The Basics to a Fanfiction.

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The Basics to a Fanfiction.

Post by Joshuareid36 on Tue Jun 06, 2017 10:21 pm

1) Proper Use of the Keyboard.
There are several useful keys on the keyboard:

Enter/Return: This is one of the most useful keys. Use it whenever you have finished with one idea and are ready to move on to the next paragraph. Use it when one person has finished speaking, and another is about to start. When doing so, hit it twice, to produce a blank line between paragraphs. This makes it a lot easier for your readers to tell where your paragraphs start and end. Large blocks of uninterrupted text are hard to read.

Shift: Another important key. Hold it down when typing the first letter of a sentence, the first letter of a name, or the letter I when using it as the first person singular subject pronoun.

Caps Lock: Often used as a substitute for the 'Shift' key. Don't do it. Text should not be in all capital letters unless someone is SHOUTING!

The Spacebar: Hit it once after every word or comma, twice after a period.

Tab: Unfortunately, this does not work to indent paragraphs on these boards. This is why a blank line between paragraphs is essential.

Other Keys: Your keyboard, unless it is defective, comes with a full complement of letters. Don't be afraid to use them. There is no reason to type 'u' instead of 'you', or indeed to use any abbreviation you learned in a chat room. There is no penalty for taking a few seconds longer to type complete words.

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2) Tips on Composition.

Paragraphs: Use these as your basic unit of composition. Each paragraph should be used to set forth a single idea. If a paragraph seems too long, it probably contains multiple ideas, and should be split up for clarity. If it seems too short, expand on the idea.

Sentences: A sentence should contain exactly one action or statement of existence. If it contains more than one, split it into two or more. If it contains less than one, finish the sentence. Run-on sentences are often confusing, while fragments make the reader feel that something is missing.

Description: Make sure that your reader can visualize what is happening. Don't just say something like "Joe walked along enjoying the scenery". This gives no indication of whether the scenery he is enjoying is a redwood forest, a beach at sunset, or the Grand Canyon.

A description is not just a list of attributes. When describing a character, don't just list their name, age, height, weight, hair color, and current Pokemon team, Digimon partner, Yu-Gi-Oh deck, Saiyjin status or whatever is relevent to the fandom you're writing for. Bring this information out gradually when the person appears in a story. Don't have Joe meet a trainer named Fred who is 12 years old, has green eyes and red hair, is three and a half feet tall, and whose Pokemon are Squirtle, Pikachu, Butterfree, Grimer, Tauros, and Krabby. Have Joe see a short, red-haired kid with startlingly green eyes, and talk to him. Have names mentioned early in the conversation. The Pokemon may be either revealed in a battle, or introduced individually during the conversation.

The last few sentences apply to non-Pokemon fics as well - just substitute relevent details. For example, in "Harry Potter" fanfics, do not have Jane meet a kid named Mike, who has brown hair and brown eyes, is a second year Hufflepuff, has a pet barn owl and uses an oak-and-unicorn-hair wand. Instead, have Jane meet and talk to a brown-haired kid. Let them exchange names and houses - their owls and wands may either be featured in the scene or introduced into the conversation.

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3) Other General Advice.

Plot: Try to be original. "Joe is 10 (or 11 or 12) years old and about to start his Pokemon journey. He goes to Professor (insert tree here) and gets a (insert Pokemon here)" has been done too many times already. "Joe is a 10-year-old from Pallet Town and about to start his Pokemon journey. He accidentally sleeps in, and by the time he gets to Professor Oak's lab, all the starters have been taken, so he gets a Pikachu" is so old everyone is sick of it.

For non-Pokemon fics, again, try to avoid getting too cliched. You will probably have a fair idea of what is considered to be cliched in your fandom, but I will give you a couple of examples:

Digimon: "Jack and his friends are at summer camp when they find some strange devices that turn out to be Digivices and get zapped to the Digital World where each of them hooks up with (insert one Digimon for each character)" is basically a rehash of what happens in the tv series with the author's own characters substituted for the ones from canon.

