On the surface, writing an article about your favorite thing in the world sounds like it should be an easy task. But while the subject may be close to your heart, your article still needs to be consistent with the FANDOM News and Stories website style. So, we’re going to help you get acquainted with the ins and outs of how to write a top-notch article featured on FANDOM.
The following sections will help you get acquainted with the FANDOM audience, the tone of our articles, how to structure your article, what goes into a successful FANDOM article, particulars about our style, and a few things to avoid. Read through each section carefully, as no matter how little or how much experience you may have in writing for the web, these pointers serve as good reminders and help you craft an article suitable for the FANDOM brand.
Know Your Audience
Our target audience is in their teens, they are pop culture savvy, and not afraid to tell it like it is. We primarily cover articles in the fuzzy area I like to call “mainstream nerd”.
What is “mainstream nerd”?
“Mainstream nerd” covers a pretty big group, and given you’re here, you likely share at least some similar interests and fandoms with this group.
2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an example of a film that crosses into this “mainstream nerd” category. The Force Awakens grossed $2.068 billion worldwide breaking box office records around the globe, it was the highest grossing film of that year, and the third-highest of all time. Another example is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) which, from 2008 to 2016 grossed $10.912 billion worldwide across the 14 films released during that period. The universe has also spawned a long list of network and streaming service TV series which attract tens of millions of viewers in the United States and around the world.
No longer do sci-fi and comic book movies and shows appeal to just a niche audience, their huge successes over the last decade have pushed these genres into the mainstream while still maintaining their niche appeal. Nowhere on the internet is that crossover more apparent than on FANDOM.com’s hundreds of thousands of wikis dedicated to diving into the particulars of any fan-related topic or subject. As a result, Fandom has grown to become the world’s largest entertainment site, and the dedication to these wikis is all due to hard-working and passionate fans like yourself.
Some of our top performing articles of 2016 should also give you a good idea of the type of fandoms our audience are the most engaged with:
- Who Is Supreme Leader Snoke?
- Butch Hartman Draws the ‘Danny Phantom’ Trio – 10 Years Later
- ‘Game of Thrones’: Explaining Hodor’s Time Travel Paradox
- 15 Must-See Fall 2016 Anime
- How ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Will Solve its Protagonist Problem
- Five Theories About ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s Sister Location’
Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Marvel and DC universes, Pokemon, Overwatch, Fallout, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, the Arrowverse - these are all the types of properties that our audience engages with. That’s not to say you should exclusively write about these shows/movies/games, but if you know people who are into any of these (or, more likely, you are one yourself) that’s who we’re aiming at.
A note about the target audience
When you’re writing an article for FANDOM, always keep in mind that your reader may not have the same encyclopedic knowledge that you do. Just because you have a deep knowledge about a topic or fandom, like Fallout 4 mods or specific sub-genres of anime, doesn’t necessarily mean your reader does too. Remember when you were just getting into some of your favorite fandoms? Many of these have been going for decades and have volumes upon volumes of canonical content, so not everyone will be as up-to-date as you might be.
Avoid turning off readers and alienating them with too much “insider” information, jargon, or terminology. Cut your reader some slack and take the opportunity to gently guide them into the magical world of your fandom. On the other hand, you also don’t want to talk down to your reader either. Invite them into the journey and show them the reason you care and why it’s a good reason they should care too.
In some cases and with certain topics it's going to be impossible to avoid using jargon. A general rule of thumb to go by is if you think the average reader won't immediately understand what it is, link it to a wiki page.
Senior Games Editor, Henry Gilbert’s article about ‘Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ – 5 Tips For Starting The Game is one such article that deliberately eases newcomers and long-time players alike into the game by using these easy to follow starter tips.
While we want to be as inclusive as possible with our content, there's no need to oversimplify your article either. If you're writing about Game of Thrones, for example, you can assume that the reader has some knowledge of the main characters and events of the show. Finding the balance between giving too much or too little information may take some getting used to, but reading other published Fandom articles and taking note of editorial feedback will help you get that mix right.
To appeal to our target audience, our tone must be:
- Easy to understand
- Occasionally snarky
- Opinionated (note: this is different to ranting)
Should you be taking a negative opinion on something - which is perfectly ok - keep in mind that just being nasty for no reason isn’t acceptable. Back up your stance with facts and evidence, and prove to your reader that you’re not just raging at something you hate for the sake of it. Be passionate and brutally honest, but don’t be blindly mean and inconsiderate.
While online publishing can be a little less structured than other media, readers are still the same, no matter where they’re reading an article. A reader is likely looking for answers in the beginning, proof in the middle, and a conclusion that wraps everything up. Just like a song, each section may use different notes and chords, but it all needs to feel like part of the whole in the end.
