View Full Version : The Fanfiction Forum E-zine ~ October 2007

1st October 2007, 02:22 AM
The Fanfiction Forum E-zine

October 2007

Table of contents

Editor's words

Conversation with the Stars – Crystal Tears
Lady Vulpix

Conversations with the Stars (Golden Pens Edition #2) – Dragonfree

Faces of Evil – Six Villainous Archetype
Dark Sage

The Art of the Heroic Ending
Master of Paradox

Editor's words

(College. Exam. Broken laptop. Incoherence.)

What is the state of the forum, you ask? Answer: not Florida (no offense to the Floridian though).

Right, aside from that nonsense… September had been a good month for fanfic. Well, maybe a bit lacking of any major event, but it’s a good month nevertheless. The usually quiet Writer’s Lounge begins to pick up activity, as fellow fanficcers begin to discuss on various writing-related problems: from motivation to finding the time to write. Also, while we’re at it, I would like to promote the usage of the fanfiction synopsis thread: a useful topic, especially to those newcomers whose fic(s) needs a good exposure – and not to mention the only place you can openly advertise your fic. Use it well! [/not so subtle prodding]

And the result of the August Writing contest is just in! Congratulation to Weasel Overlord who went home first place, and

I would like to thank Lady Vulpix, mistysakura, Dark Sage, and Master of Paradox for contributing the article for this month’s issue; this E-zine would not be possible without your contributions.

Lastly, I would like to wish a happy Ramadan to all the Muslims out there.

Enjoy the E-zine, and happy reading.


Conversation with the Stars – Crystal Tears
Lady Vulpix

Lady Vulpix: We start with the obligatory question. How long have you been writing?
Crystal Tears: 4 years probably.
Lady Vulpix: What kind of writings did you start with?
Crystal Tears: I started with short stories mostly, I didn't have the attention span to write anything longer.
Lady Vulpix: And how did you decide to start posting your work online?
Crystal Tears: I honestly wanted more opinions. I kept getting 'this is great!' from my friends, and I needed something more concrete. Online was the perfect solution, though I adore my friends' compliments and such, receiving advice on how to improve was what I needed.
Lady Vulpix: And did it work?
Crystal Tears: Yes, I always had one reader who would tell me how to get better. So I ended up getting the best of both worlds: compliments and criticism. I improved while keeping my confidence, which was ideal.
Lady Vulpix: :) So... how do/did you choose the subject to write about?
Crystal Tears: This might be stupid question but what do you mean by subject? Like Genre or Topic like 'Final Fantasy' Or both?
Lady Vulpix: Both.
Lady Vulpix: And it's not a stupid question, I was vague.
Crystal Tears: Oh well, that's quite easy. I *adore* dragons, so I usually pick Fantasy as my genre so I can include at least one. Another bonus with Fantasy is that you can literally create a world or your own and create any sort of creature, and no one can tell you you're wrong. For topics well, I'll most likely pick my favourite game as a setting.
Crystal Tears: Especially Final Fantasy, that entire universe has a lot of unique creatures and still leaves you room to create your own. So I'll usually pick a genre or topic that gives me a lot of freedom.
Lady Vulpix: I can relate.
Lady Vulpix: And I think you're quite good at adding depth and originality to the worlds you choose. Do you have some kind of method, or do you just write whatever comes to your mind?
Crystal Tears: Thank you! I just write that comes to mind usually. People always say I'm such a daydreamer and have a wild imagination, I suppose that infects the worlds I choose.
Lady Vulpix: ^_^
Lady Vulpix: You said you liked improving yourself. How has your writing evolved since you began?
Crystal Tears: Grammar is a major factor. I don't know how good I am now, but it was a lot worse when I first started. I had teachers and parents all over me trying to explain to me the importance of a period. My description has improved drastically too, now if it doesn't have enough it drives me mad.
Crystal Tears: And finally; characters. They actually seem to be believable and have flaws instead of being these happy, perfect people.
Lady Vulpix: That's a lot. And I think yours is a good attitude, many writers feel discouraged when they can't get something right in the first few tries. Have you ever doubted that you could make it?
Crystal Tears: Yeah, to be completely honest, that happens a lot. Thing is, anytime that ever happened; I'd start daydreaming again, and even if I was down on my luck, I'd unintentionally begin writing. On the computer, notepad, homework... It always got me through those times; and inspired me to try again. Even if I wasn't exactly confident in my ability.
Lady Vulpix: What do you find the hardest to write about (because I don't expect the E-Zine readers to have heard you)?
Crystal Tears: Romance! Whether it is the main genre of the story or just a little scene, I can NOT write those sorts of things without going: "ARGH, IT DOESN'T WORK!!"
Lady Vulpix: Do you find romance scenes hard to get involved in when you read too, or are they only an obstacle when you're writing?
Crystal Tears: Only when I'm writing them it seems.
Lady Vulpix: Then I think it's bound to get better.
Lady Vulpix: What kind of things do you like reading?
Crystal Tears: I don't really like to read all that often... Though usually when I read I like something that's dark, and has a lot to do with Sci Fi's space adventures and such (Aliens, Jedi, Spaceships...). I hardly ever read anything to do with Fantasy, which is sort of odd.
Lady Vulpix: Why not?
Crystal Tears: I don't know really, I usually find it moves to slow or the characters seem unreal. Past thing I really don't have an explanation. There are exceptions of course, but mostly I avoid reading Fantasy, or reading in general.
Lady Vulpix: I see. So how do you get your inspiration? What sets your imagination to flight?
Crystal Tears: Nothing really, I can be sitting in a car staring out the window and suddenly I'll be off in my own world. In class I'll daydream and there I am again, off in my little adventure. I don't really need inspiration, though it usually helps. I can be inspired by a song, in fact, if I'm listening to music in class, in the car, lying in bed etc.
Crystal Tears: My imagination gets a boost and suddenly the idea and setting become much clearer. Even so, its like my imagination is constantly going no matter what has happened in the day.
Lady Vulpix: Okay, then. Do you have any words of advice for other writers or readers?
Crystal Tears: Whatever you can imagine, can happen. Never put a limit on your imagination, it's your best friend when writing anything.
Lady Vulpix: Thank you. :)
Crystal Tears: No problem ^-^
Crystal Tears: And thanks for the Interview!
Lady Vulpix: No problem here either. :)

