I know many of us have seen or have written writer guides ourselves. All of them have something that helps us understand and improve our writing. However, I didn't learn about writing guides when I started out writing. This would explain the crappy stories I did when I was younger. But we all had reached that point in our life. It's just the matter of improving our writing and making it better then the last. I hope that those that read this will reach that stage with experience and a little help of course.
This guide will be about everything in writing, well almost about everything, especially when it comes to cliches.
Clichés - Cliché is when something has been done already and it becomes over used over time. It can be for situations, plot device, figure of speech, objects, signs, and characters and so on. There's nothing wrong with this but it does tend to get annoying when readers can't find new ideas. But that depends on the one that's writing it. And as you read on, you'll see some cliché that are used a lot but I also give a few ideas for you, that can help give them a new twist. Which I hope will be helpful to any writer.
High School AUs - These are fine but after a while it tends to get boring. You may see a lot of them in the anime, Naruto but all it takes is a new twist and you'll get something that stands out.
Ex 1: Instead of a regular high school try something different like a high school where the world believes it is normal but secretly they aren't. The school could be one where they are training the students to become government spies or teach them to master their abilities. Or you could do one where it takes place in the future. You can have flying stakeboards and space shuttles that take you to Mars.
Or if you wish to have a regular high school theme you can always think of things others haven't thought much about.
Ex 2: (Naruto) Get rid of the labels on the characters. You know those, labels of popular, prep, goth, emo etc. That's actually doesn't exist...at least when I went to high school we had none of that. Just focus on the story, about the everyday drama that teenagers go through. Yeah, yeah...it's nothing new but if writer's think a bit more, then they can come up with a new ideas to an old cliché. Just think of things that happen in real life with teenagers. It's really all about asking yourself a 'What if?' question. Such as, what if Sasuke was a lead singer and song writer of a rock band and he needs a tutor for his art class. The reason for him needing a tutor in that class could simply be that he's not that kind of an artist. He just isn't able to express himself in other ways besides music.
There's so many ideas you can think of for AU stories. Such as what if there's a younger character dating an older person? What if the main character was in love with a teacher? What if the teacher has a crush on their student? What if it was another teacher maybe? Or what if one of the characters was in a gang? What if a teacher is blackmailing one of their students to do horrible things? If not, what if it's a student that's blackmailing their teacher? What if the school is slowly being taken over by aliens? It's all about coming up with a different outlook on something already done.
Relation - Sister, brother, cousin, twins, aunt, etc. It's nice when you read stories about a character being related, especially when it interesting for us to see how the other characters react around the new character. But then we start to see that same basic idea in other stories too and then it becomes so boring to read about. But don't worry! There are always ways to make OCs/Reader-inserts and whatnot, being related to a character fun again.
Ex 1: (Yu Yu Hakusho) At times there's a character that is either Yusuke's sister or his cousin. Yusuke is always overused and a nice change would be good. For instance, if the character was someone else's relative, one of a lesser known character. Then it wouldn't be as cliché. Or maybe if one took the cliché idea of being related and turn it in another direction then it'll be even better.
For example; what would happen if the main character fell in love with someone that is related to him? What if he didn't know they were? Or you can have the character as a villain and unaware that they are related. That's basically the trick of turning a cliché into something new and different. You just have to go in another direction, one that many haven't gone in to yet.
Again, the 'What if?', question helps a lot when dealing with clichés.
Mary Sue - Something we all must avoid in our stories. Best thing to do is list flaws, which would give the character a more realistic personality. Having a tragic past or being a bitch and being assertive are not significant flaws or even having a scar either. I've seen many characters that have a horrible past and yet they don't show it affecting them in the future. No one is perfect so there should be no reason that a OC or a Reader-insert is more powerful then the main character. Even then they shouldn't have everyone liking or falling for them in such a short amount of time.
Ex: (Yu-Gi-Oh) In most fics the character either has an ancient past (where they were once a princess, a queen, or a priestess) with their own millennium item. If not, they are some sort of rich person in the present time. Sometimes they have a combination of that all. It's also not surprising when majority of the male characters fight over her for her love. It's also a bonus that she knows how to duel and when she does, she always wins.
