Halo Fanon
Halo Fanon

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"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are."
―Somerset Maugham
I am keeping the ponified version for purely ironic purposes. Also because ponies are cool. SHUT UP, DON'T JUDGE ME!

Writing is more than just a means by which humans are able to communicate facts. It is an art, allowing us to not only communicate opinions, ideas and emotions, but to express them. When William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, he was creating as beautiful a piece of art every bit as sophisticated as Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, or Frédéric Chopin's Prelude No. 15 in D-flat - writing has the power to move us beyond mere words. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But a thousand words can carry dozens of images, all beautiful or terrifying or elegant or all of them at once.

It is therefore important that a writer DOES IT RIGHT.

Fanon is the creation is supplementary canon separate from the official sources. This isn't the same as fanfiction - fan-written stories based on the canon. It is an attempt at adding to the world of Halo in ways that Bungie or 343 Industries cannot - it is our own ideas and creations, written by fans for fans. For some, it is a vent for creativity, allowing a writer to use a pre-existing universe and set of conventions, places, characters, and so on to set their stories in. But for the most part, much Fanon ends up as poorly written wastes of space on the server, with no creativity and skill put into it.

I intend to remedy that.

This guide is, and will be, a work in progress. It may diverge wildly from the subject, and it may deal with some aspects in unnecessary or inadequate detail. It may be long and rambling and hard to plough through, but I hope that people who stick with it are able to pull the essentials of writing Fanon or Fanfiction from it. More importantly, I hope you enjoy it - I've tried to use a humorous and informative format, with witticisms and observations hidden for those who want to go hunting for them. But above all, this is a work that needs criticism - if you think I ramble on too long about Mary Sues, and not long enough about how to structure a Fanon article, tell me so. If you have recommendations you'd like to make, requests of me, or suggested text or image content, do so! Criticism is the standard by which we measure an items robustness - shake a ladder, and if it stands you've done a good job! Let's just hope I'm not standing on it at the time...

Sir Morhek's School of Etiquette

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"Internet conduct" has been to death, and this is a guide to fanon/fanfiction, so this section will pretty much just gloss over the subject. For a more detailed explanation, click this link here.

Netiquette is an important part of interacting with other people online. We aren't face-to-face, or even voice-to-voice. There's no personal investment in our communication that we don't put into it. All too often we forget that there is a person at another computer somewhere in another part of the world, with opinions, ideas and emotions of their own. The internet has become a vast mask, the great leveller of society - you can be anyone you want, because all anyone has is your assurance that you are who and what you say you are. This is an enormous advantage, but it comes with potential for abuse - you can create a fake identity, carrying out your agenda under an assumed name. I won't go into the specific of online identity theft, because that's not the point of this...article? Blog? Rant? Lets settle for article.

Regardless, when you deal with other people you need to know some very loose general rules for this - what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and what effect this will have. You need to understand what the society you are participating in condones and condemns, and you need to know what is considered polite and impolite. There's no real concise definition of what manners are - we learn them from those around us, parents, friends and teachers, as children and perfect them as we get older - but we instinctively know when someone is being rude, when they are being intentionally offensive, and when they are being nice. Even on the internet, this stays the same - we may become faceless, but what we write becomes our face. We can be intolerant, we can be arrogant, and we can be completely uninformed - but usually, we see ourselves slipping, and try to correct it.

In general, you should deal with someone the way you should deal with others in real life - as you would want to be treated.

I think Kanye West is a pretty cool guy. Eh doesn't keep it civil and doesn't afraid of Taylor Swift!

There are some very basic guidelines to how to act here:

  • Have Fun: above all, we are here to have fun. We aren't as rigid or as professional as Halopedia - for better and for worse. We have a sense of humour, and we exercise it regularly. We form attachments through mutual respect - sometimes its admiration for a person's writings or ideas, sometimes it's through cooperation, and sometimes we know each other from elsewhere. I knew quite a few people here before I arrived, from my time on Halopedia, and it helped me while settling in. I've met a lot more people here, some of whom have left, many of whom have not, and have gone on to become friends of others. We can joke, and debate. We can agree to disagree, and put that behind us. We have enormous respect for each other, and it strengthens us as a community.
  • Communicate: We talk with each other - in prepared text form on the wiki Forums, or in live chat form, and on each others' talk pages. Each format has advantages and disadvantages - the IRC is instantaneous, but it can get confusing with too many people, and some conversations can go very fast. With the forums, you can create great speeches and hilarious witticisms, but there's no guarantee people will even read it, and doig so is a slower process. Talk pages are more personal, and is a bit more private, but is not guaranteed to be - and when people butt in, it can create a little resentment. People's tolerance for conversation on their talk pages also varies more - some people want to keep them exclusively relevant to their activity here, and keep the chatter to the forums/IRC, while others wander wildly off topic intentionally. The important thing is that you need to communicate to get your opinions and ideas across.
  • Keep it Civil:
    • Be Kind to Newbs: Every one of us has been a newb at some point in our lives. I've seen a lot of new people here post their stuff, only for it not to meet our exacting demands - poor grammar, shoddily constructed, confusing plot or ideas, or simply stuffed with too many contradictions. Ideally, we should gently point these out to the author, explain why this is wrong, offer advice on why and how to fix them, and generally act in a civil manner.

Oh. Wait.

New people are, by definition, inexperienced, and are usually new to writing about Halo, and usually writing in general. Perhaps we need more guides like this one, so we can remedy this? But when a new person posts their stuff, if it doesn't come up to snuff we need to offer criticism, rather than just complain that it's terrible or slap an NCF template on it. Point out the rules and guidelines to them, so that they can learn. Let them gain experience, guiding them through the process of writing. communicate. Our community respects each other, but perhaps respects itself a little too much at the expense of a "them and us" mentality, of "veteran" users vs "newb" users, and a need to keep our site "pure" of bad content. Bring people into the fold, show examples of good writing they can base their own on, let them become experienced.

    • Keep Politics Out Of It!: I cannot emphasise this enough - we don't care whether you're liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, Labour or National, religious, agnostic or atheist, black or white. We are here to be awesome people, and things like that do not come into it. I don't mean that you need to remain politically neutral the entire time - we are influenced by our backgrounds and experiences in ways we will probably never know fully, and that in turn influences what we write. Halo being a military science fiction, we attract a lot of conservatives, many of whom I've worked with or know well. Do they care that I'm actually a liberal? No. I don't care that they're conservative, either. I worked with The All-knowing Sith'ari on my Labyrinth Canon, who is a staunch Tory. I'd call myself a social liberal, though not an ardent one. I don't think we've ever differed politically, because we both realise that our philosophies have positives and negatives - even when we dealt with political issues in-universe, I tried to keep my viewpoint balanced, as did he. It worked out quite well! You're welcome to talk about it, sometimes jokingly, but try to avoid serious debate - this is the kind of thing that can VERY easily degenerate into generalisms and name calling, the Ad Hominem attacks the above chart warns about. Please, don't try and start fights - don't call conservatives racist misogynist warmongers, and don't accuse liberals of all supporting state-run everything or call them socialist/communist/fascist (there is a difference, thank you!). You obviously don't have a degree in political scientist from any recognised university, and are just trolling for a reaction.
    • Assume Good Faith: Don't be too quick to assume someone of trolling. Usually, they're simply inexperienced - be kind, and point out the flaws and offer advice. If they do something bad, ie; editing an article that belongs to you, don't assume that this is a sign of malice. They may just need to be acquainted with our rules about property and authorship. If they create an article that is simply terrible, don't just on the "lol fail troll is fail" bandwagon - they may be genuinely in need of help, and if you are in a position to give it, you should. On the other hand, don't let yourself be too gullible - there are genuine trolls out there, and they are perfectly willing to capitalism on any hint of "weakness" they can find.
    • Don't Feed The Trolls: As a wise english butler once said, "some men just want to watch the world burn." These people are called trolls, and they do what they do because they gain enjoyment from the thought of ruining someone else's day. If you find yourself facing such a person, just back the hell away and ignore the idiot. Trolls thrive off attention - don't argue with him, don't kick up a fuss, don't even dignify him with a response. Undo the bad edits he makes, and respond with silence until an administrator can ban them.

Negative Criticism


When you think of "criticism", more often than not this is the kind that springs to mind. Negative criticism is the voicing of objections - in our case, to the fanon a user posts. It's more than just going "THIS IS TERRIBLE, FIX IT NAO," however. Criticism isn't just an expression is displeasure - you need to actually state what's wrong with the article in question, otherwise it's just an attack, personal or otherwise.

Negative criticism should provide several points that you feel are wrong with the article - ie; that it has poor grammar and spelling, that it is awkwardly worded, that it's content is unoriginal or even downright plagiarised from others both on and off the site, or that there are problems that arise when you try to reconcile it with the loose "canon" we follow here. All too often, I've seen people just slap the Not Canon Friendly template onto an article without actually telling the writer what is wrong with it - a couple of times, I've decided to revert this because the problems that were listed were just too minor to be worth it.

Constructive Criticism

Pretty self-explanatory - give someone a chance before denouncing their work as the offspring of Satan.

Criticism is not always negative. Constructive criticism, the type I prefer, is someone trying to help the writer improve their work by suggesting changes or improvements, or by adopting a different idea altogether. Occasionally, this will come across as meddling, an attempt to hijack your work. Please, don't ignore it. People will generally want to help a new or inexperienced writer out, and will offer a helping hand.

Let's take an example - talk:UNSC Aeneas. Here,Hyper Zergling brings items of note to my attention - namely that the ship is faster during slipspace than the norm, and that it was built far too early for this fact to be reconciled. I manage to respond, answering his concerns and providing explanation - because it wasn't obvious enough, I went over the article with a fine tooth comb, smoothing out the content and tweaking it in places. It ended up the better for it. Instead of just saying "OMG this is godmodded, FIX IT!@!!1!" he pointed out valid concerns, and I managed to counter them with the ship's turbulent history of renovations and refits, and involvement in special projects. If I couldn't have reconciled them, I would have removed them altogether to better fit the established canon, and remain more faithful.

This is how the system SHOULD work.

On the other hand, some people really will want to take over your work. It's happened a few times to me, and I've let it happen because, really, I'm just too nice a guy. But when you have an idea and you suddenly lose control of it to someone else, even in part, it stops being solely your idea and becomes something else entirely. It's best not to take for granted the idea that people will absolutely be willing to involve you with their projects - what we create here is special, and some things are private. As awesome as my collaborations with other people have been, I never intend to involve my Kaaranese Sangheili any more than I have to - they are mine, and I want to keep them that way. Likewise, I encourage anyone with suggestions on how to improve this page to take it to the talk page - this is something special to me, and I want to be the author of it.

At the same time, however, some of the things I have collaborated on have turned out spectacularly. I've regularly collaborated with The All-knowing Sith'ari on the War of Vengeance, Second Great War, and the many weapon and vehicle articles we've created for my Labyrinth Canon. Likewise, I worked extensively with other people for Operation: VORAUSSICHT, with everyone contributing ideas, characters, events and themes. Without them, I doubt it would have ended up anywhere near as fantastic as it has and (it is to be hoped) will continue to be. But the key difference was that these people asked - the War of Vengeance and subsequent history sprung from discussions with Sith'ari on how a post-Halo history would go. For VORAUSSICHT, I invited participation to expand it into a much wider project, turning it almost into a role play. These have all turned out for the better for their involvement, and I thank everybody for it!

When collaborating, keep in mind the needs and wishes of your collaborators. When you deal with their characters, pay attention to their personality and history, and try not to make them go out of character - behave differently to how they normally would. I don't make VECTOR skip through a field of flowers singing about wuvvy wuv, and you don't have Andrew-306 become a mopey angsty teenager who discovers a taste for the goffik. Try not to make the events you write conflict with those of your collaborators - remember, you're working in one "miniature canon", that has its own rules and timeline. Stick to it if at all possible. Most of all, TALK to each other! Share ideas, critique their contributions, work out consistency for your material.

Some people, despite all advice and warning given to them, will ignore all rules and conventions, gleefully kicking up the sand in the sandbox we all play in. These people are called vandals and trolls, and they are the bane of any good netizen.


Halo Fanon, you've changed nothing. Your websitehas the attention of those infinitely your greater. That which you know as Vandals are your salvation through destruction. You have failed. We will find another way. We will show you true power. Releasing control.

"This guy is so gay I mean he banned us seriously wtf is your problem.

Anonymous IP address.
"On Wikipedia, vandalism is the act of editing the project in a malicious manner that is intentionally disruptive. Vandalism includes the addition, removal, or other modification of the text or other material that is either humorous, nonsensical, a hoax, spam or promotion of a subject, or that is of an offensive, humiliating, or otherwise degrading nature."
Wikipedia's definition, which is just as applicable here.

Sometimes vandalism can be used as a protest, occasionally for heroic goals. Organisations who offer appallingly bad service, perform illegal activities, or who behave in a manner that dismisses criticism and ridicules those with differing opinions become targets for internet vigilantes, who commit acts of vandalism or other types of cyber warfare as a protest. The most famous of these is the perpetual struggle of Anonymous to battle the Church of Scientology over its suppression, occasionally using illegal means, of any and all negative criticism over its methods and ideology. "Anons" will ridicule the Scientology belief system, but real Anonymous doesn't care what they believe - it's what they do.