Conversations with the Stars (Golden Pens Edition #2) – Dragonfree

Thanks for joining us today, Dragonfree! So how long have you been writing?

I've been writing since... I learned to write, more or less. I remember the first story I wrote for school in second grade, which was about a white horse named Faxi (all my stories were) who was found by some random princess. Then I wrote a series of stories about another horse named Faxi in a couple of notebooks, and continued to write stories about horses named Faxi when I learned to type. And I've basically loved writing ever since.

Hehe, I love looking back on childhood stories.

x3 Me too. A couple of years back I rediscovered the stories I wrote into those notebooks and the very first story I typed on the computer; they were buried somewhere at the bottom of a drawer. I got a good laugh out of them...

And when did you start getting into fanfiction?

I think the first time ever I thought of writing fanfiction was actually sometime when my brother had been playing WarCraft II with me watching (I liked to do that) and I randomly wanted to make a story about some random kid bamfing into the WarCraft universe while playing the game. I never wrote that, though. The first actual piece of fanfiction I wrote was when I suddenly thought, after being a Pokémon fan for around a year and a half, "Hey! I can write a story about Pokémon!" For some reason, I thought I was the first person ever to think of that. And from that came Molzapart and Rainteicune, my hilariously bad essay-story about my lame ultra-powerful fake legendary hybrids that only really qualified as a story because of all the digressions it made about the life of Ash Ketchum's son Alan.

Well, Molzapart and Rainteicune are sill alive and kicking, I see, as well as Ash and Alan, in the form of characters in The Quest For The Legends. So did the idea for that fic stem from Molzapart and Rainteicune?

Not really. I think it was before Molzapart and Rainteicune that I, having gotten tired of Ash's idiocy at the beginning of the Pokémon animé, decided to create an original character, whose sole purpose for existence was to be a Pokémon trainer who knew "everything" before he started his journey. I didn't actually write anything about him, though. He was called Mike at the time, but then I read my first other piece of Pokémon fanfiction, and incidentally its main character was also called Mike, so I changed it to the next best thing (Mark). And then I just started writing some random story about this Mark's Pokémon journey, deciding randomly in the second chapter to cram every stupid fake legendary Pokémon I'd ever created into it, incidentally including Molzapart and Rainteicune. Once I'd put Molzapart and Rainteicune in, I did realize that the stories would end up being linked somehow; I think in the original version, I made Mark read a comment at the end of the book alluding to Alan having told the author of the book about the existence of Molzapart and Rainteicune. Not that that made any sense, but it's how it went.