It burns the reader's eyes when the character has everything, from great looks to knowing everything and always being the center of attention. I'm not saying that you can't have your Yu-Gi-Oh Original character have an ancient past or anything. Just that you have to be careful and make sure that they aren't perfect. That everything they do, say, and have is there for actual reason. Not just throw in there to make them seem special or because it's convenient.
As for OCs having an ancient past cliche in Yu-Gi-Oh fics. It never hurts to try other things too. Such as maybe have the character remember that in their past life they were a slave, maybe a servant? What if they were a warrior, a solider for the Pharaoh, or an artist, a scribes, a craftmen, fishermen, farmers, or just a peasant? Maybe they don't have a past life, instead they were once a duel monster that somehow became reborn into a human? Or maybe they were once a human but became a duel monster?
Don't be afraid to try something new!
Note: For more information about Mary-Sues...check out my other guide.
Race - A character (preferable a OC or a Reader-insert) being unhuman. It gets tiring when a character is a demon, half demon, vampire, ninja, angel, or a mixture of other things. I hardly see a character that's just human and even when I do see them; they always have some sort of ability that makes them still unhuman. What happen to just being human? A plain no-power human at that? There's nothing wrong with a character being a human. Besides, no one said that a human can't be special without powers. It's all in the matter of your character's personality. It is their personality that can make them special; even if a human may be considered weak they can still be strong too.
Ex: (Yu Yu Hakusho) The character is just a regular human like Keiko and we'll call her Kaza. Now, Kaza's is very stubborn person and doesn't back down even when things get tough. So when she's in a situation that seems hopeless, she begins to give up after a long while of staying strong but changes her mind and holds on. However, others (meaning other humans) may have given up way before. This shows a weakness of just being human but also shows strength because people will admire her spirit. And that trait can be something that attracts people to her, even a villain.
Another thing, don't make your character a different race when no such thing exists in that fandom. It's all right if there's a possibility but not when it's establish that there is nothing like that around. I've read some things that just make me want to fall flat on my face. But I understand that it is fandom and you write what you want to write.
Ex: (Pokemon) The character being a demon when there is no such thing in the show. Even then, the character being a demon didn't make much of a difference because they acted human, looked human and didn't normal human things. They just had the status of a being demon and there was no point in making them one.
Timeline - There shouldn't be an ipods, video games or laptops in a book/anime/game/manga if technology hasn't gotten that far. Do some research before you start adding stuff that you're not sure of. (However, I would understand if an ipod is there because the character may not belong in that world. However, one mustn't forget that it needs recharging so there shouldn't be a reason for it to last so long either.)
Ex: (Naruto) In the Naruto world they have televisions, some machines, communicating earphones and last I remember was a car. But from what we see most of the time, they aren't that advance. Those things are rare and are most likely used for ninja purposes only. So an ipod would be out of place especially for that time. Maybe if it was a bunch of years later then of course it'll be all right. By then, that would have given time for technology to flourish more.
Setting -This may not have as much as a problem with writers but there's no harm in going over it. So depending on the place, a writer must make sure that the things in their story are accurate. For example; when eating food at a restaurant, about 100 years back in China, one should not have Westernized food. When there haven’t been foreigners around for them to trade or have those things.
This requires a bit of research if you're dealing with a place that you don't have much knowledge on.
Names - This is definitely an important and most difficult aspect of character creation. You can't name a character with a name you like or want. Plus, it can't be just anything either.
Ex: (Rurouni Kenshin) All the characters names are Japanese and naming your character with a name like Jessica is out of place. Even more so when the fandom takes place during the early Meiji period...which makes it highly unlikely for an English name like that to appear.
Depending on the fandom, it's understandable if the character isn't Japanese but if they are then that makes the character out of place and unrealistic. Though, if they are half Japanese then it's possible but again it depends on the fandom you are using. After all, you don't want names like Angel, Nikki, Melissa, and Cindy in a world where those names are about likely to turn up as Saitō, claiming he loves bunnies and wearing a tutu.