Unfortunately, the rise of internet vigilantism has also seen a surge in mimics with less altruistic goals. They simply pick a target that is vulnerable, that has earned their ire, or that has simply attracted enough attention to make it worth the risk. These sites become victims of vandalism - sometimes on a major scale, sometimes with minor damage. I'll avoid using Halopedia or Halo Fanon as an example, though there have been many idiots who have come here to "destroy Halopedia lol". Instead, I'll use Halo community website HBO, run by venerable sage Louis Wu. A "hacker" managed to access the site's source code, erasing the content and taunting the community with a demand that the site's security be improved. They claimed to be doing us a favour - that if he hadn't done it, showing us how vulnerable it was, someone else would have. I don't buy it. More likely than not, it was someone who decided to have a little fun at Wu's expense. It happened twice, and then stopped - I can only assume that HBO improved their security, or that the guy got bored.

Returning to Halopedia and Halo Fanon, we get a number of idiots who post "shaun is a fag" "master chief sux cod rox" and "cortana is hot lololol". This vandalism is quickly reverted, the perpetrators given appropriate bans. Even long-respected and venerable users aren't immune to this frustration - without naming any names, I've dealt with one man who just had a bad day and was frustrated as hell, and had to vent some steam. It took us all by surprise, and as much as it pained me, I banned him. He has since made a remarkable comeback, and is once again a well-liked and well-respected member of our communities. He's probably not the only one. I've met a few people who were banned for juvenile behaviour, and returned older, wiser, and apologetic for their misdeeds.

Others simply do it for attention - they think that if they "attack" a well-known, well-respected, or otherwise established target, they'll carve themselves in a digital Valhalla, achieve some notoriety. Internet vandalism is a sociopathic action, a reaction to a life tied to digital media. If they were "regular" kids, they'd go out with a spray can and deface a nice, multicultural mural. Except that they don't - they're good with computers. Very good. And they take their frustrations out on vulnerable targets. They need an ego boost, and we're their meal ticket. It's a typical human response - we (usually, but not always, males) performing "outrageous" deeds in the vain hopes of attracting the attention of those who approve. It's always been there in our behaviour - it's instinctive. We mimic those we admire. Internet vandals consider each other to be their ideal idols, and hope to imitate the most famous/infamous, and eventually to become one of them. For the vast majority, they just end up banned/kicked/V& by more skilled members of the community who are very unimpressed.


As hilarious as it looks, it isn't too far off from the truth.

In my experience, there are two types of troll. The first is the kind who enjoys taunting people, brings irritation and harassment, and gets his kicks at causing mayhem. The second is just a persistent little bugger who doesn't know when to give it up. Sometimes, it's very difficult to tell the two apart, because there's generally some overlap. Usually, but not always, the term goes hand-in-hand with vandalism, and the two are used synonymously. This is not always the case.

Trolling as an act of taunting, performed in a variety of ways, all done to get the desired reaction of anger or upset. Some trolls consider it to be a game, the object of which is to "win" by completely enraging or misdirecting their "opponent". Others take trolling very seriously, constructing personas and playing endless games on their crusade. The sophistication of such trolling varies, too. Some trolls are simply idiots who sling racial, gender or national epithets at somebody simply because they're different. Others engage in extremely elaborate schemes, gathering information, exploiting vulnerabilities and waging electronic warfare to attack their opponents. All trolling is done to gain attention - sometimes the attention of a single website, or community, and sometimes of the entire internet - there are few experienced dwellers of the internet who have not heard of Anonymous and learnt to respect and fear their attention.

The best (and, really, only) way to deal with a troll is to neutralise them in any way possible. Ban them so that they cannot return to their activities, even in anonymous form. These people want you to talk about them, even in uncomplimentary ways. They crave the attention, and we give it to them - ODSTSuperSpartan is the most egregious recent example. He is persistent in his attempts, and what reward do we give him? A shrine to his failure, in a hilarious example of counter-trolling. He may be offended, he may be enraged, but somewhere within his shrivelled black heart his ego is purring contentedly like a kitten. He's made his mark, and we've given him a tiny little sliver of immortality.

The phrase "troll" is very specific. Please don't use it to describe people who disagree with on principle, just because they refuse to agree to your conclusions. Don't use it for people who offer criticism, regardless of how often they do so. And please, please, PLEASE don't use it for people who are new and confused here, trying to forge their path and post their rudimentary articles, and receive laughing scorn from more experienced members.



Theoretically, this is the limit of your creativity. Theoretically. Image courtesy of ~RDCarneiro.

I'd like to say that the only limit to your creations is your imagination, and from a certain point of view this is true. Your imagination can be a limit to creativity - if you don't have any. But it is certainly not the only factor that needs to be taken into account. You need to decide what you're putting into your article, what type of article it is, and you need to polish it up. Halo Fanon members are very picky critics, and will mercilessly shred you to pieces for abusing the English language, or abusing the Halo universe - justifiable, might I add. There are some mistakes that most new members make, both minor and major, that need redressing;

Please respect other people's intellectual property. If you wish to edit a users article, or series of articles, seek their permission first by contacting them on their talk page. From their, your request can be approved or denied, but if the user denies you permission, you will respect their wishes. Likewise, other users do not have the right to edit your articles beyond placing appropriate templates on them.

Likewise, if you intend to use material created by another user, make sure to ask their permission first. The creator may grant or deny you permission, but you cannot simply decide that its part of your canon. Similarly, don't edit their articles without their permission, regardless of what reasons you have for it - what may look like small errors may be intentional, and it is not for you to decide that it isn't.

If you'd like to edit this page, just ask for permission, outlining what you think needs doing and how. I'll probably say no, because this is a piece that I'd like to be solely mine, but I'll take your criticism into consideration when I next get around to editing it.

Your creativity has been unbridled; your imagination is running wild; it will have outlet, brave and not so brave. So now, you must decide - will your creation be fanfiction, or fanon?

You would be forgiven for mistaking the two terms, but there are some major and fundamental differences between fanon and fanfiction' - it helps to learn what these are, and how to decide which you want to pursue. Both vary in length and quality - length is not always a problem, but quality is, and is part of the reason why I created this guide (besides also being an excuse to be snarky and litter it with internet memes. I DUN GOOF'D!)


Fanon, Wikipedia tells me, is a silk vestment with red and gold stripes worn by the Pope. I'm sure we all know the word, though, in the context of fiction, and here it means fan-created extensions of official canon - the places, characters and events that we create lovingly craft on this site, detailing the products of our imagination. Does our stuff have to be be compatible with official canon? No. That's where the "fan" part of the word comes in. We know that our work is not official, and probably will never be. We find this liberating - we aren't restricted by canon in the same ways that 343i or Bungie are. We can create alternate universes, delve into the past, or create our own set of canon, introducing elements that rival those of the official canon in scale, depth and scope. It's liberating. As a mostly fanon writer, this guide will deal with how to make fanon articles that are awesome.

Meme - Fanfiction.jpg

Fanfiction, on the other hand, is the name we give to the stories produced by members of the fandom. Like fanon, these aren't official. Like fanon, the may create events, people and places that don't exist in the games, novels or other official media. But the difference is that fanfiction is actual fiction - written tales, rather than just a list of starships or colonies. They have protagonists and antagonists, a storyline that they follow, perspectives, and emotional involvement. Fanfiction tells a story, rather than just describing one. There's a collection of fanfiction here, and Halo-specific fanfiction hosted by HBO.

I'm going to be candid here. I took ENGL113-10B, a first-year English Confidence paper. It advertised itself as a way to improve your essay-writing abilities, teaching you skills that you could use in all your other subjects, making you more likely to get A-grades. To be perfectly frank, all it taught me is that even after decades of trying to learn this stuff, I still couldn't tell you the difference between nouns, adjectives, verbs and so on without looking up Wikipedia. And now, I'm taking it upon you to share some rudimentary basics, because even I am getting tired of some really amateur mistakes that stop articles from being decent, or even really good. We don't demand perfection - many of us are seasoned "veterans", and still make these mistakes. We just ask that care is taken, please.

Spelling and Grammar
"Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind."
―Terry Pratchett

Meme - Grammar Nazi.png
Spelling is something that irritates me when it isn't done right. How hard is it? Not very. With the cyber age dawning, our spelling is reduced to how fast we can type, allowing us to write at length in unprecedented times. What irritates me the most is "txt" speak. "u" is not "you". "r" is not "are". "c" is not "see". If you want to use "OMG", "WTF", "LOL", "FTW", or any other "l33t sp3ak" abbreviations in the context of an article, then expect to get flamed. Dialogue is another matter - as annoying as it is, I have heard people regularly use "OMG" and "WTF" is day-to-day speech. What is the point? Are there less syllables than simply saying "oh my god" or "what the fuck"? No. Does it take less time? No. Is it "cooler"? Apparently. I'm not entirely sure they even know that they are abbreviations - they may be labouring under the mistaken illusion that they are actual words. If you are one such person, then prepare to relieve yourself of such delusions quickly. It just indicates laziness. Articles are not casual dialogue - they are formal prose, and "leet" speak has no place in them.

Another irritation, but a minor one, is the mistaking of words for similar homophones, words that sound like another but possess a different spelling and meaning entirely. "Their", "there" and "they're" are homophones, and some of the most common mistakes. Often they can be used for humour, creating "puns" or malapropisms - often I don't find them funny, or fail to even see the joke. I'm more of a Monty Python man myself. Some malapropisms can be unintentionally hilarious - Dr. Mark Houlahan often tells the story of the poor girl who wrote "Cleopatra has many floors," confusing "floors" with "flaws", at the end of a semester. Being a gentleman, he neglects to dock marks off for small, humorous malapropisms, but for the more serious stuff there is no excuse. Worse still to him is the use of emoticons - he is a university lecturer, not a secondary school teacher, and the quickest way to a fail grade is to put :D, XD or D: in an essay or exam. This applies here - we don't want to see them outside of article or user talk pages.

Being the caring, understanding person that I am, I sympathise with people who make spelling mistakes. I'm not immune - I recently had someone ask me if they could go through my articles, correcting the mistakes they see that aren't commonwealth spelling variants of American uses of the word. This isn't a failure on the part of my mind, but on my body - I type too rapidly for me to proof-read as I go, and mistakes are the result of muscle memory. Occasionally, I'll write "teh" instead of "the" - I got called out for this in my first (and to date only) post on the Bungie Forums, with people complaining about “leet” speak ruining teh English language, when it was just a mistake. I may make worse errors. But I try to proof-read my edits after I finish writing, and go back over them if I notice any that stand out to me. As a foreigner to the strange and far-off lands of North America myself, I also extend my sympathies to people for whom English is not their first language - many of these errors have been made by people who speak Spanish, French, Italian or (possible) Russian. Ladies and gentlemen from exotic lands, my heart goes out to you.

Ah, sweet Calvin, innocence of youth. How your attitude strikes at the heart of me

Grammar is another pet peeve of mine, and there are some really stupid things that people do. The use of "of" is the most obvious of these - "would of" is an abomination that shall be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes. The correct phrase is "would have", abbreviated to "would've". This is another example of homophones, with "would've and would of sounding similar enough to confuse, and to the inexperienced it is an easy mistake to make. Other mistakes involve usage of punctuation - I'll give you a hint: using the full-stop, ".", means a sentence has ended, and a new one should begin. Don't just continue as if nothing happened. These little fellows, "_" or '_', denote that the text between them is something we call "a quotation", and are used for speech in fiction. We don't use the apostrophes, '_', because they are used in wiki code and can create formatting problems, but they're acceptable in regular text. There is a reason the "?" symbol is called the question mark, and why "!" is the exclamation mark. Outside of speech, the two should not be used in conjunction together. I don't know why they are used in speech in the first place, but that's off topic. Run-on sentences are even more annoying - a sentence doesn't need to be the length of a paragraph. Once again, this is probably something I'm guilty of - if you find any, just notify me, because I rarely read my own stuff these days. I'm either too busy, or it’s so out of date I don't bother.

Fixing these errors is easy - just edit the article. If you come across an article with copious amounts of spelling or grammar errors, just add the {{Grammar}} template to the top of the article, adding the offending errors to the talk page for correction. Some authors will allow other writers to edit their articles for minor touch-ups, but it’s always a good idea to ask permission in any case, with justification for the edit. See this fanfic for an example of an article that desperately needs cleaning up. Tremble before the unorinality of ripping off a Team Fortress 2 character! Gaze with horror at the terrible spelling and grammar! Gasp in fear and dread at the run-on sentences and paragraphs! Feel that chill running up your spine? That's the fact that someone slapped the {{Grammar}} template on it and then forgot to notify the author as to its status! All too often, Halo Fanon gets left with articles created and abandoned by writers who come and go faster than Arnold Schwarzenegger at the gym. 80% of the material on this site is probably complete crap, written by authors with a love for Halo...and not much else. But then you get the 20% that is well written, well conceived, and overall fantastic. Correcting these small but common errors might be all it takes to lift your work from the bad, mediocre or average 80% to the 20%.

