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In retrospect on writing a fan fiction story

Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 2:47 pm
by Mr. Goodkat
In October 2014 I've decided to give fan fiction writing a try and started working on War Games, not knowing if I would ever reach the destination of my writer's journey. Nine months later it was actually finished and I've started looking for a way to share it with the rest of the world. And now, I'm in the mood to take a look back and allow my musing to run free.

So I'd like to talk about the following subjects in the next few weeks in this thread:
Be aware that this is gonna reflect my personal view and experience on fan fiction writing that probably cannot be generalized. But I still hope that this may help other writers (especially beginners) on their own journey.

It will also include some SPOILERS. So if you consider to read my story, you should do this first before continuing reading this thread.

If there is something you like to add to my thoughts or if there is something you disagree with, I invite you to reply to my posts in this thread.

But before I start I want to thank Jan Rathje for taking the job as my illustrator for War Games and Felony for pointing me in the right direction when I was looking for help to get this illustrated fanfic online.
I also want to thank MoDaD once again for setting up the War Games website and promoting it through the social media channels (not to mention answering my requests and listening to my whining after the release which was probably a bit annoying sometimes :lol:). It means a lot to me that War Games is on display in the header of the encyclopedia of together with Nova Squadron and Punch it!.
And finally I want to thank Kooshmeister for having an interesting personal message discussion that actually triggered this retrospection.

Re: In retrospect on writing a fan fiction story

Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 3:19 pm
by Mr. Goodkat
Part 1 - The challenge of writing more than 43.000 words in English as a non-native speaker and fanfic writer rookie

As I've written in my very first post here on Megakat City, the idea for this story came into my mind thanks to a chain of coincidences. While it was growing inside my mind as a very rough concept I thought it would be cool if the story would cover enough material such that it could be theoretically adapted into a 90 minutes SWAT Kats movie.

So before I've started writing I've checked the transcripts in the episode guide on to find out how much dialog an episode roughly includes to cover 22 minutes. For this I copied a selection of these transcripts into a document of my word processing application to see how many pages they gonna occupy (~5 pages x 4 episodes = 20 pages of pure dialog). Then I estimated that it would need at least twice as much pages for the remaining text explaining what happens and how the characters (re)act. So I aimed for 60 pages.

I remember laughing at myself for being crazy and that I would give up after 3 pages because I would run out of ideas and/or loose my confidence in it. In the end I wrote more than 70 pages. Guess I've showed me laughing at myself. :twisted:

The creative part of the writing is something which I can hardly explain and it surprised me how well it worked. I just sat down at my computer and thought about what might happen next, writing everything down that came into my mind. I had to be in the right mood for this, of course, but when I was, the words just fell out of my brain which was actually a bit scary as I never experienced this in such an intensity ever before. I wrote the first five chapters this way, following the rough concept in my head.

Then I had reached the point were I noticed that it wasn't sufficient anymore in order to guide me any further. So I thought about the key events that would happen next and wrote them down as list items that I could tick off when I actually finished writing them.

In my next post I'm gonna present you a short excerpt from that list and explain how I worked with it.

Re: In retrospect on writing a fan fiction story

Posted: Mon Nov 23, 2015 2:29 pm
by MoDaD
The creative part of the writing is something which I can hardly explain and it surprised me how well it worked.

Sometimes ideas just come flowing like a stuck water faucet and it's a challenge just to get them all down coherently on paper - and then other times it's a struggle just to write a sentence. The latter isn't so bad - it's worse when you have lots of ideas but no time or energy to devote to just sitting down and writing (at least for me, lately).

Your attention to detail in your writing is nice, as are the callbacks to events within the series - that really helps to ingrain your story in the universe.

I'm still really impressed that you wrote all of War Games in English. I took a few years of French and I found it a struggle just to write a paragraph or two, so the fact that you wrote out a good narrative at over 43,000 words is really incredible.

I know that responses and feedback to writing can been hit-or-miss, but even if the number of reviews you receive is less than you'd expect, I'd encourage you to continue writing. The majority of my first stories never received much feedback, but they helped me become better at writing, and eventually I managed to put out a few works that got some modest attention.

