February 16th, 2003
There is a problem with Redwall Fanfics. It is a pestilence upon our tales. It hangs like a fog over our pens. What is this problem? I am, of course, referring to the very way they are written.
My biggest peeve: overly described characters. Yes, I said overly described. I see ROC sites everywhere, and when characters are described, they are almost always described in minute detail, down to the odd three hairs that go the opposite direction from the others, before the character has even said or done anything more than, "Hullo, there." Yes, the characters are often overly described. I believe this is because American students are taught to "elaborate" on just about everything, even if it's why big is bigger than small. (I wouldn't know whether Brits are taught this.)
A quick lesson, based on what I have learned from reading many sources:
One- No one cares if they are a red nearing magenta, with goldish coloring towards the tail and a few grey hairs. Give a general description of their shape, and isolate maybe one or two striking features. (Ferahgo's blue eyes, Swartt's sixclaw, Ublaz's mad eyes, etc.)
Two- If there is an odd but not at all immediately recognised trait, such as a few grey whiskers, see if you can work it in a bit later, to add a slight enigma or create irony, or something else clever.
Three- Remember that a full description at the start confines the reader's expectations. If a serious faced mouse is always laughing, people are going to be a little confused. Not too much, mind you, so it's not a writer's felony, but it is a stylistic consideration that you should remember. A mouse who is always happy at the beginning is going to need something big to happen to make him serious. This is not to say that "always happy" can not be a facade, it's just harder to write believably.
Just some ideas.
Another huge thing I come across is names. To say it simply, they stink. Beasts are often named things such as "Windsprint," or to borrow from Snowspine's Riala Goldentail stories, "Nightdeath Longclaws." Now, of course there is nothing wrong with this. But when you see it everywhere, it makes one long for some originality. At least attempt to make a decent name, such as Riala or Keyla. If you must use something like "Windsprint," respell or translate it to be more interesting. The word "Reguba" in Dannflor Reguba's name is an ancient squirrel word meaning warrior. The hares are excellent inspirations. Yes, there are Starbuck, Breeze, and the like, but don't forget Wother, Trubbs, Ffring and Fleetscut.
One more thing about names: Family last names are a WASP convention. Very few societies actually do that. Hispanics have several different ways of forming a last name. The Chinese have their personal name last. The Norwegians have a last name based on their father's first name. And not everybody has nor requires a last name. English have their personal names first because many times that was all they needed. If they needed further explanation of which John they were, they would say whose son they were, what town they were from, or what job they worked at. Hence, John Thomson, John London, John Smith.
Last thing about stories. Try to make them different. Don't make your story so that it interferes with established Redwall history. Write it to mesh with the history, and bring your own tone to the whole thing.
One more thing: Wolverines are not lithe and sinewy. They are basically North American super-badgers.