A special note about Commonwealth Spelling: as a citizen of New Zealand, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as our head of state, I use British spelling. Many other members of Halo Fanon are British, Australian, or Canadian and use the same or similar spelling - Halopedia uses American standard spelling because the largest portion of our viewership is from the United States. Halo Fanon is not so formal. The articles you create are yours - what spelling you use shouldn't matter, so long as you do it correctly.


Fanon and fanfic are intended to tell a story, meant to entertain and deliver an enjoyable experience. The plot and characters are important for this, because, really, what else should people read a work of fiction for? If you lack these two components, you might as well give up. But even if you do have great characters, you manage to create a good dynamic between then, and the plot of your story is twisting and turning and delivers action, romance, suspense and so on, that still doesn't make a good story - you need to get this story down on paper/on screen, and to do this you should know how a story is structured.

As with the grammar section, I've taken courses that deal with this too, which were introductions to how stories are structures. Does that make me an expert? No. It absolutely does not. But I can offer some helpful advice.

  • Fanon
Main article: Help:Editing

Fanon differs from Fanfiction in that it is presenting fan-created ideas as prose articles, rather than as stories. What doesn't mean is that they can't tell a story. A fanon article for a character, place, event or piece of equipment can be just as interesting as a short story, if handled well - by delivering information on events and characters you can develop your story into a meta-continuity. The majority of my Labyrinth Canon, for example, is told in fanon article form, especially the lengthy War of Vengeance. I've tried to get some Fanfiction up for it, but have continuously run into problems - time, resources, workload, etc. But I'm happy with what I, and those I've collaborated with, have done.

A fanon article should be regarded as an essay - use formal prose. Start out with an introduction, an outline of your article and what it is. Try to keep the introduction short, so that you can expand your ideas in the article proper. I know that I might be guilty of this, and my verbosity is something I get called out for sometimes (never in a negative way, so far), but the introduction is the eye-catcher, meant to draw the reader's interest so that they will read the longer and more detailed article below it.

Separate your fanon article into sections based on type. I include a "History" section, a section describing the subject of the article, and a "Remarks" section at the bottom for any particularly good quotes I like about it. Different types of article will have different sections - a character may have sections for their personality, or the people they have worked/lived with, and so on. Likewise, a weapon, vehicle or starship will probably have a "Design" section, detailing how the thing functions. Events will be different again, and may include participating armies, and an "Aftermath" section, describing the overall effect (if any) it had on other events. Narratives can be formed, telling a story - let us take, for example, Best Spartan of the Year, 2009, Laszlo-108. His article is written entirely in formal prose, as if it was on Halopedia, and yet the history and personality of the character are intriguing and engaging. His "History" section stretches from his early past to the far future of the Halo universe, and his details don't just include his actions - they detail his emotions, his motivations, his personality and relationships. Writing a story for this guy would need a heroic epic on par with the Iliad, but by making it a fanon article he gets across the plot and character development in a shorter, more direct format.

The most important difference between fanon and Fanfiction, though, is the use of imagery. Images can be placed within the article, either within the text itself, or at the end in a “gallery”, with or without captions. These images provide a neat little visual element to your fanon, providing a way for the audience to imagine your character doing the things they do. Given the inclusion of theatre mode in Halo 3 and Halo Reach, finding a screenshot of a character or canon item shouldn’t be too difficult – fire up the Forge and customise your Spartan or Elite, or go into campaign and take a screen capture of a Non-Playable Character to use, such as a Marine/Trooper, Grunt, Brute, etc, or even just vehicles in action – Dropships dropping off troops, Warthogs laden with Marines or Troopers, allies laden with Rocket Launchers or Spartan Lasers, and so on. The system isn’t perfect – there’s nothing there to help you if you’re using a non-canon item or faction – but you can also look around other TV series, games, or films for images of what you need, or even fanart. Attribution is required – Halo is not your intellectual property, and neither are the images that you’re using. If its fanart, try to attribute it to the creator of it, or if you don’t know who the creator is, simply say that you didn’t make it. Use of copyrighted images is licensed under Fair Use - so long as you don’t make a profit from it, and don’t assert yourself as the creator, then you should be fine. That doesn’t stop YouTube from banning LittleKuriboh or TeamFourStar, but hey, Wikia isn’t quite that bad (yet).

  • Fanfiction

Fanfiction differs. Because you're crafting a story, it needs to follow the rules and conventions that go with it. You need a beginning, a middle, and an end. You need characters. But most of all, you need a story to tell - it's all well and good describing your characters, but does it help to advance the story? Do we care that the protagonst cries limpid tears if she doesn't do anything for more than twenty two thousand words? There are some very basic rules that I will deal with further down, which are, in short: Keep It Simply, Keep It Relevant, and Show Don't Tell. Don't overcomplicate things, make sure what you have advances the story or provides characterisation, and show the audience the important stuff, don't tell us about it.

I can already hear you, dear reader, ask "Respecting Canon? I thought this was fanon?" Its a common mistake, and it is easy to see why. But respect is not the same thing as adherence to - you can respect the Halo canon while diverging from it quite significantly. And this is a good thing.

Hierarchy of Canon
Main article: Forum:Amendments to Canon Policy

Then after that saith he to [his] disciples, Let us go into Halopedia again.

Keeping track of an Expanded Universe gets more difficult the larger it gets. Just ask the Star Wars community - six feature films, hundreds of books and novels, dozens of games, and several TV series (not to mention the Holiday Special) to keep track of, with characters, dates, places and factions all interacting, contradicting, supplementing, etc. Obviously Halo isn't as large as the Star Wars EU, but it's still respectable in its own right - six games, five novels, a few comic series and a graphic novel, I Love Bees, and some live action trailers. We also haven't had more than thirty years to expand our universe - getting what we have between 2001 and 2010 is not half bad though! Microsoft may not be keen to see Halo go anywhere any time soon, but it's certainly not whoring it out like some are claiming. Keeping track of even this comparatively paltry amount is still a formidable task - we need to sort out just whose word is a better authority on the subject of Halo, what elements are contradictions and which are merely artistic license, which are retcons, and which are mistakes on the part of the community. Considering that we have so many authors involved in the novels, writers working on the films and animated features, and developers working on the games, not to mention the recent transition of Halo as Intellectual Property from the hands of Bungie to 343 Industries, this process gets complicated easily. Halopedia maintains its own canon policy, as does Halo Fanon, but I disagree on some points. This isn't an official canon policy. Its a combination of what I think it should be, and what seems to me to be common sense.

I remember this controversy. It inspired my MJOLNIR Mark IV/Vajra II article. This is no exaggeration.

First of all, we need to establish a core - a set of titles that form the basis of the canon that forms a set of canon. For Star Wars, it is the original and recent film trilogies. For Halo, this core is formed by the Halo games themselves: Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo Wars, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, and whatever 343 Industries is cooking up for us in the future. But this gets further complicated because one of these games, Halo Wars, was not developed by the creators of the series - Ensemble Studios, the award winning developers of the Age of Empires series, handled that process. Halo Wars gets trumped by some elements of canon because there are contradictions against what was already established - using rechargeable energy shields for Spartan units a decade before they entered service, for example; a Covenant "destroyer" almost twice as long as a Covenant Cruiser; the fact that Red Team isn't taken into account in the Spartan roster in The Fall of Reach; aesthetic details, such as the Elites and Spartan armour. These are just a list of minor items - they don't detract from the fact that Halo Wars was a well-made and enjoyable game, if a bit short for my liking. But because these elements are contradicted, it means that some of them are non-canon - Spartans did not have shields before the Mark V. Others, however, may not be quite so easy to dismiss - the material that has come out of 343i had made it abundantly clear that the Halo Wars visual version of the Mark IV armour has been adopted as an official variant of the Mark IV series - whether it represents the original baseline variant, or a specialised version worn only by a select few, remains unclear. Likewise, the Spartan roster has become a tangled and confusing mess given how many Spartans seem to have died over the years, compared to the "three" mentioned in The Fall of Reach. The reissue of the novel doesn't seem to have cleared that mess up yet, but I have my theories.

This does mean, however, that we need to find a tiered system by which we can organise the "legitimacy" of Canon for when they conflict - when Bungie says something, and when 343i says something, who are we supposed to believe? Bungie are legendary, and created the series, but 343i are the current guardians of the story bible and are taking over the development of Halo after Halo: Reach - who trumps whom?

  1. Alpha - products by 343 Industries, statements by their employees, and products authorised and approved by them.
  2. Beta - products by Bungie Studios, statements by their employees while they held the IP, and products authorised and approved by them.
  3. Gamma - products by third-party authors, illustrators and developers.

This is blasphemy! This is madness!

Since 343i holds the property now, then their word is law. Regardless of whether people agree with that fact, 343i are the people in charge of what direction the Halo universe goes in, and hold all the cards - we just need to hope that they deal us a decent hand. This raises some worrying issues regarding some of the episodes of Halo Legends that received a, shall we say, less than warm welcome from the fanbase - or, at least, it would if 343i hadn't already handled that situation by declaring that the visuals from most of the shorts are non-canon - the stories and events are canon, but not how the characters, places or items look. I liked the ideas behind shorts like The Babysitter, or Duel, but some aesthetic and storytelling elements just clashed with my hope for a good story and expectation of crap. The two-part Origins, on the other hand, was dealt with masterfully, even if they couldn't get Jen Taylor to reprise her role as Cortana, and dealt with it's own canonicity in an intriguing manner, leading the viewer to question whether everything states was true or a figment of Cortana's borderline rampant programming - as was the totally non-canon Odd One Out, which satirised Halo conventions, pop culture, and even anime tropes in a hilarious sequence featuring Spartan-1337, a tyrannosaurus, a pair of martial artists and a genetically engineered Brute who could SHOOP DA WOOP. But the point is that contradictions don't exist for Halo Legends - there is no assertion of legitimacy here, and where it conflicts with established canon, previous sources overrule it regardless of 343i's involvement.

Bungie, as the creators of Halo and masters of their craft, will always be respected by the Halo fanbase. Many of them were there at the beginning, during the days of Myth, Oni and Marathon, which most Halo fans wouldn't even know exist, and each of which was pioneering and excellent in their own right. Their original trilogy are treated as "hardcore" canon in that they are the standard we base all subsequent expansions of the story on - if it doesn't fit with the games, then it just doesn't fit at all. Employees themselves have served as sources of canon as well - interviews with Joseph Staten, Robert McLees and Frank O'Conner (before his switch to 343i) have introduced elements that the games and novels have not - the possibility that Jackals were employed, rather than loyal members of the Covenant; the possibly (humorously) gay relationship between Wallace Fujikawa and Tobias Shaw; and the fact that Microsoft was the one who stated the number of UNSC colonies, and not Bungie. With Bungie handing over the reigns, though, their words, while sweet elixir to our story-parched throats, are no longer as satiating as they once were. Joseph Staten, for example, claims in Contact Harvest that the UNSC only has seventeen colonies in total. We know, from Eric Nylund's series and a variety of other sources, that there are MUCH more than seventeen inhabited star systems, much less colonies - in this case, it is the word of a Bungie employee that is rendered non-canon, or at least modified - I would take it to mean Inner Colonies - seventeen core worlds, and the rest of the eight hundred being smaller Outer Colonies. Conversely, Nylund states that Harvest was the furthest human colony - systems like Sigma Octanus, Procyon and 23 Librae beg to differ. Staten allows us some leeway - Harvest was the furthest when it was founded in 2468. Presumably, further colonies were founded since then - we could even argue that Harvest was just the furthest Inner Colony. By combining two contradictory sources, we get a reasonable explanation for the territory the UNSC controls, and the differing values given.

Third Parties don't just include Ensemble Studios - they also include Eric Nylund, William C. Deitz, Greg Bear, Karen Traviss, and the other authors who have (or will) bring the novels that provide us with the vast majority of back-story. It also includes the writers, illustrators and developers of other projects as well, such as the comic series' that have been produced, the brilliant I Love Bees alternate reality game that preceded Halo 2, and the live action films. Sometimes, these sources of canon are ground breaking - ILB introduced the idea of Spartans trained after the Master Chief, perhaps inspiring Nylunds SPARTAN-III Program, while Deitz's The Flood gave us our first look at the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers and showed us the Covenant side of the story before even Halo 2. Likewise, other elements may not be received so well - Deitz's characterisation of the Master Chief as a gung-ho space marine overshadowed his fantastic depiction of Marines and Covenant. There have also been contradictions between third party sources, even between the same author - Nylund gives us conflicting numbers of Spartans who existed in total, and who survived up to 2552, and even though these numbers have been altered by later events (the deaths of so many Spartans in Legends, just as an example), these haven't been cleared up even by the reissuing of The Fall of Reach recently with new material and supposedly with fixed mistakes. The depiction of the Shield World in Halo Wars also conflicts with that of Ghosts of Onyx - rather than a planet hiding a portal to another location entirely, the planet is a shell with a hollow interior - it produces a similar effect, but the results are strikingly different in scale and implementation. In cases like these, we try to reconcile them - the two Shield Worlds may be different types, for example. But when these facts can't be reconciles, then we need to prioritise - the numbers given for how many Spartan-II's were on Reach may be totally non-canon, left behind by the progress of the IP beyond the original vision of it. Aesthetic elements are especially susceptible to contradictions - the different designs for the Scarabs in the Halo Graphic Novel, depictions of the MJOLNIR Mark IV, Marine combat armour, and the hulking behemoths that the Elites became in Halo Wars are all artistic elements that have raised issues - the Mark IV probably had different variants, and the Marines may have upgraded to a more advanced set of armour; the Scarab, on the other hand, is purely artistic license, as are the bulky Elites.

