[a fluffy kitten sitting on a laptop]

Tips for writing an engaging fanfiction by Shadeleap

Shadeleap gives tips for writing engaging stories.

[a fluffy kitten sitting on a laptop]
[a fluffy kitten sitting on a laptop]

Hi BlogClan!! So a lot of people have read my fanfic trilogy, Engulfed in Shadows (I never use that arc name so that just means Smoldering Embers and Growing Flames), and I read an article like this one by Sandbreeze (the best appendix ever btw) and I thought I’d try to write down what I do when I write. This’ll probably be hard though, because even I don’t know what I do when I write, I just kind of do it 😛

Characters
Main Characters/POVs: This is probably the most important character to get right. This is the character, or characters, that you’re in the head of, so seeing their inner thoughts are pretty important. The best thing you can do here is make sure your main character is not a mary-sue/gary-stu. It’s fine if they have some mary-sueish tendencies, but give them a few noticeable flaws. Here are some examples:

– Arrogant
– Short temper
– Insecure
– Overly cautious/cowardly
– Bloodthirsty/Battle hungry
– Anxiety
– Unforgiving
– Dishonest
– Unskilled
– Mistrusting

(Note: I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing to have any of these in real life (except maybe bloodthirsty…), but they do serve to make characters imperfect)

Now, if you want to make an unlikeable POV, I suggest making one of these their main personality. However, if you want the reader to like the main character, it’s fine for this to fall to the side.

If you’re having a hard time finding a personality that you can write about, try making the character based off of you. If you’re loyal but often mistrust other people, you can put that into your character. That will also make it easier to write dialogue and character interactions.

Inner thoughts are also very important for main characters. As the author, you’re bound to know things that the POV doesn’t, and keep that in mind. Don’t make the character all-knowing, and their personality should still be shown even when they aren’t talking to another character. Perhaps their personality is most visible in their own heads.

Side Characters: Side characters are probably some of my favorite characters to write about. These can be the POV’s best friend, siblings, parents, bully, denmate, or just someone that shows up a lot. The thing with side characters is that you have to find a way to show their personality without seeing their thoughts. This can come out in their tone of voice, words, and body language.

Another thing – remember that the side character isn’t the main character. Be careful when writing about them because they can easily morph into a character more interesting and important than the POVs. While it’s fine for them to be important and interesting, the POV is ultimately the character to focus on the most.

Villains: There’s no denying it. Villains are possibly the coolest things to write. There’s just something about making a fearsome and threatening character that you just don’t get anywhere else. So how do you write a successful one?

– Give them a backstory
Villains are characters who wish harm on the protagonist, but they should have a reason for that. They shouldn’t hate the character just for the sake of hating the character. Maybe if the villain is a rogue attacking the Clans, they could be an abandoned and resentful kit, or an apprentice that was scorned by their entire Clan.

– The villain is a main character
This is one of the most important things to remember. A villain isn’t just a character who shows up occasionally to kill somebody and disappear again. They have to be a prominent figure throughout the story. Think of Tigerstar from arc 1. If Tigerstar had just been another background character like, say, Runningwind, the reader wouldn’t care when he came out and showed his evil motives. Villains need to be in the story, or the reader won’t care about them at all.

– Make them fearsome
Sure, villains could be weak, but then they’d have no real chance of winning. The best villain is one that actually has a chance. Think of Darktail. If the Clans had teamed up and driven him out at the start, that would’ve been boring. This cat was able to take over three Clans before he was driven out. That really shows that he was totally capable of destroying the Clans for good. This is what villains should be like, but how do we get there? There are a few things you can do. First, it’s okay to kill background characters for the sake of developing the villain. Next, have the villain spend time with the POV. If the main character is afraid of the villain, chances are the reader will be too. It’s okay to have the villain attack the POV as well, and even kill them if you want to go that far. I guess what I’m saying is don’t make them a background character. They’re not, and they should be known as the villain.

Now, there is a special case for this, and that’s if you want a twist villain. If there’s a character who will end up being the antagonist but you don’t want them to show it at the start. The main thing for this is foreshadowing. It’s okay to have that character sort of fade into the background, but not so much that the reader doesn’t know who it is. You can give them a hint of a fatal flaw, like making them battle hungry and arrogant.

