I am an avid Transformers fan, have been since watching the first Transformers movie (2000). Since then I've immersed myself in its many universes; loving some and loathing others. One facet I continually search is the fanfiction which is a wonderful way of expanding the universes and even rarely improving upon them. I myself write fanfiction and love doing so.
But, as with all fanfiction no matter what show/game/book it is written for, there is a plethora of crap stories neck deep one must wade through to find the true literary gems. Put simply 90% of fanfiction is god awful crap written by some kid/proto-adult with little to no writing skills and even less creativity.
NOW…I'm not saying everything I have written is great because that would be a bald-faced lie and terribly arrogant on my part. My earlier work has some of these "peeves" and it took a very honest reviewer to tell me so. If not for Storyseeker I probably would never have written anything better. AND I KNOW everyone has to start somewhere as they grow as a writer. My goal is not to discourage anyone from writing fanfiction because like any art form it takes practice and failure to finally achieve brilliant work. BUT perhaps if some of you are clueless or unclear about what turns readers/writers like me off to fanfiction or maybe answer your doubts of "Is my story any good?" this list might illuminate.
(Some of these clues fall under the mountainous pile of "Mary-Sue Litmus tests" you can (and probably have) read on the internet. But in truth these are just my personal observations and quite often peeves of Transformers fanfiction in general.)
So read and enjoy!
1. You misspell something in your "Plot Summary" or point blank admit "Summary is crap"
At some point someone said you can't judge a book by its cover. While that is a clever metaphor about judging people it is not necessarily true when it pertains to fanfiction. The first thing a reader like me looks at is the title of a story. If it's interesting they read the plot summary to see if it's worth investing a few moments of their valuable time. The moment I see a misspelled word or a sentence that makes no sense in the summary a red flag goes up and immediately sends me away from your fanfiction. Why? Because if you can't take the time to write a proper summary then there is little hope your story won't be a painful experience to read. Learning proper writing skills and grammar is NOT fun, (trust me I took many of those classes in college) but inversely READING terrible writing with poor grammar skills makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon and burn the piece offending my brain. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer then you have to have a strong writing foundation.
Look at it this way: if a company wants to get customers to buy their product they need to make a great advertisement that catches their customers' eyes or at least one that is memorable. If the advertisement doesn't do this then it has failed. Your plot summary is the advertisement for your story. If it sucks and you admit it sucks then why would I the "customer" bother reading anything else you wrote? It's most likely shit too! Don't freely admit your summary is crap, take the time to write a good one!
2. Your OC is the daughter/son/long lost kin of Optimus and/or some other main character in the Transformers universe
One of the many "Plot Horses" that has been beaten to death, resurrected, and then beat again. Look, we all know having Optimus Prime as a father would totally kick ass. After all, he is a very fatherly figure with honor, dignity, a strong moral compass, compassion for all, and immense strength, but what a CLICHÉ! Every story I have ever dared to read that features the long lost "child of the Prime" was utter crap. (There was one that was excellent but it was a delightful study of parenting as performed by a Transformer instead of a human and not: "I am the daughter/son of Prime…I am the hope of the future!" story.) But like many plots it is overdone and a complete let down with no forethought.
Another similar spin is the daughter/son of a popular Decepticon like Megatron or Starscream. Now this could be a way more interesting plot since a Decepticon would make a lousy if not horrendous parent. But too often the "long lost child" is not treated according to the personalities of any Decepticon. They are welcomed and protected with open arms and they slowly win over the sparks and minds of the Decepticon crew and quite often shenanigans ensue. No one ever thinks that perhaps these war-hardened Decepticons want nothing to do with any bastard child they have spawned or would even consider taking responsibility for it. Not to mention commit terrible, unspeakable acts to him/her. If you're going to write something like this it's not going to be a pretty family picture.
In short, it is best to create your OWN OC who has little to no parentage with any of the main characters unless you can delve into realistic relationships that actually MAKE SENSE and don't diminish the canon characters' personalities.