We don't make canon, nor do we get to decide what it is. But that doesn't stop us from trying to change this fact.

Common sense needs to be applied, and the hierarchy is not a strict one - the Contact Harvest example being a case in point. There is an old saying: an unbending tree snaps in the wind. I don't know how old it is, since I may have made it up. The Halo community needs to remain flexible to variation and accepting of new introductions to the Canon - respect for Bungie may be a fine thing, but we can't simply accept only their word on what is and is not "official". Nor should we rely totally on 343i - the difficulties they've had with the Halo Encyclopedia and The Fall of Reach show us that they are still finding their footing, and are fallible to errors and mistakes. Use your own judgement - if something strikes you as off, then try to accommodate it. If you can't accommodate it, ignore it. If you can't ignore it, they it's way above your pay grade, and is giving headaches to people placed in much worse situations than you. Take comfort in that knowledge.

And, of course, since this is Halo Fanon, if worst comes to worst you can simply create an alternate history where what you want did or did not happen - a world where Reach did not fall, a world where there are thousands of Spartans, a world where the UNSC defeated the Covenant. The possibilities are endless - I just ask that you respect the canon that which precedes it.

  • Handing Over The Reigns

A special word on the post-Halo Reach nature of Halo:

A lot of people like to compare Halo to a 'cash cow", and claim that Microsoft is milking it for all it's worth, but the thing about cows is that they're meant to be milked! Trust me, I live in a dairy industry town, I know. If Microsoft didn't "milk" its "cow", they why bother keeping it? It also forces Microsoft into an untenable position - if they do anything with the IP they'll be accused of "milking" it, and by our inaccurate standards this will be correct.

A better (and more colourful) analogy is a volcano. For the purposes of this analogy, let us say Halo is a magical volcano, gushing forth hot, molten magical goodness that is future games, books, films, etc. Now Microsoft could just blow the volcano up to extract all the magical magma within, but why should they? It comes out on its own, and it keeps coming out. So they just have to be careful with how they extract the magic. The analogy may not make much sense, or be particularly serious, or may sound like Michael Bay on a cinematic spree that makes Transformers 2 look like the Mona Lisa, but it is accurate - Halo is just the gift that keeps on giving, and if Microsoft start overdoing it then fans will be smart enough to realise what's happening. They know this, and they know what not to do. So they won't do it.

I'm not saying trust them, because corporations have been the downfall of so many good things. Like the Gulf of Mexico, or the world economy, for instance. I'm saying that the specific thing that we're worried about is not such a concern.

Laws of Physics
Meme - Science Incorrect.jpg

The laws of physics are not unbending. It would be arrogant, and probably totally wrong, to say that everything there is to know about science is already known. Future discoveries may render what we know today as "fact" a laughable belief. We once thought that dinosaurs were cold blooded brutes that dragged their tails on the ground and were too stupid to survive their mammalian replacement. Now we know that it was the greatest cosmic accident of all history that saw the greatest animal lineage to walk the Earth die out, and that it was a narrow thing. Likewise, respected scientists once thought that there were water canals on Mars, evidence of extraterrestrial life. Today we know that these are natural formations formed either by geological forces or past evidence of flowing bodies of water that no longer exist. We know today that FTL is impossible, Directed Energy Weapons are impractical, and that shields do not work the way science fiction authors and fans would like. What will we know tomorrow?

But likewise, there is a certain extent to which our understanding of physics can be bent. Faster-than-light travel violates E=MC2, and we are able to circumvent this rule because otherwise science fiction would be a boring place. In terms of Halo fiction, ships enter a different dimension altogether, where there is no such restriction, and faster-than-light velocities are possible before they drop back out. Other series use similar concepts, like hyperspace; some use point-to-point worm hole generators in the universe to create tunnels to other star systems; still more simply try their best to pretend it simply doesn't exist. But the point is that these are done for narrative effect, and are taken into account, and are a big deal. This is acceptable.

What is NOT acceptable is stuff that is genuinely impossible, and sometimes downright ludicrous. Psionics aka biotics aka Jedi are able to use their minds to accomplish impossible feats - while you can mutter all you want about midi-chlorians or mass effect fields, the fact is that it amounts to magic, and automatically makes the character a wizard. You've strayed from science fiction into fantasy, my friend, and from there it's only a matter of time before crossbows and swords start looking like a good idea, even if they do fire plasma or are made of solidified photons. From there, you'll start giving your characters blue fur and tails, or pointed ears, and once you've passed the Spock Limit there's no hope for you, I'm afraid. That isn't to say that your fanon is bad - fantasy itself is a deep and mythological genre. But if it isn't even science fiction, then it really doesn't belong on Halo Fanon.

Science is not an absolute. There will likely never be a point where humanity can say, "there is nothing left to be known. The universe is what it is, we can do anything we want." If that day comes, they it will be tantamount to a declaration of deityhood, and I pity the poor souls who inhabit our Garden of Eden. This means that there are discoveries to be made in the future, and this allows a certain amount of leeway. This is part of the reason why FTL is so acceptable to "purist" science fiction fans - theoretically, there are ways to circumvent relativity, but they're all really complicated, unlikely, and rely too much on "handwavium". But it sounds plausible, because none of us (or, at least, very few of us) are astrophysicists or quantum physicists. The same can be applied to other things - psychokinesis/precognition/clairvoyance/telepathy and other parapsychological and pseudo-scientific phenomenon can be explained this way, as long as the method sounds plausible. To make it plausible, it has to sound real - it cannot be perfect; there have to be drawbacks. Slipspace feels "real" because, while it is incredibly convenient, it is not perfect - it takes months to reach anywhere, and is an imprecise art. Disregard the Covenant speed and accuracy - those are a narrative element to enhance the threat posed by the Covenant, and to show the reader/viewer/player that they are more advanced that humanity. But slipspace feels like a science - it has pay-offs and drawbacks, just like anything else. It is balanced.

TL;DR: try to keep it plausible. Plausible doesn't necessarily mean accurate - it just means that you should put some thought into your fanon, and try to at least keep it science fiction.

  • Handwavium
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
―Arthur C. Clarke

Check out this article for the explanation. It's pretty damning - but of course, we're going to ignore it and cling to our Prowlers like a redneck to his guns.

"Handwavium" is when a story simply glosses over inconvenient facts completely, not dealing with the at all. Faster than light travel can be subject to this - ways can be found to "circumvent" relativity, such as slipspace/hyperspace, warp fields, worm holes, point-to-point teleportation, and so on. But writers still insist on ignoring all of these, and using traditional if-I just-keep-going-I'll-get-faster drives. This is what is called a "Fakedrive" - it's impossible. Handwavium can apply to anything - artificial gravity could almost apply, though Halo deals with this relatively well, showing that there are problems with the technology. Anything that is actually scientifically impossible, but is treated as a normal facet of life, and indeed its absence may be inconceivable to the inhabitants of the story. In fact, little in Halo is really handwavium except perhaps the Halo's themselves, which wipe out sentient life using a "harmonic resonance" - though this is technically technobabble.

  • Unobtainium

"Unobtanium" refers to materials that, while theoretically possible, are well beyond anything humanity can actually build or refine today, or in the near or even distant future. In science fiction terms, Unobtanium is far more preferable than Handwavium or Technobabble - it explains the story's contents in a believable way, making them seem plausible, but still gives the author room to manoeuvre. Forget Avatar - Unobtanium can refer to any material. While it is never really directly addressed in the Halo Universe, whatever material the Forerunners built their structures out of must be some of the strongest Unobtanium to exist - the Halo rings have been sitting between the gravity wells of a gas giant and its moon, dealing with the tidal stresses of the two interacting gravitational fields, not to mention they also have to deal with the stress of the ring's own rotation. And they've been doing this for a hundred thousand years. They just don't make 'em like they used to, huh?

  • Technobabble

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause-to-effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbley-wobbley timey-wimey...stuff.

"Technobabble" is when a character in the story, or the author, tries to explain away something that would normally be defined as Handwavium with a nonsensical description of the mechanics. A protagonist might, for example, claim that he can stop the Doomsday Machine from activating by "revers[ing] the polarity of the neutron flow" - exactly what this does, whether its possible, or even whether it makes any sense is unimportant. There's really no other explanation for why the protagonist succeeds, and the viewer simply trusts that this is plausible, because it sounds like it is.

The explanation behind slipspace might sound like technobabble, but it isn't. It uses micro-black holes to open a quantum hole in space/time that evaporates in a microsecond, travels through Shaw-Fujikawa Space, and performs a similar process to return - this is unobtanium, because it partially sounds scientifically plausible. A more accurate example would be the much-lauded Halo Effect the Forerunners used to sterilise the galaxy - a "harmonic resonance frequency" that targets the cells of sentient organisms. "Harmonic resonance frequency" doesn't actually mean anything - its merely a piece of technobabble that the custodians of the Halo Universe have decided sounds appropriate. Strictly speaking, Technobabble is still better than Handwavium, but its still an irritation to readers who expect the author to have put some effort into the research. It doesn't neccessarily mean the story is bad - we don't, of course, expect a fiction author to be a quantum physicist as well.

For a better explanation of how to use technobabble, see this blog by Spartan-091. I don't agree that technobabble can be a substitute for complexity and accuracy, but its a good look at how it can be applied, and the comments contain some insightful notes.

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."
―Ecclesiastes, 9:1

"You say you desire pure originality, but inspiration from other things will tint everyone's work whether they try or not. It is unavoidable, unless you less in a dark cave and know nothing of the outside where, but that's moot as then you wouldn't be here in the first place. When I created Elijah, I needed a name: I'm a fan of the Lord of the Rings, so choosing the names of its' actors was a natural choice for me, particularly because it was unique among what I've seen on the site. A name is just that: a name. Likewise, we're a fanon site, so we have to use pictures from outside sources because they don't really exist in universe. To say "don't use pics not from Halo!" is to say "Don't do anything outside of Halo canon!", which ends up as "Just don't write." You made a mountain out of a mole-hill, and a very offensive mountain at that."
―Our resident Lord of Monster Island

Most of these inspire this reaction in me.

HaloFanon isn't set in stone, and there is no single concept that MUST be adhered to. Originality is encouraged - if you have an idea for a weapon, ship, character, planet or faction, then by all means, create it and be proud of it! All we ask is that you remember to make it original.
  • Plagiarism

There is a fine line between inspiration and plagiarism, but new users seem to dance back and forth across that line with gleeful abandon. It is, for example, NOT acceptable to suddenly create an article about the Imperial-Class Star Destroyer on HaloFanon, with the exact same performance as it has in the Star Wars Canon - it is acceptable to use it as the profile image, serving as visual inspiration for your own class of ship, so long as it is not a direct copy-paste. The same rule applies for other series; Star Trek, StarCraft, Stargate, pretty much anything with "star" in the name. Make sure that what you create is original, and doesn't borrow too heavily from other series. If you can, attribute what you do take to where you got it from.

And, no, the irony of this section is not lost on me.

  • Stupidity

There are some ideas that should just never be done. They often aren't even able to be salvaged - there's no way to turn these concepts into good Halo-related articles. These concepts are what I like to call "stupid."

They can be unimaginative and unrealistic. They can defy logic so badly that it leaves Aristotle spinning in his grave/urn. There's no way to nitpick these ideas apart, because the very core is just a stupid idea. At this point, just scrap it and begin again or expect your article to be namespaced - moved to the namespace, so that it doesn't show up in the mainspace. These types or articles don't inspire anything good - all they create is a feeling of deep-seated loathing, fear, anger, and hatred in those who view them. Conceptually, it may be similar to godmodding - say, for example, multipurpose gun that can snipe, fire rockets, and spray bullets all in one may sound like an awesome idea, but it's astounding how quickly "awesome" can turn into "aweful".

So many articles, so little quality.

As another example, taking old technologies and making them "new" just counts as a lack of imagination. Saying that the UNSC would recreate the Sherman tank is like saying the United States Army is dropping the F22 Raptor and starting production of the Kitty Hawk - the design was appallingly bad, and it was unpopular with its crews. Why on Earth would the UNSC resurrect the design five hundred years later, when they have far better available to them? And by the same logic, claiming that a faction would manufacture every weapon and ship they used after a five-hundred-year-old video game is ludicrous. StarCraft is not quite that good a game. Using the image as a base to work from can work, and certainly has produced some successes, but making the in-universe explanation for it to be a reverence from the source you got it from?

  • Crossovers

You know what? Not all crossovers are a bad idea...