Harry Potter: "Tina thinks she is an ordinary girl until, shortly before her eleventh birthday, she gets a letter telling her she has "been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry". Armed with the stuff she buys in Diagon Alley, she goes off to Hogwarts and gets sorted into (insert one of the four houses)". Same as above and there's a good reason to avoid rehashing canon, aside from the possibility of annoying readers who prefer to see a little originality - and it's called "plagiarism". Plagiarism is where you take someone else's idea and TRY to pass it off as your own. Do NOT do this as it could land you in all sorts of trouble, both on and off the board.

Try to be reasonable. A new trainer is not going to start with a Legendary, or even rare, Pokemon. The standard starter Pokemon were selected for a reason: They are easy for professors to obtain whenever new trainers are about to start, they can be controlled by beginners, and with proper training, they can become quite powerful. Likewise, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to catch any of the Legendary Pokemon. They are simply too powerful. If you have seen either of the movies, think about it. Mew or Mewtwo can deflect any attack you try with minimal effort. Consider the scene in The Power of One where Ash's Pikachu (which has been known to defeat Rock and Ground Types) meets Zapdos. Compare their relative power levels. Now think about how hard it would be to defeat Zapdos. This can be applied to any of the Legendary Pokemon. No trainer will have one unless it has a good reason to want to accompany that trainer.

Again the basic essence of this applies whatever your fandom. In Digimon fics, try to keep your characters' Digimon at the early stages of Digivolution outside of battle scenes and you should certainly think twice before introducing a super-powerful Digivolution of your own creation unless there is a VALID reason for having it in your fic. For example, your characters might be up against a Digimon so powerful that their own Digimon can't defeat it in the usual way. Also, in Dragonball fics, don't make too many characters go Super-Saiyjin too early on or without a good reason. And, if it's a Harry Potter fic, don't have the characters use magic beyond that which they would reasonably be expected to know at whatever stage of their magical training they've reached. If you think about it, tasks such as turning buttons into beetles and levitating feathers are pretty easy compared to some of the stuff adult wizards can do.

But, whatever your fandom, you should always THINK before adding something that seems abnormally powerful. Ask yourself if you really need to have whatever it is in your story or whether your story can function just as well (if not better) without it.

Characters: Make your characters real. Give them strengths and weaknesses. Inherently superior characters who win each battle effortlessly, are smarter than Hermione and so forth are boring. So are incompetent members of Team Rocket. So is Gym-Leader-who can't-stand-being-defeated. In short, don't use stereotypes, be it surly-Slytherin-who-hates-anyone-who-isn't-of-pure-wizard-blood or something more general such as beautiful-blonde-who-doesn't-DO-much-except-marry-the-handsome-hero-at-the-end. The latter can be especially annoying to female readers. Remember that we are living in the early twenty-first century so there's no reason why your female characters can't play just as active a role as the males. Check out something like Jean M Auel's Earth's Children books or the tv series Xena: Warrior Princess if you want to see strong female characters in action.

Spelling/Grammar: Write your story in a word-processing program. Use the spellchecker, but don't depend on it completely. It can tell whether your word matches the spelling of a real word, but it cannot tell whether it is the word you wanted to use. Use grammar checkers with extreme care. They cannot actually understand what you are saying, and often make mistakes.

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4) My Personal Advice:
"My" means Murgatroyd here

Note that the contents of this section reflect my personal preferences. Other good writers may disagree with me.

Battles: I generally dislike sentences of the form "(Pokemon/Digimon or whatever it is) used (name of attack, spell etc)". You are describing what the character does. In a real-world battle, a Pokemon would not "use Bite on" its opponent; it would "bite" its opponent. There are, however, exceptions to this. If there is no verb for the action, go ahead and say "Bulbasaur used Leech Seed", "Biyomon used Spiral Twister", "Sophie used Wingardium Leviosa" or anything that's relevent to your fandom. Still, try to avoid "used (name of attack, spell etc)". Better options would be "fired a hyperbeam at (enemy)", "hit (enemy) with (attack)", "cast a __________ spell/charm/curse" etc.

Additionally, the GameBoy battle format makes no sense in the context of a real battle. A Pokemon in a real battle would not just attack, then stand there waiting for its opponent to attack. In a real battle, you would have no time to go in and administer a potion or antidote to your Pokemon. Watch the TV show or re-read the books for your chosen fandom for a reasonable depiction of what battles, wizards' duels and so on would be like.