3. Your OC is the love interest of some main canon Transformer character…Autobot, Decepticon, or human.
Yet again, an OVERDONE plot that makes me roll my eyes with boredom. While we all "fangirl" over the thought of ourselves or our OC being the sole true love of our favorite characters, this is often written unrealistically or transforms the canon character (usually Starscream or any Decepticon) into something they are NOT.
If your OC and the canon character IMMEDIATELY have the hots for each other then who cares to read anymore? The chase is over and there is no suspense as to how or if they will develop a real relationship. Relationships can be very messy, confusing, and some downright ugly. Sometimes things go smoothly but there is a developmental process to it. This is usually a clue for me that the writer is under 18 years old or has no clue how a real relationship works. It is called DRAMA and it takes careful thought and planning to create good drama. Not simply, "Wow you're a great fighter and I totally respect you…let's be spark mates!" "OMG me too! I love you so much even though we just met." Gag.
Relationships are built, not magically sparked into creation.
My biggest peeve is when the OC is the love interest of a Decepticon. Especially the ones that go WAY too smoothly or turn the Decepticon in question into the caring, sensitive, and yet misunderstood softy who just joined the Decepticons for the cool badge. COME ON! Just because your OC shows up, Starscream is not going to stop being the egotistical, homicidal jerk he's been since he was created and fall in love with your character. That sounds like the girl whose boyfriend beats her and still thinks she can change him or the baffling, "he really didn't mean to beat my face to a pulp, he's just dealing with some stuff now. Anyway he PROMISED me he'd change so it's ok." You can't change the personality of a canon character just to suit your OC's needs and said OC can't change them either. And apologizing for OOC-ness doesn't make it magically all right to forgo a canon character's established personalities. Use the creativity to establish your own OCs personality not the canons'.
4. You use Slash Pairings or Mpreg
(Now this one is about MY personal taste in reading and will not pertain to every fanfic reader but it is one of my top turn offs in Transformers fanfictions.)
I've NEVER understood or even liked this trend in transformers fanfiction but it is like bind weed, growing and infiltrated the internet. My biggest turn off too it is its lack of realism. There is NO canon admission that any characters are gay or engage in such relationships. Just because a character like Jazz happens to be in a scene with Prowl and they learn Circuitsu together is NO basis for a gay relationship or even if they ARE indeed into that lifestyle. Or because Ironhide and Ratchet are friends in battle doesn't mean they are lovers. There is such a thing as "brotherly love" which many mistake or wrongly construe as "Ooo they protect each other and show concern for each other in battle, they must be lovers!"
The WORST is the Megatron/Starscream pairing! YES I can freely admit they fight like an old married couple, but they are NOT gay for each other. Bosses fight with their managers, quarterbacks fight with their coaches, and generals' fight with their commanders, but that is no basis for a gay relationship either. And also…they HATE each other and often attempt to murder one another! It is a power struggle, not a secret gay affair that has never been admitted.
But even though I won't read this tripe that's not to say there isn't good writing on this subject out there…it's just not for me at all. That still is not excuse for these "drop of the hat" gay relationships permeating the genre. As I said before, any relationship must be thought through and not just magically offered up.
And Mpreg…if I even see that abomination marring your description, I run like it has the plague. It defies all logic of both biology and mechanical processes and cannot be taken seriously.
5. "Too Good to be True" OC a.k.a. Mary Sue or Gary Stu.
Developing a good OC is hard work and all too often we want them to be SO bad ass that we bestow them with too many good personality traits, strengths, or powers. (I myself have an early character like this) If your OC is good looking, everyone likes her/him, she/he can kick Decepticon/Autobot tailpipe all by herself/himself, and they received the Nobel peace prize while curing cancer and saving orphaned puppies then where is the development of character? No one is perfect and neither should your OC. (And a cool scar on the face isn't a justifiable flaw) Any Mary Sue Litmus test will help you further.