Background Characters: If there’s one thing that Warriors is notorious for, it’s having too many bland, empty background characters. Luckily, we don’t have to follow in those pawsteps.
A few tips on writing background characters:

Don’t use the same ones over and over
The best example for this is cats like Thornclaw, Dustpelt, and Brackenfur. None of these cats were ever POVs, but in Clan meetings or at Gatherings, they always speak up. Some background characters that we never hear from are cats like Eaglewing, Honeyfur, and Dewnose. Again, none are POVs, but if half the dialogue given to Thornclaw was given to his daughter, Eaglewing, she would be speaking a lot more. I’m just trying to say that it’s okay to develop background characters, but don’t neglect the rest.

Don’t give them all the same personality
There are two stereotypes for Warriors’ background characters. One is the friendly, bubbly, energetic, loyal cat, and the other one is a grumpy, sarcastic, bold cat. Both of these are fine personalities, but not everyone’s the same. You can make one cat friendly and bubbly and energetic, just don’t make that the default personality. Make some background characters loyal but battle hungry, arrogant yet shy, etc.

Anti-Heroes: Anti Heroes are some of my favorite characters. Often, they become my favorite characters in general. Think Loki from Marvel, Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars, or Clove from the Hunger Games. None of these are the main villains, like Thanos, Darth Vader, Cato, or President Snow, but they serve their purpose as being characters who work against the POVs. The best thing for these characters is to make sure they don’t become the main villain. They shouldn’t overshadow the major villain, usually they’re just an obstacle in the POVs’ way.

– If you want to give them a redemption arc:
Redemption arcs are really fun and rewarding if you do them right. There are three things to use as guidelines for this.

1. Gradual. Their change from being a “bad” character to a “good” character shouldn’t happen overnight. It should happen over time where they learn that their way of thinking is wrong, but don’t change all at once

2. Guilt. The character needs to recognize that what they did was wrong and they should feel guilty and ashamed for what they did. It’s also good to add an apology, it’s not necessary but extremely satisfying.

3. Growth. The last step is growth. If the character recognizes that what they do is wrong, they should change their behavior. It’s as simple as that.

Plot
The plot of a story should be what draws the reader in. Characters are great and all, but the plot should be the main thing. If you have writer’s block when it comes to making plots, here are a few basic ideas:

– A medicine cat turning evil and secretly poisoning their clanmates
– A rogue group attacking the Clans
– An evil cat took control of and destroyed a Clan, so now they have to rebuilt
– Evil StarClan
– A natural disaster (Like a tornado, hurricane, flood, etc)

Probably the most important thing with plots is the pacing. You don’t want it to be over in 5 pages (unless that was your goal) but you also don’t want to add a million filler chapters. If your plot is planned to take a while and you don’t want filler chapters, maybe add a subplot, like a loner joining the Clans, friendship drama, or the death of a main character. Make these smaller though, you don’t want them to overshadow the main plot.

If you find that your plot isn’t really going anywhere, try writing down a rough outline of what you want to happen. I do that a lot, and it really helps me.

Perspective
Whether you want one POV or 5, choosing your protagonists is important. Make sure the character is in a spot to view the drama happening around them. For example, if your story is about a rogue taking over WindClan, it would be better to have a WindClan protagonist rather than a loner protagonist. Also, make sure your protagonist isn’t too far away from the drama. Like, if most of the drama is happening in RiverClan, don’t pick a ThunderClan POV.

Having multiple POVs is tricky, but can also really help. If you had 2 POVs, you could choose a ThunderClan protagonist if you also had a RiverClan one, for the example above. Either way, choose them carefully.
One more thing for perspective: which way do you want to tell it?

– 3rd Person (he, him, his, she, her, hers, etc): This is probably the most popular point of view, but it’s not the only one. With this one, you still see the inner thoughts, but it’s disconnected from the character itself.
– 1st Person (I, me, etc): This is my favorite point of view, and I think I like it because it feels more connected to the characters. If you’re having trouble writing in first person, just imagine yourself as the character and it should get easier.

Setting
The setting shouldn’t be just a backdrop. It can be so much more. For example, it really helps with detail. Let’s say you wanted to make a suspenseful scene. Using details from the setting can slow down the narrative and give you the suspenseful effect. Here are two scenes, one with no detail and one with a lot of detail:

“Mainpaw sat down as she waited for Villainfur to show up. She waited for a long time, wondering when the brown tom would come.”

