10 Tips for Writing Better Bandfic
Do you enjoy reading band fan fiction and want to start writing some stories yourself? Or are you already a bandfic author and want to improve your writing?
This article is here to help you write better band fanfiction by sharing some important tips on improving your basic writing skills, creating believable bandfic characters, and also how to avoid certain bandfic "cliches" and etiquette "no nos" within the band fiction community. These tips come from my many years of involvement in fan fiction fandoms as a writer, editor of fanzines, and of course avid consumer of fanfic in many different genres.
Band Fanfiction Writing Tip #1: Know Your Bandfic Basics
Brush up on the history, lingo and basics of band fanfiction
What exactly is band fiction? Where did it start, who writes it, and is it actually legal?These are all questions you might be asking yourself first, if you've not heard of bandfic before or perhaps just stumbled upon a story on the internet. If so, then I encourage you to read my article "What is Band Fanfiction?" which looks at all of these issues in more detail and provides plenty of links to where you can find band fanfiction online today.
Band Fanfiction Writing Tip #2: Don't Forget the Disclaimer
You're writing fiction, not fact. Be sure that's clear to your audience.
This is a technical point but an important one, and something required by many archives that host band fanfiction. Always, always include a disclaimer on your story that it is a work of fiction, not meant to represent true facts or events about the people you are writing about. You don’t want to leave yourself open to accusations of defamation of character or libel. As the archive RockFic states, “All stories contained on this site are fictional, which means that while the characters may be loosely based on the public personas of real people, the stories themselves are completely ungrounded from reality and are in no way meant to reflect the private lives, actual practices, or activities of any persons named.”
Even if an archive has a blanket disclaimer like that on the site, it is still good practice to include your own directly before the text of your story. Just create a standard disclaimer for yourself you can copy and paste as need be when posting your fic.
Band Fanfiction Writing Tip #3: Follow Basic Good Writing Techniques
Proper grammar, punctuation and spelling aren't just afterthoughts
This tip is, of course, true for whatever kind of fiction you are writing: original fiction, media fan fiction, or band fanfiction. Grammar, spelling and punctuation are important for good reason. If you don’t follow basic rules of grammar, your writing is more difficult to understand. Lots of spelling mistakes looks sloppy. Lack of care when it comes to the basics of good writing makes it appear that you don’t care about your writing – so why should the reader?
So it’s important to take the time to learn the basics. There are many good grammar guides for fanfic writers available for free on the web (I’ll link to several of them below.) Use a spellchecker but don’t rely on it completely. Get a good beta-reader before you post your stories to check for such errors, especially if you know you’re not a grammar “expert” or perhaps are writing a story in English when it is a second language to you. When you post a story to a website or archive, be sure to follow the formatting guidelines for that site so that your story posts properly (always preview to check!)
And, if your story gets rejected for or you get critiqued on your grammar, don’t just storm off in a huff or ignore that feedback. Take the advice given to heart and put the time into learning how to improve your writing. In the long run it will improve your chances of developing an audience for your stories – and make you a better writer as well!
Grammar Guides for Fan Fiction Authors - A few useful guides for further information
- Thamiris' Sexed-Up Grammar Guide
Adults only! This somewhat racy guide makes learning good grammar fun and sexy. Learn by amusing example about proper punctuation, dialog formatting, and even how to better write concise sentences.
- Dialog Punctuation
Incorrect dialog punctuation is one of the major problems I see in fanfic writing on a regular basis. Let Murdock and the rest of The A-Team teach you how to punctuate dialog correctly.
- The Lous & Clark Fanfic Archive Grammar Guide
Most of the tips here are useful for writers of any kind of fanfic.
Band Fanfiction Writing Tip #4: Do Your Research!
Learn what you can about the band or musicians you want to write about
Writing good band fanfiction isn’t just sticking familiar names and faces onto cardboard characters and making them say or do whatever you want. You need to put some time into studying the band members and observing their personalities and how they interact with each other. And of course, you should make sure you know all the basic information such as where they’re from, how they got together in a band, and what major challenges they may have faced. For instance, has a member of the band been through a life-threatening situation before, or other health challenges? Gone through rehab for substance abuse? Has the band lost members or maybe came close to breaking up in the past due to personality or creative differences?
Of course, if you’re a fan you probably know many of these things already from watching the band in interview clips, reading magazine articles or any books written about them, or seeing them in concert and simply observing their interactions. So draw upon that knowledge when you start to write! Spend even more time doing research and observing little details – YouTube is a great resource these days for band fanfic authors as there are so many clips online featuring just about any band or artist you might want to write about. Check eBay for old magazines or article clippings. Bookmark websites that provide good basic information like tour date itineraries, band “wikis” or other detailed information.
Research may sound “boring” but it is an essential part of writing a believable bandfic story that will capture your readers’ attention. You don’t want a reader to get annoyed if you get a major fact about a character or band wrong as that person might just stop reading your story. Research, too, can help give you ideas about interesting stories you could write, perhaps based on a particular event that happened during a tour or recording session.