You also don't want to use a name that might confuse readers. Such as naming your character Megami, which is similar to Megumi. You will most likely confuse the person into thinking you misspell the canon character's name. Another thing is if a story has a lot of character names starting with 'S' or whatever, it'll be difficult to keep up with who is who (even if the names are different). So it's best to keep that in mind when coming up with a name.
Clothing- Be realistic in the clothing you choose for your character. There should be no reason for your character to be dress in something that doesn't exist in that fandom (unless it's part of the plot).
Ex: (Naruto) Even if the style is cool, such as Hot Topic fashions, in Naruto world it's unreal. A complicated outfit with spikes, chains and full of layers isn't good. Each character is dressed for rapid and wide range of movements. Remember you don't want your character to wear stuff that can cause problems, like getting tangled. It should be something that is easy to get into or useful.
Introducing the character - Beginning writers, face the problem of conveying background information or character details to the reader. When they start out, many of them throws it all at the reader in a big, expository lump of facts, that tells them everything.
Readers pick up a story to be entertained, not to be lectured. Nobody likes to be told what to think; like you, readers want to form their own opinions. Whenever possible, show the reader what they need to know about a character or a society or a setting etc.
For example; If a character isn't happy, don't just tell the reader. Let the reader see for themselves. Let them read about the character walking away and leaning against the closed door with tears leaking down their face. Let them read about how they fall to the ground whispering words they heard from the past, which triggers a past memory that makes their pain worst.
It's about leaving it a mystery for the reader and the more they read on, the more they learn about the character. That is what builds up a character into an awesome one. It's the mystery of the character that gives the readers a chance to form an opinion.
If you have to resort to telling, feed it to the reader in manageable bits in the story. At least enough that the reader can't tell it's there.
Point of View (P.O.V.) - refers to the viewpoint from which a story or essay is written. There are three primary points of view - first, second and third.
First Person: First person is written in the point of view of the author. For example, if you are remembering a childhood memory, you would use first person. Pronouns associated with first person include I, me, my, myself, etc.
Second Person: Second person uses the pronoun you. Reader-inserts are written in second person because the author is instructing what you, the reader are doing in the story. This point of view isn't used a lot besides fanfics, personal letters or documents that give specific instructions.
Third Person: This is the preferred point of view for formal and business communications. It helps to make the writing objective by removing personal references. It uses pronouns such as he, she, they, it, etc.
Then there's also Omniscient point of view, which is when the narrator is telling the story. It's all right but with omniscient, the writer leaves nothing to the reader's imagination. It doesn't allow the reader to participate, to experience, but to merely observe. For this reason, while omniscient P.O.V. is a legitimate point of view, it has fallen out of favor with today's readers.
Every scene should have only one P.O.V. character, and everything must be filtered through that P.O.V. character's perceptions. Only the P.O.V. character can know what he or she is thinking (so they can't know what anyone else is thinking and neither can the reader).
For example; the P.O.V. character can't see what's going on behind her or what the person on the other end of the phone line is doing while they are talking, so the reader can't know what's going on in those places, either. Keep that in mind to stay firmly inside your P.O.V. character's head and you'll rarely have trouble with point of view. Of course, it just depends on which one you decide to use and when you do, you stay with it.
Crossovers - Crossovers have got a very bad name due to the sheer number of people writing crappy crossover fics. Some are really bad because they are unrealistic (to a point that the readers figured out that it's just an excuse to get two characters together). These can be tricky and depending on how you serve your story to your readers, it can either be an awesome fic or not at all.
If you decide to do a crossover, the first thing you must do is pick a fandom that you know really well and like. Then it's from that point that you look at other fandoms that can crossover with that fandom. It should also be a fandom that you know really well and like too. The reason for that is because a crossover has to be able to merge decently together. And if you know one fandom and not much on the other one, then creating a reason for the crossover between the two wouldn't work.
