According to shade, millions of people visit the virtual community at Harry Potter Fan Fiction every month. These authors built one of the biggest writing sites on the Internet but nobody, outside of Harry Potter fans, knows they exist! Too many snobbish writers avoid fan fiction, and we miss the flourishing, supportive writing communities under our noses.
Today, I hope to change all that. My interview with shade will explore this thriving website, and introduce you to a whole new world of web writing. The next two days will be dedicated to Harry Potter fan fiction, beginning with shade and my deceptively simple feature: Five Easy Questions. In the spirit of Jack Nicholson’s mad piano player, I run a weekly set of quality interviews with writing pioneers—delivering some practical, unexpected advice about web publishing.
For a newbie visiting Harry Potter fan fiction, which stories should they read first to get an idea about how the site works? Can you explain what makes a good Harry Potter fan fiction story?
First of all we ask all users, readers, and writers alike to look over our Terms of Service. That way he or she won’t risk accidentally breaking a rule and understand our rating system. That’s a good way to get off on the right foot on any archive...
After that, it is very much a matter of personal taste and interest. When visiting a book shop a reader goes to sections that are of interest, and the site pretty much works the same way. We have categories for angst, action adventure, humour, songfic, and romance. Truthfully it’s pretty extensive and diverse.
We also have a recommended story list that is updated frequently. These are stories that caught the interest of the site owner, staff or readers, and that’s a really good place to start if you are just looking to get a feel for the site. Remember to check the content warnings also so that you don’t end up in an angst-filled tale when perhaps you were looking for fluff or romance.
As to what makes a good Harry Potter fan fiction, it’s pretty straightforward. A solid plot structure is essential to the writing of any fiction. If you spot a fic in which Hermione has suddenly taken an interest in clothes over books or is bemoaning her sad childhood, then you have entered the land of fanon vs. canon. That’s not Hermione. That is an original characterization, and has nothing to do with established canon.
Canon is what J.K. Rowling has written about the characters, their traits, histories and actions. It’s what she’s built, her magical world. Fanon is not necessarily a bad thing by any means but occasionally it is taken too far. James and Lily didn’t listen to CD players, or MP3's either.
If Dumbledore and the students decide to head off to Los Angeles and form a hip hop group, [that's fanon]. Fanon can be a lot of fun, and truthfully, most fanfic is fanon--but knowing the line is good for writers. For instance, unless they were bewitched by some heretofore unknown hex there is no way that Dumbledore would address Hagrid by saying “Hey dude, what’s up?”
A really good tool is to stop and speak dialogue aloud. If it rings true, then keep working with it. Most conversations are not conducted at the top of ones lungs, and traditionally, that does not lead to a snogfest by the Astrology tower.
Those sorts of things might be fun to play with for a bit in order to stretch your writing wings but readers usually look for stories that feel organic to the HP universe. Make a reader feel as if he or she is joining the magical world with you.
A good way to accomplish that is to use a Lexicon (that has established dates and information pulled from the actual books) and to know the books well. If you are an American writer, then don’t be afraid to use a dialect site or visit our British slang thread in the forum to find a good flow for your narrative.
How can a fledgling writer get a story published on your site? How will the Harry Potter fan fiction community help them improve their writing?
With HarryPotterFanFiction.com it’s easy to be published. First you need to register for an account by following the links on the home page. This involves choosing a pen name and giving your email address.
Once you have entered your details, a password will be mailed to the address you supplied. Armed with your pen name and password you will then be able to log on and go to your account page where you can add your story by following the on screen guidance.
Before posting your story you must check the Terms of Service, these are the rules of the site and explain what is acceptable and more importantly, what is not. Once you’ve posted a story it is held in a queue until a member of staff has checked its suitably for the site.
As an author you always want to have separate backup in a word processing program. That’s for an author’s protection. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has lost their story simply by hitting the wrong key and without backup it truly upset them. So, save your work.
We have a wealth of writer’s resources in the form of FAQs, articles and tutorials to help a budding author on subjects as varied as spelling and grammar, character development and avoiding writers block. You can also get help at the forum, and ask for a beta reader (a beta reader is the on-line equivalent of an editor/proof-reader). The review system that allows readers to leave comments, praise and constructive criticism at the end of each chapter provides excellent feedback and encouragement a new writer.