Re: In retrospect on writing a fan fiction story

Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2015 3:48 pm
by Mr. Goodkat
Thanks for your encouragement, MoDaD, and don't worry. Part 3 and 4 may sound like being frustrated and/or disappointed (and I admit that I was a bit frustrated at some point), but my main intention with these parts is trying to provide a down-to-earth point of view on the topic and it's definitely not going to be a meltdown or something like that. :lol:

Re: In retrospect on writing a fan fiction story

Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2015 4:00 pm
by Mr. Goodkat
Part 1 (continued - CONTAINS SPOILERS)

And now here is that short excerpt of my list I've promised:
  • Second wave of drones starts attacking
  • Turbokat is hit and crashes into the sea
  • T-Bone and Razor are using their ejector seats and the minidrones developed by Hackle and Matthew Doubt save them from being killed by the drones
  • Dark Kat conquers the part of Megakat City where Megakat Tower is located and occupies it (the servers of Young Industries provide better conditions to handle the drones)
  • By conquering industrial facilities and forcing the workers to work for him, Dark Kat speeds up his drone production
  • Mayor Manx and Callie Briggs have to flee on board of the Leviathan to escape Dark Kat's grasp (Dark Kat wants them to hand over the city to him officially)

If you've read the story you will notice that the events listed here don't happen in exactly that order and some parts of them even changed. For example that Hard Drive actually occupies Megakat Tower while Dark Kat occupies City Hall. There are also some points (not included in the excerpt above) that didn't make it into the story, like Matthew Doubt (the main character besides the SWAT Kats in this story) being developing a virus to take out the AI he had developed, but loosing it while he infiltrates Megakat Tower. This would have forced him to face and fight his own creation later in Cyberspace which would have been an homage to the final fight between the player character and the megalomaniacal AI SHODAN in the video game System Shock. I dropped it because it seemed to be unrealistic that Matthew would get this much combat experience being trained by Razor and T-Bone in that short amount of time. I would have created a "from zero to hero"-character that way who he definitely isn't. I think I make this very clear when I let him perform his swoop attack on Hard Drive leaving the villain no chance to defend himself.

Despite making such (radical) changes, creating this list and ticking off the items really helped me to stay on track while staying true to the strategy to write down everything that came into my mind on the way.

I'd like to stay in Cyberspace for a while longer in the next post as this chapter had a few more surprises for me in store. So stay tuned!

Re: In retrospect on writing a fan fiction story

Posted: Thu Nov 26, 2015 4:46 pm
by Mr. Goodkat
Another reason why I avoided writing the Cyberspace fight is that the fights were hardest for me to write and I already had to deal with them quite a lot (Chance/Jake vs. Burke/Murray, SWAT Kats/Enforcers vs. drones, SWAT Kats vs. drones, Razor vs. Dark Kat, T-Bone vs. Dark Kat's minions and drones). So I was tired of that at this point and I decided to write the Cyberspace-chapter more like an exploration adventure. I think this was a good decision to make, but as it turned out this chapter was a challenge to write nonetheless. I've quickly realized that my English reached its limits when I thought about how I could describe that complex and very strange location which was moreover something that never appeared in the show. So I ended up asking myself: "Why has Cyberspace to be such a complex and abstract thing? Why can't it be more like the real world? Like objects being houses and methods being people living in there. Then Specter (Matthew) could just walk around and find his way through, somehow." And that was the moment when it hit me: "I... am the writer! I... can make the look of Cyberspace to shape by Specter's will!". So I made him to shape Cyberspace into something familiar which helped him to find his way through and helped me to describe it in a way I was able to. I think this was one of the most fascinating experiences I had when writing the story and it almost blew my mind.

If you read Specter's monologue at the beginning of that chapter you'll notice that his thoughts are actually the ones I've had about this chapter. I think this is pretty cool.

In my next post I'm gonna talk a bit about the "Leviathan"-subplot which adds some very important aspects to the whole story.

Re: In retrospect on writing a fan fiction story

Posted: Sat Nov 28, 2015 11:20 pm
by Kooshmeister
I should do one of these, explaining why I did the things I did. This is very insightful and interesting. :D

Re: In retrospect on writing a fan fiction story

Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2015 2:24 pm
by Mr. Goodkat
Kooshmeister wrote:This is very insightful and interesting. :D

Thanks, Kooshmeister. This is my very intention with this thread. ;)

Part 1 (continued - CONTAINS SPOILERS)
Now let's take a bit closer look at the Leviathan-subplot...

When I was working on the Puma-Dyne infiltration (Chapter 10) I've noticed that if I would continue just like that, Megakat City would have been saved only by T-Bone, Razor and Specter in the end. Felina and Callie would have been disappeared with the Leviathan and Commander Feral would have been at the Enforcer HQ doing don't know what until Dark Kat is delivered to him by the SWAT Kats. In other words, the Enforcers would have sucked like they often seem to do in the show, although some fans imagine that they are actually doing a good job, but just aren't prepared for these states of emergency that probably don't happen every day in Megakat City (I wonder if they happen once a year in July :lol:). Otherwise I'm sure that no sane kat would want to live there by choice.