GameBoy Terminology in general: Try to avoid it. In the real world, referring to something as "Level 17" is meaningless. Pokemon have varying levels of power and experience, but don't just summarize all of this with a single number. In the world of your fanfic, Pokemon (and anything similar such as Digimon) are real, living creatures. They are individuals. They have their own strengths, weaknesses, and skills.

The only thing worse than referring to "levels" is referring to "hit points", "power points", or any of the "statistics" (attack, defense, "special defense", etc). Avoid use of these terms at all costs.

original text by Murgatroyd - amended by Clare

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Characters

Characters are fun, aren't they?

The characters of a story determine much of whether or not the story is likeable. If a story has a killer plot, but has unbelievable characters, chances are that it'll fall. People like to be able to connect with the characters they read about. It's what keeps them tied into the story.

Most people feel that they need to know what happens to the characters. If they die, if they succeed in their quest, etc. Character development doesn't always have to be deep, but readers definitely appreciate a good character. How about some tips?

Unbelievable Strength

Don't make a character unbelievably strong. If you have a normal kid, he (or she) acts and reacts like a normal kid would. You can't have a normal kid get shot and get over it in half an hour. A normal kid isn't going to forget a bullet wound! If the kid is even conscious . . .

This is true with all characters. They cannot have an unbelievably strong amount of power. If you have a Pokemon fic about a kid, it usually doesn't work if the kid has eight Legendaries. Likewise, Harry Potter fics about kids who become Animagi with very little effort are a bad idea - if you read The Prisoner Of Azkaban, you'll see that it states SPECIFICALLY that becoming an Animagus is so difficult that only a handful officially exist. In short, keep Mary-Sues and Gary-Stus out of your stories as much as possible - there are several Mary-Sue tests out there that you could run your characters through to make sure you haven't fallen into any one of a number of character-creation traps.

Believable Strength

It is quite possible to have a strong character. Sometimes the strength can be attributed to special powers, if you work with fantasy. These are the easiest to deal with, perhaps because they can be there because they were innate.

With "real people"; in fics, this can be somewhat hard. There can be characters who have unbending will to go on, or even derive pleasure from pain (Anyone seems "Tomorrow Never Dies";? Stamper is a prime example of this!). To make a character like this believable, the characteristics must be hard and strong.

As an example, Salvador is a strong guy with a hard will to continue. He never fails to work hard, especially when it is for his work (he works for the Rockets). He is willing to take any and all pain necessary on the way to achieving his goals. Throughout the story, Salvador has sustained minor injuries, and kept his strong will. When he is faced with an agent of another Team, however, he will sustain a much larger one.

"Salvador narrowed his eyes in concentration, debating whether or not he should leap forward and attack or not. There were certainly other alternatives. He could try to throw his empty gun at the man. He could hold back for a few moments, though it would most likely lead to being shot.

After a moment, Salvador decided that he could take it no more. His way of doing something was to go ahead and do it. He wasn't going to change that because a guy had a gun at his head. If he was killed, that was it. He wanted to go down fighting. He leapt forward with a speed that surprised him, but, unfortunately, failed to surprise the dark man.

Even as Salvador lunged forward, reaching for the man, he could hear the gun being fired. Salvador felt the dark man step back, and then felt the force of the bullet piercing into his chest. He cringed in agony, almost screamed. He felt bones shatter around his organs, felt a bolt of heat near his lungs. For a moment he tottered and nearly fell to the floor. However, he was able to hear his earlier thoughts, those that had stated that he didn't need to worry about being killed. These thoughts kept him standing.

Salvador saw the form of the man in front of him. Though it was becoming blurry, he knew he could attack, maybe even hit. Maybe he was going to die, but he didn't care. Once more, Salvador lunged forward."

Of course, a character doesn't need to be strong all the way through to have moments of strength. A person can definitely find courage during a traumatic moment, before a possible death or the like. Strength lies deep in everyone. Depending on the character, it can be found at different levels. The main point is, don't make a weak character suddenly act strongly all of the time. Readers won't swallow that too well.