That's interesting. So original Pokemon have always been central to your fanfiction?

Pretty much. I love making things up, and when I make up fake Pokémon I tend to do so in such excruciating detail that it seems a shame not to use them anywhere. Although I think when I started The Quest for the Legends, I more just wanted to show them off because I couldn't think of anything else to do with them.

Do you find it difficult conveying information about created Pokémon in a fic? I know a lot of people who struggle to help readers visualise made-up Pokémon and stuff like that.

I don't know how well I succeed at it, really, since of course I know perfectly what the fake Pokémon look like. It tends to make me a bit nervous. For example, my fake family of Leta, Letal and Letaligon - they're such utterly abstract creatures that it just doesn't suffice to say something like "a black scorpionlike creature with two yellow spots imitating eyes". That kind of description will give readers at least a basic idea of what my fake Pokémon Scorplack will look like, so I don't feel particularly bad about that. The Leta family, on the other hand, especially the final evolution Letaligon, doesn't resemble any real-world animal and has a design not easily comparable to anything at all, which makes it very difficult to describe. In an emergency, I can always direct confused readers to pictures, although of course that's lazy writing. It's just extremely difficult to figure out how to let people visualize something like that without spending chunky paragraphs describing it. In any case, I've personally found that I'm every bit as lost as to the appearance of a fake Pokémon after a chunky paragraph of description as before it if said chunky paragraph doesn't just state it looked somewhat like something in the real world, which makes it even worse.

Mm, I guess that's a problem with all description though; it's always going to be indirect compared with a picture.

Yeah. This is the main problem with fake Pokémon, I think; you've got a very clear image of it in your head and want to make the reader see it as you see it, but it's just so difficult to do this with words alone. There's no way to make a reader think exactly what you're thinking without providing a visual image of it.

But I guess the flip side to that is that the reader is creating their own impression of the Pokémon, creating something new. On a semi-related note, I've noticed that all Pokémon characters in your fics don't just play peripheral roles, but have well-developed personalities that influence the plot. Was that a conscious decision throughout your fics?

Not really at first. The little we saw of Pokémon actually doing anything in Molzapart and Rainteicune was absolutely personalityless, but then again there wasn't exactly any characterization at all in that thing. In the original version of The Quest for the Legends, I also did not translate the Pokémon dialogue. There was an awkward conversation between Mark and Charmander in the first chapter of that, in which Charmander spoke in "Char char mander char" and Mark basically repeated what he had said to make the reader understand ("Your trainer abandoned you? Why?"). Originally this was because I needed to explain why Charmander was there, since a point was made of the lack of wild Pokémon around the town. However, in chapter eleven (equivalent to what is now chapter ten), there was a scene in which Mark conversed with the Scyther that would later be his, and incidentally this was a scene I prepared months in advance and had realized would look absolutely ridiculous if it were formatted like that,. So instead I resorted to putting an author's note above that scene saying, "In the following conversation, all Pokémon speech will be translated to English." Scyther was the first Pokémon character I wrote with any hint of a proper personality, and in fact I fell in love with him in that scene, which prompted me to make the spur-of-the-moment decision to have him join Mark. This is one of the most important moments in the history of that story and in fact my fanfiction writing in general, since Scyther immediately got into a rivalry with Charmeleon, which sprouted more Pokémon-dialogue scenes and made them more important characters, and in the end I just decided I'd always translate Pokémon speech directly to English instead of bothering with the notes. And since at this point the Pokémon became true speaking characters, they started to become more alive in my mind and gain more of a personality. In turn this shaped my general opinion that trainer fics ought to make the Pokémon solid characters instead of the equipment for the trainer they tend to be written as. But yeah, that made me very fond of developing Pokémon characters, and I've kind of done that ever since. And since all my other stories besides Molzapart and Rainteicune were started after that point, that means all of them.

I'm sure many trainer fic writers would agree with you on that one (that Pokémon ought to be proper characters). Now earlier you mentioned that you made the spur-of-the-moment decision to have Scyther join Mark. So how much of your fics is planned out, and how much happens spontaneously?

