What's Wrong with this Picture?
So, every Friday (because those are the days that I'll have the most time) I'll post something about writing - usually about something that I've come across in during my readings. This means, I'll tell you what I think you shouldn't be doing and why. Here we go.
Introduction/Prologue/Whatever you want to call it: First of all, if you're introduction isn't significantly different or separate from your first chapter, don't separate it; it makes the beginning choppy. For example:
Anika stared at her surroundings in fear. She had never seen a place like this. The trees were immense and glowed silver in the light. She winced when she stumbled over a root, barely escaping a fall. Her head ached and she hadn't been able to stem the bleeding.
Stay awake, she thought to herself. Stay. Awake!
But it wasn't long before she found a seat on a large, protruding root. Soon after, her eyes closed and she fell asleep.
When she woke up, night had fallen and a light rain had started to fall.
Now, what was the point separating the introduction from the first chapter. Chapter one was a direct continuance of the introduction and the break only served to make the reading choppy. Instead, if you need a break between the two, use a line break. Clean and simple.
Commas are your friend...sometimes: Commas really help out when writing. They prevent you from sounding long winded and stupid. Learn them. Love them. Use them. But not too much! If you don't know whether or not to use commas follow this simple rule: Write first, comma later. Read the chapter once you're done out loud to yourself, and if you need a comma, use it.
Voice: I cannot stress enough how important the voice of your story is. The character whose point of view the story is told should come through in the narration. If the character is a thirty year old teacher, I want to be able to tell that she is an adult, a professional and not a snotty teenager. Really. It's important.
"You guys!" she yelled into the dark. "Stop it! This is so not funny! I'm really scared!" She crossed her arms over her chest and scowled. This was so ridiculous. She was alone, cold and could be concussed. And no one cared? They were just going to leave her by herself? Like this? What was she gonna do?
How old do you think Anika is? Fourteen? Fifteen? Maybe seventeen? No. She's thirty years old. But you can't tell at all by the voice that comes through the writing. She sounds like a terrified teenager whose friends routinely prank her. How many thirty year old women do you know who have friends that prank them by knocking them unconscious and dragging them to the woods? The language that you use in your story needs to reflect that of the character - if she's sophisticated, kind, intelligent - all of that needs to come through when you're telling your story.
Consistency: Also, keep the voice constant. Don't start with the voice of a tween and suddenly decide to switch to the voice of an adult. Your characters should be so vivid and well thought out that they have a personality and that personality should continuously come through the writing. If you're changing voices sporadically it means that your character lacks some depth and you don't know who they are yet. Understanding your character, their traits, desires, motivation, etc is very important to having a fluid, engaging and believable story (in relation to the fandom of course). In addition to that, keep the tense the same. If you're using past tense, stick with it. The same goes for present, future, first person, third person, limited and omniscient. Don't do this:
Anika's legs trembled violently. I do not know what I'm going to do. She swallows thickly and closed her eyes.
Okay, what the hell just happened? I went from third person past tense, to first person present tense to third person present tense. Pick a tense and point of view and stick to it. It maintains fluidity and consistency in your story. Okay? Thanks.
Canon: The world created by J.R.R. Tolkien is fantastic, amazing and sacred. Unfortunately, a lot of writers don't understand that when you intend to use creative material that does not belong to you you are expected to respect it. At least a little bit. The term fanfiction implies fiction written by fans. It does not translate to 'I can do whatever the hell I want with your story.' If you choose to write in a certain fandom you are expected to be familiar with the material. Don't read a few fanfictions, call yourself an expert and then be super shocked/surprised/enraged when loyalists rip your 'baby' to pieces. Do your research, google, library, forums - your resources are limitless. Don't be lazy.
Thank you all for reading! If you have any suggestions about what you want to read about next, please let me know! Feel free to comment.