Research is important even if – and perhaps even more so – when writing an “alternative universe” or “altered reality” story. If you’re transplanting your band members to a fantasy setting, into a different kind of career, or maybe into a science fiction universe, you still need to keep them recognizable as the band characters fans know and love. And by recognizable I mean by their publicly-known personality traits and interactions, not just physical appearances.
Band Fanfiction Writing Tip #5: Learn About The Music Industry In General
Help keep your stories based in reality
This tip is true unless, of course, you are writing some kind of complete AU story (band guys in high school or as space pirates, for instance.) Unless you are a working musician yourself or otherwise employed in the music industry, you might not be familiar with the ins and outs of what a famous pop or rock star’s life might be like. While there is plenty you can learn from reading individual musician’s autobiographies, there are many other great books out there about life on the road (and in the recording studio) in general. These books can help give you more of a feel for how tours operate, what kind of road crews are involved, the crazy lengths some fans will go to in order to connect with their idols, and also the dark side of drug and alcohol abuse.
Reading such books can help your bandfic stories have a greater grounding in reality, and may also inspire you to come up with new story ideas based on what you read. I’ll recommend a few excellent titles next.
Band Fanfiction Writing Tip #6: Don't Be A "Creeper"
Do your research, but within reasonable limits
While research and getting your basic facts right is important to creating a believable story, there are limits as to what the bandfic community (and band members themselves) may find acceptable vs. creepy and potentially stalker-ish. In your writing, you should stick with information that is readily publicly available online, in books and magazines, or from public observation (at concerts, tv interviews, etc.)
If you are somehow fortunate enough to know someone in a band’s organization (a roadie, manager, session musician, or even a band member himself!), don’t ever use any details or stories you might hear in personal conversation in your fiction writing. That would be a violation of trust and could potentially “out” you as the writer of a particular story as well. Remember that research is fine, well and good for believable fiction, but in the end you are writing just that: fiction.
On a similar note, don’t use your fiction to postulate or try to provide “evidence” that, for instance, two band members are secretly in love with each other or otherwise romantically involved. If you want to fantasize and write about such a scenario, fine. But fanfiction isn’t meant to be a way to “convince” your readers that certain events or relationships are “real”. Don’t become, as it’s known in many fandom circles, a dreaded “Tinhat”.
Band Fanfiction Writing Tip #7: Know Your Bandfic Community Standards
Find out what's acceptable and what's not in your band fandom
IThis is where it is important to spend some time reading and interacting with other fans, before you start writing and posting band fiction stories yourself. Different bandfic communities have different rules, written or unwritten, about what is considered “acceptable” and what isn’t when it comes to band fiction.
For instance, in many bandfic fandoms, it is considered inappropriate to write stories involving band members’ real life wives, girlfriends or children. The general rule is that if a family member isn’t a celebrity herself, it is not appropriate to write fiction spinning off of their lives (better to “AU” out of existence that spouse and children if you want to write a romantic story.) In other fandoms, this may not be the case at all.
There may also be communities guidelines about where and how bandfic stories should be posted and shared. Some communities are very tight-knit and like to keep their stories posted in private, members-only communities. They do not like seeing bandfic posted on public sites like Tumblr, promoted on Twitter, or otherwise shared about on public, searchable forums. Bandfic can still be a controversial subject today, so many fans and writers of the genre do not like too much attention drawn to their work, especially by others who do not understand why they enjoy writing the things that they do. Authors of adult-oriented band fanfiction often are concerned about keeping their stories away from underage readers as well. Archives like RockFic and Archive of Our Own allow you to lock stories to members only, making them popular sites for sharing bandfic stories.
That said, other fanfic communities are much more open and free-wheeling about what and where they post fanfic. One Direction Fanfic, for instance, has exploded all over the place and there are tons of stories wide out in the open of just about every type and genre imaginable. Still, it’s important to know and follow your community standards and rules so as not to cross any lines that could potentially hurt the community as a whole.
Band Fanfiction Writing Tip #8: Remember Who You Are Writing About
Most band fic characters are not high school girls...so don't write them as if they are!
Believable characterization is a key in good bandfic, not just in getting basic facts about your band correct but understanding how real people act – especially when you may be writing largely about characters of your opposite gender.
Who are the stars of most band fanfiction stories? Adult men, generally in their 20s or (much) older. Yet so often, bandfic stories read as if all the characters are stereotypical teenage girls.
You know what I’m talking about: These characters cry at the drop of a hat; they worry about confessing their “true love” for their bandmates (or others); they share their love and feelings to each other with flowery emotion and discuss everything in over-analytical detail. Do you know many adult men who really act that way? Or many adult women for that matter?
Writing realistic adult characters can be a challenge – especially, perhaps, for the young author without a great deal of life experience (although I’ve read bandfic stories by 40-something authors that left me wondering…) This again is where having a beta-reader or editor can be very handy. Ask for critique specifically on your characterization, and listen to any advice you receive on how to make your characters read more like real people – real adults. If you’re worried, as a female author, about how your male characters “read”, perhaps try to find a man willing to read your story (and not just poo-poo it as a silly female “fantasy” or “waste of time”.)
