing mindset. Think about that the next time you’re browsing the M-rated section of AO3.

This has been a full-blown fandom rant from Solora Goldsun. Thank you for listening.

Peace out.

Formatting for Dummies

So, few things tick me off more than a badly-formatted fanfiction. Seriously, it’s right up there with bad grammar and spelling (which usually are close companions to bad format, making it triply annoying). So, here’s a quick crash course in how to make your fanfictions readable.

Step 1: Have spaces between paragraphs.

Most fanfiction sites format things in a way so that the traditional no-space-between-indented-paragraphs method is incredibly hard on the eyes. In some cases, indents aren’t even possible. In order to make things easier on yourself and your readers, use a format involving blocks of text that are separated by skipped lines. It makes the fic as a whole much easier to read. This format is also ideal for blog posts, as you can see here.

Those spaces are very important, okay? I have had too many incidences when I’ve clicked on a fanfiction only to see a wall of text with no spaces whatsoever. My eyes hurt within seconds and I didn’t read a single word.

Step 2: Know WHERE to put spaces.

The next step is realizing that there are right and wrong places to put spaces. Too many people don’t use enough spaces, resulting in huge blocks of text that are really tedious to read. There are others still who literally separate every line. You need to find a balance. If a block of text starts to look too long, look for a place where you can separate it. If you have a collection of singular lines, beef some of them up.

Here are some examples on where to separate lines: Whenever an idea changes, whenever a point of dialogue changes, whenever there’s a point of view shift, and whenever different characters are talking.

Step 3: Keep your POVs straight.

A common mistake I made during my early days of writing was not knowing how to correctly switch between points of view. I always began a paragraph with dialogue, then kept going until another character spoke. This meant having huge walls of text and shifting POVs within a paragraph. Don’t do that! Every time you switch the POV in your story, make a new paragraph. Every time a new person speaks, make a new one. Pretty much every time something changes, make a new paragraph.

Step 4: CHECK YO GRAMMAR! (and spelling)

As I said before, bad formatting is often linked strongly with bad grammar and spelling. Please proofread your work. If you aren’t good with grammar or spelling, get a beta reader. Trust me. There are so many fanfictions out there, and most people will ignore the ones that look like garbage and/or read awkwardly. Just trust me on this.

Step 5: Use bolds/italics/underlines sparingly.

These things can be used to emphasize a point. In the case of italics, it’s correct to use them to depict thoughts. However, having whole walls of text that are bold, italicized, and/or underlined is a pain on the eyes. Try to restrict text manipulation unless you really need it.

For example, I use bold text for my Author Notes and italics for thoughts, letters, and an occasional point of emphasis. I don’t use underlines because, honestly, I don’t see the use for them within a story’s text in most cases.
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So, yeah. These are some basic tips for keeping your fanfics from looking like a horrible scrapbook consisting of half-thought ideas and a failed English education. I hope they help. Remember, keep writing and keep improving.

Peace out!

LGBT Characters in Kids’ Fiction

The release of the short film In a Heartbeat has gotten me thinking about a lot of things, namely the fact that it never would have been able to have been released to such a supportive audience a few years ago.

As the years go by, we are entering a new age of hope for many people. It isn’t remotely close to where we as a society should be, but it’s infinitely better than what it used to be. We are on an upward curve where each step means that people in the LGBT community are just a little more accepted than they were before.

This is obvious in a lot of ways: The passing of laws protecting gay rights, the public outrage against Trump’s attempt to ban transgender people from the military, and, of course, the evolution of fiction.

As I usually do, I’ll speak of my own experiences concerning this issue.
For most of my life, my experience with LGBT characters was limited to lesbian, gay, and occasionally bi individuals, and these were generally in shows and books meant for young adults and older. Even then, the characters often felt like two-dimensional caricatures that were made simply to be “the gay character.” More often than not, these characters were in anime, and were therefore only accessible to people who were specifically looking for them. Anne Rice’s vampires were a blessed exception.

The idea of having gay characters in kids’ media, obviously, was almost unheard of. There was an ongoing belief that exposing children to gay characters was a bad idea, that it might influence them to “be gay,” and that it was overall inappropriate. Hell, this attitude still prevails today, even more so when it comes to trans characters.

Things changed minutely, and I mean very minutely, when J.K. Rowling came out with the knowledge that Albus Dumbledore is, in fact, gay. There was a great deal of controversy over the issue. And…that’s it. It’s never actually addressed in the series that Dumbledore is gay. His feelings for Grindelwald are never shown in a way that makes his gayness obvious. In my opinion, there were a lot of missed opportunities with this character.

Things became a little better with the introduction of Kurt in Glee, a series that, while meant for young adults, was watched pretty religiously by the younger generation. I remember hearing about Kurt and being surprised at the fact that there was a legit gay character in mainstream media. Later on, when he actually entered a relationship, I was stunned. I was so used to the few mainstream gay characters I found being the victim of unrequited love and terrible endings. The “Kill Your Gays” trope comes to mind here.

With the creation of Adventure Time, a whole new wave of controversy hit. The implied relationship between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline evoked such a sense of outrage from so many people, the creators were forced to say that they were just platonic friends. From what I understand, that has mostly ben retconned by certain episodes and even a comic series where they are ruling the kingdom together.

The reaction to Adventure Time, as well as the limitations put on Alex Hirsch when he wanted to show a gay couple in an episode of Gravity Falls, shows that we are not anywhere close to where we should be. Still, we’re getting there.

