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!

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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!

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!

Clichés, Devices, and Tropes: Oh My!

If you’ve ever been in a writing workshop, you’ve probably heard the words cliché, trope, and plot device so often, you gnash your teeth at the very mention of them. “This plotline is clichéd.” “I’ve seen this trope a million times.” “This character is an obvious plot device.”

Well, contrary to popular belief, clichés, tropes, and other common storytelling devices are not bad things to use in moderation. Tropes, devices, and clichés only became as common as they are today because they worked in the past and continue to work now. The trick is figuring out when to put them in, and how to tweak them to make them your own.

Tropes

When I talk about tropes, I’m referring to common scenarios and ideas used in fiction. Some examples include the Love Triangle, the Tall, Dark, and Mysterious Character, and even something as overarching as the Good vs. Evil Conflict. Tropes are pretty unavoidable, as there is a trope for almost any story idea that has been used more than once.

Therefore, you’d might as well embrace the use of tropes! That being said, it is generally best to focus on tropes that fit in with what you’re trying to write. It’s also important to not use tropes that will obviously annoy your readers. If you do, try to change them in a way that makes them new and less annoying.

For example, why not take the Love Triangle (one of my least favorite tropes of all time) and put a twist on it? Perhaps Character A has no interest in Characters B or C. Maybe the three of them could end up in a poly relationship. There are many possibilities that don’t include endless pining and one indecisive bitch of a character going back and forth for fifty chapters.

Depending on your story, you might want to look up common tropes for your genre, or try to determine what is more commonly-used by other writers. That way, you can be aware of them and use them to your advantage instead of accidentally creating an uninspired cardboard cutout of a plot.

Clichés

Clichés can be a little harder to work with. By definition, a cliché is an idea that has been overused and is associated with a lack of original thought. However, many things that could be considered clichéd continue to exist today. Why? Well, it’s because people still love them and are familiar with them. Therefore, it’s possible for a writer to use them.

Let’s start by looking at a saying that one might consider clichéd: “His heart pounded with excitement.”

I’m guilty of using that phrase and variations of that phrase rather frequently. Sometimes, I’ll use the classic “pounded with excitement” saying. Other times, I change it. For example, when describing the excitement of a strong, powerful character, you might say that “His heart beat like war drums.” If the character is falling in love, you might say that “His heart fluttered like a caged sparrow.” Depending on the imagery you use, you can get across that the character’s heart is beating due to his excitement without directly saying it.

Now, if you’re writing something that is meant to be filled with clichés, such as a sappy, straightforward romance or a basic sword-and-sorcery battle, feel free to lay them on. I’m known for scouring the internet for simple, fluffy fanfictions that are full of every soppy romantic cliché imaginable. Sometimes you need to read or write something basic. Don’t be ashamed of that. Just write it well.

Plot Devices

A plot device is a method used in writing specifically to move the plot along. Some are more recognizable than others, and it is good to know when to use them, when to change them, and when to cut them out.

Let’s think of the fantasy genre. A common plot device that many fantasy writers use is to make the main protagonist an orphan, either at the beginning of the story, a few chapters in, or before the events of the book even start. This gives the protagonist a greater amount of freedom to act, a backstory that can allow for some unique character traits, and a motive for revenge depending on how the parents died. The Harry Potter series, for example, utilized this device very well. Just by doing one small thing with the plot, several corners are cut when developing the main character and rationalizing their actions. It’s also helpful if this device has a significant effect on the other characters and the rest of the world in question.

Using a plot device for the sake of character development is usually a good thing, unless the device is contrived or unneeded. A good example of this is the RWBY series, where two characters were built up together as best friends who would soon become something more. This development was followed by the sudden, unnecessary death of one of these characters before she could get sufficient development. In killing this character off, the writers turned her into a convenient plot device to further the development of her love interest, which is incredibly cheap and a waste of a perfectly good character.

A good rule of thumb with plot devices is to ask yourself what you want to read. Ask: “Would this make me want to throw my computer across the room in anger if I were to read it from someone else?” If the answer is yes, don’t do it! This goes for the tropes and clichés too.
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So, there you have it. The annoying trends that won’t go away are actually there for a reason, and can actually be used to a story’s advantage. Just be very careful, as the line between paying respectful homage to a common idea and creating a cookie-cutter scenario that will put your reader to sleep is a thin one. Always remember what you would want to read, and use that as your guide. At the very least, people who think like you are guaranteed to love it.

Peace out!

AUs: Creating Your Own Universe

I apologize for the lateness of this post. I spent most of yesterday dealing with a personal crisis, and wasn’t able to write or post anything until now. I hope you enjoy today’s writing tip.