Links on Writing Better Male Characters - Useful information for the female author
A large majority of bandfic authors are women, and a similar large majority of the characters these authors write about are men. Here are some useful guides on how to write better male characters - no matter what genre of fiction you are writing.
- On Writing Convinving Male Characters
A guide from the Advanced Writing Tips blog.
- Tips on writing male characters
A discussion thread from the National Novel Writers Month forum.
- What Women Need to Know About Writing Male Characters
An interesting discussion/debate on the subject.
- Writing Characters of the Opposite Gender
Good tips for both male and female authors.
- Tips For Writing More "Masculine" Characters
Avoid those "teenage girl" trappings with the useful tips in this article.
Band Fanfiction Writing Tip #9: Avoid the dreaded Mary Sue!
No one cares about your unrealistic self-insert character...except for you
It’s probably one of the most common – and most cliched – type of bandfic story out there:
Band member meets girl at concert. Girl is a very thinly-veiled stand-in for the author (just made perfectly beautiful and talented, perhaps with one carefully chosen “adorable” flaw). Boy and girl fall madly in love. There may or may not be drama or unusual circumstances working to keep them apart. But they either fight through it all and end up happily ever after, or she dies tragically leaving the band member to mourn for her forevermore.
Congratulations, you’ve just encountered a Mary Sue. Or have you? There are those who will scream “Mary Sue” the moment an Original Female Character is inserted into a story – and oftentimes they are correct. Yet there are good authors who can pull off creating an original female love interest for a band fanfiction story, it just takes real work, characterization and plotting. Remember that most people are reading bandfic stories because they want to read about the band members they already like and are interested in. You’re going to have to work extra-hard to get those readers interested in your original character instead or as well.
Discussions and Articles on Writing Better Original Characters - Tips from others on this touchy subject
If you really must write a bandfic story featuring an original female character, particularly as a love interest, you might find some good advice on how to make your character more interesting and believable in the links below.
- A Writer's Guide: Writing OCs and Original Characters in Fan-Fiction
"If you've read fan-fiction, you've most likely run into a Mary-Sue. You know, that really too perfect girl? Here are a few tips to avoid making that mistake in your own writing; and spot potential Mary-Sues in prospective reading material."
- The Dos and Don'ts of Writing a Realistic OC
Although focused on Harry Potter fanfiction, this article has lots of good advice for authors of any kind of fanfic.
- Writing: How to make an OC/Canon relationship not un-realistic.
An interesting discussion thread at fanfiction.net on how to avoid the pitfalls in writing OC/Canon relationship stories.
Do You Like Original Female Characters (OFCs) and Romance in Your Bandfic Stories? - A poll
Real Life Groupies and Rock Star Wives: Their Stories - Selected reading from Amazon
What's it really like for women who make a hobby - or even a lifestyle - out of being a "groupie"? What about the women who fall in love with rock stars and end up marrying them? These books tell individual tales, or collect the stories of many women, who love rock stars and have gotten closer to them than most fans would ever dream about. You might want to read some of these books before writing your own "falling in love with a rock star" story - if just to get a dose of reality first.
Band Fanfiction Writing Tip #10: Watch Out for Anachronisms
There were no iPhones in the 1960s...
I see anachronisms pop up a lot in bandfic written about 60s, 70s and 80s bands…especially when written by new fans who weren’t even alive during those time periods! It can perhaps be difficult for younger fans to imagine what life was like in the days before widespread internet and home computers, cellphones and other forms of technology. So be sure to do some research on when such items were actually introduced into the consumer market (easy to do today via Wikipedia!) For instance, do you know when cassettes and then CDs began to replace LPs, or even 8-tracks? When someone might have started actually listening to music on a Walkman, or have an electronic drumkit?
Anachronisms can pop up in other ways too–like having a 1970s band eating at a sushi restaurant outside of perhaps a major US city like San Francisco or New York City, drinking a soda or alcoholic beverage that wasn’t marketed yet, or saying slang phrases from the wrong era. There are cultural aspects, too, such as whether or not a band member could be openly gay or bisexual easily during a certain time period. If you’re writing about a band or artist from a different era, research is vitally important in trying to get your facts straight about the time period in which your story is set. If possible, try to get a beta-reader for your story who can check for these kinds of mistakes.
A Question for Band Fanfiction Readers - What's your worst bandfic pet peeve?
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Do You Have Any Tips For Writing Better Band Fiction? - Comments welcome!
Lucas on January 10, 2015:
I had similar feeginls when J.K. made the big Pottermore announcement. The first though in my head was really? You're finally going to acknowledge the fact that the fan-made Harry Potter universe is larger than your own? . That was quickly followed with a feeling of dissapointment that it was being put together mostly for what seems like commercial reasons.
flycatcherrr on February 05, 2013:
You know, this is a genre of fiction I hadn't encountered before. Interesting!
Paul from Liverpool, England on January 20, 2013:
That's a very well put page on band fiction - plenty of writers around who need it!