Four Tips For Fanfiction Character Writing

By now, all of my readers are well aware of my love of writing fanfiction. Not only is it really fun to explore and expand on someone else’s world, it also gives me the opportunity to try writing as characters and personalities I wouldn’t normally write. However, sometimes it’s not always easy to get the original characters sounding like themselves. So, today I’m sharing four tips of what I do to stay in character while writing fanfiction.

1. Actor Interviews

Actor interviews are great when trying to get inside a character’s head. They have literally been that character for months at a time, and they can often offer some great insights into how their characters think and act. Also, a lot of actors have great backstories they’ve made up about their characters that can give some ideas for future fanfictions.

2. Rewatching scenes/Rereading book lines

Whenever I start “losing my grip” on a character, I always rewatch a scene with them in it or reread their lines in the book. That helps to remind me how they talk and the gestures they make so that my fanfiction is more authentic. I do this a ton while writing Doctor Who fanfiction. The Doctor’s a complicated character and watching a clip of the show always helps me to refocus on who he is as a character and get the little quirks that make the Doctor the Doctor.

3. Use their actual lines as much as possible

Sometimes, it’s not easy to get a character sounding like themselves. I try to use the actual lines the character has spoken as much as possible. I try to be careful when I do this so that the lines aren’t awkwardly forced into a scene which never sounds good! However, if it fits in naturally, then I add it in. I wrote a Psych/Doctor Who crossover fanfiction, and to make Gus sound more like Gus, I included a bunch of his actual lines from the show. It really gave Gus his trademark sound and made it easier to recognize him as Gus.

4. Practice, practice, practice

Whenever I first start to write fanfiction for a series, the characters never sound exactly like themselves the first time around. It takes a lot of writing to finally get them to the point where they sound recognizable. So, even when I don’t get it right the first go-round, I know that with a bit more practice, the character will eventually get there!

Do you write fanfiction? If so, what do you do to make the characters sound authentic? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote comes from Barbara Poelle, agent for the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. I thought this quote gave some really practical advice for writing characters.

“If you’re struggling with writing a character, write 20 things the reader will never know about your character. These will naturally bleed into your writing and provide a richness even though you don’t share in detail.” –  Barbara Poelle

~ Kayla

5 Character Creation Tips to Learn From Star Trek

“To boldly go where no one has gone before.” This iconic phrase instantly brings to mind the Star Trek series. Phaser fights, new life, and new civilizations are also defining elements of this tv show. Perhaps just as defining are its characters. The writers of Star Trek were able to craft some amazing and memorable characters that feel truly real. Round, realistic, and relatable characters are a goal of every author, so I thought I’d share five things I’ve learned from Star Trek about creating great characters.

1. They have a backstory.

On The Next Generation Commander Riker is a good cook. Why? Well, we learn his mother died when he was young, and his father hated to cook, leaving young Riker to fix all the food. We learn that he lived in Alaska, and he had a troubled relationship with his father. The things that a person experiences makes them who they are, and the writers on Star Trek use their characters’ background stories to shape them and make them more relatable. Each character has experiences unique to them making them all the more real.

2. They have interests.

On Deep Space Nine, Sisko loves baseball, and has a baseball sitting on his desk. His love of baseball is referenced many times throughout the series, and there’s even a whole episode about it (Take Me Out to the Holosuite, one of my favorite episodes!). Riker plays the trombone and, as I stated before, loves to cook. Data has a cat, writes poetry, paints, and plays the violin. The fact that the characters have interests makes them more realistic, more like living, breathing people.

3. They grow.

Hoshi Sato, in Enterprise, starts off in the series as being frightened and unsure of herself. She’s scared about space travel, and doesn’t believe that she can translate or learn languages well enough in order to help the crew. By the end of the series, however, Hoshi is confident and brave, even taking command of the bridge, something she would have never done before. Data, too, grows and changes. In the beginning, Data’s much more like a robot than a person. By the end of the series, Data uses human phrases, writes poetry, and even sleeps. Just like real people, Star Trek characters grow and change, and through that, become much more real.

4. They have habits, sayings, and quirks that just make them, them.

Captain Picard’s “Tea, Earl Gray, hot,” and the way he tugs at his jacket are immediately recognized as something only Picard would say or do. Giving Picard a certain phrase allows him to have his own identity and personality, helping to create a realistic and round character. Giving characters a recognizable habit makes them more original and unique.

