Fan Fic Writing Process

Discussion and questions about the FanFiction section of MSCL.com. You can also post excerpts of your unfinished stories here if you're looking for feedback or ideas.
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lizardcub
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Fan Fic Writing Process

Post by lizardcub » Aug 16th 2001, 9:15 am

How do people go about writing fan fic? I just started one with my best friend. We made a general outline of what we expected to happen in the series (later, when we added more things and thought about this more completely after having written several scenes, we realized our original long-term outline was really a 5-episode plan). Then, we made an outline of specific scenes in our first episode. We started writing scenes out of order, doing easier ones first (although since some of the later ones we couldn't do until we did some earlier ones, we wound up doing the first six before we did any later ones).

<p>Then we realized that not only was our episode going to be far too short, it was, well, too boring: we liked our individual scenes, and we liked some of our plot developments, but it was too focused around one subplot. We decided the problem was that, while the real episodes tend to be thematic, ours was very plot-based. In some sense this wasn't entirely our fault; In Dreams leaves you with a cliffhanger that really has to be dealt with, to a certain extent, right away. On the other hand, On the Wagon ends with a Cliffhanger, and the next episode isn't just a continutation of it. We began to feel that rather than writing an episode, we were writing almost a story summarizing what had happened (even though, as I say, we like some of our individual scenes very much).

<p>So we revised our episode 20 outline: we came up with a theme which fit in with what we had so far, added one subplot and some scenes, and in general tried to make the episode more complicated. Incidentally, I've noticed that several fan fics I've read fall into the same problem we did, of following one story at a time too much. The real MSCL is a jumble of scenes which often seem unrelated but come together in fascinating ways within and across episodes. Many fan fics seem too linear.

<p>So now we are in the process of writing the scenes remaining in our new outline. We are maybe 1/3 done. We've discovered, predictably, that some scenes are easier to write than others, and, maybe less predictably, that some characters are much easier for us to write than others.

<p>So now I have several questions for other fan fic authors: What process do you use? Do you start with an outline, like we did, or just start writing? Which parts do you find relatively easy, and which are relatively difficult? How do you incorporate subtext? How do you think of plot? etc etc etc ... Oh! And how do you think of a title? (So far we've got NO ideas on that one!)

Elizabeth Wrigley-Field

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Re: Fan Fic Writing Process

Post by dTheater » Aug 17th 2001, 3:57 am

You should try the MSCL fan fic beta readers. They can be of great help if you really want it, otherwise; just write for yourself. Do whatever makes you happy.

"Close your eyes, you can find all you need in your mind if you Take the Time" - Dream Theater

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Re: Fan Fic Writing Process

Post by lizardcub » Aug 17th 2001, 6:47 am

Thanks for the advice. We're mostly just writing the kind of episode 20 we wish there had been, I think. Here's another question I've been idly pondering: to what extent do you think fan fic writers should feel free to incorporate new things into their episodes? e.g., reading Shobi's, he uses a lot of techniques that the original episodes did not -- things like telling you at the beginning of an episode how much time has elapsed since the last one, split screens during phone calls, etc. Also, many fan fic writers have experimented much more liberally with giving different characters voice over episodes than the original show did (where, of course, 17 out of 19 episodes are Angela's). Others make episodes that are far more linear than actual MSCL episodes were, or far more focused on one conflict or one group. How important is it to stay true to the original?

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Re: Fan Fic Writing Process

Post by Ken » Aug 18th 2001, 4:24 pm

Mmmm..., these are tough questions! :-)

I don't really have answers at all for you. I would really like to write fanfic as well but just hasn't been able to commit to it. With how important to stay true to original, personally I think it's pretty important but it really depends on your understanding/perspective of what MSCL means to you and what it's trying to say. It's up to you of course whether you follow the original themes and if you have a good idea, certainly we would all love you to share with us. I don't know, I guess try imagining how it fits in with MSCL or just post on the board and we can have a fun time discussing :-) Hope this helps.

With writing fanfic, I have a simple idea, not necessary a good one. I was thinking if I am to write something, I would take out the bits I really like and thought realistic from other fanfic to help with drumming up ideas. In the MSCL encyclopedia, I think William Blais (spelling?) has written a very thorough analysis which I have learnt a lot from, though don't really understand quite a lot of it either. So it's probably a good idea to read that for a deeper understanding for how the episode is structured and how it comes together and what MSCL is about.

Above is just my personal thoughts, hope it helps you but if you don't agree, that's OK too.

Love to discuss any fanfic ideas you have. I feel the same way about finding the writing process too plot-based. When I was reading the plot outline for each episodes, the episodes summary actually sounded ordinary but the actual episodes are brilliant. So maybe think about what theme/issue/idea you want to illustrate/communicate/explore
before actually planning out plots and events. If this doesn't suit you, please feel free to do it your own way.

Ken

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Re: Fan Fic Writing Process

Post by lizardcub » Aug 19th 2001, 9:19 am

Yeah, I really like Angela's World. It, and some discussions on mail-list's MSCL mailing list and the Netcom list which preceded it (I've been on the list on-and-off for 5 years, so I've seen a lot of different takes on MSCL) have helped me cement my ideas and consider exciting new ones a LOT.

