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Writing Essays, Tips and Recommendations

Assorted Pointers by Lord Dreadnault

Avoid Redundancy

Redundancy is boring, especially if you’re the reader. In my opinion, there are several ways in which one can be redundant. Here are some common ones:

  1. Repetition of words in a paragraph or sentence. If you repeat words in a sentence, it’s a good sign you’ve messed up grammatically somehow. Repeating words in a paragraph can get tedious.
  2. Limiting yourself to “he/she said” when working with dialogue. Say something like:
    Bob frowned doubtfully. “Are you sure she got killed?”
  3. Having a character’s name at the beginning of every paragraph. “Harry did this...” “Harry did that...” “Harry went there...” gets really annoying after a while.
  4. Having characters repeat to other characters what the reader already knows. If you wrote out a nice fight scene and your character is telling another character about it, you can just say that “Bob told Scott about the fight,” instead of spending half a chapter converting the fight scene to dialogue for the ignorant character.
  5. Telling the writer what happened in canon. Sixth-year fics have a tendency to start out with a chapter explaining the Department of Mysteries. I hate that. I read the book, just like everyone else reading fan fiction, so I already know!
  6. Lastly, avoid sentences like this: “Sally sobbed sadly.” If she’s sobbing, then it would be safe to assume that she’s sad.
Use Flashbacks Carefully

A flashback is a structural device for plot. They can be handy to reveal important things that happened in the past that pertain to the present. However, one needs to be somewhat skilled with transitions before they start throwing out flashbacks. Create a serious need for the flashback, plot-wise, before inserting it. If you think that the story could flow on fine without the flashback, then don’t put it in.

On a more personal note, I want to kill authors who start out a story, suck me in with a nice summary, and then just as things get moving at a good and entertaining pace, throw in an unnecessary flashback. It makes me feel like I’ve been in a car accident, not a pleasant feeling at all. However, if you feel the need to do that sort of thing, to each their own.


The purpose of a summary is to inform your potential reader about the plot and convince them that they want to read your story. Few people have enough time to read every story that they find. Therefore, your summary should make them want to read it. Not only does the summary give a glimpse of the plot, it’s also a good way to see if an author can write or not. If there’s bad grammar and no punctuation, I WILL NOT read a story, no matter how interesting it sounds. So please, make your summaries neat!

Here are some fabricated examples of BAD summaries:

  1. I suck at summaries so just read my story.
  2. Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts.
  3. Dark things are happening at Hogwarts! Will Harry survive?
  4. read and review plz
  5. What if Voldie blew the crud out of Privet Drive?
  6. Harry becames of the Heir of willy wonka. really cool

Enough said, I think. . .


Basically, you should just say that HP isn’t yours and that you’re not making any money.

There’s no need to drag it out. In multi-chaptered fics, you only need to put it on the first chapter.

Foul Mouths

The last time I checked, Harry Potter and his friends don’t march around spouting off foul language left and right. Not only that, foul language demeans Harry and his friends, especially when it is coming out of their mouths. So if you’re trying to portray a true Harry Potter, the swear words aren’t necessary.

Steamy Stuff

Harry does not have the morals of an alley cat. If you’re terribly desperate to write really sexual scenes, make up your own characters so that it seems real—especially if you’re dealing with underage teenagers!

Demanding Reviews

Telling people that you won’t post until you get so many reviews is not a very well-mannered thing to do, and it is a sign of a bad attitude about writing fan fiction. If you concentrate on writing a good and interesting story, the reviews will come.

Minute Romances

Having Harry show up at the Burrow one summer and having him and Ginny suddenly become attached to each other on the first day is VERY unrealistic. Work slowly and carefully towards the romance of your characters. For better tips on this, refer to St Margarets comments on fluff.

Update Regularly

For those of you who have read my work, you know that I’m being a horrible hypocrite here. Nevertheless, what I’m saying here is correct. When I read a story and the author doesn’t update for two months, I don’t really give a care when he/she finally updates, because I can’t remember what has happened in the story and I’m no longer excited.

Paragraph Formatting

Every once in a while, make a paragraph break. When a big paragraph is as big as the screen, it looks horrible and isn’t fun to read at all. So, for the sake of the reader, let them breathe once in a while.

Plan Out the Plot!

When I see a summary that says, “Probably will be H/G, but not sure yet,” I want to cry. If you don’t know where you are going, then you aren’t going to get there, or anywhere else for that matter. You’ll end up in some black pit or something. So, before you start posting, figure out what is going to happen to some degree, and then work towards that.

Use Proper English!

Not bothering to capitalize, punctuate, or have proper grammar is just plain sloppy. It gives people headaches when they’re trying to read the story. It makes the story confusing if they can’t figure out who said which sentence. Readers are lazy! They don’t want to figure out what you mean or what you’re thinking. Besides, if they have to correct all of your mistakes, how do you expect them to concentrate on the story you’re trying to tell them?

Clichés are Bad!

After a while, clichés get really old. What are some clichés?

  1. Super! Harry
  2. Independent! Harry
  3. Dark! Harry
  4. Azkaban! Harry
  5. Sixth-year fic
  6. Auror Harry
  7. Rich! Harry
  8. I’m-going-to-pierce-my-ears-grow-my-hair-and-be-a-punk! Harry

I realize that it’s hard to deviate from these clichés because they’re basic plots. And since there are so many HP fics, they get overused. So, here’s a nice process that will help you avoid a cliché:

  1. Pick a cliché that’s pretty close to the plot you want to write. For this example, I’ll choose Azkaban! Harry.
  2. Ask yourself how the cliché is used most often. Example: Harry is betrayed by all of his friends, or at least most of them, and spends a while in Azkaban being tormented by the Dementors. They discover he’s innocent and release him. Harry gets all mad, yells, becomes a Muggle, snubs his friends, etc.
  3. BREAK THE MOLD! Look at it and change it. So here’s an example of a plot that could be used as a broken mold fic. . . .

    Harry gets betrayed. (This is inevitable; it’s how he gets to Azkaban in the first place. However, you can always be really creative as to how he is betrayed or framed.)

    Instead of being tormented with Dementors for years and years, have Harry discover a way to meditate or become immune to the Dementors. (Making him an Animagus would be cliché.) If you want to combine this with a Super! Harry aspect, have Harry dominate the Dementors and control them.

    So, now the Dementors are under his control... what is he going to do? What about the prisoners? Will he befriend them? Try to redeem them? Cliché would dictate revenge or escape to a nice sulky life, so he can’t do that. Besides, he’s more resilient than that. Have him take over Azkaban island. Have him make something of himself.

    So, now he’s in charge of Azkaban. The Ministry may or may not know that some jerk has just pirated their whole prison island (but still accepts prisoners). What will he do? Cliché would dictate that he goes after Voldemort, and then lives happily ever after. Have him do something else, like declare himself Lord something-or-another. Have him gather followers.

You get the point.

Feel free to use this plot, my only condition is that you at least tell me when you publish so I can be your number one fan.

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