Everybody loves a good, simple, feel-good story every now and then. Some people love them every single day. There’s nothing wrong with that. With how crappy the world can sometimes be, it’s nice to escape into a fictional realm where people are happy and life is all sunshine and rainbows. That’s exactly what fluff is.
Whether it’s a sweet, comforting scene in a sea of angst, or a basket of full-on lovey-dovey goodness from beginning to end, fluff is one of the cornerstones of the fanfiction world. But, how do you write fluff well? Allow an experienced fluff-master to clue you in.
Let’s start by looking at the most important things to focus on in a fluff piece.
Emotion is the main focus of any fluffy work. Whether it’s someone being comforted after a nightmare or two lovers sharing a date in a sunny field, focusing on what the characters are feeling is vital. Talk about how Character A is drawing strength from Character B’s hug. Tell me exactly how happy Character C is when they see the homemade cookies Character D baked for their birthday.
Remember, emotional expression is physical as well as mental. Make a character feel their cheeks get hot when they’re flustered. Make their heart pound when they’re excited. Make us feel the emotions they’re feeling, so that their happiness becomes ours when it happens.
Cheery imagery and cheery emotions go hand in hand. Tell the reader about the contrast between the cold, loud rain outside and the crackling fire and warm couch inside. Describe the smell of freshly-mown grass and garden flowers. If it’s a romantic piece, talk about just how beautiful a character’s significant other looks in the light of the setting sun. The possibilities are endless! Feel free to use a thesaurus if you need some new words.
Also, use descriptions that fit in with the mood. For example, would you rather describe the sun as being blood-red or as scarlet as a plump rose? If you’re doing a fluffy piece, I’d definitely lean toward the latter.
#3: Happy Endings
Fluff pieces have happy endings. Don’t be one of those jerks who write sweet, wonderful scenarios before pulling the rug out from under everyone. That’s what we call bait and switch. Ever read a wonderful, romantic fic, only for one of the characters to wake up and realize that everything was a dream and remember that their significant other is dead? Yeah. Sucks, don’t it? There are times to snipe your readers with angst or tragedy. A fluff fic does not qualify. Keep it simple, and keep it happy.
Now, there are several different kinds of fluff that one may type. While happiness is universally loved, it seems that some breeds are better loved than others. Here are the four most common categories I’ve seen.
This refers to an angsty situation followed by a fluffy ending. In a lot of ways, these fluff stories are the most satisfying, because it is very enjoyable to see characters being happy, but even more so when they were recently sad or angry. It makes you appreciate the positivity a lot more.
When making an Angst Fluff piece, there are a few things to remember. First of all, don’t make the angst too deep or depressing if you’re doing a short piece, or you risk entering tragedy territory. Once you enter the realm of tragedy, a fluffy ending will be less believable and will seem pasted on. Now, if you decide to change your work to a tragic fic, that’s fine. If you still want a fluff piece, however, see about easing back if a scene starts to get too depressing.
For example, I’ve run across a ton of fics that have fluffy scenes and endings after a character was suicidal just a few paragraphs ago. Topics like suicide, self-harm, and death are serious and should not be in a short, fluffy fic. Not only does the tragedy ruin the fluff, but the fluff often cheapens the subject matter being addressed.
Now, if you’re writing a longer piece, you can experiment with these serious scenarios a bit more. It’s possible to have happy, fluffy endings after horrible occurrences, but give the characters time to recover. Don’t make a oneshot where a character is cutting their arm in one scene, then making out with their significant other under the stars five minutes later. It doesn’t work.
Second of all, and this relates strongly to the previous tip, don’t make the shift from angst to fluff too sudden. Emotional shifts are gradual. Even if they happen quickly, there is still a process that occurs between sad and happy. Make sure to show that.
Lastly, and most importantly, make sure it ENDS fluffy. If your end-goal is to make a fluffy piece, it has to end with the fluff. You can put the angst anywhere else you want, as long as the fluff is at the end. You know how Don Bluth believes that kids can handle anything as long as there’s a happy ending? That’s the kind of mindset you should put yourself in. Keep the ending happy.
For example, my RWBY threeshot “Three Days at the Ryokan” is what I like to call an Angst Sandwich: angst sandwiched between two pieces of fluff. The first chapter was an introduction to the setting and a bit of fluff and description. The second chapter showed a tearful confession and an admittance of self-doubt followed by some comfort. The third chapter was pure fluff till the end.