Your opening paragraph is probably the most important part of your entire article. The hard truth is, a lot of people who click on your article aren’t going to read the whole thing. There’s some research to show how people read online, but ultimately, if you’re not sucking in your reader within your first few sentences, you’re not likely to keep them around for long. Here’s what your opening paragraph needs to do:
- Reiterate the question posed in your headline and hint at the answer. Make sure to leave some mystery so your reader continues learning along the way
- Set the tone of your article - are you being serious or snarky? Are you doing a deep dive into a topic or doing a brief overview?
- Make it clear who you’re writing this article for - is it for fans who have seen every episode of a TV series or a newbie to the show? Is it a person who’s playing their first video game or are they a seasoned player?
- Get to the point, be snappy, and concise. Your reader isn’t here to read several paragraphs of introduction before getting to your actual discussion.
- Invite your reader to keep reading.
There’s a lot going on here, but it’s also extremely important to get it right. Try rewriting your opening paragraph, each time taking a different approach. It might even help to rewrite your introduction once you’ve finished the entire piece so you know what you need to cover in your first paragraph.
We discuss opening paragraphs in greater detail here.
The body of your article is the meat (or tofu, if you prefer?) in your sandwich. It needs to match the expectations you set for your reader in the opening paragraph in regards to your tone, target audience, point of view, and the way you answer the question you posed in your headline.
To present a strong argument for your case, you’ll need at least three points to cover. This will give your article some focus and helps you avoid meandering off topic or having too many ideas without any substance.
You also need to cover each point with equal depth. If your first point has several paragraphs, you don’t want your second point to only be a couple of sentences. If you don’t have much to write about each point, reconsider whether they’re actually worth writing about.
This is equally important if you’re writing a listicle (i.e. an article that presents several bite-sized answers to a topic, like this one from Fan Contributor R.W.V Mitchell). Writers often appear to run out of steam part way through their lists and write less and less per entry. Readers notice this, so if you, the writer, don’t feel strongly enough about the entry, why should your audience keep reading?
Unlike other forms of writing, a formal conclusion isn’t entirely necessary, but for reader satisfaction, wrapping up your points or giving some indication that the reader has reached the end is useful. Despite the example here, conclusions should never have the heading “Conclusion”, begin a sentence with the phrase “In conclusion…” or anything indicating this is the section of the article the reader is at.
Some good ways to conclude your article is to discuss when a movie/TV show/game is coming out or to hit home what you’ve been writing about. Fan Contributor James Akinaka’s final paragraph in 5 Ways ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Invaded ‘Rogue One’ simply alerts the reader to when Star Wars Rebels returns to screens. On the other hand, Fan Contributor Eric Fuchs’s article ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ Is an Overdose of Nerd Candy uses “Nerd Candy” as a subheading for his conclusion and wraps up the article over three short paragraphs. Here, he gives a broader overview of his opinion on the movie, how it relies on nerd references, and wraps up the “nerd candy” analogy.
Bringing it all to life
Writing for the internet should be as much fun to read as it was for you to create. By adding in lots of images, gifs, videos, and social media posts, you’ll satisfy the readers who just want to scan your article, and if you’ve used some eye-catching material, you can hook even the most time-poor reader.
Reading text online is a different beast than writing for any other media. The visual impact of text on the screen effects how your audience perceives your work and how long they're likely to stick around on your article. Paragraph and sentence length are big factors in this. Aim for paragraphs that are no more than 120 words long (or 4-5 sentences), and a healthy mix of short, snappy sentences and slightly longer sentences.
A great way to keep your reader interested is by breaking up your article with subheadings followed by two to three paragraphs talking about that topic. Audiences approach reading online in a completely different way than they would a magazine or book. Many readers are looking for quick answers, others will likely skim to get a sense of whether it’s worth investing time in the article. Help them out with as many clues as you can that you’ve written the most authoritative article on this subject.
Subheadings are your best friend. They work like mini headlines through your article that break up big chunks of text into bite-sized pieces and continue setting your reader’s expectations. What’s great about subheadings is that you can have a LOT of fun with the wording - try using some clever puns or making a playful comment on your content.
Likewise, image captions are an oft-missed opportunity to grab your reader with a touch of humor or some useful context. Once you start formatting your own articles, you’ll have the opportunity to have some fun with this.
Fandom UK Games Editor, Samantha Loveridge includes informative and sometimes amusing captions to images in her articles. In her article Who is Cayde-6 in ‘Destiny 2’ and Why Does Everyone Love Him?, she uses a combination of humor, questions, and information that gives better context to the text.
While we encourage our writers to share their perspective on a topic, reserve your “I” statements for moments when you’re writing about a personal experience or story. Working out when and how to use “I” statements can be a tricky balance to strike, but try to keep an “i” out for them when you’re reading your article back and get creative about how you represent your thoughts and feelings. As the old adage goes, “show, don’t tell.”
Ingredients For a Successful FANDOM Article
A great article, no matter what the subject matter, contains certain ingredients. Think back to a time when you were reading something that you were completely engrossed in, when time melted away, and when you were done, you wanted to tell everyone to read the same thing. Chances are, that thing you were reading answered a question, had a clear point of view, was engaging, and made you feel something. That’s what we ask our writers to do too.