That's why I've decided to add a subplot to the story once I've finished the main plot. For this I've added comments in my document at the points where I wanted to integrate the parts of it. In these comments I wrote some information in a similar way as in my item list shortly explaining what should happen there. When I've finally finished the main plot I've added the content of the subplot and changed some details back in the main plot such that everything fits together. By the way, this is one reason why I wouldn't release a story I haven't finished. I don't want to bother people to read parts of the story again and again, because I had to change something that doesn't fit anymore.

My intention with this subplot is that all good guys can look back in the end and be proud of what they have achieved (Razor has stopped Dark Kat, T-Bone has stopped Hard Drive, Specter has stopped the AI and thus the drones and the bombs, Felina's and Callie's actions on the Leviathan saved many inhabitants from being enslaved by Dark Kat and slowing him down this way, Commander Feral and the Enforcers fend off the drones as long as possible and evacuated as many people as possible).

If I would have had more energy I could have fleshed out this subplot even more, thinking that Felina's rescue missions and the Enforcer's desperate situation defending the city against the drones could be stories on their own. But I'm satisfied with it the way it is.

Next time I want to take a closer look at the (probably) unusual interactions between T-Bone, Razor and Specter in Chapter 9 - How to become a Swat Kat.

Re: In retrospect on writing a fan fiction story

Posted: Mon Nov 30, 2015 3:25 pm
by Mr. Goodkat
Chapter 9 - How to become a Swat Kat was one of the most fun chapters to write and it was kind of a reward for me for finishing the previous ones. This is because it gave me the opportunity to let my dark side take over by having Matthew being drilled as a Swat Kats recruit. :twisted:

I think this is also an interesting "What if"-situation, as the show never dealt with what it would be like if T-Bone and Razor suddenly would have a recruit to train. I think most people would probably think of T-Bone rather being a drill instructor than Razor, because of his appearance and voice. And this made this chapter even more fun for me to write as T-Bone actually admires Matthew way too much thus disqualifying him to be a drill instructor, leaving it to the smaller kat to take that role. And if you think that the Tremblays and the design team of the show never thought of letting Razor to shout at someone while looking very aggressive then you should take a look at this model sheet from the production:
(Have you noticed that Razor actually looks like a vampire in the images C, E and H? :lol:)

The chapter was also a challenge to write as I've never been in the military myself and therefore (fortunately) never have been addressed in the tone that Razor uses. I also had to check for terms like "Get there on the double!", "Do you copy?" and "Affirmative." which are luckily already used in the show or I knew from video games. But I didn't write very much of this kind of dialogue in the end, probably because I'm not really familiar with the terms used during military exercises. So if someone has a better insight and wants to write "A training day with drill instructor Razor" which deals with Specter's training more detailed, be my guest. :D This could also work as a small comic, now that I think of it. So if you are a fan artist having nothing better to do feel free to contact me. :D

I also thought it would be fun having my OC actually wearing Razor's gear thus making him look a bit like Razor, but letting him appear to be insecure and inexpertly.

Having their own recruit may also led the SWAT Kats to recap the situation where they disobeyed Feral's order. I actually have a "Specter disobeys Razor's order"-situation in mind for a succeeding story that leads into a similar dispute which fortunately can been sort out later. But I don't want to make any promises at this point that I'm really gonna write it.

In order to conclude part 1 of my reflection the next post is gonna deal with how I polished the texts (especially the dialogues).

Re: In retrospect on writing a fan fiction story

Posted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 2:33 pm
by Mr. Goodkat
I think there is a very important thing one should always have in mind when writing dialogue (or monologue). When you've written some dialogue and look at it, it may read okay. But when you're actually reading it aloud you probably gonna notice that it may doesn't sound right, that it may sound unnatural for some reason or that it simply doesn't fit the character. That's why I've read every line of dialogue aloud while empathizing with the character. This improved the quality of my dialogues tremendously. Maybe I did this because I'm not a native speaker, but I'm sure it will also improve your dialogue even if you are one. I even carried this to the extremes by reading the whole story aloud many times. This way I found lots of inconsistencies which I have fixed.

But there is still a problem remaining when doing this. We tend to overlook certain mistakes like missing words, switched words, etc. This is because our brains have an internal auto-correction feature allowing us to understand information although it's incomplete, weird or faulty. This can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse sometimes especially when writing text. That's why I had the idea to use a text-to-speech application. Depending on which application you use the pronunciation may sound horrible, but you gonna notice every missing or switched word as these applications are dumb and therefore unforgiving. I wished that I'd had this idea sooner which would have saved me some hours reading the story aloud again and again.

I'm sure there are some mistakes left in my story but they have been tremendously reduced using the techniques explained above.

So, this concludes the first part of my reflection. Stay tuned for part 2 which will also include some images at some points. ;)