5. They have faults, and they fail.

At the beginning of Voyager, B’Elanna Torres has a temper and is full of anger. By the second season (I’m still watching this series!), B’Elanna has learned to control her temper, becoming a qualified chief engineer. When Wesley Crusher goes to Starfleet Academy, he makes a disastrous decision that ends up killing one of his fellow cadets, and then lies about it to cover up what he did. No one is perfect, not even the characters on Star Trek. Much like we 21st century earthlings, 24th century Star Trek characters fail and have faults which allows us to connect and sympathize with them.

From “These are the voyages …” to “to boldly go where no one has gone before” Star Trek is full of round, interesting characters with habits, faults, and interests. Now I have an excuse to re-watch some of my favorite episodes again! All in the name of creating better characters, of course. 😉

Live long and prosper!

~ Kayla

Character Names

I have always had a love of baby name books. I used to have fun flipping through them and finding the most unusual names. Now that I’m a writer, I have a great excuse for pawing through name websites and baby name lists! 🙂 I really enjoy picking out the perfect name for a character. Of course, not every random name that I come across is going to be “The Perfect Name.” So, here are a few of the things I’ve learned about character names and naming characters.

1. Names that sound alike
It is always really annoying to the reader when character names sound alike. It makes it hard to figure out who is who, especially if the characters with the alike names know each other. One example I can think of is Sauron and Saruman from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Because of all the similar letters and sounds, it makes it really hard to remember who is Sauron and who is Saruman. (My mom still can’t keep them straight! :)) Another example of this is the brothers, Boromir and Faramir, again from The Lord of the Rings. I like the idea of matching names for the brothers, but in practice it made it confusing. (So that no Tolkien fans are too mad at me, I think Tolkien created some beautiful names and did a wonderful job matching names to the characters.)

2. Names that end in “s”
I am very guilty of this one! In my novel,The Last Four, I have many characters with names that end in “s”. At least three characters, Meris, Hays, and a main character, Tytus, all end in “s.” The reason this is bad is that it’s not easy to do possessives on names ending in “s.” In a normal name, say Lexi (another main character in my book), it’s very simple. Lexi. Lexi’s. When it comes to Tytus, it gets harder. Is it Tytus’s? Tytus’? While it’s not impossible to figure out (with all my character names ending in “s”, I think I finally have it down), it does make it a lot harder, so it is best to avoid ending in “s” names when possible.

3. Strange sounding names
This one is more a trap for Fantasy and Sci-Fi authors. When writing about exotic places and worlds, naturally an exotic name is needed. A lot of times these names are a little too exotic. If you name your character Bonbonnogopotato (my apologies to anyone who has this name) or even something half as strange, it’s going to be really hard for the reader to attach himself to him or her not to mention hard to read. An author who didn’t fall into this trap is Brian Jacques, who created the Redwall series. Rakkety Tam is the main character of the book of the same name, and Tam, as he is called in the book, has an unusual name, but not enough to be unpronounceable or to turn you off from the character.

4. Names of the times
If you are writing a book set in a different time, make sure the names match the times. If I were writing a historical fiction novel set in 19th century London, I would pick a name from 19th century London. Or if my book were set in the future, I would pick a name that was more “out there.” Ray Bradbury’s, Fahrenheit 451, is guilty of this. Guy Montag’s wife is named Mildred, which is a very old-fashioned name, but the world Mildred lives in is suppose to be the future. It makes the book seem set back in a dystopian version of the 1950’s instead of an undated time of the near future.

5. Names that everyone else has
If you’ve read a name a lot in other’s work, then don’t use the name. If you name your main character Scarlett, readers are bound to think of Gone with the Wind‘s Scarlett O’Hara, even if your Scarlett is totally different. Even if the name you want to use isn’t in a famous novel, but is used a lot in your chosen genre or you’ve heard it a lot, it’s best to steer clear. That way the reader knows your character is different than all the others floating around. In teen Christian novels, it seems like the choice of name for girls is Ashley. I don’t know why, but at least two book series I’ve read, Sigmund Brouwer’s The Robot Wars and Chris Fabry’s Red Rock Mysteries, have had an Ashley as a main character.

One more name tip – I’ve started keeping a list of names in my phone for all the neat names that I run across. It might be that the cool name I heard at the grocery store could become my next character!

~ Kayla