Every once in a while I drop back into fanfiction. And every single time I stand and wonder why people do certain things. This is not saying I didn’t do them myself when I was younger, because becomming a good writer includes one thing above everything: practice, practice and practice.
I often feel people tend to pick up writing, because they suck at drawing, especially in fandom communities. While it’s true it’s immediately visible if you draw a bad fanart and you can’t immediately see if a fanfiction is badly written, it still only takes a few sentences to figure it out. If you suck, you suck and no matter what you decide what kind of medium to go for, you need to practice. I produced hilarious bullshit, too. And guess what I did? Years later, I took my own old fanfictions and turned them into parodies while pointing out the obvious crap.
Since my native language is German I guess I’m privileged, because the german language is amazing as a literature language. As complicated as many people claim it to be, it gives you so many possibilities if done correctly. If there’s one thing I like the most, it’s having the endless possibilities at hand to say something and it’s in the nature of my language to describe. English, for example, is traditionally very on point. Translations from English into German always need more space, because German needs more words to tell the same story than English does. And this is helpful, very helpful.
Everything can be a means to convey certain messages and therefore be used with a deeper meaning, but generally I’d say the less you tell and the more you show, the better your writing is. For example: “Maya is angry” vs “Mayas breath was vibrating heavily, while her chest rose and fall in a violent fast pattern. She clenched her fists until her fingernails began to dug into her skin and her body began to shake more and more every passing second.” The latter kind of gives you a better understanding of the character, while not telling you how she actually feels. Of course, it can mean a lot of things, that’s where you need the right context and you can’t detail everything out like this either. Which leads me to my next point.
I’ve always been a writer who loves details, but I never understood female writers obsession with clothing and style. Especially female characters are often desctibed from head to toe every single time whey appear in a new outfit and that’s usually every time they reappear. There’s nothing wrong with telling your readers how your character looks like, but there’s a right time and amount of everything. Instead of wasting lines on beauty terms half your readers never even heared of, I personally like it better to describe the general clothing style once and only redescibe when there’s a drastic change or the clothing is going to be important, because in all honesty, I don’t give a fuck if your characters wears blue on Sunday, a red skirt on Monday, a pink blouse on Tuesday and so on.
I don’t know why, but I guess this whole clothing stuff is a pet peeve of mine. I’m not a stylish person, I only spend as much money on clothing as absolutely needed and if it’s nothing special, it doesn’t need to be highlighed. You know, in a romantic story, the first kiss can be as detailed as hell, going over pages and pages how much they love each other… but you’re not going to do this every time, because you’ll find yourself at a lack of ideas very soon and repeat yourself. It’s a special event once and needs the attention given, but later on it’s probably not even worth mentioning again, because you kiss in a relationship and often times you tend to kiss very casually. However, if something happens to the lovers, for example they are focrefully torn apart and reunite after fighting for their love, then the kiss is special again and it’s okay to give it attantion again.
It’s the same with everything. If it’s important, it gets attantion and detail. If it’s not important, you leave the details out, or you end up writing like the guys did back in the era of Literary Realism in the 19th century and believe me: you don’t want that. I was forced to read two novels by one of the most well known writers of that time in Germany, Theodor Fontane, and it was boring as hell. I’m guilty of overdetailing myself, but that doesn’t make it any better.
To sum it up: you need to know what’s important and what deserves to receive attention to detail. And this is very hard. I personally like to write shorter stories that take place over a very short period of time, usually not even a day, so I’m highligting one moment entirely and just leave out all the rest. I still focus on the main characters and what’s important to them, instead of bringing more into it. I decide to give a very closed view and give a good understanding of one or two characters in this very situation. I’m terrible at developing a longer story, I’m a one shot writer and I’m jealous of the people who write stories with 20, 30, 40 chapters.
However, if I really wanted to, I could learn to develop longer stories. It’s all practice, after all.