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The Eight Commandments by Natalie

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Joined: 15 Sep 2003
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2003 8:52 pm    Post subject: The Eight Commandments by Natalie Reply with quote

The Eight Commandments
by Natalie

'It's only funny till somebody gets flamed'

(thanks to Fan81981 for Beta Reading!)




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Why eight you ask? Because that’s all I could think of, deal. (I will update this page from time to time, though)
By reading this, some of you may wonder; why did I bother? after all this is just fan fiction! Well yes, it is just fan fiction, but fan fiction takes space, and cyber-space is expensive. Most fan fiction authors out there don't pay for the space they use , rather, they choose to rely on free servers (i.e. fanfiction.net), so if poor Xing and others have to pay for the space you use, why not use it the best way you can?

This so called "article" wasn't written with any intention to hurt, blame, or make fun of anyone who post his or her stories on the web; all resemblance to real-net life situations are purely coincidence.

1) ****Thou shall NOT abuse the Lord Tolkien's work

1.1 Check the facts

Let's face it guys, a lot of fan fiction writers have not read the books, or read them partially, if that's your case, don't count on stuff you've read on fan fiction as solid facts, s'like an ever lasting error! You copy him he copy you, next thing we know –it’s canon!
Search for reliable sources if you aren’t interested in the books, ask friends who have read them, check reliable web sites, I personally recommend The Encyclopedia of Arda as an excellent source.

1.2 Avoid writing OOCs when they're not necessary

O.O.C is initials for "Out Of Character", meaning a canonical figure who acts in a way that doesn't suit him / her. OOC are okay if they have a purpose, but they can get annoying when they have absolutely no point whatsoever. People who read fan fiction want to read about Tolkien's characters, not some strange creatures that happen to have the same names.
A timid, quiet person isn't likely to shout, just like an Orc isn't likely to wear polka dots (although we'll never know… ::shudder:Smile You have to think about the character's personality and how he slash she would probably respond to the offs and doffs in your fanfic.

1.3 Write NAMES, PLACES and THINGS like they are supposed to be written!

I recently discovered through fan fiction that Gimli was not one of the nine walkers (i.e. the fellowship of the ring) it was actually Gimly- his Evil Twin ™

Seriously now, this sort of mistake will make some of your readers cringe, twitch or reconsider whether they should read your story or not.

Never leave things to chance, always check if you are unsure, a mistake like Tharandil instead of Thranduil will degrade your story and keep people from reviewing it – you don't want that to happen, do you?

1.4 Modern expressions.

Don't use expressions like "damn" or "oh my god" or even "okay" in your LotR fanfic, it's too “modern”, and given LotR time-line (about a zillion years in the past) none of the LotR characters should know what expressions like that mean. When you're writing a LotR fanfic try to think of the time-line and how people at that time lived, would they know about tumors or teddy bears? I don't think so (sorry, these actually were taken from a fic).

Fan81981 :" Especially since Tolkien gave each race a specific speech patter which was supposed to illustrate their specific idiosyncrasies. It is sort of another commandment – always remember Tolkien was a linguist. “


2)**** Presentation, baby.

People tend to ignore one of the most important issues of writing; the way a story is presented to the eye can often affect the reader's opinion about it. I remember one time that I read an excellent fic, really great characters, wonderful plot, and an awesome sense of humor.
The only problem was that the writer/webmaster was probably color-blind, because I had to hold down the mouse button the whole time (bright yellow text with white background? Honestly!). Screen reading is hard enough; one needn't add more trouble and eye ache to his poor readers! (Especially me! My eyesight has gone from bad to worse ever since I started reading fan fiction)

This doesn't apply only to fonts and colors, but to fanfiction.net users as well (and the likes of them)

**Take a look at this summary:

'lorasaquilas was la8 4 her weding witH legolas, now he dont want to c her, butt she woz kidnappd by legolass enemy who wants 2 hurt him were it hurts ,anyways how doz legolas his luv???? r and r please!!!!!111 (i suck at summerys)'

*sheepish grin* sorry, I couldn't resist! Now seriously people, do you honestly think people will look at this summary and think "hmmm gee, this sounds like a well-written, interesting story.”? No, they won’t (IMO) he or she would just skip to the next story.

