Author Topic: Some bonehead mistakes, common in fanfic, to avoid...  (Read 12515 times)

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Some bonehead mistakes, common in fanfic, to avoid...
« on: February 13, 2016, 09:43:33 PM »
 Grammar and spelling and parts of speech COUNT. This list is all common bonehead mistakes that I see frequently in the work of fanfic authors who otherwise show decent command of the written language, and many of whom spin a pretty sweet yarn, if you can wade through the forth-grade gibberish. Blowing the bonehead stuff can be a real turd in the punchbowl.

(This also applies to posts and everything you write.  Maybe you don't care about the difference between their, there and they're, but some [literate] people do, and if you screw up the bonehead mistakes, those people assume that you're [not your] an illiterate boob, probably stupid, not worthy of listening to or according much respect.  Everyone has typpoes and varied mistakes in their [not there or they're] writing, but blowing these any of these very often is failing the idiot test out loud in public.  Learn the difference between all these words and forms until you don't have to think about which when they come up.  It's important.)


 Your = belongs to you.
 You're = you are.

 Its = belongs to it.
(It's [=it is] counterintuitive, but makes an easy mnemonic; the possessive of it does not possess the apostrophe.)

 Their = belongs to them.
 They're = they are.
 There = where something is.

 Were = used to be; was at the time.
 We're = we are.
 Where = the location of something.

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Oh, and-

To = towards.
Too = also or more.
Two = the whole number more than one but less than three.

-And this is a considerably more advanced one, but to punctuate the possessive of any word ending in "s" or "z" -even if the s is pluralizing- the apostrophe goes on the end without the extra "s".  Thus, if two brothers share ownership of a vacation property, it would be "The brothers' land" - not "brothers's" or "brotherses".
« Last Edit: February 17, 2016, 07:35:11 PM by BUncle »

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"A lot" is two words, not one; you might even consider substituting "much" or many".

Same goes for "no one".  "Few" or "nobody" will also serve.

On a related note, it is extremely poor form to use the same word over and over for the same thing in the same passage, most especially in the same sentence; it can make it look like the writer doesn't have much of a vocabulary.  English is a language rich in synonyms, and a passage will just scan better if you vary the way the narration characterizes a basketball player as "tall", for example.  He can also be "towering" - if skinny, "attenuated".

Also note that these rules apply more to narration - you may choose to make dumb or unsophisticated/uneducated characters look that way through giving them poor word choices; you still need to spell the right form of your/you're in dialogue, even if the character wouldn't know the difference, though.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2016, 06:08:58 PM by BUncle »

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Don't waste time thinking of many clever variations of "she said" to end-tag quotes.  It's something the reader tends not to notice unless the attribution is awkward.  Yes, it's boring to type over and over, but formatting should be pretty invisible; if it draws attention to itself, it's probably been done wrong.

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I've been reading much fanfic lately, which, of course, is where I'm getting inspiration for these tips.  The story I'm reading ATM (Speaking of which, leetspeak and abbreviations in forum conversation and story dialogue is one thing, but can be awkward in narration) is fairly close to master-level fluency, and a pretty good yarn --- but the scene just changed, again, with absolutely no indication.  I keep having to back up a sentence to realize why they're suddenly back at the ranch.  Takes me out of the (otherwise good) story each and every time.

There's not really a standard format for scene transitions.  A horizontal line works fine, but some places on the net -Fanfiction.net is the example I'm currently browsing- will not display a line of dashes.

The simplest way that should work everywhere is triple-spacing between scenes.  You should space between regular paragraphs, anyway; it's just easier to read.  Add extra space when the time and/or place of the story changes.  Very simple, very easy; for author and reader alike.  I wish the otherwise adept author of what I'm reading now knew the trick...

Whatever you choose to mark a transition, do try to be consistent.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2016, 11:15:32 PM by BUncle »

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Whose = the possessive of who; belongs to who.
Who's = contraction of who is.

This one's counterintuitive, but those ARE the correct forms, if you care about not looking stupid...

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A story I'm reading right now keeps referring to a character as "the female blonde" because another character present -a guy- also has blond hair.

It's redundant, because "blonde" ending in "e" is already the femine form of the term - he is the blond, and she is the blonde.  -Both instances on the screen right now, by the way, being yet another author bored of typing "she said" or "[name] said" after a line of dialogue, and came up with something not only awkward, but wrong in the process...  Just don't bother getting cute with that until you're a very adept writer.

I'm just sayin'.

(The story eventually got around to referencing the guy as the "blonde" a few times when she wasn't present, which, as I already mentioned, is just plain wrong/stupid-looking/inept.)
« Last Edit: February 19, 2016, 01:09:33 AM by BUncle »

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Also?  If you're not writing cops, doctors, or future people/aliens, try words like "boy"/"girl" and "man"/"woman" instead of "male"/"female".  Your characters are people, not animals/things, and although male/female has become common usage, it's still awkward and not-quite-correct in most casual contexts.