It varies. For the most part I have a rough idea of the plot when I begin but make up the details as I go along. The Quest for the Legends, however, is an exception, since I had no clue what I was doing when I first started it. The basic way its plot came to be was that I knew this kid called Mark was going on a Pokémon journey. I planned out the Pokémon he was going to have on his team (although Scyther was not in the plan) and then the names, hometowns and Pokémon of the Gym leaders (amusingly, this was in the G/S/C era, and I've kept to this plan; I don't think any readers have really noticed it without having it pointed out to them, but none of the Gym leaders have any Pokémon from the third generation). Then I just started writing, making things up as I went along, and incidentally made them so badly that I left plot holes all over the place, characters who reeked of mystery even though I had no idea what their big secret was at the time, and other such messy evidence of my lack of experience. Then it was much later that I started to figure out the plot, and in a way it's been kind of like a huge detective story for me: I've had to figure out all the mysteries and motivations for myself, and miraculously have now (just recently) managed to work the entire thing out so that it makes a very surprising amount of sense. In a way you could say that The Quest for the Legends is planned backwards. Well, largely, anyway. There are also parts I plan before I write them, mostly those that end up being my favorite chapters. (Then again, I tend to find mysteries in those later and in turn explain them)

That's great for you and the story. Has this 'backwards planning' influenced how you approach writing the story? Sorry, actually that sounds a bit vague. For example, has it been a factor in your numerous rewrites?

Oh, yes, very much so. It is a big problem in that story how late the plot starts. There is basically no sign of the actual core plot until chapter twenty-five. Which was originally, of course, because I hadn't thought of it until then. (Or well, I thought of it quite a bit earlier, since it was one of those chapters I planned in advance, but first I had to get the characters to the right location.) So in the first really major revision, the HMMRCIG, I added a prologue to slightly hint at this. And in the next major revision after that, I'm adding in more foreshadowing and such to make that sudden plot point seem less random.

Looking back on it, do you think it would have been easier to have a rough idea of the plot first, like in your other fics? Or did the spontaneity and mystery finding add to the fic?

I think it added to it, in the end. In a way it's what's saved that story. One of my weakest points in writing is that I seem to be incapable of planning out a plot that properly unfolds itself over time and has mystery to it; the only serious non-Pokémon story I've ever written that I actually finished (admittedly I was ten or eleven at the time, but hey) was about four pages long. And that was a plot that most decent writers could have made into something fairly epic. I just couldn't wait to get to the point because I already knew what the point was. In The Quest for the Legends, there initially was no point, and this allowed me to really settle down, take it slow and allow some subplots and characters to develop. It's also resulted in a more complex plot than I'd otherwise have managed - it's kind of like reading a really ingenius whodunnit, figuring out the murderer in the end and realizing you never could have thought of a plot like that. Except that here it's me who wrote the whodunnit and didn't know who the murderer was when I did. It's like I'm picking up hints from my subconscious that allow the plot to become more extensive than otherwise.

On a different note, aside from The Quest of the Legends, you're also working on Morphic at the moment, yes? How is that (and anything else you might be working on) going?

Chapter six of Morphic is in progress, but I've only written about half a page right now (I know the basic stuff that's going to happen in it, though, so it's more just a matter of sitting down and writing it). Morphic, by the way, is one of those stories I prepared the basic plot for beforehand, and I really don't see it ever becoming very long. Maybe twenty chapters at the most. Then I'm right now writing a one-shot for a contest at another forum, which I'm not sure how will turn out. It's about a Ponyta trying to escape from a Scyther looking to eat her. Morbid, I know. And I'm also preparing the story I'm going to write for NaNoWriMo, which is a kind of sequel to Scyther's Story (what I did last year). Actually, I've recently been writing a bunch of one-shots about minor characters from The Quest for the Legends, expanding on their ideas and motives. Many of them are extremely spoilery, though, since they involve the events of the last few chapters of that story. So those aren't going to be posted anywhere.

How did you find NaNoWriMo, by the way?

Well, NaNoWriMo does one thing which is very important for people like me who tend to write very slowly: it makes you go ahead and just write. You actually get things done, which is a wonderful feeling when you're nagged by constant guilt for not updating your fics often enough. But the 50,000 mark can be devilishly hard to reach for me (again, it's my problem with fleshing my plots out enough). Just to take Scyther's Story, I don't think I'd ever have written that in full if not for NaNoWriMo.

I reckon it's important not to flesh out writing just for the sake of it though.

Well, obviously.

Were you happy with the finished product?

I was more thinking in terms of having something more to it than "conflict introduced, climax, end", which is my main problem.

Mm, introducing a bit more complexity.