The main idea of a crossover is to be able take two fandoms and make them as one. You can't do that without first finding a connection between the two. Something that they have in common. Without that point of similarity, your only hope is to write about a crossover, dealing with a character from 'fandom 1' falling into 'fandom 2' and the plot would be getting them back home. And that plot, while it can be done well, is just another cliché that is just over used too much.
Example of a major cliché: (Yu Yu Hakusho/InuYasha) You see these two crossovers a lot and now they are just getting annoying. And again, the cliché is that the author has Kagome from Inuyasha being paired with Kurama from Yu Yu Hakusho, and they mash the universes together and screw with existing canons simply so they can hook up.
Example of the second major cliché: (Digimon/Pokémon) These two fandoms are different. Digimon involves digital devices and a digital world full of Digimons. In Pokémon it contains all kinds of Pokémon in the world and it also includes Pokémon trainers and Pokémon breeders. As you can see these two fandoms aren't that simple to crossover. The writer would have to keep in mind about Pokémon not existing normally in the Digimon fandom and the same to the other fandom.
No one can just simply put them together. The best thing to do is probably invent a way for them to come together, such as the plot starting in the Digimon fandom. The reason for that is because they use a lot of digital things like the devices. If some sort of problem with them happen like unlocking a new world. This then can lead to the Pokémon world and if the writer wanted too they could have something go wrong like the two worlds coming together. And from there they can start an adventure between the characters and such. Or if the writer wanted to go on another way, then they can have those digi device able to open portals for the characters whenever and just have them explore the Pokémon world and if it ever comes to it they could bring the Pokémon characters into the Digital world. It's all in the matter of finding a way to bring them together. No matter if it's something small like the digi device that opens the door. As long as there's a reasonable explanation and way that they can come together then you're on the right path.
Those two fandoms can work like that but with others, not so much. Like Van Helsing/X-Men. For one thing, Van Hellsing is back in the times where there wasn't much technology. While X-Men takes place in the present where advance technology is increasing greatly. And because of all that time some humans are involving as well. There's not much for those two, to really crossover and if one was to do so it would take away from the other fandom. Maybe if the X-Men people developed a time travel machine but in doing so, what would the point of it be? Van Hellsing deals with vampires, werewolves and other dark creatures. They really aren't people who somehow mutated. And even if an author changes that detail into making that they are, then that would just be taking away from the fandom. Especially if it had been establish that they are the supernatural creatures.
When I was reading some crossovers I've noticed that the most impossible ones were just for laughs. Like what would happen if these characters met one another or if they had to play their roles and so on. But what I'm focusing on is the serious crossovers that have more to it then the impossible crossovers. These have a decent thought up plots that deal with both fandom and make sense.
This brings us to the point that the second major cliché is to have one fandom place and/or experience the other different fandom. Mostly done for the funny impossible crossovers. But really a crossover shouldn't be done for just because one wants too. It should be done because the writer wants to make their plot unique, which would bring two fandoms together perfectly.
Now onto the crossovers that can and do work well together.
(Harry Potter/Supernatural) - These two can work because they both deal with magic, creatures, and things that aren't normal. They both take place in different parts of the world but that's simple to work around because they are in the same time. In Supernatural, the brothers travel all around America and if at some point they have to go to England to chase after a demon they've been looking for, then I'm sure they would do so. And that is one way that the author can bring them to enter the Harry Potter fandom.
(Charmed/Harry Potter) - These two also deal with magic, creatures and of course more magic. At some point in Charmed (forgive me if my memory isn't correct), Paige was a headmaster in a magic school for magical beings. If the writer wanted to, her school could be the magic school in America. And at some point have them learned that there's another magic school in England and so on. This one is pretty easy to crossover and to develop a plot as well.
(Bleach/Harry Potter) - Look below, since I used this as an example of how these two can work.
Here are some crossover clichés that writers should be aware of. They appear a lot, no matter what they are crossover with and these are for specific fandom.