“Mainpaw sat down in the shadowed snow, waiting for Villainfur to arrive. The frozen branches creaked overhead, making the gray she-cat flinch as she sat, still as a rock, waiting for the brown tom. The snow was falling thickly around her, masking the warmth of day and chilling Mainpaw to the bone. She couldn’t wait much longer. This leaf-bare snowscape would claim her before he ever did.”

Which one was more interesting and engaging to read?

Seasons can also be a huge help. If you have a darker, scarier story, maybe set it in leaf-bare. If it’s a lighter story, maybe make it newleaf or greenleaf. Whatever you choose, you can use it to your advantage.

Plot Twists
I. Love. Plot. Twists. They’re something that you never saw coming and they just make the story so much better. If you’re looking for ideas for a plot twist, here’s some:

– Twist villain
– Long lost family member
– A huge lie being revealed
– Made up prophecy
– Important death
– Someone turning evil

These are all pretty easy to add into the story, but it’s not that simple. Yes, twists are amazing, but you have to do them right. The best thing to add to stories with twists is foreshadowing. Have a character make a strange comment that’s passed over in the moment but turns out to be super important in the long run. The only thing is this: make sure to tie up all loose ends at the end of your story.

Dialogue
I know a lot of people who hate writing dialogue because it doesn’t flow and it’s choppy and sometimes doesn’t make sense, and I have a few things for this.
I don’t want to be your grammar teacher, but I’m just going to go over basic formatting here. There are three ways to write dialogue tags.

1. “Hi, I’m Characterpaw,” he said.
2. “Hi,” he said. “I’m Characterpaw.”
3. He said, “Hi, I’m Characterpaw.”

That’s it, it’s pretty simple.
Now punctuation gets a little confusing. Basically, you want to put commas where you would put normal punctuation. For example:

“Hi, I’m Characterpaw.” He said. – This example is wrong.
“Hi, I’m characterpaw,” he said. – This example is right.

This one gets confusing, though.

“Hi,” he said, “I’m Characterpaw.” – This example is wrong
“Hi,” he said. “I’m Characterpaw.” – This example is right

Now, if you’re using question marks or exclamation marks, you don’t need a comma.

“Hi!” he said. “I’m Characterpaw!”
“Hi?” he said. “I’m Characterpaw.”

“Hi, I’m Characterpaw!” he said.
“Hi, I’m Characterpaw?” he said.

Okay that’s enough grammar. Now, one thing that I used to do that now drives me crazy is using “said” after everything.

“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” she said.
“How are you?” he said.
“Fine,” she said.

IT DRIVES ME CRAZY!!!!

“Hi,” he smiled.
“Hi!” she replied.
“How are you?” he asked.
“Fine,” she answered.
This one flows better, and it’s so much better to read. It you’re having trouble coming up with dialogue tags, here’s a list

-pleaded
-shouted
-confessed
-sighed
-complained
-cried
-demanded
-interrupted
-argued
-laughed
-warned
-acknowledged
-lied
-mumbled
-muttered
-threatened
-wailed
-admitted
-agreed
-remembered
-replied
-snarled
-asked
-bragged
-retorted
-screamed
-answered
-whined
-promised
-questioned
-screeched
-whispered
-giggled
-hissed
-sobbed
-wondered
-yelled

There are a ton more you can use, that’s just some.

So if you’re having trouble writing dialogue because it feels blocky and doesn’t flow, here’s a suggestion.

First, write it like this:

“Hi.”
“Hi.”
“How are you?”
“I’m okay. I’ve been better.”
“What happened?”
“Long story.”

Then after you write it, go back in and add the details, like this.

“Hi!” he ran up to her with a smile on his face.
“Hi,” she sighed, not sharing his happiness.
“How are you?” he asked.
“I’m okay,” she shrugged. “I’ve been better.”
He frowned. “What happened?”
“Long story,” she muttered, not meeting his gaze.

That way you get a flowing conversation without losing the details.
NOTE: you don’t have to use dialogue tags like “said”, “whispered”, “asked”, etc. You can use an action, like this:
“Come on!” he raced away.
If you do that, don’t add a comma, just end the sentence with whatever punctuation is necessary.

Remember when writing dialogue for a warriors fanfiction that the characters are cats. Don’t make them do anything human, but also this opens a lot of possibilities for dialogue tags like “meowed” and “purred.”

Anyway that’s all I got! If you want advice on anything specific, you can ask me or any other writers 🙂 I know a lot of people on the fanfiction organization page who are really good at this kind of stuff.
Yeah that’s it so have a great day/night and may StarClan light your path!

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