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Fanfic Cliches

File courtesy of Katsudon.net

Original HTML was by Katsu and Naked Samurai Productions 01/04/01. Doesn't matter now, different page design...

Edits/insertions and additions by Ocean Elf.

🗣Katsudon: In the world of fanfiction, there's the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately, the ugly and the bad have teamed up, and are currently outnumbering the good by factors of ten.

Some stories are bad because they're poorly written. Others contain putrid, cliche plots that lower IQ points in frightening amounts. Take a look at the following list...if you are on the side of all that is good and light, you'll want to avoid these things.

"And then he sweatdropped."

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Ugh! Otaku mannerism that doesn't belong anywhere outside anime.

🗣Katsudon: Here's a big point. Anime is visual in nature. Some of what goes on in it definitely does not translate over well to writing. Unless you're working on bad slapstick, people don't "sweatdrop," "chibify," "super deform," or "facevault." There's no such thing as "hammerspace," and "hentainess," "kawaiiness," and "bishounen-ness" are not valid words, let alone valid adjectives. Attempting to write your story like it's a play by play from an actual anime episode is very disturbing to readers.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: The facepalm is a general action and not an otaku mannerism, but there are other ways of describing the action when writing out a story.

🗣Katsudon: Mary Sue & SI

There are two characters that no reader ever wants to see. The first is Mary Sue--an "original" character inserted into the story.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Not just an original character. It has to meet some criteria before qualifying for the MS label.

🗣Katsudon: Mary Sue characters are always perfect, good looking, and incredibly intelligent, more so than any of the series characters. They also tend to be condescending and downright annoying. Despite this, all of the same sex characters look up to them,

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: More common at least from what I've seen is that all of the same-sex characters loath them, or are hated by the Mary Sue. MS hating other girls, especially series female characters is the sad norm for them.

🗣Katsudon: and all of the opposite sex characters want to hop into the sack with them, for reasons that are flimsy at best and usually out of character. Mary Sues are normally seen as proxies for the author, since the normally end up with the author's favorite character, after beating up the author's least favorite character, of course.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Exactly.

🗣Katsudon: SI means "Self Insertion" -- the other thing no reader wants to see. Self-Insertions are pretty similar to Mary Sues, except in Self Insertion, the author outright admits that they've written themselves into the story.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: No, wrong. Here's why.

🗣Katsudon: SIs normally have omniscient powers as well, and are able to alter the universe at will, since they're the all-powerful author. Let's say it together, kids: Barf.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Let's say it together, kids: Calm down. Save the puking for Mary Sue hopping into the sack with some canon character she has whimpified for that purpose.

🗣Katsudon: "Pleas sir, come rite this wad."

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: ? "wad" ? Eh??

🗣Katsudon: Anyone other than me thinking "aroo?"

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Uh, no.

🗣Katsudon: There's a lot of stories

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: And then you just committed a grammar error. It is "there are a lot of stories".

🗣Katsudon: out there that get sent out without ever seeing a second draft, or even a spell check for that matter. Spell check doesn't take that long to do, is available at the click of a button in most word processing programs, and your readers will thank you. It's ok to write more than one draft of a story, after all. Please, do your readers a favor, and not only check your spelling, but check your grammar as well. Who knows, they might actually understand what you're trying to say! 🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Which is why I didn't give you any slack. First, you used some term exclusive to some silly show I don't watch, so it's probably safe to assume I wouldn't be the only one shaking my head at "Aroo". Then the grammar mistake I pointed out. I would've overlooked that if you didn't devote the next paragraph to grammar and spelling correction.

🗣Katsudon: And everyone lived happily ever after, whether they wanted to or not

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: And I suppose you'd rather they lived in eternal suffering, whether they wanted to or not?

🗣Katsudon: I don't know what causes this, really I don't. The story starts out with a romantically involved couple as its center. No problem.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Except for being dreadfully boring, or nauseating if it's a ship between canon characters that weren't an item in the series...

🗣Katsudon: Why on earth the author feels the need to make sure that every single character in the series is paired off and happy is beyond my ken. Sorry, but it's better to learn sooner than later: life doesn't work that way, which is why it doesn't work in a story. Plus, there's always the leftover characters, who aren't particularly interested in anyone, but get paired off with someone anyway just because it won't do to let anyone be single. So no, pairing off the entire cast of Ranma isn't reasonable. It gets even worse in yaoi fandoms, because then we have the unique "Everybody is GAY and paired off" syndrome going as well. A little romance doesn't hurt. A little too much is just silly.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: That's putting it nicely.