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Alternate points of view

These are very useful when developing a character. While one character is thinking about his or herself, you realize what he/she feels about the traits he/she has. A reader can also make insights about the character by what he/she thinks of others. For example:

"Lydia knew that she didn't like Chad very much. The truth was that she hated him, loathed him. The boy always seemed to be in some sort of trouble, whether it was because he had been caught talking one too many times in class or because he had been caught stealing from the local convenience store.

Maybe it'd be better to say that Lydia distrusted Chad. She didn't know him very well, and didn't want to. He seemed to be the kind of guy who would stand in a dark alley, smoking a cigarette and waiting, just waiting for some innocent bystander to walk by and . . .

Lydia shook her head vigorously. Of course Chad wasn't doing that, he was too busy with homework and the cross team. Still, it was a feasible idea, one that could happen in the near future. She felt this strongly, and couldn't shake her dislike for Chad."

In reading this from Lydia's POV, you should be able to realize that she dislikes Chad. You can see that she distrusts him because of his actions. She seems to be stuck on certain ideas, and has a sort of prejudice towards those who seem "untrustworthy." She judges before she understand anything. You can also see that she has some sort of imagination.To carry development even further, it's good to write what other characters observe about their fellows. For example:

"Julia didn't understand why Lydia always seemed to walk on the other side of the hall when Chad walked by. It was always a movement that could almost be absent-minded, a simple move to the other side. Julie didn't think so, though. Not when it was always done.

Julia didn't think Chad was a bad guy at all. He certainly didn't deserve to be avoided like he was some sort of disease. Although Lydia was her friend, Julia sometimes had trouble understanding Lydia's short-sightedness."

This further pushes the fact that Lydia doesn't look below the surface. It also shows that she has perhaps made wrong judgment of Chad. Obviously, you can do a better job of conveying information by using various POVs than I just did. It is a very useful technique, and I recommend it.

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Names

Names can be quite helpful in defining a character, too. A character's name can reveal certain traits about him or her, contradict his or her traits, have a strong meaning to the story, or mean nothing at all. Using a variety of names can be helpful. While it's fine to use names such as Rob, Jim, and Amanda, it's good to mix these in with less common names. I suppose this isn't quite character information, but it stays here because I don't feel like putting it elsewhere. Names such as Angel can be used to either contradict or convey the characteristics of a character

"Angel fit her name to a level of perfection that seemed undeniably firm. Her practical, caring behavior, along with her endless amount of forgiveness, seemed to fit nearly everyone's idea of angelic. Her hair seemed to be spun of gold, and her body had been shaped to a soft faultlessness."

Or:

"Angel's eyes blazed with anger as she watched the man before her. She had a short temper, and certainly wasn't the most mild-mannered person in the world. Both Angel and the man knew that she could kill him without a second thought. For a moment, however, she simply glared, piercing eyes glaring out from under her black bangs, standing with an intensity that seemed to scream that she was a murderer."

I really have no way to wrap that one up. I guess, while names can mean something, convey a characteristic, or symbolize something, it's perfectly fine to have them be meaningless.

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Actions

A character must, obviously, stay constantly in character. By this I mean that you should make sure that if a character does something, it is befitting of him/her. It's fine for a character to do something that SEEMS out of the ordinary as long as you explain the reason for the actions.For example, if you have a character who seems to be the perfect angel, you can make him/her do something "bad" by a number of methods.

First, you could use a traumatic happening. Have a close death, or a near death experience. There's always the "hidden character" method, too. The angelic personality could be a cover-up for the character - and as the writer, you don't have to reveal this fact until you want to. Isn't that fun?

original text by Crimson Rose - amended by Clare

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Stages

A story goes through four different stages from beginning to end. These are as follows:

1, Exposition - this is where you introduce the main characters and let your readers know a bit about their background. Traits which should be revealed at this stage are:

Name
Gender
Age
Appearence
Pokemon owned, Digimon partner, house at Hogwarts or whatever (for humans)
Name of trainer (for Pokemon - optional) - if you've writing a non-Pokemon fic, you may disregard this
Unusual traits/special powers (if applicable)
Hometown

Other traits should be revealed as and when they become relevent and it's important (especially if you're writing a mystery story) not to reveal too much too soon.

