My kids recently got interested in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. This interest waxes and wanes, depending on who is raising chao at the time.
Anyway, this time when they got on a Sonic kick, I said, “Do you guys want me to read you my old Sonic stories?”
Their answer was Very Yes. So I started trying to read them the very first one I wrote when I was 15.
If I knew then what I know now:
1. Melodrama is not plot. I had pages and pages of little random dramas, but nothing really moving forward in the story.
There’s also quite a few loops. Professional writers use them to hit word counts. A character goes out to accomplish something, fails, and winds up back where they started. It adds nothing to the story, but hey, it added 5k more words. This is why fantasy books are so thick.
Solution: cut that fluff and keep that story moving. If I did this with the fanfic in question, it would go from 50k words of wandering fluff to 13k of tightly-written awesome.
2. Bring the Big Bad in EARLY. In that first story, Metal Sonic is the main antagonist. But he doesn’t show up until about the 3/4ths mark. My enthusiastic teen self built the plot like a Lego tower. Let’s add on THIS and add on THAT and who cares if it makes sense? The plot muddles around with weaker secondary villains before finally settling on the Big Bad.
Solution: have Metal Sonic actively oppose the heroes from the start. He’s terrifying. Let him terrify the reader.
3. Casts of thousands work fine for epic fantasy, but not for smaller-scope urban fantasy. I had eight main characters. Count ’em. Eight. And I really only liked four of them. So that’s who got all the character development.
Poor Tails. I apologize for always leaving you out in the cold. You get more love later in the series, I promise!
Solution: cut everybody not necessary to the plot. They can stay home and have an adventure next time.
4. The idiot ball: don’t give it to anyone. Ever.
This is when a character who has been competent up to this point does something randomly stupid to move the plot along. Horror movies are full of these.
“Don’t go into the house alone!”
“Why are the lights out?”
“I’m going to ignore the spooky sound coming from the back of the house.”
“We know the bad guy attacks girls when they’re alone … let’s go hunt for him and leave our girl alone!”
Solution: Characters have to do things that logically follow. Sure, people are stupid in real life. But this is fiction. It has to make sense. Give the characters some freaking survival instincts.
5. You know that perfect character who is perfect and never gets scared and has all the answers and is better than all the other characters? She’s called a Mary-Sue. She’s the author’s self-insert into the story.
:tears out hair:
Solution: Give her some freaking FLAWS. Let her make MISTAKES. My GOSH. I hate this character so BADLY. And she’s MINE.
I apologize to everybody who waded through my old stories. They’re awful and painful and … :whispering: … still available. I’d take them down, except I still get the occasional message from a fan who remembers them fondly.
Long story short, the kids and I skipped the first five stories. We’re just going to hit the ones where new characters get introduced. We’ll see if my writing gets any more succinct as we move forward in time.