Writing Tips: Oneshots

One of our upcoming Femnista topics is about Oneshots. I’ve had some eager contributors and a few intimidated ones, since they’ve never tried their hand at fan fiction in the past. I’m here to say – it’s not hard. Really, it isn’t. There’s nothing to be scared of, and in fact, you may discover you LOVE writing such a coherent, short, character-based piece. There’s no real pressure to have a kick-butt plot, it’s just a moment or a scene in time for something you love, or wish had been in the original. It can funny, sappy, stupid, romantic, or dramatic. You can get inside someone’s head at a pivotal moment in a story.

So, here are some simple things to keep in mind:

Keep it in one place. That’s really what a Oneshot is all about—one moment, one meeting, one exchange, in one scene. Consider the possibilities. What did Gandalf think as he fell with the balrog into the abyss? What were Frodo’s thoughts at that moment? How did Beckett feel the first time Castle kissed her? What was Lupin’s first transformation like? Do something the original creator didn’t, for your audience.

Don’t worry about length. Use as many or as few words as you need to tell your story. Oneshots can be up to 1,500 words or as few as 200.

Make it worthwhile. Give your audience a gift for having read your story – something that makes them smile, or sigh with delight, or outright laugh. If you can, surprise or shock them.

It doesn’t have to be “significant.” You’re not writing the next great American novel, so don’t worry if the moment you’ve chosen tickles you but isn’t all that “important.” Often, the greatest stories are simple and sweet… a moment between friends, a butterfly on the subway. All it needs to do is express your delight, anger, remorse, whatever.

Read it aloud. This is particularly important if your Oneshot contains dialogue. Read it out loud, and ask yourself, “Is this what that character would say?” If it sounds strange, halting, or too formal, change it. Jack Sparrow wouldn’t talk like Bella Swann, nor would Lizzie Bennett sound like Amy Pond.

Sit on it. Write your first draft and sit on it at least 24 hours before you share it, if not longer. Then go back and tweak it.

Have fun. This isn’t homework! You aren’t writing it to impress anyone – you’re writing it because you love that fandom, and you want to share in it. It doesn’t have to please anyone but you.

Read Oneshots. If you’re bouncing around on fanfiction.net, you’ll know a Oneshot by its chapter and status (Chapters: 1; Status: Completed). Find your favorite fandom and look for them. Read them. Get a feel for how others write them, and you’ll have some idea how to do it yourself.

If you want samples, here are some Oneshots written by myself and others.

The Avengers: The Answering Machine (what happens when impending doom arrives and you can’t reach anyone?)

Breaking Dawn Part 2: Bloodfall   (the rest of Alice’s vision of the Volturi battle)

Captain America: Past, Present, Future (a memorial piece)

Clash of the Titans: The Storm Within (the missing moment on the boat)

Jane Eyre: The Final Day of Helen Burns (very moving)

Law & Order: Tremors (Jack deals with his lover’s death)

Lord of the Rings: Earthen Vessels (Aragorn and Frodo share a moment)

Major Crimes: Nightmares (will Rusty ever overcome them?)

Remus Lupin: Moonlight (a young transformation)

Thomas Andrews: Final Moments (inside the designer’s head as the ship sinks)

15 thoughts on “Writing Tips: Oneshots

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  1. This’ll be awesome, everyone! I got away from writing fanfiction for awhile but I’m back for “Major Crimes” and it’s so much fun. Just go with the flow and put yourselves into the character’s heads and you’ll do great.

  2. I have the vaguest idea of what I want to write, but I’ll definitely read the ones you posted to get a feel for doing it right as I’ve never written one before.

    1. It probably won’t happen all that much, so enjoy it while it lasts. I hear Flynn… err… the actor who plays Flynn in The Closer was on the last episode…

      1. *squeeeeeeee* Yes, he was!! His photo comes up as a suspect 15 minutes in and I spent the rest of the episode waiting for him to show up. It was AWESOME!! Not that I’m biased at all.

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