Something that really helps is that my best friend and I (we're writing our fan fic together) turn out to write really well together. In general I think fan fic might be hard to do collaboratively, because so much of it is coming up with your personal view of the characters and what should happen, but it's become clear that we build on each other's ideas quite well. So far, at least, we haven't had any big problems with the collaboration because when we disagree we've been able ti discuss things to death until we have consensus. Also, when one of us gets stuck, the other can do the major writing while the first one tweaks for a bit. So it's going surprisingly well, though slowly.

I think you're right that it makes sense to generate a theme before focusing on the plot of a particular episode. So far one of the most enjoyable parts of writing has been incorporating things from past episodes, little subtle or non-so-subtle references to things from the actual show.

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Re: Fan Fic Writing Process

Post by dTheater » Sep 8th 2001, 4:50 pm

One thing I would suggest - and this is just a pet peeve, a preference, a personal opinion, whatever - but some people have the tendency to resolve all the issues right away. Like everything between Angela and Jordan is cleared up in the first scene; Angela and Rayanne will make up in the first episode; etc. All the loose ends from episode 19 are definitely things, I feel, that would have stretched out over several episodes. I don't know how many stories you plan to write, but if it's more than a few, that might be something you wanna think about. I don't want to sound like I'm the greatest writer or anything - I'm certainly not - but if you're asking for opinions, that is one of mine.

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I agree

Post by lizardcub » Oct 28th 2001, 12:47 am

I agree. It is incredibly tempting to try to resolve everything in your Episode 20, but it feels to me like cheating. The show's writers built up some of these conflicts over several episodes--in the case of the basic Angela-Brian-Jordan relationships, over the entire series. To try to resolve that in one episode seems to me like it misses the whole feel of the show, where relationships can change suddenly but more often change gradually, and problems don't get solved as soon as they start. That's a major difference, IMHO, between MSCL and, say, a sitcom, where almost no issues are raised which can't be resolved in 30 minutes (in MSCL's case, an hour).

I'm having a new problem with my fanfic, which I hope someone might have an idea about. My fanfic is too short. The reason, I think, is that it's too plot-based. Although I've been wary of resolving the issues too fast, my episode is largely a continuation of In Dreams, particularly the Angela-Brian-Jordan part. This is not true to the show, where every single episode has its own themes and raises its own issues through plot devices which are specific to that episode (mother-daughter fashion show, new year's resolutions, mothers/daughters or fathers/daughters, whatever). Part of the problem is that the main interesting episode-specific thing I'm having happen (I can't reveal what until I finish my episode!!) is not conducive to plot twists which are really digressions but which reveal something about the characters or about MSCL's world, the way that interesting episode-specific things like Halloween or a World Happiness dance or a yearbook do. Another problem is that I'm just not as talented as the show's writers; it's harder for me to think of my own ideas than to build off of their conflicts. Complicating that matter, I want to be true to the show; I think I have more pressure (placed on me by myself) to be consistent with past episodes than the writers did, since, as the writers, they could claim some latitude to reshape things to their liking (the way they dramatically changed Rickie during the course of the show).

How did other people make their episodes full enough, like real MSCL episodes, which do much more than just resolve specific plot problems or fill space with clever but ultimately throw-away lines?

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Re: I agree

Post by dTheater » Dec 24th 2001, 6:07 pm

You should loose the idea that you'll be able match what MSCL created. Surely no fan fiction writer will ever mirror the brilliance of the show. Don't feel like you haven't accomplished anything if you're not as good as their writers, because that was their job. Stay true to the characters, to the dialogue, the situations, but don't get frustrated if you think it's not as good as an actual episode of MSCL because, really, is anything as good as an episode of MSCL?

As far as length: use sub-lots; flesh out your ideas further than you thought you could. If you have 10 pages and you want 20 pages, obviously that's not enough, so expand on the situations, establish the conflict more, build up the climax. In the end, length doesn't really matter; only content matters.

I don't have all the answers; I may not have any of the answers, but since no one else responded, I thought I would get my say in. And don't forget the MSCL fan fic beta-readers. They can be a great help.

"Close your eyes, you can find all you need in your mind if you Take the Time" - Dream Theater

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Re:Question

Post by K-man » Apr 3rd 2002, 2:40 pm

Lizardclub,
Just wanted to ask you if you could expound a little bit on your statement that Ricky dramatically changed throughout the course of the show. I am not disagreeing with that statement, it's just that I have never heard that said before and I was wondering how he changed. I probably missed it. thanks

So my feeling is, whatever happens, happens.