In my more recent years of reading and writing fanfiction, I have developed a deep love for AUs. It gives writers the ability to go places that even the original author might not have considered. It’s also good for writing feels-free stories involving characters who are dead in canon. I’ve been doing that a lot lately…

Anyway, a lot of work needs to go into the making of an AU. Not only are you creating a whole new setting, but you are essentially creating a whole new side to the characters in question. There are two important things to focus on when creating an AU: the world and putting the characters into the world.

The World

Obviously, you need to figure out what kind of world your AU is. Even if it’s a basic Modern Day AU, you still need to figure certain things out. Does the story take place more in a city? In a rural area? Is it a real place, or one you made up that is based on several places? Is there a coffee shop? What’s the school district like? Is there a high or low crime rate? What’s important for the focus of your fic?

For example, my RWBY fic “College Battle Games” takes place in a college setting. However, I differentiated it from other college stories by focusing on one campus organization: Dagorhir. (Dagorhir consists of people hitting each other with foam weapons while wearing garb. Seriously, look it up. It’s awesome.) Because of this, I focused on descriptions of the field, the organization, and the activities of the characters. When they were in a different location, I described it accordingly, creating a familiar, yet unique college town for them to inhabit.

If you’re creating your own original world, things get even harder. Before you even think about putting the characters in, you need to figure out the five W’s of the setting you’re creating. Where is it? Who inhabits it? What kind of place is it? When does the story take place? Is it a medieval-esque place? Is it a parallel to the canon-verse? Most importantly, think about why you made this setting and how you can use it in a way that is unique.

Depending on how long your fic will be, make sure to create a world that you like and can remain invested in. Currently, I have two AU RWBY fics that I update weekly. One takes place in a medieval-based universe where a lot of the characters are werewolves. Another takes place in a world that’s similar to the canon world of Remnant, but is protected by Dragon Riders rather than Huntsmen. I love werewolves, and I love dragons, so writing both fics and discovering more about the AUs is fun rather than being a chore.

For both worlds, I had to figure out various things. How do people react to werewolves? In a world of Dragon Riders, how did technology evolve as opposed to how it did in canon? The more questions you ask and answer, the more solid of a foundation you have.

Putting the Characters into the World

This part is both very fun and very challenging. Once you have your AU, you need to figure out how this universe’s version of the canon characters will fit in. What will they be? What occupations do they have? How does this setting affect their personalities and goals? Are they treated differently in this universe than they would be in the canon universe? How do the characters know each other in this universe?

To provide an example, let’s imagine putting the Lord of the Rings characters into a modern-day setting. Aragorn is a ranger and a king in canon, so a person could either decide to make him an outsider or a prominent leader in a modern setting. He could be a park ranger who lives on the outskirts of town, or a leading figure in the city council, or both. Bilbo, with his love for maps and books, could be a librarian, an accomplished cartographer, or a teacher. Perhaps he became friends with Aragorn during a field trip to the local park, and they enjoy bird-watching together on the weekends.

You can also play with relationships more in an AU setting. It’s up to you how the characters met, or if they even know each other at all. Characters who hardly interact in canon could be made into best friends. Romantic pairings that canon wouldn’t even dream of can make perfect sense in an AU setting. As long as you keep the basic personalities of the characters and keep them recognizable, you can play around as much as you want.

The key here is to keep your characters in character. Remember how they are in canon, and apply that to how you think they would act in another setting. Keep their speech patterns and mannerisms the same, or make them the AU’s equivalent. For example, a character who regularly says “Cool!” or “Sweet!” when excited may say something along the lines of “Grand!” or “Fantastic!” in a setting that isn’t quite so modern. You need to have a balance between how you know the characters act in canon, and what would change due to their presence in this alternate universe.

If a character changes significantly, there needs to be a reason why. In my Dragon Rider AU, I explore how the RWBY characters would change if they had the responsibility of taking care of their own dragons. Blake, who is known for running away from her problems in canon, can’t do that in this story due to having a baby dragon relying on her and needing her to stay in one place. Therefore, she has to overcome her impulses and act in a more rational manner.

Remember, you are making these characters your own by writing fanfictions. By making an AU, you’re going one step further. Do what feels natural, and listen to the critiques of your readers. And have fun with it!
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I hope this was helpful, and I hope that all you writers out there try writing an AU if you haven’t already. In my opinion, AUs are a good stepping stone in any writing career. If you’ve only written fanfictions until now, but would like to eventually create your own original worlds and characters, AUs are a good way to get practice in. By making your own world and learning how to fit various personalities into that world, you’re taking a step toward evolving your writing skills and improving your craft that much more.

One day, you may have an entirely new world populated by characters of your own creation, and that is probably the most rewarding experience that any writer can have.

So, keep writing and peace out!

Fluff: The Hallmark Channel of Fanfiction

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.

#1: Emotion

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.

