Friday, October 4, 2019

10 Tips for Writing a Story That Will Become a Fandom

I am part of a massive number of fandoms. Some may say it is an embarrassing number, but I say it's an awesome number.

Now, I've been watching these fandoms. Not in a creepy Edward-watching-Bella-sleep kind of way, but in a studious Hermione sort of way. And you know what?

There are patterns. There are patterns within each fandom, and commonalities between almost every fandom. Which got me thinking: What if you could utilize these patterns to create a fandom around your own story?

Let's talk about what it takes to write a fandom-inducing story.

10 Tips for Writing a Story That Will Become a Fandom

1. Be one with the force. Don't panic, and be sure to go steal everyone's left shoe. If you're good at something, never do it for free. Understand all the references, remember that bow ties are cool, and if anyone gets nosy, just shoot them. Politely.

Okay. On to the "real" tips:

2. Plan multiple books. Very few fandoms are one-shot fandoms. Pretty much all of them have multiple books or storylines going on: Harry Potter, LOTR, Star Wars, Star Trek, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Game of Thrones, Firefly, The 100. And don't even get me started on The Stormlight Archives (What is even happening with those novels?? A single one of those books is like an entire series in and of itself. I just...Okay. *takes deep breath* That's not the point of this post).

Part of this is because the more content you put out, the more noticeable you become. But it also has to do with the fact that readers are greedy little grubbers.

Er. Let me re-phrase that: When readers like something, they want more of it. They want to learn more about the world, the characters, the plot. And the more they learn, the more hyped up they get about the next installation of the series, thus creating waves that draw in more fans. It's pretty great. So if you want your story to become a fandom at some point, you'll want to plan for a series or expanded universe (or both).

3. Utilize trios or large casts of characters. Who do you like better: Harry Potter or Ron Weasley? Is Pippin your fav or Aragorn? Trick question: The answer is clearly Sam. I will fight anyone who says otherwise. Just kidding. (but not really)

Fandoms have a wide array of characters, so there's somebody for everyone. It's pretty awesome. Fandoms are often a weird mix of niche and crowd-pleasing fiction (at least crowd-pleasing within their genre) and one of the things that helps them reach so many people is having a solid cast of characters for people to root for. If your goal is to reach as many readers as possible, then consider writing large casts...or trios in which each person in the trio is vastly different.

4. Write shippable characters. Every fandom has them. Do you need to be writing romance to write shippable characters? Nope. You just need two characters with chemistry. Readers will instantly go to their land of ship building:

Gif of the big scary guy from Tangled clinking to mini unicorn figures together and smiling.

It keeps readers invested...and keeps them talking, thus building buzz. Win-win.

5. Build a shiny world. One of the reasons fandoms are so gripping is because they feature worlds that other people would love to live in. Who doesn't want to have an ale in Hobbiton? Or fly through space and time with the Doctor? Or fight in a massive, brutal battle to the death while the Capitol...err. Wait. Not that one. But, generally speaking, fandoms feature fantastical (and somewhat appealing) world-building.

If you want to draw your readers in and get them invested, put effort into building a world that will transport readers somewhere new and interesting. Create new cultures (like the Gungans...only less annoying), invent a drink (like butterbeer), spin a political backstory (like Firefly). Have fun with it.

6. Don't be afraid of tropes. Have you noticed that most fandoms are populated with tropes? The lovable rogue (Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds), the straight-laced sidekick (Hermoine Granger, Spock), the Big Bad Government (the Capitol, the Empire), the against-all-odds team of scrappers (all of them, honestly).

Tropes work because they are familiar and timeless. They're easy to market and easy for readers to invest in. Obviously, it's important to make those tropes your own, otherwise you'll come across as cliche. We Phoenix Fiction Writers recorded a whole podcast on how to correctly utilize tropes, so I'd recommend giving that a listen.

7. Have an identifiable genre. This boils down to marketing to your target audience. If you want to draw a fandom, you need to make yourself easy to find. While having a niche genre is super cool (and entirely possible to be successful with), it is difficult to build a fandom that way. After all, most fandoms have identifiable genres.

Sure, some of them are a bit blurry. For instance, I'm not at all convinced that Star Wars isn't straight-up fantasy (the Force is literally just space magic, guys). Firefly is entertaining because it's a weird blend of sci-fi and western. That all cool. It makes those fandoms unique. However, they still do tend to have identifiable umbrella genres (sci-fi, in both of their cases), so make sure your story does at least have a main, overarching genre.

8. Use buzz-words. Want to reach your target audience? Buzz words are where it's at. Have you ever noticed that fans are often part of similar fandoms? Hunger Games fans often like Divergent and Maze Runner. People who like Naruto also like Hunter X Hunter and....I don't know what else, I never got into Naruto (*pho-Naruto-runs away*).

Wanna know why this is? A lot of reasons, but findability is a big factor. When LOTR fans hear "epic fantasy" and "elves" and "wizards," they'll come running like:

You can easily tap into the Assassin's Creed fanbase by using terms like parkour and *drum roll* assassins. Figure out what fandoms are similar to your WIP, then use matching buzz-words during marketing.

9. Write a plot-driven and character-driven story. Most fandoms are plot-driven, probably because plot-driven stories are often easier to market because they're easier to explain than "And this character has feelings and thinks thoughts." However, fandoms are, at their core, all about the characters. While the plot is important, you need lovable characters who drive that plot forward.

10. Get fandom-lovers to be your street-team. When you start marketing your story, you don't want the help of some mouth breathers who can't sing the Batman theme song. Nope. You want Nerds with a capital N. People who know your target audience, who are familiar with the buzzwords, and who can help pump up your work in the way that only fangirls/fanboys can.

And there you have it. If you want a shot at building a fandom around your story, this is a great place to start. Have other thoughts or tips to add? Leave them below! And be sure to include the titles of a few of your favorite fandoms. For science.

Related articles:
11 Tips for Building a Successful Writer's Platform
The Pros and Cons of Being Both a Geek and a Writer: A Guest Post by Rachel Meyer

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. H*** yeah. Because we don't want to kill our precious CINNAmon rolls.

    2. Sorry. Just finished reading HG and I am mourning the death of Finnick and Cinna.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Also, I need serious help with naming the series. It's a sci-fi/ science fantasy taking place in 2073, where the portagonists are kids/20 year olds with supernatural powers, ie altering reality (I came up with that one) controlling souls and seeing astrals aka souls, controlling natural phenomena, and manipulating ice and water and being able to manipulate fire and what do I name the series?

    2. It is also with very dvanced technology because I hav very high hopes for the human race once we get past that pesky VSCO stage
      *gags at VSCO*

  3. I really appreciate this post, because having a fandom is basically one of my deepest writer dreams. I am making mental notes of all of these tips...I think my current story/expanded universe checks most of the boxes!
    Also, in answer the the question: Percy Jackson, Doctor Who, Inheritance Cycle, the MCU, Sherlock, How to Train your Dragon, Star Wars (sorta)...and probably more that I can't keep track of. Also the Terebinth Tree Chronicles *Dies because my sister still hasn't given Sounds of Deceit back*. So if you happen to be looking for a fangirl for your street team, I'll happily read all the things and geek out about them online (just saying. Not that I wouldn't do that anyway.)

    1. *VERY happy gasp* YOU WOULD? THANK YOU!!!!!! IF you are talking to me, that is.......


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