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Re:Question

Post by lizardcub_ » Oct 5th 2002, 11:38 pm

K-man wrote:Lizardclub,
Just wanted to ask you if you could expound a little bit on your statement that Ricky dramatically changed throughout the course of the show.
Okay. This is something I noticed a while ago when I was watching Dancing in the Dark with my best friend (and fan-fic co-author, though I must say that project has been put on the back burner as we've both gone off to college), Emily. In the early episodes, something that I think is more characteristic of Rickie in his interactions with Angela and Rayanne than anything else is his tendency to agree with *everything*. Witness the following exchange from DitD:
Dancing in the Dark, episode 2 wrote: Angela : Right. And, and if you make it real, it's it's not the same. It's
not, it's not yours anymore. I don't know, maybe I'd rather
have the fantasy than even him.
Rickie : I completely understand this.
Rayanne : I totally and completely disagree. You want Jordan Catalano in
actuality because...there is no because. You just want him.
Only you're programmed to never admit it.
Rickie : That does have the ring of truth.


This is an incredible vascillation: "I completely understand this" to what Angela says, and "That does have the ring of truth" to Rayanne's total and complete disagreement!

What's strikingly different about Rickie later, to me, is his willingness to tell Angela and Rayanne hard truths and in general his increased confidence in dealing with both of them. The biggest and most obvious moment is probably when he screams at Rayanne in the hallway in Other People's Mothers, but also things like when he calls Angela out on being a hypocrite in Betrayal, etc. In the last scene, he couches it in fairly tentative terms (as I recall...sadly, I haven't seen this in ages!!) but his message is clear. And I think in In Dreams he does something similar with calling Brian on his using Jordan as much as Jordan is using Brian.

So when I say Rickie's character changes a lot, I mean that the basic way he interacts with other characters undergoes a distinct transformation. My sense is that if we saw a scene like the one I quoted from DitD in one of the last episodes, it would feel off and out of place. What do you think?

p.s. this is the same lizardcub but for some reason I can't log in right now.

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Simple as that

Post by Soil » Dec 16th 2002, 8:03 pm

I would like to get back when the show firsth started so I can watch it again.Here they don`t do reruns r anything like that....I dind`t even had a chance to record` em all....pathetic...now I know it is only bunch of frustrated kidz...but....I wanna watch it anyway....man when I remember...My room looked like a churche on sunday morning....whole bunch of friends...stairing at the Tv....like a freaking zombies...sad.....but ....unfortunatly , tru.

Sorry for any missprint ...

By Isaak :

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Post by Jody Barsch* » Apr 10th 2006, 3:56 pm

Hey, I did a quick google about “Spec” writing and I came up with this. Thought it might be helpful to post. (I know I definitely do not follow the 4 act structure, or the A, B, C, plotlines. :oops: But, it’s interesting to know how the real thing is structured.)
Besides being shorter than feature films, television shows structured around commercial breaks. For hour-long dramas or action-adventures, the stories are built in four acts, often with a teaser and tag. Each act needs to go out on a strong hook, especially at the half-hour mark, when viewers are most likely to change the channel. Most hour-long shows weave together three plotlines: the A story, which drives the bulk of the episode; a B story, featuring supporting characters; and a C story or "runner," usually lighter in tone, that serves as comic relief.
Television
For American TV shows, the format rules for hour dramas, like CSI, and single-camera sitcoms, like Scrubs, are essentially the same as for motion pictures. The main difference is that TV scripts have act breaks. Multi-camera sitcoms, like Two and a Half Men, use a different, specialized format that derives from radio and the stage play. In this format, dialogue is double-spaced, action lines are capitalized, and scene headings are capitalized and underlined.
The script format for documentaries and audio-visual presentations which consist largely of voice-over matched to still or moving pictures is different again and uses a two-column format which can be particularly difficult to achieve in standard word processors, at least when it comes to editing.
[edit]
Physical format
American screenplays are printed single-sided on three-hole-punched letter sized (8.5 x 11 inch) paper, and held together with an industry standard of not three but two brass brads. In the UK, double-hole-punched A4 paper is often used, although some UK writers use the US letter paper format, especially when their scripts are to be read by American producers, since otherwise the pages may be cropped when printed on US paper. Despite the use of double-punched paper, it is common to see scripts in the UK held together by a single brad punched in the top left hand corner. This makes it easy to flip from page to page during script meetings and may have something to do with the taller page of A4.
Screenplays are usually bound with a light card stock cover and back page, often showing the logo of the production company or agency submitting the script. Writer's scripts are usually bound in a plain red or blue cover.
Increasingly, reading copies of screenplays (that is, those distributed by producers and agencies in the hope of attracting finance or talent) are distributed printed on both sides of the paper to cut down on their bulk, and occasionally they are reduced to half-size to make a small book which is convenient to read or put in a pocket. However, writers should generally submit on single sided, full sized paper and leave the way the script is reproduced up to the agency or producer.
Although most writing contracts continue to stipulate physical delivery of three or more copies of a finished script, it is extremely common for scripts to be delivered electronically via email. Although most production companies can handle scripts in Final Draft, Movie Magic or MS Office format, it is better practice to supply scripts as a PDF file where possible. This is because it gives the writer final control over the layout of the script, which may otherwise vary depending on what fonts and/or paper size the recipient uses to print the script out.
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