You write your story, but you find that you want to make it more interesting - and then you have a thought. Perhaps you watch a video or DVD; or maybe you see a poster; or you read a book you love. And you think: what if...

Thus is born the crossover. Perhaps the most varied type of fanfiction, crossovers can be virtually anything; Fanfiction.net has more than a hundred categories, with stories blending Halo characters with those of another universe. Some prove to be spectacular; a complete reimagining of Battlestar Galactice that introduced John and a number of other Spartans, with both sides affecting each other in surprising and fascinating ways. John is dealt with realistically, the BSG cast are nicely written, Cortana gets a body, and even Halsey, her Spartans, and a human/Covenant alliance turn up to put down the Cylon menace. The only questionable bit is Cortana's apparent bisexuality, which is...well, its nice pandering, but is it needed? Nevertheless, it really is the best crossover fanfic I've read yet.

Even some of the Star Wars and StarCraft crossovers aren't so bad - but then you get...*shudder*...an apparently serious Halo/Twilight crossover. I am not kidding. The link is dead now, the fanfiction deleted, but it existed. Beyond the fact that I really don't like Twilight, how does a vampire romance/hard science fiction crossover work? I don't actually care if you like Twilight, because I know people who are incredulous that I still like Halo after ten years. But how do the two have anything to do with each other? It's almost a non sequiter! How does this make sense?! Explain, writer! EXPLAIN!

Please don't do this.



Somewhere, Michael Bay just started drooling.

Similarly, try not to god-mod. This is not the same as bending the rules of science - this is blurring the line between what is reasonable and what is not. Your fanon is something you are making an emotional and intellectual investment into. Its a natural reaction to try to make sure that it is better than everything else's. But there's a difference between "better" and "totally ridiculous" that a lot of newer members simply do not see.

Say, for example, you create a Spartan character. Let's call this character John/Jane Doe. Naturally, you're very attached to your own character, a Spartan to call your very own, and want them to be best they can be. So you give him shielded armour that makes him faster and stronger than the other Spartans, an incredibly high IQ, and make him immortal, because nothing can kill your creature of perfection. But in the creation process, you have fallen into the great trap of Fanon - you've godmodded your character, making him/her unreasonably overpowered, an unstoppable and, to be perfectly honest, boring juggernaut of destruction. Congratulations. Batten down the hatches for the flaming and rage that will ensue.

How do you prevent this? Its simple. It doesn't even need to be a radical change - just a matter of rephrasing. The issue of armour can be resolved by making your Spartan a member of, for example, a secret ONI project for prototype technology. Rather than having a ridiculously high IQ, make them skilled at strategic and tactical warfare - this is a Spartan, after all. And instead of being immortal, instead write that he managed to defy all odds for survival. With a few simple and basic modifications, your character has gone from a godmodded piece of crap to a decent character. By accounting for the attributes you wanted to give them, you've almost accidentally added depth and history to your character.

Now, let's take another example - a ship. Naturally, being the artisan that you are, you want it to be the best possible ship in existence - the biggest, fastest, most heavily armed and defended, carrying hundreds of fighters and able to invade a planet. You want, in fact, to create a one-ship fleet. Can you see the problem with this logic? There are contradictions here that you should think about. In space, the lack of friction to slow an object down means that velocity is meaningless - it all comes down to haw quickly a ship can accelerate or decelerate, and a ship with such huge mass is going to have a LOT of momentum, meaning both will be slow. Likewise, its manoeuvrability will suffer, as the thrusters have to push against such a "heavy" ship. At the same time, a huge ship also makes a huge target. Fighters have a finite range, at least in space, and are more often used for defence than attack - likewise, having a ship with a massive amount of guns but no fighter escort leaves it vulnerable. There are different types of ship that fill different roles- is it a battleship or a carrier? A frigate or a destroyer? Each ship class has advantages and disadvantages inherent to their design. Balance is the key.

And then, of course, there are the guns people make that can snipe at a thousand meters, spray a Grunt with lead, pick off an Elite at mid-range, and take down a tank with a HE shell - all in the same weapon. If this isn't godmodding, I don't know what is. It has its own template. Go figure.

This essentially boils down to a very simple axiom: the golden rule of fanon is, Make it realistic, or not at all.

Thank you Sona!
Canon Friendliness doesn't refer to whether the story is rated for kids or for adults - it refers to how well it is able to interface with existing Canon. A story can be absolutely terrible - appalling content, spelling that would make Shakespeare weep, and characters that have the dimensions of a straight line. But if it doesn't violate any canon facts, then it's "friendly." By the same token, a story written brilliantly can have wonderfully thought out content, characters that are deep and intriguing, and perfect spelling, grammar and syntax, but if canon conflicts with it then it is "Unfriendly."

Being Canon Friendly isn't necessarily a good or a bad thing. This is Fanon - we are here to write good stories and create our own background for the Halo Universe. If Halo canon was perfect, we would be out of a job, wouldn't we? Putting a new spin on an existing universe or IP is what has kept the movie industry in business for so long, and it's managed to work occasionally. I could use the new Star Trek movie as an example, but honestly, I'd rather talk about Batman. Batman Begins rebooted a stale and stagnant movie series that had degenerated into George Clooney duking it out with Arnold Schwartzenegger, costumes that looked like they'd been ripped straight out of the seventies show (and a plot to match), villains who spouted campy one-liners as though the script had been written by someone suffering from logorrhoea, and NIPPLES ON THE BATSUIT. Now we have Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale on our screens; the Joker is the most haunting villain I have ever seen; and the mythology of the Batman universe has been turned into a story that is both deep, fantastical, and able to suspend my disbelief through both the original and the sequel. Heck, even the original Tim Burton movie was an effective reboot - rather than the hammed up camp of Adam West and Burt Ward, we had a terrifying story of insanity and redemption starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. People still debate which Joker is better - Nicholson or Ledger. I'm not sure myself.

But at the same time, be very careful when you create a reboot. I wasn't bowled over by the first Transformers movie, and refuse to watch the sequel out of wanting to keep my eyesight, but it has resulted in legions of fans rising up in outrage at the abomination Michael Bay has apparently become. While Bay may be a fantastic cinematographer, I question his ability to craft a story that is comprehensible.

In Halo terms, there are some examples. For example, trying to create a sequel to Halo 2 resulted in Dragonclaws' lengthy but excellent Halo 3: Ascension, a story far more complex than the actual Halo 3 would eventually turn out to be, and is a fantastic read - I recommend it to anyone interested. But it was rendered incompatible with canon when Ghosts of Onyx and Halo 3 came out, and has probably been further marginalised by later released like Uprising, The Cole Protocol, Helljumpers, Blood Line, Evolutions, and the Halo Legends anime shorts.

Fanon Articles

By far the most common article people create on Halo Fanon is a character. More often than not, it's a Spartan, using their in-game avatar as the basis. And, really, there's nothing wrong with that in principle. There's also nothing wrong with creating Marine, ODST, Army, Navy, Air Force, or civilian characters, in principle. But many authors take some unfortunate missteps that make their characters unbelievable at best and annoying at worst.f


Go tell the Spartans, passerby / that here by Spartan law we KICK COVENANT ASS.

Let's start on Spartan IIs, shall we? The most common misstep people make is creating a character that has a number higher than the supposed 150 limit, and then not explaining it. I've created a character that violate this "rule", but I've given him a plausible and detailed explanation that fits with who and what he is - a Spartan outside of Halsey's chain of command, part of a deliberate attempt on her part to mislead her own superiors as to the exact number of Spartans in the field. When you create a character like, as an example, SPARTAN-666, it just looks stupid. We all know that 666 is "the devil's number", and that a hypothetical you has chosen it because it sounds cool. It signifies that you don't know as much of the Spartan mythos as you should. If you could explain it as a redesignation by ONI to hide his original identity, it sounds a bit better, but the cultural significance of the number still overrules any explanation. Raise or lower it a bit so it loses that significance.

And let us not forget the IIs cheaper, more expendable cousins, the Spartan IIIs. The biggest mistake people make with IIIs is giving them designations that come after Delta Company when the timeframe makes it impossible to be anything other than Alpha, Beta or Gamma. If your article is set further in the future, then that's fine. And then there are articles that completely change the designation system, replacing the Greek alphabet with the NATO Phonetic alphabet. Yes, the latter is more commonly used by the military - but again, it shows that you don't understand as much about what a Spartan is as you should.

There are some general truths about Spartans of most kinds:

  • Name: Spartans were abducted/recruited from right across the human-occupied galaxy. You can have English names like John or Fred serving alongside names like Fhajad or Lee or Soren. Spartans are representative of the populations of human expansion, and the cultures that have ventured outward into the colonies. Don't feel you're limited to just English names. We can have only so many Johns before the joke wears thin.
  • Designation: If your character is a Spartan-II, avoid going over 150 unless you have a good reason. If they are a Spartan-III, the same goes for 300 or 250, depending on which company they were in. If they're a III, also put the first letter of their company in their name - if they were part of Gamma, then it would be, say, G306. IIs don't get this designation.
  • History: IIs were born a year before or after 2511, and were abducted by ONI at the age of about six or seven. It is impossible for a Spartan to have been recruited into the program in their early teens, since this would normally be the time they graduate from it. The IIs finished their training and received their MJOLNIR armour at the age of 14. The IIIs saw deployment at between 10 and 13. SPARTAN training and augmentation simply do not work that quickly, and it seems like a cop out - the point of a Spartan is that they never knew a normal life, that all they've ever known is war and battle and the life of the military.
  • Combat Service: Spartans are both specialists and generalists. Every one of them is better at anything almost any unaugmented human can do, ie; handling high explosives, close combat, sniping, etc. But most Spartans have a speciality, something they can do better than they can do the rest, something that even other Spartans have to acknowledge them for. Sometimes it's something tangible - Fred's knife-work, Kelly's speed and agility, Linda's supreme skill as a sniper. Sometimes it isn't - Kurt's ability to "read" a situation and lead, John's ability to motivate the soldiers around him and his "luck". Please, don't make it supernatural - don't give your Spartan ESP or telekinesis just because you can't think of something else that hasn't been taken. And don't make it something mundane - Spartans don't collect stamps, or have "hobbies", except probably training and intel. Military service isn't just pointing a gun at the enemy and pulling the trigger - maybe your Spartan fills a less active but equally important niche. Perhaps they're masters at setting explosive charges? Perhaps they can infiltrate enemy systems for intel, like a less capable Cortana? Perhaps they have an almost unnatural ability to predict the enemy's actions (based on experience, not telepathy)? Hell, maybe they're excellent at logistics, and can scramble together what the team needs, even if it's expensive or prototype gear?
  • Equipment:Spartan-IIs use MJOLNIR powered assault armour. Spartan-IIIs use Semi-Powered Infiltration armour. The exact types differ based on the time they exist in. They received the MJOLNIR Mark IV when they finished recovery from their augmentation. The Mark V, the first known variant designed with shields, was introduced some time in 2551, but John and many other Spartan-IIs didn't get it until later because they were already deployed. The Mark VI was introduced after the Fall of Reach, after many of the Spartan-IIs it had been designed for were killed in action. There may be a Mark VII in the pipeline. The Spartan-IIIs started out with the SPI Mark I, and by the time Gamma was activated they had the Mark II. Contrary to popular belief, SPI is not cheap or ineffective, except by comparison to MJOLNIR. It still amplifies strength and reflexes and provides protection, even without shields, and it features visual enhancement systems and an active camouflage that the MJOLNIR lacks. SPI is a specialist piece of equipment, and is still more advanced than standard equipment for "conventional" personnel, ie; ODSTs. Also contrary to popular belief, Spartan-IIIs can wear MJOLNIR - the sheer expense and difficulty to manufacture the suits preclude the vast majority of S-IIIs from wearing the armour. Noble Team are a handful of S-IIIs that use MJOLNIR, and they are the exception to a lot of rules. But with most S-IIs killed on Reach, there are probably a lot of spare suits held by ONI that could be repurposed for specialist S-III teams.
  • Personality: Having been trained from childhood as soldiers can't have had a good effect on their personalities. Some are stoic, such as John, who has a job and gets on with it. Some are resentful, like Daisy, whose childhood was stolen from her. It was stolen from all of them. Most S-IIs admit that they are probably better off as Spartans than they would have been - many of the colonies they came from were hit hard by the Covenant. John's own colony was glassed in 2530 - he would have been nineteen when the plasma rained down. The story of the Spartan-IIs is a bittersweet tragedy - that while they had their childhoods stolen from them, they became something not inhuman, but superhuman. The S-IIIs weren't so "lucky" - their worlds were hit before they were recruited, and they had to see their homes melting, their friends and family torn apart by alien monsters. When ONI approached them as ideal candidates, they volunteered for the program. They had more recruits than they'd planned to deal with, and had to reject some from the first two companies, and make exceptions for the third. The story of a Spartan-III isn't a tragedy - it's a revenge. Emile typifies this for me - professional, ruthless, and vicious, a man who's good at what he does and enjoys his work. That he's the last member of the original Noble Team to fall, and goes down swinging, says a lot about the character of Spartan-IIIs. Spartan-IVs are recruited from other military branches, or from the civilian populace, like any other military branch. For all intents and purposes, they behave and react like normal soldiers augmented with Spartan strength, speed and tactical adeptness. There is some dispute, even within the canon, over whether S-IVs are truly "Spartan" material, since they lack the rigid genetic and psychological screening of their predecessors, but they allow characters to be more relateable to the audience.
    • A note on Spartan-Is, or ORIONs: I don't really count Spartan-Is as Spartans. That isn't to detract from the accomplishments of a man like Sergeant Major Avery J. Johnson, the most badass, cigar-chompingest, curb-stompingest Marine in the corps. It's just that the original ORION program drew people already in the military and, while improving them, reached nowhere near the results of the Spartan-II or -III programs. They're normal Marines, soldiers, airmen and crewmen, with a bit of an edge. It's a significant edge nevertheless, but write them as "conventional" military characters.
  • UNSC Army
  • UNSC Air Force
  • UNSC Navy
  • UNSC Marine Corps






All hail Doctor Insano, for SCIENCE!