2, Complication - this is where conflict arises. Note that this doesn't have to be a war in the literal sense - you can have conflict over a number of situations. In "The Chimera Children", the conflict was between two human/Ursaring hybrids and the organisation who wanted to eliminate them.

Lack of any real conflict is one of the main problems with writing journey fics. Even if you manage to avoid most of the pitfalls these stories contain (cliched starts, too little description, lack of realism etc) describing Gym battle after Gym battle can get repetitive after the first few. And, when journey fics DO contain conflict, this usually comes in the form of a rivalry between two trainers or the need to foil Team Rocket, both of which have been used in the games and tv series.

As a final note, if you're writing a short story, make the conflict something which is straightfoward and easily resolved.

3, Climax - this is it, folks! The final showdown! The conflict has reached its peak and now's the time where things could go either way. You need to build towards your climax gradually and one way to do this is by dropping subtle hints throughout your fic, a process known as foreshadowing.

Whether you include an actual battle in your climax depends on the nature of the story. You also need to be as dramatic as you can at this stage; ending your penultimate chapter with a statement like:

"Lisa and John clung to each other nervously and Growlithe snarled threateningly as the door opened"

is especially effective as it means people will need to wait until the final chapter to find out who (or what) is behind the door. You could end the story there, but, then again, finding out what's behind the door might be extremely important.

4, Resolution - here, the climax has passed and the characters are starting to get their lives back together again. Key questions should be answered at this stage if they aren't already and you might also want to drop hints that there may be a sequel.

Post-climax, your characters will more than likely be changed by their experiences and you need to reflect this in your ending. You can have them just go home and try to get on with their lives, but your plot might require that they make a new start somewhere else. But, whatever you do, don't waffle on about each character's subsequent life history unless it's absolutely essential. Even then, it might work better in a sequel.

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Other Relevent Points

Titles

Try to have at least a provisional title in mind - you can always change it later if it no longer seems to fit the story, but let your readers know if you do - as there are few things more annoying than seeing topic after topic called "Untitled Fic" or something in that vein. Titles are EXTREMELY important tools for distinguishing one story from another, which is why it's often not a good idea to have titles that are too similar to those already in use. Two particularly common examples of this are Pokemon fics with titles like "Timmy's Pokemon Journey" and Harry Potter stories where the title starts with the words "Harry Potter And The . . ."

Whatever you decide to call your fic it needs to have some relevence to the storyline, be it the name of a major character or event, a quote (an example is the novel "To Kill A Mockingbird" where the title is a metaphor for attacking the innocent) or just an appropriate word or phrase. In short, a title needs to give the reader an idea what to expect from the fic, but it should do this without giving too much information away. And do remember that there is a limit to how long topic headings can be on this board - a title like "How Lapras Trainer Josephine Court Wowed Everyone At The Pokemon League And Came Into Contact With Her Future Husband While She Was There" is going to get chopped off at the end. And it's also a little mind-boggling; as a rule, titles shouldn't contain more ideas than is absolutely necessary to convey the essence of the story's main theme. If we take an original story of mine called "The Sect Of Xanadu Peak" as an example, the title tells us that this Sect is likely to play a major role in the story. Who the Sect are, what they believe and where Xanadu Peak is located is revealed in the story itself.

And remember that the title of your fic is the first thing people are going to see. You need to grab their attention, encourage them to click on the link to your story - and the best way to do this is with a good title. That's why you need to give your fic a title, if not as soon as you start writing it, by the time the story gets under way. A lot of you probably don't remember this, but, back when this board was a UBB, there was a story in the Pokemon Fanfic section about a Ponyta who couldn't use Fire Attacks. It was untitled for the first seven or eight chapters before the author called it "The Ponyta Story" in one post and the name stuck. If you want to read it, it's on fanfiction.net . . .

Length

How long should a story be? Answer: long enough to resolve the conflict. There are no absolute rules here, but a simple plotline with a fairly straightforward conflict works best as a short story, whereas something more complex would require a multi-chaptered fic. The latter also offers scope for extensive character development that is frequently not possible in the more constrained world of short stories and you can also toss in a few relevent sub-plots if you feel you can keep track of them.