I was rather happy with Scyther's Story, yes. Of course it was rushed and of course many bits could have been worded better, but really, on the whole it was surprisingly good considering what a short time it took. I retouched it after the actual event, of course, and worded some things better, added in sentences where appropriate, etc. I think it's because in actuality I only write slowly because I'm too addicted to the Internet to really spend enough of my time writing. When I'm really in the mood, I can churn out entire chapters in a couple of days, while most of the wait between chapters consists of me waiting to get in that perfect mood. My writing is a lot better when I'm in a perfect mood, yes, but it's still annoying to never get it done. And by forcing yourself to write, you can sort of get yourself in the mood for it. Parts of it will always be awkward, but it's not as bad as it sounds at first.

I don't know, I keep thinking, "but I like writing! So why can I never get around to actually doing it?" It's weird.

Yeah, I'm much like that too. I love writing, but I still spend most of my day refreshing all the forums I'm on. It can be very frustrating. Maybe I should take up a rule like "Every night from nine to ten, sit down and do nothing but write" or something like that...

That's an idea. Good luck with it! Well, thanks for joining us today, I really enjoyed reading all your responses (which are making this interview grow to monstrous proportions).

x3 Sorry about that. I enjoyed the questions as well (and the rambling. I like rambling too much.)

It's okay, it makes for interesting reading.


Faces of Evil – Six Villainous Archetype
Dark Sage

For as long as there have been heroes, there have been villains.

It is unavoidable. In any work of fiction, let alone a fanfiction, something must oppose the hero. And when writing a fanfiction, creating a believable villain might be even harder than creating the hero.

What makes a villain tick? Well, there are several kinds of villains, each one with their own MOs and motivations. Deciding on the right type of villain can do much to define your fanfic.

In this article, I’ve outlines several villainous archetypes, and given some hints towards how they’re run. Choose the right one wisely, because a story rarely has more than one villain.

The Psychopath: This is, unfortunately, the most common type of villain these days; the type that is defined by evil for evil’s sake. The Psychopath is a cruel tyrant, motivated by power or a desire for revenge. He uses overwhelming force to crush his foes, not caring in the least for subtlety.

These villains might be sadists, or even worse, sadio-masochists. A sadist doesn’t like to be hurt himself. A sadio-masochist doesn’t care whether he’s hurt, so long as he hurts his foes just as bad.

Unfortunately for the Psychopath, he has the most weaknesses of any villain. This is the sort of villain who will spend too much time gloating, giving the hero a chance to recover. This is also the type of villain who has a huge ego, always underestimating his opponents and overestimating his own strength. Finally, this type of villain has few or no allies, being forced to work alone most of the time.

Marik was a good example of this type of villain, after his evil side took over. All the indications were there that indicated this type of archetype.

The Tempter: What is worse: A villain who wants to kill you, or one who wants you to join him? Some villains, like Emperor Palpatine, are honey-tongued and seductive, whispering tantalizing promises to their enemies in attempts to corrupt them towards evil. Should a hero believe these lies, a horrible thing has occurred; not only has Evil recruited a new member, but Good has lost one.

Tempters have a variety of methods. Some work quickly, others at a slow pace. Most villains of this type don’t need to tempt very often; perhaps only a few times in their career. But should they succeed even once, it might be enough.

The Deluded: Some villains don’t regard themselves as evil. Or at least only evil because evil must be committed to achieve a greater good. A would-be world conqueror might think that the world would truly be a better place under his rule; he will argue that his world would have no war, crime, or strife. If free will has to be sacrificed, he thinks that’s a necessary sacrifice.

The past of a villain like this is more often than not, tragic. He was usually wronged in the past by some system that soured his outlook, and made him think that the system doesn’t work. He’ll refuse to believe that there are any truly good systems in the world, thinking that only he can change humanity. Of course, his brand of justice only brings more injustice – the deaths that result in his actions will bring the heroes running to stop him.

Comic book fans will recognize Magneto as this type of villain, a powerful mutant who sees himself as a savior for other mutants. But few would argue that Magneto’s crimes are inexcusable, and his plans must be hindered.

The Sophisticate: This type of villain is the type that no-one suspects. He works on a very high level, and is well-known to the public. He’s rich, influential, and respected, often holding a very high-level job in government, business, or the media. Exactly why he opposes the heroes is one of a variety of reasons. Some folks in this position are so spoiled, they want everything, and use whatever means they have, no matter how immoral, to get it.

This type of villain doesn’t seem evil when you’re around him. He’s often polite, if not downright charming. One who’s younger may be a ladies man (a good plot twist if one of the heroes in a story is an attractive young woman). Deception is often a tool of these villains. Most honest members of high society would never suspect them of evil plans.