There isn't actually a formal "style guide" for Halo Fanon, allowing some interesting freedoms. Usually, though, articles follow some regular patterns - an introductory paragraph at the top, followed by a history section, then a personality/features/design/geography section, depending on if it's a character, organism, machine or place. Some people like to include a "comments" section, using in-universe quotes to add a personal touch and improve believability. You might want to include other sections for different things if you want, for example, if you're writing about a ship, you might want to include a list of previous captains or notable crew; or if you're writing about a ship design, you may wish to include a list of Ships of the Line if you don't want to write an article for each.


Inserting Images
  • Plain image
  • Thumbnail
  • Hypertext/caption

Links can be very helpful when writing an article. If you're talking about, say, the UNSC Aeneas, and you want the reader to know about its class, the Herald-Class Colonial Support Ship, rather than go into unnecessary detail you can just link to it. If the reader wants the context, they can just go to the other article and read about it. Or, if you're talking about Slipspace and you want to talk about Krasnikov tubes, you can include an external link to another website that details it further. Or, if you want to link to another website, you can include the website address, hiding it as plain text, [[www.mspaintadventures.com like this].


[[article name|linked word]]

  • Wikipedia

[[Wikipedia:Article name|linked word]]

  • Halopedia

linked word - be careful about the article name you link to - it needs the "_" instead of a space. otherwise the template doesn't read it as a proper link.

  • Other websites


HaloFanon maintains preset infoboxes, which can be found here, allowing article creators to input specific information that might be cumbersome to phrase in an article. If you wish to use one, simply copy the relevant text over to your article, then fill it in - doing it the other way around can lead to insertion of fanon material onto a template that a lot of people use, and will cause problems - not to mention the fact that it can be interpreted as an act of vandalism.

Era Icons


The Horror That Is, That Was, and is Yet to Be!

There is a name that fanfiction writers the world over know and fear. It is said that at the end of all things, Chuck Norris will say the name and cause all things but himself to end. It is said that Michael Jackson, in his last days, tried to dabble in fanfiction and stumbled across the name - the doctor was too late to prevent the madness, and had to euthanise him for the sake of the world. When the Normans invaded England, they found the Anglo-Saxon libraries stuffed with tales of glittering fairy girls and mopey teenagers singing dark ballads, and did the world a kindness and razed them to the ground. They say that when somebody utters this name, the dread lord Cthulhu sends his legions of Shoggoths to scour the Earth for the utterer and drag them back to Rl'yeh to spend an eternity in torment as penance.

Why has thou defiled thy prose by the addition of poor characters?

Who is Mary Sue and why should you fear her?

Lurking Horrors: The Mary Sue, by 8-Bit Mickey

Mary Sue is perfection incarnate. She is the youngest girl to ever join the UNSC, recruiters obviously too dazzled by her sparkling skin and dreamy eyes to remember the age limits that are a legal requirement; she is immediately, sometimes disconcertingly, well liked by everybody she meets, especially the main canon characters; she has special abilities and "powers" that make her such a force to be reckoned with that legions of enemies flee before her wrath; she dresses only in all the hottest designer labels; she is all but guaranteed to either befriend, seduce, or be adopted by one of the main characters and when she inevitably dies, her passing will be celebrated mourned by all.

This is the horror that inexperienced fanfiction writers have unleashed upon teh intarwebz. Containment Protocols are in effect - please remain calm during the duration of this crisis.

There are many faces to Mary Sue. The Angsty-Sue, who plays true to her name; the Canon-Sue, the victim of author possession; the villain sue, who is the long-lost little sister of Sephiroth and inherits his Masamune blade; the Gary Stu, the male clone of Mary (or other characters); and the holy grail of Suedom, the much sought-after Parody Sue, a satirical send-up of the genre. The reasons for their occurrences are varied - sometimes, its simply a matter of inexperience, and the writer has no idea that their characters have become eldritch abominations of the literary world. Other times, it is a case of deliberate wish fulfillment, with the writer fulfilling their fantasies by inserting their character into the story and carrying out actions they would like to do, or talking to canon characters they love. Rarely, an author will intentionally create a Mary Sue as a parody of the genre - their positive aspects are enhanced beyond all expectations of realism to emphasise the satire of the much-dreaded literary invention, providing humour. Of course, sometimes humour is present anyway, even if it is unintentional. Stereotypically, Mary Sue stories are written by tween girls with a taste for My Chemical Romance and mixing black and pink clothing - while there are certainly authors out there who fit the mold, this is hardly always the case. Many writers guilty of this aren't even female - males are just as fallible as their female counterparts, perhaps more so. They don't even have to be kids - many an adult has created a shambling monstrosity Mary Sue before realising that their characters are horrifyingly unrealistic and annoying. Mary Sue is the cancer that is killing fanfiction, and all attempts at chemotherapy have failed to eradicate her.

Mary Sue is Legion, for She is Many There are many faces of Mary Sue, all terrifying. There are too many to keep up with, so this is a short list of the most egregious examples. Abandon hope all ye who enter here. Look upon her works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Purity Sue is perfect. He or she (mostly she) is the inspiration of the other characters, cheering them on to victory with her sheer pure purity of pureness. She is often softspoken, and possesses endearing traits such as "clumsiness" or naivete, but is overloaded with positive traits. Everybody loves her - sometimes especially the protagonist. Normally her powers will start shifting from the realistic end of the spectrum to the end where she's not human, has superhuman powers, or is otherwise mixed up in some freaky shit and seems generally unfazed by it. She basically represents all the morality of the story. ALL of it.

Black Hole Sue sucks. Literally. She sucks all of the attention from everything else around her - her gravity well just draws in all the other characters, all the events, and all the sweet loot. Unlike a Black Hole, though, these things are not crushed by enough force to tear the fabris of space/time - unless you consider such a fate to equate to Mary Suedom in general, in which case there is no escaping it. Everything revolves around her, regardless of the other characters - introduce a Black Hole Sue, and suddenly everyone else gets shunted to the background.

Prophet of Truth? Pish, I'll just give him a sharp talking to. Cortana? Who needs that bimbo when you have me! Follow me, followers of the Great Journey, for I am your new empress! Master Chief will follow her around like a lost puppy, and the Arbiter will become her White Knight. The universe bends itself around her, also like a black hole - if she should logically fail, then cue Deus Ex Machina to let her win. If something is impossible, she manages it anyway. If something is impossible to kill, her blade will cut through it like a knife through butter. Nothing escapes the black hole.

The bastard offspring of Sun Tzu, a Mary Tzu is capable of pulling off victories nobody else could, displaying tactical and strategic brilliance that is simply superior to everybody else, unrealistically so, winning in unexpected, unanticipated, or even impossible ways. The point isn't that their skill is higher than anyone else's - its the manner in which they win. This is especially pertinent to Halo, given that it is a military science fiction series - most characters are going to have some tactical/strategic grasp of the situation, unless their specific lack of such skill is a central plot point.

Angsty-Sue is the most well-known version of the Sue's and may even be the public face of the stereotype - an Angsty-Sue will spend the entire story lamenting over something tragic in her past. Sometimes, it involves something tragic - either her parents abused her, or she was orphaned at a young age. Or perhaps she was bullied by friends assholes. Perhaps she killed someone, either in self-defence or by accident. Or perhaps she has committed genocide on a galactic scale, and has spent the past hundred thousand years weeping tears of blood. Either way, she needs to get the hell over it, the whiny kid - perhaps she should realise that the universe doesn't care how unfair life is, and that if she wants to make up for it she should stop with the water (or blood) works and do something about it, jeez.

At the other end of the spectrum is a literary device equally despised by authors - the Anti-Sue. The Anti-Sue is the exact and equal opposite of Mary Sue. She is not particularly attractive, nobody actually pays any attention to her, she doesn't have any special powers and spends the story either getting in the way or getting kidnapped, becoming an inconvenient maiden-in-distress. Its astonishing that whatever the feminist movement has tried to accomplish, woman authors still write their characters to be soppy helpless porcelain dolls waiting for a man to come along and get shit done. Its also a little sad. In fact, the Anti-Sue has absolute no redeeming features - in their haste to create a character as far removed from a Sue as possible, the author has accidentally taken their character down another path to be feared - the character has every quality of a Mary Sue, but in negative amounts, and has become so completely uninteresting that the story becomes even more boring, and the character that much more irritated.

A Canon-Sue is created when a writer takes a canon character, and modifies them to such an extent that they barely resemble their original incarnations at all. For example, I'm sure that a writer could, and probably has, tried his/her hand at a Battlestar Galactica story, deciding to set it from the point of view of Starbuck. The character already has a tragic past, and spends a good deal of time moping about it - so far, that's not too divergent from the original character. But suddenly she'll discover she can hear music from the future by a band called Linkin Park, and has discovered an odd predilection for mixing black and pink with pale makeup and lipstick. Or worse, she suddenly becomes a cheerful soul and discovers she has magical powers to save the human race, manages to seduce pretty much every man in the fleet, making the human race jealous of each other, and eventually becomes a godlike being when she passes away.

    • Canon-Sue (v.2)

The alternative to Canon-Sue is Canon-Sue 2.1 - a character who even in their original incarnation possesses all the hallmarks of a Mary Sue. Now that I think about it, Starbuck seems to have all the major qualities down pat - tragic past? Check. Dead parent/lover? Check, check. Unparalleled beauty? judging from her actress's experiences at conventions, an emphatic check. Magical powers? Check. Period of moping depression? Check. Mysterious death? Double check. Perhaps its a testament to the ability of Katee Sackhoff, the sheer magnetism of the character, and the skill of Ronald D. Moore that I haven't put into these terms before - Starbuck is still a likable character.

Let me put it another way. Its no big secret that Eric Nylund's favourite character is Doctor Halsey - she has an IQ of more than two hundred, laments her kidnapping the Spartans as children, and is the only person able to make sense of Forerunner writing and technology. But she is NOT a Mary Sue. She has other traits that manage to balance her character out - she is intelligent, but also arrogant, and unlikable by anyone not involved with the Spartan-II Program. She is unwilling to admit to being wrong. And she doesn't descend into a depression over her actions - she tries to make amends. Her character is balanced. She may have some sue-like traits, but she isn't a complete Mary Sue.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Gary Stu is that reaction - the male counterpart to Mary, Gary is the most handsome man who has ever graced this good galaxy, and women swoon when he passes by, longing to be held in the warm embrace of his masculine arms; he's killed more Covenant than all the Spartans and ODST's combined, and his enemies whisper his name with fear and respect. He's a battle tested bayonet, with tiger blood and Adonis DNA. Gary is a genius with an IQ level OVER 9000!!1! and is able to dual wield Spartan Lasers because, hey, he's just that godmodded awesome.

Parody-Sue is an oddity - she is intentionally created, as a parody of the genre, as an illustration of what a character should NOT be. Parody Sues invariably end up either dominating the universe with all its inhabitants adoring her as the pinnacle of perfection, or she utterly fails - either because there are too many Mary Sue's fighting her, another original character interferes, or because everyone else realises just how uninteresting a character she really is. If it can be pulled off, the author may be lauded with a round of internet applause - the trick is pulling it off well enough that your audience knows that you don't actually believe what you're writing. And that is quite a trick indeed.

For an effective example of a Parody Sue, check this out. Let the lulz commence.

While the Angsty-Sue is the most well-known, the Self-Insert Sue is probably the most widespread. In this, an author writes a story where "they" suddenly appear in the world they are writing in. Halo fanfiction is especially subject to this - here's an actual plot summary from a real fanfic:

"Capt. Jack Russel based on me has to save the universe from aliens and win back his girfriend Selena"
Jack Russel

These Sue's make the fatal mistake of being an idealised version of their writers, carrying out their idea of how they would like to conduct themselves - which is usually over-the-top, improbable, and borrows heavily from the fight scenes of Dragonball Z for some reason. In the example story, the character almost seems a mockery of the genre, and could qualify as a Parody Sue - if the author weren't completely frigging serious.

"Athurers notes: My brother sayed that Capt. Jack Russel is a 'Mary Sue' but he is wrong as his name is not Mary Sue it is Jack Russel (Named After Me)"
―Jack Russel.