6. "I am the most tortured soul in existence" OC
Opposite the "Too Good to be True" OC is the most tortured soul OC. True it IS better to have a flawed character and perhaps with a dreary/bloody past. But these are often TOO melodramatic and the same exact story for every OC in this category. I'm instantly reminded of a 15 year old crying "No one understands me, everyone hates me, my boyfriend dumped me, my parents are dead, and by supposed best friend shot my dog." And POOF! We have our tortured OC ladies and gents! Yes life can suck and some of the best drama stems from horrible occurrences in life but really? Must your OC receive the "Suckiest Life in the Universe" award? And besides, Disney has already abused the dead parent(s) cliché must we also see it everywhere in fan fiction?
7. Begging for reviews
While this is more of an eye roller than a turn off to your story I'll put it this way: Reviews are earned not begged for. I know we as writers have to have those reviews and they make the writing all the more worthwhile…but don't beg. It's sad.
8. Crackfic is not an excuse for a sucky story
Much like a gun, a crackfic should only be used by someone who knows how to use it and can actually write a real story. Don't get me wrong, we the authors get wacky ideas that must be purged from our brains or they'll take us over and too often they make no sense. I enjoy a well written piece of "crackfic" for a good laugh. (I've even written one or two to satiate the wild ideas buzzing in my brain.) But when ALL you write is crackfics that sends up a warning flag that you probably can't write a real story or give an accurate character portrayal of a canon character. By saying "Crackfic!" in your description, that doesn't grant you the golden ticket of writing a confusing, plot-less drabble. (It's like reading a text between two people and you're not part of the conversation.) Crackfic can make sense and be enjoyable if you are a strong writer and not just trying to rewrite your Role -Playing conversation from the night before for the rest of us to read.
Oh, and if you do choose to do a crackfic, it's probably best that it remain a one or two chapter thing at the most. A novel of crackfic is just too much.
9. You automatically write the transformers as human characters.
Ok now this is something I had to endure during ALL of the Transformers movies where there was more focus on the humans than the robots...WHY oh WHY would I want to read about the Transformers if they aren't giant robots anymore?! That is the whole point of what makes Transformers so cool is the fact that they are giant ass kicking robots and not puny boring humans.To me this is just lazy writing because the author cannot put themselves outside the human realm and write from the perspective of a giant robot. It's also often used as a lazy excuse for some authors to get their human OC to boink one of the transformers without going through the process of how the hell a human and a robot could "get it on" anyway. (another plot point that is often written poorly)
Now I'll admit it's kinda fun to read a story where the transformers are turned into humans and must endure the human condition and its many embarrassing idiosyncrasies. There are several stories I love that deal with this and they are terrific! But please for the love of Primus don't write the Transformers as humans for no reason! It's just lame!
10. You write your story in the 2nd person narrative or you change your tense from 1st to 3rd
For those of you quirking your heads like a dog who heard a funny sound, let me explain. By writing your story in the 2nd person narrative, it sounds like you're writing an instruction manual instead of a story. These are three common points of view a writer can take:
• Use 1st person to indicate personal experience, evaluation, and/or opinion.
• Use 2nd person to instruct or address the reader.
• Use 3rd person to generalize the experience or situation.
In other words don't write: "You are running through the woods trying to escape a Decepticon. If you run right he'll squish you but if you run left he'll shoot you. What should you do?" This is a very confusing point of view and should only be reserved for cook books and "how-to manuals".
And if you're writing in 3rd person, then KEEP it that way! Don't randomly switch to first person and then back again. It gives the reader a jolt and makes the reading very painful. There's nothing wrong with delving into the main character's personal thoughts but it can be done in the 3rd person without shifting to 1st person.
11.And for goodness sake…PUT SPACES IN BETWEEN YOUR PARAGRAPHS!
The moment I see a huge, fat, block of text I say "Screw THAT!" and get the hell out of there. Just press the space button once in a while when your write! Sheesh.
And those are some clues…feel free to agree or disagree. And by all means if you find or know of a story that employs any of these and yet it is a great story anyway I'd love to read it.