Remember kids, First impression is very important if you want to catch the reader’s attention, an interesting summary can do wonders. It always peeves me when people write “sucky” summaries and add,as an excuse, that they are horrible at summaries,(then add R & R followed by thousand exclamation marks and a few 1s). Why is this a no-no? Well, if you’re not good at summaries, most/some (watcha looking at me for? I don't know how the human mind works!) people will think that your story-telling talents are not all that - like your summary! So I advise you not to say that, just use proper grammar and spelling, tell us briefly what's in the story and that's it. Adding R n R won't make people review more, trust me on this. And please, only one or two exclamation marks, more than that is grammatically incorrect (and an eyesore to some)

Let’s say you’ve actually managed to get a few readers to click your story (congrats!), now you need to prevent the reader from clicking the 'back' button;the beginning of the story is the interest-catcher,you should think a few minutes how to make an attractive begining, it won’t hurt to read and fix once-twice... ten times, either.

Always, always capitalize a first letter on a name (you have no idea how many people neglect this one!) places, and other things that require caps. And Try to use correct spelling, that's why God made spell-checkers for heaven’s sake! Even though most readers can tell what: "legolas waz sooo kewl " means, it's not the way a story should be presented. and don't forget to type the whole word.

Making your story look good will attract more readers (and more reviews!) and will certainly make your story easier to read!




3)****Avoid using a two-year-old's grammar.

Or: look over your fics before you publish them!

Some grammar mistakes and typos are really easy to avoid, they are forgiven and forgotten mostly, when they appear once or twice, but when they repeat over and over again, they tend to be rather annoying.

Examples:

--your vs. you're
--were vs. where
--her vs. here


I won't insult your intelligence by explaining to you the differences between the pairs above; I know somebody else who does that! Check helical library's 'Commonly confused words' guide, and clever yourself! (Is that a sentence?)

*Personal nitpick of mine: Blonde vs. Blond

The "e" at the end clarifies if the "golden haired one" is male or female. I've seen the best fall on this one; it's one of those rare English words that were affected by the French language: Galadriel is blonde. Legolas is blond. Nuff' said.

4)**** Beta readers are your friends!

Beta reader- a person whom you send your fan fiction before publishing it on the web, can fix grammar/spelling mistakes, can offer suggestions for the story and give you feedback.. Basically, they tell you whether you suck or not.

One (or more) extra pair of eyes is always helpful and in most cases, beta readers can catch mistakes you'll never see, even the greatest fanfics authors have people who look over their fics and check for errors. It's even more important to have a beta if English isn't your first language (experience talking)

and it's not hard to find somebody who will proof read your fic; you can ask a friend (or an on-line friend) you can find them on groups, chat rooms and IM programs.

There is also a beta listing on my website *hint* *hint*

5) ****Beware OCs!

Original characters can be fun if you're writing solemnly for the sake of writing (or writing on PressFiction.net for exemple), but when you post a fanfic and it is published world wide (generally speaking) don't be surprised if people won't give your story a second look, I am not saying original characters are forbidden, au contraire, OCs can be great and they can tribute a lot to a story, but usually, when the story is based more on the OCs instead of the canon characters, it is only natural that people (other then the author) would not care much about them.

When you're writing an OC, ask yourself if he/she/it Are In Canon; a feministic Ent living in Helm's Deep and designing warrior outfits for a leaving?...er, bad example, but it would make an interesting story line...

5.1. "Sucked" into ME Story Line...

this type of fiction is greatly disliked among many readers, and not just on LotR (exp: "a new student in Hogwarts" or "suddenly appear onboard the Black Pearl", etc...). My opinion? I don't care about it, some people like 'em, so let them have their fun...HOWEVER, think about the problems the arrival of a modern character into Middle Earth would bring, people weren't very trusting, darkness everywhere and all, would they welcome your OC with open arms? think culture differences, diseases, hygiene problems (don't forget PMS, ladies...) fighting skills? Please...

This brings us to Mary-Sues ™….

5.2 The "unsinkable" Mary Sue -

Sometimes known as Mary Stu, she is usually female, even though she has a male version, the Gary Sue, she is by far the most infamous…
The "classic" Mary-Sue is the kind of character you're supposed to love: she's amazingly beautiful, she doesn't have any faults (real faults that is, pointy ears doesn't count), she is the main character (the Sub-Character is her love interest) she's smart, she's funny, she can beat anybody, she sometimes have super powers, and more often then not she has the man lusting after her.
As I said, this is the classic Sue, a Mary Sue is actually the author's secret desire (ooh!), we all have them (mine is bald!), only some of us choose to write about them. You can always tell when you're reading a Sue, some people love them, some people avoid them, and some detest them (and they won't mind telling you so…) I was actually thinking a lot about this particular type of fiction, since some people do like them, I can't come and order them not to write it,right? I'm just going to say that you should think thoroughly if you want your story to be "another Sue"… oh, and warn us about it on the summary, okay?