The story plays out as a stereotypical example of a Mary Sue - the character lounges around in his "manshon house," surrounded by a harem of attractive women, and laments that "Man Iam so hamsome its a curse." A general tells him that they need him, because he's their "beast man [sic]". So Captain Jack jumps in his spaceship and travels 100 times the speed of light, a googolplex times the speed of light, and then "graham's number yotta miles times the speed of light" because lightspeed is "snail slow." Rather than overshooting and emerging out the other side of the universe, they reach the battlefield in a day, and Jack goes to sleep. He gets out of bed, jumps out of his spaceship and "prashooed from space and landed", screaming "DIE ALIENS" and arriving at the base, meeting up with his ex-girlfriend who looks like Angelina Jolie. The two are immediately sent to kill the head alien, and cut a path of destruction through the alien horde, sending them fleeing to their "save base". They duel the head alien, and then Selena/Jolie deals it a lethal blow - then Jack pulls out a nuclear warhead launcher, and killed the aliens. The two end up getting medals, and later have sex.

Horrible, isn't it?

In most respects, the Villain-Sue differs little from a typical Sue - tragic past, magical powers, ease in befriending everyone immediately, wish fulfillment, etc. The Villain-Sue differs in that they have no interest at all in the protagonists - it is the villains that they seek to ingratiate themselves with.

A typical Villain-Sue sets out to befriend or seduce the villain/s, becoming the most important person in their lives - usually he/she has a tragic past to justify their actions, but since all other Sue's seem to have something along the same lines it ends up just being an excuse. In the process, they manage to soften the hardest of hearts - Voldemort discovers he has a long-lost daughter, and brings her along with him for some father-daughter bonding as he slaughters thousands; Darth Vader finds another son, who joins him as a Sith Lord and takes the place of Luke; the Prophet of Truth adopts a human child and raises her as his own. Gradually (or not, as the case may be) the villains warm to the Sue, and grow to love him/her, as a parent or as a lover. And their actions redeem the villain in the end - Voldemort breaks down crying for forgiveness; Vader returns to the light side and lives happily ever after; and Truth gives up his campaign of genocide as his "daughter" begs him to to.

Godmode Sue is the kneejerk reaction to writers who want a hero to be STRONG or a villain to be threatening. The Flood? A mere trifle, my dear! Bring on the Hydra! Spartans? Pish, I'll make soldiers that make them look like kids playing in the sandbox! War? You don't even know the meaning of the word, so I'll make humanity a warlike empire, the Covenant more noble, and the fighting much more devastating. You want your creations to be powerful, and to make an impact.

Unfortunately, you're overdoing it slightly. By making them so advanced or powerful, you're effectively making them godmodded or unrealistic. If your character can't be killed, then placing them in danger has no dramatic tension. If your new human empire is so advanced, then their enemies won't be a challenge. They render any impact anyone else could have meaningless, because they can do everything, and make them look useless in comparison just by existing.

Your Sue And You (The Dangers of Sympathy vs. Empathy)===== Writers fall into this trap because they lose perspective. They invest themselves deeply with their characters, and become emotionally attached to them. Criticise the character, and the writer will perceive this as a direct attack on themselves. If you try to point out character flaws, they compensate - if you point out that they're far too strong or successful, they respond that X is a supersoldier. If he's too old, they claim he/she is from a newer project. If you point out that such a project would render the Spartans a moot point, they will angrily demand to know why you are picking on them. Problems begin to mount - cliched backstory, direct contradictions of canon, those surrounding him behaving out of character - and there is a temptation to simply slap the NCF template onto it and leave it to the admins - at which point the user may get really angry, ignore all your criticisms, and either vandalise your userpage or articles in retribution, appeal to higher authorities who perceive your actions as aggressive, or quit the internet forever.

All of this can be avoided by reminding writers not to get too involved with their characters - invest yourself too much, and you begin to sympathise with their plight. You think you've made things too hard - perhaps your thirteen year old girl isn't going to stand a chance against a Brute pack. So you make them way overpowered, and take pleasure imagining the character tearing through their foes. Their tragic past is a tough break - maybe you give them an instant love interest who's never been mentioned to make up for it. Or you go the other route - things are looking up for them, which you think will attract criticism, so you go dark - you kill their parents, their friends, their dog, anything to make it darker and edgier. This is the path to suedom - a writer needs to remain mostly impartial, detached. Empathy is what we need to maintain - the ability to know a character's frame of mind and personality without that affecting the storytelling decisions. Don't bend over backwards to make things easy for them, and don't jump through hoops to make things harder for them. There is such a thing as overcompensating. The "character" isn't a "person". You need to make that clear to yourself, and remember it.

How Do I Turn From This Horrific Path=====

Consult the Oracle.

Balance is the key. You need to make sure that the person you're writing has a good balance of positive and negative traits. That doesn't mean make them equal, because then it's apparent that you're trying too hard. You just need to give them a personality that has some depth to it, and make sure that you remain consistent with it.

Let's take the character of Vriska Serket from the excellent Homestuck web series as an example. Andrew Hussie is a master character-smith, and in Vriska all of his efforts come to fruition - the fan community is quite literally torn between those who like her and those who hate her. Let's boil her down to her essential components:

  • Vriska is a mass murderering alien with eight eyes and a robot arm who fed the corpses of her own kind to her guardian to satiate its hunger. She spent her free time manipul8ing those she deems weak, playing games for prizes and power, and plotting with other members of the aristocratic caste to commit planetary genocide against the "lowbloods". She has proven selfish and ruthless, and nobody else in the group of twelve she is stuck with likes her at all. She has killed an unrequited lover in cold blood.
  • Vriska is conflicted about being forced to feed her constantly hungry guardian, who could have turned on her, and about living up to the expectations of her culture, where killing is not only the norm, but encouraged. She feels guilty about some of the deaths she has caused, and has tried to form meaningful friendships with others, including a human who initially had no idea what she was really like. She's also determined to kill the "demon" that wants to kill their group and thus save them from certain extinction, and has reconciled herself to the fact that she probably won't survive this. She has appeared at times badass, and even downright adorable, and has a huge crush on the (possibly deceased) Nicolas Cage.

Not bad for a twelve year (six solar sweep) old alien girl.

You see? SO MUCH DEPTH. She is at times hated and at other times adored by the community, often wildly alternating back and forth between two extremes. She crippled a harmless boy who she had a crush on, and killed another girl who wanted to take vengeance for him, and then when we were introduced to her she turned out to be pretty cool. She then manipul8d events so that she could be on the "better" team, only for these acts to literally blow up in her face. She then sees her entire world crumble around her, including a heartrending sendoff for her guardian (the same arachnid analogue she has been feeding hundreds to). After trying to seduce the boy she crippled, she then engages in an escalating war of one-up-man-ship with a rival girl, culminating in her being bludgeoned to death by the girl she killed, now in a robot body. After being revived with her second life, she has gained godlike powers and has spent her time plotting to create the very demon that interrupted their "game" and has made its intent of slaughtering the "players" brutally and viscerally obvious, only for her to defeat it. She has then killed the same boy she crippled, before becoming guilt-ridden over this act, and making herself emotionally vulnerably to a thirteen year old human boy who has become virtually her only (living) friend.

You see how this character is so not a Mary Sue that it's virtually a slap in the face? It's like Andrew Hussie got Mary Sue's address, strolled on over, and just left a huge steaming pile of fuck you on her doorstep. Seriously.

You can she that her characterisation, while extreme, is anything but shallow. She is more varied and fleshed-out than virtually any other of the equally awesome characters of the web series, and has appropriately been decried as "the new main character" by the fanbase, who object to her increasingly important role at the expense of the main for human characters, as well as the apparent trolling effect her abrupt changes in sympathy bring about. One moment, she'll be a playful girl in a fairy costume, challenging a friend to a dual to build his confidence up. The next she'll be stabbing said friend through the heart with a lance and dumping his body without a backward glance.

I'm not suggesting that you write your characters as bipolar homicidal children. But you need to understand that good characters are not simple, they are not transparent, and they are not open books to be read. Characters need hidden depths that need to be plumbed, providing story potential and character development. Learn from Vriska. Her motivations are not transparent, and her actions are not easily predictable. She is not a cliché or a stereotype. And she is one of the most popular characters in the series for it.

So the next question is - what exactly makes a good character? That, friends, Romans and countrymen, will be the subject of my next section:

"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages."
―William Shakespeare, Henry V

Every story has characters. Even if these aren't people - in a scientific paper, the proton and neutron are characters on the story of their eternal dance, surrounded by graceful electrons sweeping past. In a biology paper, it will be the eternal battle waged by the fauna, flora, and others that comprise Earth's biosphere, with their own heroes and villains - the "heroic" lion vs. the "cowardly" Hyena. These are constructs of our psyche - there is no Mr. Proton inviting Ms. Neutron to the Atomic Ball, creating scandal amongst the high-flying social world of subatomic particles. We fit the events we observe around into stories of our own telling to make sense of the world. If you can tell a story, then you can change it. It is the most triumphant example of the Hiesenberg uncertainty principle I can think of - by observing a thing, you change at a fundamental and unalterable level. Without characters, the world is no longer a story - and if it isn't a story, then it suddenly becomes a much more terrifying place.

If you're reading this, then in all probability you've just read my treatise on the dangers (some would say horrors) of the Mary Sue. Please, and I cannot emphasise this enough, please don't take that to heart and asume from the outset that any character you create will be a Mary Sue just because you have invested one or more traits that I've highlighted. As I have said, balance is the key. By balancing out the good with the bad, you can create a character that is balanced, believable and interesting to the reader.

  • Character Types
Main article: Wikipedia:character (arts)

Every character fits some kind of classification. Sometimes it will not be very well - they may have some traits from one type, and traits from another that seem to contradict each other. If they are well-written, then it makes them more complex. If they aren't, then it makes them confusing. There is a much longer, much more detailed list of character tropes here, but linking someone to TV Tropes is a terrible thing - many have been lost forever with its labyrinthine walls. Nevertheless, it gives an entertaining, detailed, and expansive look at character and story tropes, and if you have a spare few decades, I suggest you check it out. Starting out with a simpler structure is usually easier, and builds up to more complex characters later. You don't absolutely have to make your character fit one particular character type - in fact, making them more complex makes them better, more interesting characters. But knowing what the types are helps.

A story will normally possess characters who fit the following types:

Main characters are, as the name implies, major characters in your narrative, consisting of the primary cast. These are the characters whose existence has impact on, or is impacted by, the story that is being told, for example, the protagonist, deuteragonist, triteroganist, antagonist, and so on:

    • Protagonist: the most important character to the story, often the viewpoint from which the story is told. "Protagonist" and "hero" are not synonymous, however - there are many stories that are told about, by, or involving protagonists who do not match the traditional definition of a hero, such as an anti-hero, or even a false protagonist - a character who at first appears to be the protagonist, only for the narrative to make a dramatic revaluation and switch to a different viewpoint, with the original protagonist playing a different role altogether.
    • Supporting Character: characters who are not the major focus of the story, but who nevertheless play significant roles in its telling. These may be a variety of character types, though usually they get a decent amount of characterisation, enough to make their involvement in the story worthwhile, and advance the plot in some meaningful way. The importance of these characters may differ - sometimes, the plot may depend on the actions or revelations they hold, or they might simply serve as a means for the author to characterise the protagonist. "Deuteragonist" and "Triteroganist" refer to the second and third most important characters, respectively, who may be supporting characters.
    • Antagonist: the protagonist will usually face opposition in some form. The antagonist may not always even be a "character", in the sense of being a person with motivations and emotions - occasionally, a primal force, such as a monster, or even natural phenomena, can serve as antagonists to the protagonist. It isn't even synonymous with "villain" - a storm has no villainous intentions, a hunter does not hate its prey. These emotions are reserved to humans (and similar sentients, of course). If the protagonist him/herself is a villain, then the antagonist will normally be a "hero", at least in comparison.