This is probably the second most common breed of fluff I’ve seen after Fluff-Fluff, which I will explain later. Comfort Fluff, as you would guess, involves one character being extensively comforted and coddled by another. This can be due to self-confidence issues, a recent injury, a loss, or a nightmare (an especially common scenario). In a lot of ways, it’s a much lighter version of Angst Fluff.
If you want to write a Comfort Fluff piece, you need to first focus on the problem that needs to be solved. Let the reader feel the negative emotions that the character in question is feeling. Let them feel the pain of that battle wound, the fear of that nightmare, the uncertainty of not knowing what tomorrow will bring.
Next, think about what would best comfort the character and what the other character or characters would logically do. In a romantic situation, the character’s romantic partner may cuddle and kiss them, reassuring them that they are worthwhile. Think about the relationship between the characters that you want to portray, and use that to guide their interactions.
For example, a Comfort Fluff piece involving Grif and Simmons from Red vs. Blue would probably involve a lot more swearing and not-serious insults than a piece involving Adrien and Marinette from Miraculous Ladybug, which would likely involve lots of classic, shy cuddle fluff.
Remember, the end-goal is to make the character who needed comfort feel better, along with the readers.
Now, you’re probably wondering: What is the difference between Angst Fluff and Comfort Fluff? Well, Comfort Fluff is usually fluffier than Angst Fluff. The scenario that invokes comfort is generally not as gratuitous in its negativity and usually gives way more quickly to the fluff. In an Angst Fluff piece, the angsty parts get more focus, forcing the reader to truly feel negatively and sometimes even cry before the veil is lifted. The lines are blurry, but the important thing isn’t the label. It’s getting your story across to your reader, whatever you want the end result to be.
This is just pure, feel-good awesomeness from beginning to end. Imagine a fic depicting a family spending the day together at the zoo, a romantic couple spending their first Christmas together, or a group of friends catching up and having fun after not seeing each other for a long time. That is the essence of Fluff-Fluff.
In this kind of fluff piece, imagery is key. Since the emotions will be mostly positive throughout, it’s a good idea to regularly emphasize the imagery. Give a strong setting or settings, and describe the characters’ reactions to things. What you do and how deep you go depends on how long the piece is. For a shorter work or drabble, you can usually just show one setting and a few images combined with the characters’ happiness, and bam! You’re done.
For longer pieces, you need to think of several different settings, activities, and scenarios. For example, in my longest pure fluff work, a behemoth of a RWBY fic titled “Merry Dustmas” (by behemoth, I mean 14,000 words!), I showed the members of Team JNPR celebrating a fictional version of Christmas with Jaune’s family. I had one main romantic plot going between Jaune and Pyrrha, which I balanced with family interactions, friend interactions, and a variety of holiday and winter-based activities. I showed them decorating cookies, having a snowball fight, going to a parade, decorating the tree, exchanging gifts, etc. In each scenario, I brought Jaune and Pyrrha closer while also showing the happiness of the other characters involved.
Basically, put the characters into a feel-good situation, and go nuts with the details.
This breed of fluff is found in the high T and M side of things (if the writer labeled their fic correctly, anyway). In essence, Sexy Fluff combines the fluffy with the erotic. Whether it’s a long, drawn-out makeout scene, or a full-blown Lemon, this kind of fic serves to ignite the readers’ bodies as well as their hearts.
For a good Sexy Fluff piece, you need to balance the physical and the mental. In an average, non-fluffy smut piece, you’ll likely get a description of the sex, the physical sensations, and that’s it. If you want this to be fluffy, make every act as loving as possible. Have the lovers caress each other gently and kiss slowly. Have them say that they love each other while they’re doing the do. Make the experience more emotional than it is physical. A Sexy Fluff piece is about love first and lust second. That’s very important.
So, those are the basics, whether you’re a new fluff writer or a veteran who wants some pointers.
Fluff writers are the bandage on everyone’s knee when something horrible happens in canon. We’re the comfort food of the fandom, the emotional balm that our readers desperately need. If you are a creator of this lovely breed of fiction, be proud. You are making the world a happier place.