#2: Imagery

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.
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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.

Angst Fluff

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.

Comfort Fluff

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.

Fluff-Fluff

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.

Sexy Fluff

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.
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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.

Peace out!

How to Write and Respond to Reviews

Reviews are like chocolate for the self-esteem of any fanfiction writer. Just getting one makes their day brighter. Getting many is even better. I can promise you that there have been times when the positive reviews left by my readers were the only motivation I had to continue updating a fic. Therefore, I encourage everyone who reads fanfictions to leave reviews on the ones you like. Trust me, it makes a difference.

On the other hand, writers who receive reviews will often do well to respond to them when possible. I try to respond to reviews twice a week. While I may miss a few occasionally, or have a bad week when I just don’t feel up to typing responses, I still try to make it clear that I appreciate the feedback. A healthy reader-writer relationship is essential in the fanfiction community.

Now, you’re probably thinking: “Why do I need to be taught how to write and respond to reviews? Aren’t you just supposed to say a fic is good or tell someone thanks for the review, and that’s it?”

Technically, you’d be right. You don’t have to leave a detailed review. You don’t have to personally respond to every review you’re given. However, going that extra mile will make a difference in the relationship between you and others in the fandom. It can lead to making more friends. It can make people more inclined to recommend your work to others. It can keep one of your favorite fanfiction writers from giving up on their multi-chapter project. So, for those of you who want to make that extra effort, here are some tips.

Writing a good review:

Whenever I receive a notification that someone reviewed one of my pieces, I get immediately excited. That excitement fades, however, if the review was nothing more than a statement of “Good chapter.” or “nice.” (Yes, the lowercase letter was intentional.) On the other hand, if I see at least a few sentences that show me that the person in question actually read the chapter, my happiness goes through the roof. Here are some ways to make a writer’s day.

-Tip 1: Bring up plot points. Talk about what parts of the chapter you liked and why you liked them. Talking about the chapter in detail shows that you read the chapter rather than just skimming it.

-Tip 2: If you want to offer constructive criticism, here are the three steps. Step one, make sure that you know specifically what part of the story you think needs criticizing. Step two, be specific on what you think could be improved. Step three, offer actual suggestions on how to improve it. Don’t make a blanket statement like “This whole chapter felt rushed.” How did it feel rushed? What parts could have been elaborated on? Writers do improve through criticism, but only if the people giving said criticism are actually trying to help.

-Tip 3: Know the difference between constructive criticism, nitpicking, and flaming. Constructive criticism, as mentioned before, is good. Nitpicking, or laser-focusing on one aspect of the story that you’re determined to not like, is not so good. Flaming, or insulting the story and/or writer while offering no criticism or positive feedback whatsoever, is very bad.

-Tip 4: Actually take the time to review the piece. Don’t just type one-word statements and then hurry on to the next fic. Fanfiction writers spend a lot of time creating something that you get to read for free. If you’re going to review it, you can take a minute to type a few sentences. It doesn’t have to be a paragraph. It just has to be something you spent more than ten seconds on. Otherwise, there’s no point in leaving a review at all.

Responding to reviews:

Technically, responding to reviews is completely optional. Most people, myself included, leave reviews without expecting an actual response. And that’s what makes it all the better when a writer you like does respond to you. It shows that the writer actually reads the reviews, and takes the thoughts of the readers into account. If you’re like me and are using fanfiction to build up a following, maintaining a relationship with your readers is very important.

Now, if you get a shorter review or a one or two word review, it’s perfectly acceptable to respond with a simple “Thanks for the review.” Still, I try to personalize each response when possible. For those of you who want to do the same, here are some tips.

-Tip 1: Respond to any questions asked. Some reviewers actually do hope for responses from their authors, as shown when they ask specific questions about your work. Always answer these, unless the answer involves spoiling something, of course. If someone is invested enough in your work to be asking questions about it, you’re doing something right and should give them the courtesy of an answer.

-Tip 2: Make conversation. Sometimes, I’ll get a review that talks about how much a reader liked a certain plot point. In response, I’ll often tell the reader what my thought process was when coming up with that part, and whether or not it was harder to type. The readers I’ve talked with seem to enjoy hearing about my writing process, especially during parts that they enjoyed. Other times, they may share a personal story in the review. Feel free to respond to that. This is a good chance for you to learn more about your fanbase, and for them to learn more about you.

-Tip 3: Say thank you. Thank them for taking the time to review your piece. A bit of politeness goes a long way. Trust me.
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Here’s my two-cents concerning reviews. Now, everyone has off days or weeks, and might not be up to leaving reviews on the latest update or replying to the latest stream of comments. That’s fine. These are just tips for when you do engage with a favorite author or your beloved readers. It is definitely a rewarding experience for all involved!

Peace out!