How to Use Your Fandom to Write Better Stories in 2016

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There is one thing, above all others, we never have to be ashamed of as adults. That is, of course, the stories and characters we cannot help but obsess over as part of (often multiple) fandoms.

Being part of a fandom has its psychological rewards. It’s basically the same as being part of a social class in any societal setting, involvement with a group of people who have at least one thing in common. In the social media age, a fandom connects people not just locally, but across the globe.

Have you ever thought of how your fandom, as distracting, time-consuming and productivity-hindering as it may seem, can actually improve your skills and techniques as a writer?

As I often do during the holidays, I spent roughly six total hours in a car this past weekend. I am one of the unlucky many who cannot read, game or watch movies in the car without feeling nauseated, which was particularly frustrating until I discovered the wonders that are podcasts.

Looking for something new, and having recently seen The Force Awakens, I searched for something Star Wars-themed to get me through the trip. And that is when I, finally, discovered StoryWonk. Specifically, the Story and Star Wars podcast series (though there are many others to choose from).

I have been a Star Wars fan for over a decade, which surprises a lot of people when it comes up, because I am a highly feminine, princess-loving, Disney, fairytale-obsessed girly-girl. But I am also a storyteller and may or may not have just ordered a $25 hardcover edition of a Star Wars novel for myself because I cannot get enough of Clone Wars stories (sorry not sorry).

What I love about StoryWonk, and its Star Wars podcast series, is its emphasis on story analysis. I was an English major and did briefly (very briefly) consider pursuing the subject at the graduate level. But as much as I love stories and analyzing them, the last thing I wanted was to trap myself into a two-year commitment where all I was allowed to do was analyze and annotate the binding out of old, dusty anthologies.

Until I found StoryWonk, I honestly never really considered the fact that you can pick apart any story you want to. I never even thought of analyzing the Star Wars universe at the literary level. And going through this seminar series this weekend really made me realize how effective belonging to a fandom can actually be for an aspiring writer.

Putting a story in front of you, one that you know backwards and forwards because of how much time you spend within it, and treating it like any other literary work, changes the way you view both elements. Even after only a few days, I don’t look at Star Wars the same way. The lectures made me want to dive deeper, not only into Star Wars as a multi-part story, but into my own stories, even the unfinished ones.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve really been struggling with writing lately. I’ve cut back on the amount of words I’m writing every day and haven’t been writing quite as many articles. But there’s something about stories, viewed from a storyteller’s perspective. Falling in love with stories in general is like falling in love with a person. It doesn’t just happen once. It happens over and over again, at different points in your life, igniting that fire that sometimes dims and almost burns out completely.

This sort of mindset works with any fandom. Pick any T.V. series, movie franchise or book/comic series you love and pay attention to the story. Analyze that story. Your fandom is more than a bunch of people obsessed with the same characters and setting. It is the ultimate inspiration for all the stories you have yet to create.

What is/are your fandom(s)? What do you love about the stories they tell? Take a few minutes to really think about how much these stories, over time, have influenced your own writing since you started. I’ve attempted a few Star Wars fanfics, but really, it’s the Star Wars universe as a whole that, a long time ago, made me decide, “I want to write. Maybe not something as awesome as this. But something.”

And I have. As I will continue to do. Through the end of this year and beyond.

And by the way, don’t panic. I like Star Wars, but this isn’t a Star Wars blog. If you don’t like it, you’re not going to be flooded with it consistently all of a sudden. Promise.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Star Wars Characters Share Their Best Character Sketching Tips

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In case you didn’t already know, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is officially in theaters the day this article was published, and sorry not sorry, we couldn’t help but celebrate.

The Star Wars universe has become a mass collection of stories (whether true or not) revolving around various characters, time periods and conflicts throughout this far, far away galaxy.

Whether you’re completely satisfied with the prequels’ and original trilogies’ storytelling techniques or not, we think there’s a lot to learn from our favorite Star Wars characters, writing-wise. Take a few minutes to “learn” from a few of their stories.


“Even the bad guys have good in them somewhere.”

darth vader

Not every villain is all bad just for the sake of being bad. There is usually a motive, whether you tell your readers what that motive is or not. Sure, some characters seem like they’re just out to destroy all the Jedi and take over the galaxy or whatever. But more often than not, there’s a tiny ounce of good in them somewhere. Deep, deep down.

“Fail, every character should.”

yoda

How many times have you failed at something in real life? How many times has that failure actually taught you a valuable lesson you’re able to carry with you thereafter? Our characters need to develop throughout our stories, and bouncing back from failure is an effective way to showcase that growth. Even Yoda failed. But in a way, it sort of turned out for the best in the end.

“No character is fully strong or fully weak.”

leia

You should never create a character that has no flaws, or a character that only has flaws. Just like real people, every character should have a diverse mixture of traits. Combining various strengths and weaknesses is what makes a believable, relatable character. Those strengths and weaknesses are what keep the plot moving forward.

“Some characters live on through other characters, even when their stories end.”

obiwan

Okay, so Obi-Wan Kenobi does literally live on after his final duel with not-so-little Anakin in Episode IV, because of the mysterious powers of The Force and all that. But figuratively, just because you remove a character from a story doesn’t mean they still can’t play an important role later on in the plot. Sometimes, a character’s death is just enough to motivate a different character to go on and destroy the Death Star. Or whatever obstacle your character is trying to overcome.


Happy writing! After you go see the new movie, of course.

Images courtesy of BGR.com, starwars.wiki.com, starwars.com, toybox.com.

Nothing to Study For (Yet)

My voice teacher didn’t yell at me! I guess My ten minutes of practicing yesterday morning before class were enough to get me where I needed to be. I also lived through six minutes of talking about letter-writing, which was the subject matter I decided to use for my personal belief speech. So from here, only two more speeches to go. But plenty more tests in the other two classes. Glorious.

I have to catch up on getting ahead. Some people would say that there’s no point in doing work ahead of time, but there totally is. Taking my own notes ahead of time means I don’t actually have to pay full attention in class. Which means I can spend that time both making sure I didn’t miss anything important in the text and thinking about my novel. Which I’m going to work on this weekend: I promise. I really wish I wasn’t still stuck on my outline. But, I guess that’s how things go. At least I’m not in any rush.

Like I keep on emphasizing, I have a ton of plans for this story. It’s not like anything I’ve ever tried writing before: it’s message goes really deep. The ending kind of makes me mad. (You know it’s bad when the ending I’m choosing isn’t my favorite.) But it has to happen, or there wouldn’t be any point to the story. It’s kind of disappointing, though. You get your hopes up, and then…nothing. But if it worked out the happy way, well, I’d probably hate it even more. So we’ll stick with the ending that will make Evie hate me for a very long time.

Don’t complain. I already gave you a happy ending with Anna and Jason. Shush.

I’m really upset that there isn’t another Clone Wars episode until March 5th. That seems so far away! The second season is so amazing. I never want it to end; I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself in-between seasons. Seriously. This whole Obi-Wan—Satine thing going on. At least now we know Anakin isn’t the only Jedi who can’t help but form compassionate bonds with other people.

Bringing down the nerd levels. Sorry.

Two-and-a-half more chapters of biology, and I can spend the entire length of the lecture tomorrow morning doing whatever I want at my desk. Well, not whatever I want. I don’t think my professor would be too happy with me if I started singing Little Women while he was trying to talk about mitosis. Whose four steps I have memorized already. And the test isn’t even fast-approaching.

There are dogs on my feet. Arf!

Love&hugs, Meg♥