Now is the time to barf.

🗣Katsudon: "I'm SO depressed."

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Argh!

🗣Katsudon: Anyone ever read "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?" Remember Marvin, the terminally depressed robot? Not exactly a stimulating conversational partner, since all he'd ever want to talk about was how depressed he was. And oh yes, by the way, did he mention he was depressed? Let me clue you in -- this isn't good writing material either. If you want to leave your readers feeling like they want to slash their own wrists, by all means write a story that's twenty pages of non-stop "character feeling sorry for himself and whining vocally about it." Even better, make the character immortal and depressed. It's guaranteed to make even the most cheerful people pop Valium like it's candy.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: It has quite a different effect on me. It makes me want to drop a two-tonne brick on the character to end their whinging and make me happier.

🗣Katsudon: Pregnant men

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Eeeeeuargh! So much no! That's just stupid. Utterly stupid.

🗣Katsudon: 'Nuff said. [Ok, so it's only a really common problem in Gundam Wing fanfiction. Don't let the sickness spread.]

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Messed up series, messed up fanbase.

🗣Katsudon: Badly inserted/written action scene

"And suddenly, without warning, ninjas jumped out from behind the trashcans in the alley and off the roofs of the nearest skyscraper where they'd been hanging on the window cleaning scaffold. The prince drew his sword, with a dark sparkle in his eye and sliced the head off the nearest one with a spiffy overhand backward flip. 'Don't lose your head.' he said in his dark voice." [coughcoughcough] That hurt to write, really it did...seriously, don't just chuck an action sequence in just so you get another opportunity to paint a tic-tac-toe board on the nearest building with the fountaining blood of a faceless opponent. Also, please keep in mind that there are some ways the human body doesn't bend, and some action sequences just aren't physically possible. Your action sequences should have the reader cheering the good guy on, not falling asleep or laughing until Coke comes out of their nose.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: I would be doing the latter if I was drinking something. But please, why is it always some kind of soda with you people? While we're on the subject of cutting the cliches, please, lose that one as well.

🗣Katsudon: Badly inserted/written lemon scene

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Which are always simply bad. Not sure this term appears anywhere else other than anime, but in the land of Otakudom, the word "lemon" means sex, and "lime" is also sex. *SMH* Stupid crap.

🗣Katsudon: Okay, take what I said above and multiply it by ten, because while there are quite a few people that can write decent action, I've met less people than I have fingers (as in ten) that can actually manage to write lemon scenes that don't cause brain damage. I repeat: the human body only bend in certain ways.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: The only lemons I like are the ones you make lemonade with...

🗣Katsudon: Nonsensical verb tense change

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Ugh! Creepy pasta anyone?

🗣Katsudon: Variety might be the spice of life, but do the world a favor, pick a verb tense, and stick with it. It's really off putting to find two or three different tenses in one sentence...not to mention it's unreadable.

Nonsensical viewpoint change

First person or third. Pick one and stick with it. If you want to change view between two characters, give your poor, long suffering readers some indication before they get so confused that their heads explode.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Hahaha! Creepy pasta stories are full of this bad writing too.

🗣Katsudon: Useless gore

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Argh! I hate that as well. It doesn't frighten me. It disgusts/outrages me.

🗣Katsudon: "Blood fountained out, painting arcs of dripping gore across the nearest brick wall as he ripped another handful of bloody chunks away, reveling in their warmth and vaguely squishy texture. Demn, this was a good steak." Just kidding about the steak part, really. Realize that describing blood and gore in loving abandon will make your readers wonder how you managed to get your story on the web, considering that they don't normally let mental patients have writing utensils...

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: *Cringe* Eww! And just as I brought my lunch in here to eat while going through this article.

🗣Katsudon: "It's like Sailor Moon meets Iron Chef. It just doesn't work!"

Crossovers are difficult to deal with. (Unless you're writing comedy, that is.) If you're crossing over two anime series, well, you really need to have a good, foolproof explanation as to how exactly this characters managed to get together in one place. Sorry, "interdimensional space/time warp" is overdone and completely unbelievable. Also, there's a certain type of crossover...the "Anime Series meets popular TV show" which is particularly nonsensical. I don't even like Melrose Place to begin with...heaven spare me from having to read about it with the regular cast replaced by characters from Tenchi Muyo...

