Emby Quinn's Quick-and-Dirty Guide
to Writing Gatchaman Fanfiction or, Oh Look, The Redhead's Being Pretentious Again.
I have been writing Gatchaman fics since I was 17. (Well, okay, the first few were actually Battle of the Planets fics, but once I discovered the source material, I never looked back.) I've written fanfic for other series and genres as well, I've been published in fanzines and on the Web, and I've even written an original story or two. (I've got a novel that still hasn't been published.) But, somehow, I keep coming back to my first true love...five teens in bird suits who save the world.
What makes me an expert on Gatch fic? Frankly, not much. I'm just hoping to help budding writers avoid the pitfalls I fell into in the past. See, when I first started writing Gatch fic, there was no Internet. Nobody saw those early stories but me and a couple of my penpals. For this, I am truly thankful, because those early stories did, in fact, suck ass.
Back in the day, there were fanzines, of course; I submitted to a couple of them, but even that had something of a "safety net". Every fanzine has an editor, and that editor is responsible not only for assembling the content of each issue, but is also responsible for quality control. So it was unlikely that any author's raw product would see the light of print without a going-over by someone who wouldn't be shy about telling them if they had spelling errors, plot holes, or other embarrassing gaffes.
Today, however, things are a lot different. The Internet provides a golden opportunity for anyone, no matter how young or how old, to make a complete and utter fool of themselves in front of the entire planet. Not only can anyone have a website if they want it, but fanfiction archives like Fanfiction.Net and MediaMiner have offered a haven for fics of all descriptions. Archives like these allow an author to upload directly to the server...which bypasses any editorial filtering quite nicely.
So how do you avoid looking really, really dumb? These are some solutions I have found to work for me.
- Have an idea and let it out before it dies of loneliness. This sounds trite, but the simple fact is that if your story doesn't have a plot of some sort, it's going to be...well, boring, unless it's a lemon (sex-oriented) fic, and even those should have a defined beginning and end. Ideas are easy to come up with...and don't be afraid of doing something that's been done before. No matter how careful you are, no matter how innovative you are, someone, somewhere, will have had an idea similar to yours at some point. The trick is to present your story in an individual style.
- Begin at the beginning, go on until you reach the end, then stop. Don't start your story in the middle and tell the buildup through flashbacks or expository dialogue. It's tempting to cut right to the action, but that's cheating. The whole point of an action story (and Gatch is an action series, don't forget) is to build suspense. I'm not saying you should have fifty pages of setup and two paragraphs of a fight scene...but take the time to set the stage. Remember the writer's adage: "Show, don't tell."
- Two words: Spell check. You wouldn't believe how many people don't bother running their story through a spell checking program. Even if you don't have one of those, you should read through your story at least once, from beginning to end, before submitting it anywhere and correct any spelling or grammar mistakes. Remember, too, that even the best spell checker isn't going to catch every misspelling. Nothing beats good old-fashioned proofreading. Speaking of which...
- Two more words: Beta reader. It's a really good idea to have a friend whose opinion you trust (and who's a fellow Gatch fan) to read your story over for you. Be sure they understand you want them to tell you if something doesn't make sense, if something isn't explained clearly, if you keep spelling the names wrong, and such. And accept their critique, even if it stings. After all, it's better to hear it from a friend before you publish on the Web than to have nasty little snipes on your comment list from strangers after the fact.
The following tips apply exclusively to self-insertion fictions, those that involve original characters that interact with the established Gatch cast, and the much-dreaded "Mary Sue" type of story, because I happen to enjoy both writing and reading that sort of thing. It is my sincere hope that, along with the Mary Sue Litmus Test for Gatchaman et al, this section will be of some assistance to budding fanfic writers who don't want their favorite creation to go down in history as the next Marissa Picard. (If you have to ask, you don't want to know.)
- Your character is not the star of the show. The name of the anime is "Science Ninja Team Gatchaman", not "Mary Sue Gatch and Her Happy Shiny Friends in Bird Suits". The story should not revolve exclusively around her. She should not appear in every scene. She should not get all the good lines and snappy comebacks. She should not fight better than Ken, shoot better than Joe, blow things up better than Jun, relate to small furry animals better than Jinpei, and/or fly the God Phoenix better than Ryu. If she were that damn good she'd have her own damn series. It's easy to write about a character you created, because you know that character better than anyone, but trust me--not everyone is going to find her as endearing and fascinating as you do. I'm not saying your character should be a wallflower who never does anything, or that she shouldn't be important to the story (otherwise, why would she be there?). Just keep this directive in mind when you're writing and give the bird people most of the screen time and most of the glory. Your character can help, sure--she just can't do it all.
- Repeat after me: "My character is not G-6, and never will be." There are several reasons for this mandate. First, it's been done. To death. a hundred and twenty times over. Second, five is the prerequisite number of Science Ninja, and the number of Science Ninja shall be five, and six is right out. Third, there's already been a potential G-6 in the first Gatch series, but he died, and it's doubtful they'd try that again. Fourth, it's just not a good idea to mess with the status quo of the series. It's a surefire way to alienate your readers. So, no G-6. It's tempting, it's tantalizing, but don't do it. It will hurt.
- Perfect characters are boring. Not to mention annoying, grating, and just generally obnoxious. Flaws make a character interesting and more sympathetic. Look at the series characters--they're hardly perfect. Ken has problems dealing with women, while Joe has a major obsession with shooting first and asking questions later. Jun runs a snack bar but she can't cook. Jinpei's a klutz. Ryu's a big softie who has a habit of falling asleep on the job. And those are just the obvious things. These people aren't gods. They goof up. They fall for Katze's traps. They make errors in judgment. They get yelled at by Nambu. They squabble among each other when they should be concentrating on the job at hand. The lesson here is: Build some design flaws into your original character, then play on them in the story. It'll make them more interesting, and more sympathetic.
- Handle the romantic angle with care. Now we get to my particular stumbling block--romance between a series character and an original creation. It's probably not a great idea, but if you're going to do it, do it right. Don't make it be love at first sight. Give the relationship time to grow like a real one would. Keep in mind the character foibles of both the series regular and your own character, and see what conflicts arise between them. Remember, too, that if you're writing during the time of the TV series, there's a war on, and it would be difficult for any of the Science Ninja to consider settling down and starting a family. (Especially Jinpei--he's a kid.) If you play your cards right, by the end of your story arc your readers will be cheering for the couple to get together. Hey, it worked for me. ^_____^
I hope these tips and warnings prove helpful. There are a lot of quality Gatch fics out there--because it's not one of the more prevalent anime, Gatch fandom doesn't get the influx of drek that plagues more well-known series like Sailor Moon or Dragon Ball--but we could always use more. So open up your word processor, put on your thinking cap, and keep on writing.
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