Before you set out on writing your article, first consider “What is your underlying argument?" and "What are you saying to support it?" Knowing what the argument is in the first place is a good way for writers to keep on track.
Answer a question
You don’t have to pose a literal question in your headline to answer a question, but you do need to suggest to your reader what you’re covering. On the surface, a headline like 5 Weird Al Songs that Outshine the Originals doesn’t sound like a question. But what FANDOM Contributor Eric Fuchs’s article is really saying is “which Weird Al songs are better than the original?” Because this is a listicle-style article, it then gives five answers to the question.
Ok, listicles are an easy one, how about this one: Hack the Planet: A Look at the ’90s Cyberpunk Explosion? Before we look at what it’s doing, have a think about what you’d expect to find in an article like this.
FANDOM Contributor Danielle Ryan’s headline says it’s a “look at the ‘90s cyberpunk explosion”, but whether you know what cyberpunk is or not, the article should tell you what it is, and then discuss its huge popularity during the 1990s. So Danielle answers the question “what was the explosion of the cyberpunk genre that happened in the ‘90s?”
Look deeper into this article and you’ll find that the opening sentences define the genre in a creative way without talking down to the reader and further sets the scene in relation to its time in history and why it exploded. In a broad sense, the introduction answers the question, but it does so in a way that entices the reader to continue and find out more and dig in deeper to a genre that they may or may not have known about before.
Clear perspective and point of view
Other than “this thing happened,” what do you have to say? Take a unique angle for your article or provide more thorough analysis than anyone else.
Your audience wants to understand why they should care and why they should be reading about this thing you’re so passionate about. Let them into the world you love through your unique perspective.
FANDOM Contributor Danielle Ryan’s article ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Our American Dystopia takes a clear point of view that’s obvious even from its headline. Even if you don’t know The Handmaid’s Tale, the headline clearly implies the property has something to do with a dystopic world and the article comes at this property with the perspective that it may reflect Danielle’s feelings about a modern-day dystopia in the United States.
Digging into the article, the opening few sentences outline Danielle’s perception of a modern-day American dystopia and how it might relate to the novel and Hulu series A Handmaid’s Tale. Whether the reader agrees or disagrees with Danielle’s statements is up to the reader to decide, but she maintains a clear and unique point of view from the headline and follows it through to the end.
Make them feel something
Your article may make us giggle, feel happy or nostalgic or curious or inspired or cry. Whatever it might be, your writing should evoke some sort of emotional reaction.
One way to get a reader to feel something is by sharing a personal experience. In FANDOM Contributor Chrissie Miille’s article The Catalyst to My Fandom: Animation Rekindled My Love of Science, she reminisces on her journey of how the animated shows Danny Phantom and Gravity Falls inspired her to return to a science field. For many readers, this journey will resonate as an inspiration or spark their nostalgia for the things they once loved to get involved in when they were younger.
However, while personal experiences are great for emotional reactions, even articles like FANDOM Contributor Graham Host’s 8 Great Shows With Only One Season can get a reader feeling all the feels too. Perhaps the reader will feel angry that a show was or wasn’t included - “They should’ve added my favorite show!” Or perhaps it will inspire curiosity about a show they’d never heard of or sad that one of the entries on the list was their favorite show and they wish that it had stayed on TV.
There are a great many ways to evoke a genuine feeling in a reader without being manipulative. Explore what interests you and what lights your fire and put that into your work.
Your first goal as a writer is to draw in your reader. This is usually done by addressing the reader’s expectations, answering a question, having a clear perspective, and evoking some kind of emotional response. Once you have their attention, this is your chance to shine, show off your expertise and deep understanding of the topic, and wow the reader with your unique you-ness.
You can’t control whether your reader will share your article, but you can write something in a way no one else can. Consider the article that would make you share it with your friends, and then write that.
FANDOM Contributor Zuleika’s article Fans Can Rejoice ‘Code Geass’ Returns For Season 3 is one that strongly appeals to its target audience. Using eye-catching gifs from the anime, smart and easy to identify subheadings, and short, snappy paragraphs that gave both news and a well-rounded background on the series made this a success on social media.
Many writers struggle with addressing all of these ingredients in their work. At risk of sounding like a motivational meme you’d see on your mom’s Facebook page, as the Persian poet Saadi once said:
“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”Or, as Adventure Time’s Jake the Dog says:
“Sucking at something is the first step towards being sort of good at something.”
This presentation is on the long side, but worth a look. It’s more focussed on marketing, but it’s relevant to the creative process and why we create in the first place. It might help you reorient yourself or help you find a new way to approach your writing.
“Try to avoid editing as you write—instead, write the thing, then go back to edit it. I know a lot of writers get stuck early because they're too busy trying to make every sentence perfect instead of putting words on the page.” - Bob Mackey, FANDOM Games Editor
FANDOM Editorial Style Guidelines
FANDOM Editorial How to Write Headlines
FANDOM Editorial How to Write Introductions