If you think a story may be nearing the end, there is a useful checklist of questions you might want to ask yourself before typing "THE END" at the bottom of the page:

1, Have I resolved the main conflict or will I do so in a sequel?
2, Have I answered key questions such as who Sue's long-lost father was?
3, If I say much more, will it descend into pointless waffle?
4, Am I ending it because the answer to the first three questions was "yes"?
5, Or am I ending it because I've got writer's block and I don't know what else to do with this story?
6, Most importantly, does the last chapter (in particular the last paragraph) give a sense of conclusion?

Indeed, the reason people find extremely short fics irritating is because there is rarely any room for conflict if the piece is too short. And I'm sure you'll agree that no conflict = bad story.

Point Of View

This means WHOSE eyes are the events in the story seen through? You're unlikely to see second person POV (You, your, yours and yourself) outside roleplay books such as "Choose Your Own Adventure" or "Fighting Fantasy", so let's skip that and concentrate on first and third person.

First person means using one of the characters to tell the story as he or she experiences it. This can give an immediate sense of how that particular person feels, but you are limited to describing things they either experience directly or learn of from another character. And, when using this perspective, remember that (as Crimson Rose said) how one character perceives something may not be how others perceive it. If we imagine two characters with widely differing views on issues such as animal rights, it's likely that each of them thinks THEY are right and the other character is wrong.

Third person means saying what the characters do by using their names and personal pronouns. There are two forms this can take:

Limited - describes events in the third person but through the eyes of a single character. If you read the "Harry Potter" books, you'll notice that everything (apart from the opening chapters of books one and four) is described from Harry's perspective. Again, as with first person POV, beware of bias.

Omnipotent - describes events through the eyes of several key characters and, as such, is useful if you want to paint a complete picture of what is happening or switch between locations. The "Redwall" books use this method so that one chapter might be set in Redwall Abbey, another in Mossflower Wood, another in Salamandastron and so on . . .

Bits And Pieces

Swearing: try to keep bad language to a minimum as excessive use of obscenities is not allowed here - and there are words that will be filtered (converted to non-alpha characters). Of course, there may well be times where your characters have to swear, but try to keep to relatively inoffensive language. If you feel someone would be likely to say something stronger, put this in indirect speech without mentioning the questionable word(s). For example, say something like "swore and cursed loudly" or "used language that would have made a sailor blush". As for using the P word to mean "angry", DON'T do it as there are plenty of inoffensive alternatives. Too much bad language is neither big nor clever and will more than likely land you with a ban.

Emoticons: as with online abbreviations such as "ppl" or "B4", try to avoid using these in the main body of your fic. They may look neat, but when was the last time you read a book that used little pictures to convey the characters' moods? Instead of saying "Anne was ", try something like "Anne was pleased/delighted/overjoyed". I'm not decrying the use of emoticons, but there is a time and a place to use them - and writing fanfics isn't either. Far better to work on describing emotions in WORDS and keep emoticons for other purposes.

Toggling: ThIs MeAnS tYpInG uPpEr AnD lOwEr CaSe AlTeRnAtElY like I just did and it's a BIG no-no. The reason for this is that toggled text is distracting and difficult to read - in other words, it can be almost as annoying as ALL CAPS! So, before you start playing around with the Shift Key or Caps Lock, remember that upper case letters should only be used if the word in question either begins a sentence or is the name of a specific person, place or event; a day of the week or month of the year; the title of a book and so on. All caps should only be used FOR EMPHASIS, but it would still be better to show this via bold or italicised text.

Crossovers: here, you need to decide which universe the fic is going to be set in and come up with a realistic (for the context) means of introducing the characters from the other fandom. I don't know about anyone else, but I dislike fanfics where characters from another series are bunged in for no real purpose. So don't have a Pokemon trainer named John who's out walking his Growlithe when he suddenly (and for reasons never explained in the story) bumps into a Digidestined girl named Toni and her Hawkmon. Instead, try to come up with an explanation for what is going on and why - you don't have to tell the reader immediately, but you darn well better do so by the end.

Knowledge: make the words "know your fandom" your fanfic-writing maxim. In my experience, it's easier to write a convincing story if you're reasonably clued up on the relevent facts. You may have your own theories about things such as how Poke Balls work or what causes kids to become Digidestined, but some knowledge of canon can come in useful even if you only use original characters.

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