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Crossovers are tricky. They are incredibly fun to work on, but if you're going to collaborate with someone, you pretty much need to agree on which famous fictional you're going to be bringing together for a plot.

🗣Katsudon:: Research: It's not just for scientists anymore!

Here's a real unique concept for you...want to write a story where a character has a certain gun they use, or knows a martial art style? Why not click that mouse or pick up that book and actually do a little reading up on it? *gasp* What a concept. Know what you're writing about, guys. If you don't, you'll confuse the readers that don't know what the real story is, and royally annoy the ones that do. I've already had a story to critique where a character was inflicted in some sort of heart problem that didn't jive with any of my medical knowledge. I tore my hair out for three days while I went through the AMHA database, without ever finding any real disease that it matched. I was told later by the author that she "just made it up" because she didn't feel like researching it out. Talk about annoyed...

See before you write

This one should be pretty obvious, but considering how few people actually practice it, I feel like I should say something. You know how real world research helps you write? Well, another thing that helps you write fanfiction is actually *watching* the series that you're writing from! Fanfiction has enough characterization problems to begin with. Making it up without any basis in the canon series deserves a cattle prod in the rear.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Unless you're deliberately writing something to annoy the heck out of obnoxious otaku who deserve their beloved anime and favourite character torn to shreds.

🗣Katsudon: Stereotyping

Let's talk characterization. The big difference between good characterization and bad characterization is one dimension; good is three, bad is two. Bad characterization is "Usagi is whiney, Rei is sarcastic and mean, Mina is an airhead, Makoto is a violent tomboy, Ami is a brain with two legs" and nothing else. All characters have their own set of motivations (not just one!), and all of them are different--that's what makes them interesting. Also, I have to note...when you have a author that stereotypes badly, you can always tell which character is their least favorite; not only do they have the most negative stereotype and the least development, they also seem to get beaten up and put down a lot by the other characters...

Purple prose

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Ugh, this goes hand in hand with Mary Sue.

🗣Katsudon: "It sat on the window sill, glittering silver and the green of jungles in the hazy morning light. Sparks of incandescent beauty fell from its sides, shattering along the walls, floor, and the warm brown wood of my magnificent desk. Round is the most perfect of shapes, one with no beginning or end, I reflected, like the never-ending cycle of all life, never pausing. Then again, I always do get maudlin before I drink my morning can of Mt. Dew..." You have here an example of prose that has been smothered until it turned purple. This might work if you're getting paid by the word and are attempting to squeeze a couple extra bucks out of a story, but also keep in mind that I've yet to meet anyone that truly enjoyed reading "Moby Dick." (Which was a story that could have been written in a paragraph or less.) Don't get stuck on your descriptions; you might feel great if you can write lovely, flowery prose, but it's a struggle to read.

Ittai!

Okay, time for my pet peeve. Let's talk foreign language in stories. In anime fandom, lots of people like dropping what's called "fanboy Japanese" into their stories, I guess under the assumption that a few Japanese words makes it sound better. Wrong. First of all, most people that do this don't have a working understanding of the language, and use the words in ways that make people that do know wince. My favorite example of this is "koi." To people who have no Japanese knowledge beyond the fanboy level, it's a cute little shortening of the word "koibito," which means "beloved." To anyone that has more than a passing relationship with Japanese, it means a lot more: "carp," "slow in the head," and the rude form of "to come" spring to mind. Not a very flattering thing to be calling your loved one, eh? Second, it's silly. Anime is in Japanese because that's what the audience that originally watched it spoke. It is silly to assume that if the characters were real, they would speak Japanese. Gundam Wing is a prime example -- the only person out of the entire cast that has any right to be dropping Japanese phrases into their speech is Heero. Duo is American, so if anything, he should speak English, complete with slang. Wufei is Chinese. Neither of them have any reason to speak Japanese. Including foreign language into a story throws the readers off and destroys the flow of sentences. It may make you feel smart or cool as the author, but enough is enough. Please, I don't want to EVER read an anime character saying: "Ramen de hashi o tabemasu!" [I ate my chopsticks using the ramen.] Thank you.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: To sum that up, if you want to write something worth reading, don't be an otaku!

Mary Sue Page

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