Clichés in Specific Shows:
1. Character(s) is invited to teach at Hogwarts.
2. Character(s) are sent to study at Hogwarts.
Idea: Instead of using these two cliché I would suggest in looking at the two fandoms in a different way to bring them together. Like a problem that affects the both of them. For example, if the fandom is Bleach/Harry Potter what would happen if the Soul Society in England is having problems with strange Hallows and they need assistant from either the Soul Society in America or Japan? From there a writer can decide if they want to bring in a cast of OCs or the cannon characters. Plus, a few other things where all the characters discover that there's another side to the world then they thought. It's not the greatest idea but it's all about trying to look at things in another way. And in doing so a writer can create an original idea for a crossover that may be done a lot.
(????/Lord of the Rings)
1. Character(s) is sent to Middle-earth and becomes part of the Fellowship.
This wraps up the crossover part of this guide. And while I was working on this, I've come to realize that there's one fandom that can crossover with anything. That is Kingdom Hearts. All it takes is a decent plot that brings the two fandoms together.
Reader-insert - Is a story where the reader (the person who's reading it) inserts themselves into the story. These type of stories are sometimes written in 2nd Person Perspective. They sometimes contain blanks such as these _____ or these (y/n) for a reader to insert their name or whatever description the author asks for. Reader-inserts are sometimes called "Insert You".
Ex 1: "(Y/n)! Don't go. I don't want to be alone." your best friend said, walking towards you. You paused, shaking your head, (h/c) hair flying everywhere. "I'm sorry...but you have to face your own fears now." you said, looking over your shoulder. Your (e/c) eyes locking on to hers. "In the end, things will be clearer and you'll be happy again. Just don't forget I'm here, cheering you on."
Ex 2: "_____! Don't go. I don't want to be alone." your best friend said, walking towards you. You paused, shaking your head, _____ hair flying everywhere. "I'm sorry...but you have to face your own fears now." you said, looking over your shoulder. Your _____ eyes locking on to hers. "In the end, things will be clearer and you'll be happy again. Just don't forget I'm here, cheering you on."
However, most prefer the type of reader-inserts that don't contain any of those because it's flows smoothly. I personally like it without the blanks and such because it is distracting when a story has them. It's actually not that hard to write a reader-insert with those. All a writer has to do is avoid details and replace them with something else or not.
Ex 3: "Wait! Don't go. I don't want to be alone." your best friend said, walking towards you. You paused, shaking your head, hair flying everywhere. "I'm sorry...but you have to face your own fears now." you said, looking over your shoulder. Your calm eyes locking on to hers. "In the end, things will be clearer and you'll be happy again. Just don't forget I'm here, cheering you on."
CYOA - This is short for "Choose Your Own Adventure." These are stories that offer the reader at least two options on what the character does next. Sometimes there are more than one option to choose from. But after choosing one option, the reader then jumps to another part of the story to continue on the path that they had decided. Basically the way the story progress and finishes is all based on the reader's decisions.
These do take a long while to be completed but they are more interactive then the Reader-inserts are.
Self-Insert - Where the author places themselves, relatives, friends, or whatever into the story as a new character. These new characters generally look like the author, or the people they are supposed to be. They even have the same name, a nickname or a name that they wish they had for real. Theses Self-insert stories are not to be confused with Reader-insert. Most starting fanfic writers make that mistake and confuse them. Also, self-insert are connected to Mary-Sues because majority of them turn out to be just that. So make sure to know the difference between them and make sure your characters have flaws!
Author's Note - Also known as A/N. These are found before and after a story. With them, the writer can explain something about the story or when they were writing it. Sometimes these notes don't apply to the story at all. But they help to inform the readers of something. Either the writer wasn't feeling well when they were writing it, they apologize for not posting the chapter sooner, or to let the readers know that there will be a lot of flashbacks.
It's usually things like that, that appear in these Author Notes. Now, onto the 'do not' in stories with author notes. Nobody likes to be interrupted when they are reading or watching a movie, that they are very interested in. It completely destroys the mood of whoever is reading. You'll see in the examples below.
