They say writing is a gift. You either have good writing skills, or you don’t. To some extent this is true, but there is also much you can learn. If you have never written fan fiction, but wish to test your wings, try these easy instructions for creating your first story!

1. Characters

1.1 Original Characters

Naturally the most important part of your story, the characters are what the story is all about. If this is your first story, you might find it easier to write if the characters are people you can associate with. All authors care about their characters, but there’s no need to go for the hard ones before you have some experience! Try characters you love, instead of ones that you really don’t care about at all. E.g. if you love elves, don’t start to write about dwarves, or you might lose the interest half way through.

Use your own experience in life, that’ll make the story seem more realistic. Of course you’ve never actually lived in Middle Earth, so you’ll need to use your imagination a lot, but don’t overdo it. Creating a deep character takes much work; even if you don’t use all this information in your story, you need to come up with at least these facts for your character:

– name
– appearance

– family/friends
– history

When you’re creating your first character, it is only natural that you want to make the person likable. As a matter of fact, you want them to be perfect. Watch out! There’s always a Mary-Sue lurking around a corner! Do not make your characters too perfect. In order to be realistic, they need flaws. Too perfect characters just annoy the readers.

1.2 Tolkien’s Characters

Of course you can write a story that only has your own characters, but, especially if this is your first story, it might be easier to use people Tolkien’s already created. At this point it is useful to have some background information on them. Watching the movies isn’t necessarily enough, or your story might turn into an AU (more about that later). Tolkien wrote a great deal about the history of his people and lands; if you don’t want your characters to turn out uncharacteristic, use some of his works for reference. The Silmarillion, The History of Middle Earth (HoME Series) and The Unfinished Tales are useful books to read. Other authors, like David Day, have also written good Tolkien reference books and encyclopaedias. Check out your local library or a book shop!

2. Locations

Next you have to decide where you want to place your characters. This might seem obvious, but – depending on the type of your story – it can also be a major plot point. Follow Tolkien’s example: people leaving their familiar surroundings is a major point of his stories. Of course, you don’t have to place the Haradrim next to Erebor unless you really want to; depending on the genre you can also choose to describe the life of hobbits in the Shire, writing about their everyday life and problems. Or you can bring in an intruder: someone who doesn’t belong to the place, like a Gondorian soldier in Lothlórien.

Once you’ve answered the questions Who and Where, you’re already well on your way to having an actual plot.

3. Style

This is what ultimately tells you what the story will be like! The last question of the Big Three: How. Once you know Who, Where and How, writing the actual plot is just filling in the gaps. The story is already in the back of your mind, now you just need to dig it out and put it on paper.

3.1 Genres

Do you want to make your readers grip the edges of their seats, or just to put a smile on their faces? The genre defines what the story will be actually like. Here are some popular genres you can choose from:

– action
– adventure
– angst
– drama
– humour
– parody
– romance

Choose your genre carefully to go with the characters. Many people have the yearning to write Legolas romances, and the fact is that those are in majority in any general Tolkien related fan fiction archive. You must consider this carefully: does the popularity of the genre reflect the actual wants of the readers, or will your audience just say “Oh no! Not another Legolas lovestory!” and skip your works in disgust? If a Legolas romance is what you really deep in your heart want to write, then by all means go ahead, but if you have any interest towards other characters and genres, you might want to consider them.

3.2 Category

Which one do you prefer, books or movies? Do you think elves really did belong to Helm’s Deep, and couldn’t care less about Glorfindel, because Arwen’s so cool anyway? You’re entitled to your opinion, but so are other people. In order to not to upset your readers, you must decide clearly on which universe you want to place your story in.

The division of fan fictions to book and movie categories is based on two major differences:

1) Changes in plot: though the basic plotlines are naturally the same in both, there are several dramatic changes in the movies that affect the actual storyline. Arwen rescuing Frodo from the Ringwraiths or Elves in Helm’s Deep were already mentioned above, and there are others.

2) Changes with characters: several characters who appear in the books do not “exist” in the movie universe, for example Tom Bombadil or Gildor. On the other hand there are characters in the movies Tolkien never wrote about, like the infamous Figwit the Elf, or Lurtz. There are also notable changes in the personalities of some characters, e.g. Faramir.

Or maybe you didn’t like it either way. Do you think Arwen should have joined the Fellowship, or wonder what would’ve happened if they did invite Tom Bombadil to the Council? You are free to explore these possibilities, just remember that when you do, your story goes to an Alternative Universe (AU).

3.3 Alternative Universe

AU is a popular genre amongst fan fiction writers. Ever so often you get the feeling something should have been different, and that gives you the nudge to re-write it all in your own way. There’s nothing wrong with this, quite the opposite, just remember that even the tiniest changes will make your story AU, and if you don’t want to get bad feedback from disappointed readers, you must acknowledge this fact.

Along with AU stories go crossovers, though they have much more dramatic changes to Tolkien’s original storylines than AUs ever could. A crossover is a story where you cross the storylines of two different stories, hence the name. The Pirates of the Caribbean can end up in Middle Earth after a freakish accident, or the Fellowship suddenly finds themselves in Sunnydale. Have you ever wondered what the Friends might do in Minas Tirith? If you have, do share it with the rest of the world!

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Hopefully these instructions will help you to open your mind to the wonderful world of fan fiction. After the Who, Where and How questions, you should have a decent idea of what will actually happen in your story. So it’s time to sit down, pick up a pen (or a keyboard) and unleash your imagination! Good luck!