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Commas are a thing; use them to divide distinct phrases in a sentence, whether narration or dialogue.  Inexperienced fanfic writers all too often render otherwise good sentences into something that reads like incoherent run-on rants with the absence of a few commas in the right place.


To illustrate, here's my last post with no commas:
I should point out in regards to the After Action Report discussion above that I since got talked into adding a dedicated subforum for that making the question of where to post AARs moot; they go there - at least the SMACX ones.  There's a few for other games posted in Other Games.
Dreadful, yes?

And here it is as written, made more than a bit more fluent by commas:
I should point out, in regards to the After Action Report discussion above, that I since got talked into adding a dedicated subforum for that, making the question of where to post AARs moot; they go there - at least the SMACX ones.  There's a few for other games posted in Other Games.

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There's something I want to say about original characters in fanfics that I can't quite wrap my head around to articulate...

...It's something about when I'm looking for a story about Kirk and the usual suspects having adventures - there's a real good chance that I don't like that Lieutenant you created for your story nearly as much as you do, and it's definitely possible to make me feel like you're forcing your pet character down my throat.  It's something fan writers do a lot, related to the 'Mary Sue', if not THAT bad.

Valka?  Do you get what I'm talking about?  A little help?  (Probably a good time to tell the crowd about Paula Smith coining the term 'Mary Sue' - and explain why Ensign Sue is a Very Bad Thing for the benefit of the uninitiated...)
« Last Edit: February 19, 2016, 01:10:21 AM by BUncle »

Offline Valka

Some original characters are obvious Mary Sues, and they even appear in pro fiction.

A prime example is that of Piper in Diane Carey's Star Trek novels Dreadnought! and Battlestations!. Piper comes aboard the Enterprise and is instantly Good At Everything (though she doesn't know that Scotland is on Earth; she just loves Scotty's exotic "alien" accent and at one point asks him what planet he's from). She has her own cadre of friends to help, none of whom are part of the original set of ST characters. And in spite of her obnoxious attitude, she impresses the hell out of Starfleet so they give her a very generous promotion (undeserved in my opinion, but wait'll the punchline here...).

Piper is the "Mary Sue" representation of Diane Carey herself. Carey is into RL sailing, RL navy, she inserts her right-wing politics into her books, and has very little respect for any aspect of Star Trek that doesn't agree with her own vision of How Things Should Be. And to top it off, she informed the fans at a Star Trek convention that the characters on the front cover of Dreadnought! were modeled after her and her husband (though her husband naturally doesn't have pointed ears).

I suspect her books saw the light of day because publishers have deadlines and need authors who can write to those deadlines. Carey claims she once wrote a Voyager novel in less than a week or so, sandwiched in between her shifts as a cook on a ship that was at sea. The finished product shows that it's a poorly-written, slapdash effort, and I'm not sure if this or another one was the reason she doesn't write any more Star Trek novels. In essence, she made her contempt for the show so obvious in the story that the publishers felt they had to fire her. She was actively undermining the franchise, and that's a very bad (and stupid) thing for a professional writer to do.

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Which of those Steven Golden novels featured that lady spy who came aboard in a small private ship, threatening Kirk that it was booby-trapped for security reasons --- and Kirk let her get away with it.  She was Section 31 (gag) over a decade before Section 31 was invented, and IIRC, ended up with a vague love triangle with Kirk and Spock both.  (I repeat, gag.)

It's a rookie mistake -not that some hacky pros don't do it too- so common that many writing teachers tell students "Always kill off your favorites."  -And it's a problem with any character you let get in the way of/take over the fanfic, hurting it, not just the Sues too wonderful to believe.

-So be aware that you CAN fall in love with your own character, to the enormous detriment of your story.  You'll have better luck doing that with a villain -maybe- than an ally of the regulars.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2016, 02:06:08 AM by BUncle »

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...I tried to look it up, and I don't think it was Stephen Goldin after all.

Wasn't Piper a pirate or something outlandish like that?  ISTR a red hat with a feather in it, and she actually commanded a small mercenary fleet...  Yeah.  The author clearly thought her OC was awesome, and was so, so, wrong.

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...I believe it was Death's Angel by Kathleen Sky (married to Stephen Goldin at the time, so half-point for memory to me).

Kirk actually proposes to the Sue, who has psychic powers both of which are classic Sue plot points...
« Last Edit: February 19, 2016, 11:18:26 PM by BUncle »

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At any rate, when I'm scrolling through for something to read on fanfiction.net, if I see too much about an OC in the description, especially if an unfamiliar name is the first one mentioned, I've learned to automatically keep going.  It's a pet character I won't like as much as the kid who came up with it, and I won't like the story.

Something to keep in mind.

 

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