Fighting this sort of villain is difficult. They are usually incredibly rich, and can afford to hire wave after wave of henchmen to oppose the heroes. They can also afford the best weapons for use in criminal schemes. Even if the heroes can pin something on them, they often are able to use another potent weapon to make sure they aren’t punished – their lawyers. Spider-Man and Daredevil fought this type of villain all the time, and doing so was often frustrating – the villains’ henchmen were always apprehended, but the big fish got off scott-free.

Fans of Pokemon can place Giovanni in this category. He doesn’t see much screen time, but he is the quintessential boss-villain lurking in his ivory tower who is unreachable most of the time.

The Obsessed: The Vulcan Mr. Spock once told his friend James Kirk that obsession was the human condition that he found the hardest to understand, and this type of villain is very hard to understand. This type of villain has one goal, but it isn’t a simple one like world domination or revenge. A hole exists deep inside the villain that pains him, and he feels that he can only heal it by achieving this goal. He might want to find someone, win someone’s love, win a birthright that he believes is his, or some other personal matter. He thinks he will be happy once he succeeds – whether or not he is correct, that he may never know.

The villain will never accept that he cannot have what he wants. To get it, he will do anything – hurt anyone, commit any crime. And anyone who stands in his way is in danger. The villain truly becomes dangerous if his goal is truly impossible to achieve. His anger and obsession grows as he puts all his resources towards a goal that he can never obtain.

Yubel (the villain of the third season of GX) is an example of an Obsessed villain. Her goal is to win back Jaden, whom she still dearly loves, even though he abandoned her years ago. In her attempts to get him back, she has committed several murders, betrayed everyone who has willingly helped her, and threatened to turn the dimensions upside-down. It would be wrong to show any sympathy to her or any other Obsessed villain – evil still darkens their hearts, and they commit atrocious acts in order to achieve their goals.

The Intellectual: Finally, we get to, possibly, the most dangerous type of villain – the type who actually has some brains. Some villains aren’t egotists or megalomaniacs… They’re clever, calculating geniuses, who learn from the mistakes of other villains. They may possess some pride and vanity (one of Dr. Doom’s main weaknesses), but they are hard to defeat, because they tend to be smarter than the average madman.

The Intellectual often has a sense of honor, and maybe even a few morals. This type of villain would likely find Marik as despicable as the heroes would. The Intellectual never tortures a victim for fun – in addition to being cruel, that’s an unnecessary waste of resources and he knows it. He always has a reason for killing someone (even if it’s a poor reason).

For a good example of this type of villain, look no further than Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Anthony Hopkins won a Best Actor Oscar for playing him, and with good reason. The cold, calculating Lecter was able to move the other players of the story around like pieces on a chessboard, and was able to use his psychiatric skills to peer into the heroine’s mind, learning more about her than she ever could hope to learn about him. Lecter was so clever, in fact, that at the end of the second movie, he managed to escape capture by the law, although he had to chop off his hand to do so. When Hopkins was asked his opinion of where the notorious doctor was right now, the actor said he was likely in some tropical paradise, drinking cocktails and enjoying a long-awaited retirement.

Of course, these are just six possibilities. A good villain should be like a good hero – unique. Think up a villain that best suits your story, and hopefully, he’ll be the type that your readers will love to hate.

The Art of the Heroic Ending
Master of Paradox

Every story has a weakness, a weakness that is all but universal in the artform: once you begin reading a story, you are fairly certain you know how it will end. The details are different from tale to tale, but most of the time - let us say 70% or so - you can be certain of one thing:

The hero wins. The hero always wins. No matter what obstacles he or she will face, they will ultimately triumph. The villain will fall in the final battle, and the world will know peace once more.

And that raises a question that must be answered in order for the story to be anything more than another generic scrawl: how do you have the hero win and make it interesting? Or for that matter, readable?

Of course, the obvious answer is "The hero doesn't always have to win". But in fanfiction, it's never that easy. Fanfiction, for whatever reason (possibly its derivative nature), tends to stick rather tightly to Joseph Campbell's theory of the monomyth - and the hero of a monomyth always wins.

So let us turn ourselves, then, to answering the question I have posed: How can a hero win - and the readers know he is going to win - and the story still be entertaining?