Ex 1: (Wrong) "It's so cold." Alice mumble, sliding closer to the fireplace. (A/N: WOO! FIREPLACE!) "I hate it! It reminds me of death...their death."
That author's note was completely inappropriate and sadly there are a few writers that do this. As you can see, that was supposed to be a sad scene but it got interrupted and so the mood pretty much die.
Ex 2: (Wrong) "It's time for you to die!" Oscuro hissed, pulling his arm back for the final strike. (A/N: Oscuro is Spanish for dark. It's a color.) Sam growled, trying to reach his sword but it was too far, and as a last resort, he jumped...
And again, the mood was destroyed. A way to fix this is to simply use the idea of footnotes. With those, a reader can enjoy the story in peace and a writer can still put in any information they feel that a reader might, or might not, want to know.
Ex: (Correct) "It's time for you to die!" Oscuro hissed, pulling his arm back for the final strike.  Sam growled, trying to reach his sword but it was too far, and as a last resort, he jumped...
That is much better because it doesn't break the flow of the story and it allows the readers to keep going without losing their focus. With footnotes, a writer can use them and place any information at the end of the story.
Also, with Author's Note please do keep in mind that it should not be longer than the story/chapter.
I was reminded by my reviewer that sometimes people write a long Author's Note that may or may not have to do with the story and it's longer than what they wrote for the story. Doing that tells your readers that you don't care enough about the story to spend a few more minutes writing a bit more to it because you spent that time in writing up a really long Author's Note.
Another thing that annoys readers is when writers have a page worth of conversation with their muses or the fandom characters in the Author's Note. Sometimes it relates to the story but most of the time it goes off topic and takes up space, especially when the chapter is really short. Your readers came for the story, not for your conversation with your muses. So please, keep your Author's Note simple and to the point. Because otherwise your readers will skip it and just go to the story.
And your Author's Note can not be a chapter itself. That is against the rules and it disappoints your readers to find out there is no chapter.
One-shot - This is a story consisting of one chapter with 1000 or more words. There are also some that contain two chapters and they are called, Two-shots. These are considerably longer than drabbles, ficlets and sometimes more than chapter stories.
Drabble - A drabble is when a story is exactly a 100 words. A double drabble however is, of course 200 words. When an author writes these it is usually for a short scene or a reflection of a moment in time. Hopefully that will clear things up since I've notice that a few writers mixed this up with one-shots and ficlets. (Variants of 150, 200 or 350 words have appeared. But drabbles are mainly known for the 100 words.)
Ficlet - Is a story usually between 500-1000 words. These are similar to drabbles but they have a more driven plot and are more detail.
Crack-fic - This is a creative way of saying, "What kind of crack was the author smoking when they wrote this?" In other words, a storyline or characters that is completely unbelievable, from being out of character or something else.
Song-fic - Authors take lyrics of a song and add it on to the story with a character singing it. Or for inspiration purposes, sometimes the piece of writing revolves around the lyrics. Though, the best thing to keep in mind is that the story has to stand on its own, without the lyrics too. Why? That is because; readers should be able to enjoy it in case they have never heard the song before.
Grammar/Spelling - Last of all, grammar and spelling which we all have problems with. Even a computer program can't check all of these mistakes. For example; with a spell checker it will miss 'summery' thinking it's supposed to be there when it's actually supposed to be summary. That's because summery is a real word.
The best way to make sure that our stories are good is when we reread them and then have someone else check them again. Or just get a beta-reader which helps greatly in making sure your story is written well and it never hurts to do so.
This guide isn't exactly perfect but I tried to get it to be as close as possible. So forgive me if it contains a few mistakes. We all make mistakes and at times we need some help.
I hope this inspires all of you to write more. After all, this is not to discourage any of you to stop writing or thinking it's impossible. All you need to do is to keep practicing and keep in mind of the stuff you write. If there's something I left out that you believe I should write about, please review and let me know what it is.
Oh and last of all, do some research! If you're ever stuck on something just look it up.