Names that won't make your head hurt.

A character with a fifteen-lettered name is usually less then appealing, I'm sure Tolkien would have never dreamed of using a name like 'katataulausseria' or something to that extent… when you decide on an original character's name, say it in your mind a few times, if your teeth chatter just from thinking about it – it means that the name is definitely a no-no.
Remember, Hobbits are the only ones who have last names (for the love of the Valar, no more "Greenleaf" siblings!)

6)**** Plagiarism, overused plots, clichés etc...

Originality and creativity. These are some of the factors that can make a story intriguing and addicting (take JKR's Harry Potter for example, I mean, who would have thought?)
When you're writing fan fiction, you have the ability to write a story with a similar plot to hundreds more stories without the risk of getting sued, but think of it this way: do you really want your readers thinking your story is somewhat dull because they've read a story just like that exactly two minutes ago?

Writing another story about a girl sucked into middle earth ("gee! This one is different! This time she's blonde!") Would get you nowhere, it is overdone to death- let it go. Instead try to write about something that actually involves around the canonical story/characters.(fan81981:” God only knows how many plots Tolkien has left open for us to explore without resorting to the Mary Sue – er, clichéd formula. Pet peeve of mine.”)


7) ****Respect and be respected.


Just because you can't see the person face to face, is not an excuse to be mean, don't flame people for what they've written, since you don't want to be flamed, either. Use constructive criticism to let the author know what he or she (mostly she) should improve on their story.

Don't lash out at people because they flamed you (and don't use “potty” words on the author notes if your fic is G rated!)

In my own opinion ,one shouldn’t demand reviews for another chapter ,write for yourself, not for your readers, a note like "I'll write another chapter if I get gazillion reviews" would just make you look silly.

7.1 A Little Something about rules:

Even though I think taking out NC-17 rated stories is the worst thing ff.net could have done, uploading the same stories under the rating R is a scummy and unfair thing to do. It's like stealing the space ff.net owners have paid for. LISTEN to the rules! If you don't like them you can always post your stories somewhere else! It's a big web!



Cool ****Know the basic rules of writing.

*Paragraphs

Use them! Don't write your story in one huge block because a) it's ugly and b) it's hard to read.
Use your paragraphs to make a point, don't go around the bush and try not to make it seem like you're trying too much.

*Dialogue

Tolkien hardly wrote any dialogue; however, everybody has his own writing style, so a dialogue can be awesome if it is written properly.
When a new person speaks, write his/her line in a new sentence (i.e. press 'enter'), many good authors out there don't follow that basicgrammar rule and it makes our job as readers a whole lot more difficult. Also, add description, what's going on, who's talking, where, why etc... Writing "he said" every two sentences just won't cut it.

And try not to make the LotR cast sound like morons while you’re at it.

*POVs:

-First person’s point of view:

Writing in a first POV can be a lot of fun when dealt properly. It's like hearing the character think; you can express his or her opinion on things, and make us see through the character's view on the world.
It also has its downsides since you can express only that one character's opinion, if you're writing in this style try to do it right. Don't make the character know things he/she isn't supposed to know, and don't make the them think with an accent! Agh!

-Third person’s point of view:

This is the most common writing style; it is also the easiest. Writing in a third point of view is basically you, the author, telling a story about something/someone that happened, happens or will happened in the future (I am so not going into tenses right now!).

-Changing point of view:

When you're writing in several POVs be sure to let us know when it changes, randomly changing POVs will earn you nothing more then confusion from your readers and less reviews.

*Plot:

When you're writing a serious story always have at least an outline of your story, as the author, it’s best that you’ll know what is going to happen next- at least vaguely.

*PWP- “plot what plot” is also fun to read , basically a pointless little story, 9 cases out of 10 is just a sex sex sex NC-17 story.

*AU - "what ifs" stories, things that could have happened, different time lines, etc...

***Final words of advice:

I recommend that you read, reread and triple read your fics, don't rush off to post them, god only knows how many times I've read this thing!

***********

Comments to this essay can be made in the Reality Byte section where it is archived.
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