The primary sin in art is causing boredom. If the hero is going to win without so much as expending any effort, then why in the names of all the forgotten gods are you bothering to read the story? Or for that matter, bothering to write it? No quest should ever be without peril, and no journey should ever be without danger. Otherwise, they don't earn the names of "quest" or "journey" - they become romps.

If you want to make the hero's ultimate victory worth the bother of reading to, then make sure they have to work for it. Success is only more interesting than failure when it comes with considerable work and effort. Throw obstacles in his way every time he so much as turns his head, and then have him fight his way through them. (Sneaking past them is acceptable if it's just as much hassle as fighting through.) If there's a mountain, put him at the bottom and the next goal at the top. And then send an avalanche his way.

You may think this is being cruel to the characters in question. It is. That's the point. You cannot take on the mantle of a writer without a touch of sadistic tendencies. The job of the writer is to do very unpleasant things to their heroes and watch the heroes struggle out of them.

But there is another caveat - make sure there's a reason all these terrible things are happening to the hero. If random event after random event gets in his way, it's less a story and more "The Needless Torment of X". Would Lord of the Rings be as interesting if the ring just caused random unpleasantness to Frodo, rather than the unpleasantness being Sauron's work?


Think about it: whatever is happening in your story is likely the biggest event in your hero's life up to that point. Life has just gotten a hell of a lot more interesting. If I woke up tomorrow morning and found myself hauled along to battle the King of the Demons, I would likely die ten seconds in... but assuming I survived, I would never be the same man again.

And therein lies the rub. If the story is the biggest event in your hero's current life, then show us that. (If it's not, to borrow a phrase from David Gerrold, then why are you telling us about it?) Show the readers what marks this will leave in your hero for the rest of his existence. Make sure that he or she will never be the same person ever again.

Nothing - nothing - is more boring than a hero who never changes over the course of the adventure. It becomes obvious that they were never characters to begin with, instead being just racks for traits to be hung on. Keep this in the forefront of your mind: unchanging perfection is the hallmark of Mary Sue.

How, specifically, the characters change is entirely up to what they have experienced and who they were before. Here I cannot help you. Make sure, however, that the changes are justified by what has happened to them. A character who has fought an army of the dead entirely by themselves may become driven by battle, seeking ever-greater opponents, or they may renounce combat entirely and take up a path of nonviolence. It isn't likely to change their choice of hobbies, though, unless it's completely transformed them (which, to be frank, it likely has).

Speaking of...


The author of a story is not likely to grab a sword and fight the Horde. There are no evil sorcerors, tormented ghosts, or psychic lunatics in his or her immediate future (sad as that is). He or she is not about to see a spaceship land in the backyard and get drawn into a fight for the future of another planet.

Their protagonist, on the other hand, is in the thick of all of that. So what do they think about it?

One reason some stories collapse is because the hero just doesn't seem to care about what they're doing. Their quest means nothing special to them (even though, as noted above, it is one of the biggest facets of their life); they just coast along to the ending like they do this every day. But that usually isn't the case, and it shouldn't feel like it.

One definition of a protagonist is the character whose head the reader shares for most of the story. So what does he or she think about all of this? Do they think they stand a chance? Do they think they're going to die? Step into your hero/heroine's head for a moment and ask "Do you believe your victory is inevitable?" Then tell us what their answer was.

Of course, sometimes, the hero really does do this sort of thing every day. The battle-hardened soldier, the gun-for-hire, the bounty hunter... Sometimes victory is inevitable because it's come a hundred times. In that case, though, make that clear through the character's actions and words - spending a lifetime doing the impossible and being dragged into the first quest of your career leads to very different reactions.


In my previous article, the Yu-Gi-Oh Fanfiction Glossary, there is a term: "Invincible Yugi Syndrome". This is where a hero never loses a single duel over the course of the story, even ones that have absolutely no bearing on the plot. It's never used in a positive sense - it indicates that the author was too wrapped up in their hero's "hero-ness" to dare mar their Win-Loss record.

Remember this - every journey consists of a thousand lesser events. The hero will battle a thousand enemies and cross a thousand streams. If you're doing it right, none of those battles will be easy. And if you want to make it clear just how hard this is, make it so that not all of those battles end in the hero's favor.

Defeat does not have to mean the hero dies (regardless of what Dragonball Z may have taught you), or for that matter that anyone on his or her party meets their maker. However, it should cause one or more of the protagonist's major goals to become forestalled, more difficult to reach, or (in truly painful defeats) unattainable. A minor, meaningless defeat will serve only to irritate the readers; indeed, they may see it as a blatant attempt to make the protagonist more sympathetic.