Probably the biggest victory in the world of television for LGBT representation is Steven Universe. With the supposedly genderless, but still referred to as female Gems, Rebecca Sugar was able to explore relationships in a way that no cartoon has been able to do before. We have a canonically lesbian relationship in the form of Ruby and Sapphire. We have unrequited love in the form of Pearl. We have the potential for a beginning relationship in the form of Peridot and Lapis or Amethyst (depending on how things go there). We even have a gender nonbinary character in Stevonnie. The most recent episodes introduced us to a six-Gem fusion who is clearly meant to represent a polyamorous relationship. And all of these things are shown in a way that is totally normal and understandable for any audience.

The world of children’s books is also catching up with the times. In the Heroes of Olympus series, we have Nico di Angelo, a misunderstood son of Hades who is in love with Percy initially. In Wings of Fire, there have been references to several gay dragons, including Umber, and the lesbian couple Snowflake and Snowfox.

And now, we have In a Heartbeat, a very important short that shows that gayness is not only okay, but that it exists in people younger than high school age, and that it isn’t inherently sexual. It is a simple, cute story about a kid with a crush. That crush just happens to be another guy, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I hope that LGBT characterization in media only continues to evolve from here, and that the next step will be an increase in trans characters and characters with alternate gender identities. The way to acceptance is paved with understanding, and I firmly believe that the evolution of fiction is a reflection of the evolution of us as a society.

The evolution of kids’ fiction, in particular, is very important, as these kids are the next generation. If we keep teaching love and acceptance, each following generation will be better than the last. Every LGBT character is a chance to show that we are people, nothing more, nothing less.

Who knows? Maybe someday, we’ll live in a world without metaphorical closets, where LGBT characters are every bit as common as cis/hetero characters, and don’t cause anyone to bat an eye anymore. It’s a nice dream, isn’t it?

Peace out!

What Makes a Good Cliffhanger?

Today, let’s take a look at a writing technique that is both loved and despised by fiction-lovers everywhere: the infamous cliffhanger. A cliffhanger is defined as an end to an episode of a serial drama that leaves the audience in suspense. This also applies to books, movies, and fanfiction chapters. When used correctly, it can keep the fans on their toes while drawing them back in for each update. When used badly, mass fan rage can lead to a drastic decrease in viewership and/or readership.

The question is this: How can cliffhangers be used in a way that leaves the readers in suspense, but doesn’t infuriate them enough to make them drop the story altogether?

To answer that question, I’ll present a personal, specific example of what I find to be a bad kind of cliffhanger, and what I find to be a good kind through my own experiences, and say why I think they’re good or bad. From that, we can figure out what makes or breaks any cliffhanger.

Who Will Die?

This is probably the most infuriating kind of cliffhanger and/or story hook I have seen. The premise is simple: Someone’s going to die, but we won’t know who until the next episode! Oooh, the suspense!

Yeah, no. It’s a cheap, stupid tactic that shows that the writer has no faith in the plot itself. If the threat of a mystery death is what you need to keep people coming back, you’re doing something wrong. It sucked when Animorphs did it. It sucked when The Walking Dead did it. It will always suck.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with building tension. If there’s a situation happening where someone is going to die, but we don’t know who until it happens, that’s a wonderful way to up the suspense. You may choose to do a cliffhanger where it’s left unclear whether or not the killer found someone. That’s a good cliffhanger.

What I’m specifically talking about is a scenario when you know without a doubt that someone is about to die, or has just been killed, but you have to wait until the next installment to find out who. If you’re going to kill someone, go through with killing them. Don’t bullshit the readers. Trust me. They can see right through it.

Another sucky kind of cliffhanger, which is closely related, is showing a character being gravely wounded, then ending that installment, leaving the fans to wonder whether the person is dead or alive. First of all, these cliffhangers rarely result in the character in question actually dying, so it’s lost its effectiveness over the years. Second, it’s cheap. If you’re going to kill a character, kill them. If you’re going to injure them and have them in critical condition for a few episodes, do that. But establish which it is before cutting things off. Otherwise, fans will only talk about that, and not anything else that happened in that installment, as any other events will cease to be important in their eyes.

Basically, don’t use death as a cheap tool.

Character Revelation

On the flip side, we have an example of one of my favorite kinds of cliffhangers, provided it’s done right. A Character Revelation is any moment that reveals something shocking about a character. It could be that someone we thought was dead is actually alive, that someone has secretly been part of the mafia throughout the series, or that they’re an alien species. The possibilities are endless!

The reason why these kinds of cliffhangers work is that it leaves the fans in suspense while giving room and time for their imaginations to come up with what will happen next. They have a whole week (or month, or year, depending on the kind of installment) to come up with theories, ideas, and predictions based on this new reveal. Let’s be honest: Fan theories make up a huge part of any fandom.

Another reason why this kind of cliffhanger works is that it basically means that the next episode/book/etc. will then devote a good amount of time to explaining that reveal. This leads to character development, backstories, and other juicy bits.

What’s really good about this kind of cliffhanger is that it focuses on plot and character, rather than using cheap shock tactics to keep the fans’ attention. It puts trust in the fact that this reveal will mean something, and will shock fans while making them desperately want to find out more. It’s the tantalizing, lovely suspense that makes us shake our fists while smiling fondly at the same time.
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Looking at these examples, I think I can tell you how to differentiate a good cliffhanger from a bad one: Is it respecting the audience and the story? If the answer is yes, you have a good cliffhanger. Does it use cheap shock value in order to get an overblown reaction? If the answer is yes, you have a bad one. It’s quite simple when you get down to it.

Use tactics that are specific to the plot, and trust your audience to appreciate them. Stay away from cheap strategies that leaves the audience asking a simple “Did they, or didn’t they?” question over and over again until the next installment. Your fans are smarter than that, and you are better than that.

As always, keep writing and peace out!