Note, however, that a hero can win every fight without the story falling victim to Invincible Yugi Syndrome. The method is quite simple: remember the first point and don't make it easy.


I call this "The Touch Factor". The term comes from a scene in the 1980s-era Transformers movie: Hot Rod is trapped inside the giant, planet-devouring robot Unicron. He's exhausted and has only one option left - open the Matrix of Leadership, which he's hauled around most of the movie without any idea what use it is. After all, Ultra Magnus, his mentor, tried to use it earlier and failed... causing his death. But now there are no other options.

Lifting the Matrix of Leadership over his head, Hot Rod shouts, "Till all are one!" That's when the Stan Bush song "The Touch" starts up on the soundtrack, and the Matrix slides open... Now, "The Touch" is an abysmally silly song if you read the lyrics. It's the sort of thing that '80s movies used to play over training montages. But in that scene, at that moment, it had awesome power, granting strength to the hero's final triumph.

The Touch Factor is essential for making the hero's inevitable victory work. Reread the scene of that final battle in your story, the final showdown between hero and villain. Try to find the emotions inside of it, and if they're lacking, bring them to the surface. This is the last round, after all - why on Earth would you hold back?

Part of why I personally loathe Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is that lack of the Touch Factor. Voldemort's death is buried in the middle of a paragraph, and described with all of the emotional impact of finding a penny on the sidewalk. What the hell was Rowling thinking? After seven books, such lazy work is a crushing disappointment. Compare to the final battle between Garion and Torak in David Edding's Enchanter's End Game, where the Touch Factor resonates throughout.

Whatever you do with your final battle - and there are a thousand ways to do it at the least - do not neglect the Touch Factor, or your readers will hate you for the rest of your career.

1st October 2007, 04:44 PM
What a great artical! ^.^ *bounces up and down* It didn't get my massive Halloween thing up this year, to much went on during crunch time, so I'm very very happy with the villian thing! A good dose of scary..stuff! ^_^ Everything is so professional looking ^_^

Dark Sage
1st October 2007, 04:54 PM
Thanks, HL.

I loved it too. I was glad to see that my article was not edited at all. Master of Paradox's article was clever as well. Writing an ending for a story is much harder than writing the beginning. (I once recall something in Lewis Carroll's biography saying that he wrote the ending of The Hunting of the Snark first, before writing any other part of it... But then again, he was a little eccentric.)

In all, not a bad issue.

Lady Vulpix
1st October 2007, 06:18 PM
Wow, 2 interviews, one article about villains and one about heroes! This is quite an unusual edition of the E-Zine.

I think those two articles may be quite useful to new writers. Especially MoP's. I agree with Dark Sage's last line in that each villain (each character in general) should be unique. It's easy to fall into stereotypes, but I think it's best to avoid them.

Gavin Luper
2nd October 2007, 03:04 AM
Having 2 interviews in this issue worked pretty well, I think, because they were both different and very thorough. I enjoyed all the articles - the discussions of heroes and villains are going to be useful reference points for me in my fic-writing, I think, because they were well written and pretty comprehensive. I liked the interview with Dragonfree, too, because I could relate to a lot of those issues of planning a fic.

Great job to all the contributors this month, and well done to Faiz for editing another great edition!

2nd October 2007, 06:20 AM
Wow that interview looks so long. It was fun though. I liked Crystal Tera's interview; can certainly relate to not being able to write romance, and I love your enthusiasm for creating stuff. Nice analysis of villain types by Dark Sage; I don't think it's necessary to completely remove a villain from these types for them to be original though. They're kinda like personality types. Everyone idenitfies with some characteristics in some types and it's the combination and how the characteristics are brought out that makes things interesting. And I can't agree more with Master of Paradox's article. I was actually thinking that Harry Potter was a great example for 'What does the hero think?'; very few authors go in depth abot the hero's thoughts on being a 'hero' like Rowling does. I agree that Voldemort's death could have been more dramatic though. Thanks to Faiz for putting it together and shamelessly advertising the synopsis topic (the irony).

Lady Vulpix
2nd October 2007, 06:24 AM
Advertising a place for advertising? I don't think that's irony, but it may be a bit redundant. I think it can be useful, though.

2nd October 2007, 04:32 PM
Yeah, Voldemort's death was tottally lame. Yes, I loved the well done interveiws! ^_^ So cool