These are very basic character types, and require expansion. I won't go into detail on every character type (I'd be here for years if I did), but a few basic types can be used and expanded upon. Most of these have their own subdivisions and types, and there are as many types of character as there are types of story, but there are some character types that are nearly universal:

      • Boy next door - the most common stock hero I've seen, the "boy (or girl) next door" is a character who is the embodiment of purity - they are sweet, shy, honest, and not very experienced. Often they serve as the romantic interests of their other-gender counterparts. Most people who write Mary Sues/Gary Stus are actually trying to create a boy/girl next door character, and end up overshooting the mark disastrously.
      • Christ figure - Christ figures are characters who are designed intentionally to draw parallels to the life and teachings of Jesus, and are often used to portray values that the reader is intended to take away with them. We can see the Chief as a Christ figure - he embodies human determination and tenacity against all odds, and he sacrifices himself to ensure the salvation of humanity.
      • Contender - the underdogs, who have enormous talent for their chosen profession but are hindered in some way, the story following them as they rise above this obstacle.
      • Epic hero - characters in Epics, who must embark on a quest of some sort. The Master Chief is a pretty typical Epic hero - his quests form the basis of the original Halo trilogy, to defeat the Covenant, stop the Flood from escaping, save the galaxy from the Halo rings themselves, and ensure humanity's survival. Epic heroes overcome unlikely odds, performing feats that would normally be impossible for "normal" people, and in mythological examples are often favoured by God/the Gods.
      • Everyman - an "ordinary" individual, someone the audience is meant to identify with, placed in extraordinary circumstances. Let's use Arthur Dent, from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as an example - before the plot catches up to him, his biggest concern is stopping his house being demolished. Instead, the Earth is destroyed, his best friend turns out to be an alien from the star Betelgeuse, and he embarks on a quest through space and time that leaves him increasingly bemused and wishing he could go back to his old life. The Everyman is thrust into the deep end of the pool, and isn't used to treading water. Especially if there are sharks in there with him. Also aimed for by writers, who overshoot the mark and end up in Sue territory.
      • False hero - a character who claims to be the hero, but who upon testing turns out to be a false one, and is revealed for what he/she is, increasing the status of the "true" hero. They aren't necessarily villains - they may be anti-heroes, or minor characters hoping to make a name for themselves.
      • Final girl - in horror films, the last character to die - usually a girl to increase audience investment in her survival. Sigourney Weaver seems like a nice example - she's the last character left in the original movie, and it's sequel, though she eventually perishes (twice) in subsequent instalments. In fact, she's barely a Final Girl at all - she's not "pure", she's not frail and doesn't constantly scream. A typical Final girl typically "overcomes" her (feminine?) weaknesses to survive.
      • Folk hero - Folk heroes are characters who have become imprinted in the popular consciousness. Some of them are entirely fiction - Uncle Sam, King Arthur Pendragon, Heracles, Romulus, Jayne Cobb, etc. Others can be real people whose lives were so momentous that they have achieved that status - William Wallace, Spartacus, Ned Kelly, etc. They are remembered in stories and songs, and are remembered by the "folk", or ordinary people. The closest we come are the eulogies for the Master Chief - he enters the human popular culture as their saviour, a Christ figure, sacrificing himself to ensure the survival of the human race.
      • Ivan the Fool - "Ivan" is stupid, but lucky. I guess he's the upper-class understanding of what a lower-class person is - simply, lacking in guile, but lucky enough to slay the monster, get the magic sword/shield/armour/duck, and marry a princess despite their polar opposite places on the socio-economic tier.
      • Jack - "Jack" is to England what "Ivan" is to Russia - except that instead of being stupid and guileless, he's cunning and ruthless, much more accurate to how lower-class people behave. He overcomes the obstacles through intelligence, trickery, casual violence, and luck, he succeeds. The actual "Jack", as in Jack and the Beanstalk, breaks into some poor giant's house and procedes to not only rob him of his valuables, but murder the poor man when he chases after the rapscallion. "Jacks" aren't always heroic, even if they are the hero of the story.
      • Mythological king - the "King Arthur" type - an ancient pseudo-historical figure whose reign is attributed to a "golden age" - Arthur himself, Charlemagne, Vlad Tepes, Frederick I, Beowulf, and so on. Some, like Arthur, are said to be sleeping beneath a mountain, waiting to return and rule again. All have many legends attributed to them, saving their realms from disaster. The Master Chief may fit this type, though I'm not sure.
      • Romantic hero - despite the name, a Romantic hero is a character who is "placed outside the structure of civilisation and therefore represents the force of physical nature, amoral or ruthless, yet with a sense of power, and often leadership, that society has impoverished itself by rejecting". They are introspective, isolated, and thoughtful. The Master Chief's stoicism is a perfect fit for a Romantic hero.
      • Superhero - Superheroes need little introduction. They are extraordinary individuals capable of superhuman feats, who protect others. Any more specific definition is difficult, because some quite obvious superheroes don't always fit them, but they are usually held up as symbolic personifications of ideals - Superman, representing the American "Everyman" becoming a virtual god, and using his power to protect rather than rule; Batman, hunting the criminals of his city to avenge his murdered parents, and to stop others from mirroring his own past; Wonder Woman, venturing out of her Amazon homeland to create an equal society for women.
      • Tragic hero - the Tragic hero is exactly as his name suggests. He is a heroic figure who, because of some decision or event in his past, must redeem himself. Once again, I find myself turning to Batman as a perfect example. Or Thel 'Vadam - his failure to protect a relic of the "Gods" means he's stripped of name, rank and honour, forced to don the armour of the Arbiter to regain what he has lost. Even the Chief fits this trope, the loss of Reach, his home, and the death of the SPARTAN-IIs, the only family he has ever known, affecting him deeply.
      • Whiz kid - basically, every nerdy sidekick in every 80s/90s saturday morning cartoon, like, EVER. They're technologically proficient, useful to the protagonist to keep him up to date on "the 'sitch", and usually portrayed as really nerdy. Occasionally, they'll be paralysed and wheelchair-bound to emphasise their role as the Whiz kid - they can't leave the lab, because they're useless outside of it. Sometimes their wheelchairs have rockets and lasers, because, do you get it, they're good at SCIENCE!
      • Youngest son - the youngest son has something to prove, to himself, his siblings, and his guardians. He's been upstaged by the exploits and abilities of others, and is now out to prove himself just as, if not more, capable than they. Normally, he does this through being clever, rather than particularly strong or fast, and can prove himself brave, courteous, and determined.
      • Byronic hero - nobody likes the Byronic Hero. Not the people he meets, not the people he crosses, not the people he saves. He doesn't really like them either - He is arrogant, cynical and generally has a poor opinion of society in general, preferring to do what he wants, how he wants. But he is also intelligent and cunning, sophisticated, has a wry sense of humour, and exudes a magnetic charm. James Bond is the perfect example of a Byronic Hero - in the novels, as well as in most of his films, the Bond Girl serves as a tool for him to achieve his ends, both professionally and for his own pleasure. He doesn't care about her, and is willing to abandon her at the drop of a hat. Yet they flock to him, seemingly against their will, drawn by his magnetism.
      • Bad boy - "bay boys" are narcissists, thrill-seekers, and deceivers willing to do things that are condemned by society to achieve what they want, purely for their enjoyment. Bad boys are Alpha's - they don't follow, they lead and reject any authority that tries to subjugate them for any reason. Most Gary Stu's are conscious attempts to mimic the bad boy - use this as a warning sign.
      • Gentleman thief -
      • Reluctant hero - Some men are born to greatness, while others have it thrust upon them. The Reluctant Hero is running as fast as he can in the other direction, but is not succeeding. People need his help, old villains keep cropping up to settle old debts, and loved ones are dropping like flies around him because of them. Finally, he must take up his mantle of heroism to put a stop to the enemy and embrace his destiny. Think of Aragorn, from The Lord of The Rings - not the novel, but the films, where he tries to live as an ordinary Ranger and leave Gondor to its own governing. In the end, he must use the reforged Sword of Elendil, defeat Sauron, and take his place in the circle of life as King of Gondor.

      • Alazon - the Alazon is arrogant, and thinks of himself very highly. Much more highly than he is really fustified in doing. He likes to think of himself as aristocratic, cultured, well-mannered but still cunning, calculating and ruthless. Sophisticated. In fact, he's probably nothing of the sort - he may be a peasant who's trying to set himself up as a lord, or a crude, blunt instrument who thinks he's philosophical. He's usually set up for a fall, by the Eiron, his opponent, the person who not only reveals him for what he is but shows him as less, utterly ruining him. It is from "eiron" that we take the word "irony". The fall of the Alazon is an ironic one, in the original meaning of the word.
      • Archenemy - the Archenemy is dedicated to the destruction of the hero or heroes. He will often go to extraordinary, sometimes ridiculous, lengths to defeat his foes, and rarely succeeds. Let's use some examples - Superman's enemy is Lex Luthor, a genius who plots to take over the world. He sees Superman as the one obstacle. consequently, he spends more time plotting to destroy Superman than in his world domination bids. Superman always stops him, usually because the only reason he knows is because Luthor himself alerts him to them - his plans are, then, usually self-destructive because he can never defeat Superman. Except in that one graphic novel where Superman's a communist and he's actually saving the world, but I digress. The Archenemy is obsessed with destroying his opponents, and this obsession is his own undoing. And yet neither can the hero overcome his archenemy - always, he stops short. To kill him is to sink to his level. Or perhaps he wants to redeem them. Or perhaps he can't, because they are a dark reflection of the hero. Andrew Hussie has a nice term he uses for this - Kismesis. A dark attraction of hate two people feel for each other. It's almost, but not quite, the opposite of love. It is not romantic, in the traditional sense - they are drawn together by a rivalry to defeat each other, and yet they never can.
      • Bug-eyed monster - forget Vulcans and Klingons. Aliens are not going to look human, and Halo knows it. Grunt's are oversized methane-breathing crabs, Engineers are smelly but adorable floating bags of gas, Elites are reptilian and their knees bend backwards like a bird's. The closest to "humanoid" the Covenant comes are the giant, shaggy and ape/bear/rhino-like Brutes and the decrepit and bent Prophets. It is a lesson that Halo 2 and 3 tried to subvert, bringing a human element to them - the Elites suddenly spoke English, and we saw Covenant culture and history for the first time. But their very alien-ness is what makes them intimidating, and it is a lesson Reach took to heart - none of the Covenant speaks English anymore, and the modifications done to make the Elites more humanoid for mutiplayer were completely reversed, restoring them to tall, proud, intelligent and fearsome monsters. The Flood may even fit this trope, though I consider them more like Great Old Ones - ancient, unknowable, unstoppable, and horrifying beyond all comprension.
      • Crone - the Crone is elderly, sinister, and associated with death. In this case, we could regard the Prophets as crone archetypes, despite the fact that they are male. They can be both helpful or an obstruction - to the Covenant, they are guides and religious leaders. To humanity, they are the harbingers of their destruction. The Covenant regard them as kindly, benevolent and generous, bestowing gifts from their "gods". To the UNSC, and their enemies, they are wrathful, arrogant and contemptuous of almost everyone and everything else.
      • Dark Lord - the Dark Lord is the personification, and coincidentally also the leader, of the evil forces the hero has to defeat. Once again, the Prophet of Truth fits this archetype - he is ruthless, monomaniacal, rules the Covenant with an iron fist, whether his or those of his generals, and is feared by many. Those who serve him faithfully and, more importantly, successfully, are showered with rewards and favour. Those who fail him suffer promise of eternal damnation and execution. They have an appetite for conquest and a hunger for control, and usually the Hero is the one person who can stop them, whether the Dark Lord knows it or not. If he has a history with the Hero, then the Dark Lord also becomes an Archenemy. Most Dark Lords are based on the typical "Sauron" model - they remain in their fortresses, sending out powerful generals to defeat his enemies in their name, and work many plots to achieve their goal.
      • Evil clown - I don't think I'm likely to see an evil clown as a villain in a Halo story, unless it's an It crossover, or if John Wayne Gacy joins the Covenant, but I may be mistaken. Clowns are normally seen as ridiculous figures of mirth, their smiles eternally painted on their faces, their antics self-deprecating and slapstick. Why, then, do they hold such terror for some under the best of conditions, a condition called Coulrophobia? Whatever the case, the evil clown subverts their whimsical nature even further, making them murderous and menacing. They're usually insane. Sometimes they come in a posse. They may start rapping about miracles and magic, and can be confused by the properties of the electromagnetic spectrum.
      • Evil twin - the evil twin looks exactly like the protagonist, but is different in one subtle way - surprisingly enough, the evil twin is completely and unashamedly evil, inverting every good characteristic of the protagonist. Sometimes they're not really twins, and don't look like each other, but are still dark reflections - Batman sees the Joker as his dark reflection, what he could have become after he had one bad day too many. The Joker, on the other hand, insists that this is exactly what he has become, but that he is futilely denying it.
      • Femme fatale - the femme fatale is a woman who is seductive, alluring, and extremely dangerous. She will seduce a man so that she can steal everything he has, or to gain access to what she needs. She is ruthless, willing to lie to achieve her goals, and will discard people once she doesn't need them at the drop of a hat. She also enjoys what she does, and has no qualms about it. This doesn't necessarily make them evil - sometimes they will be depicted as anti-heroes, like Catwoman or, using a Halo Fanon example, Helen Calypso (or my version). But they are always dangerous to know, whether one crosses her or just knows her.
      • Mad scientist - Halo may have quite a lot of mad scientists. As the evil technocratic rulers of the Covenant, the Prophets certainly count. Doctor Halsey may count, having abducted dozens of children for indoctrination and augmentation as UNSC supersoldiers, though she is less evil and more conflicted. Given the secretive nature of the Office of Naval Intelligence, there may be hundreds of mad scientists out there, all with stories to be told. They need no be evil, as evidenced by Halsey, but their work is dangerous, often a threat to themselves, and always esoteric and little-known with massive risks but also potentially massive gains.
      • Masked Mystery Villain - the villain working from the shadows, with henchmen and an agenda of his own, working against the protagonists. Hiding behind a mask or costume to conceal his identity, he must be unmasked before he can be defeated. But, zoinks! It turns out it was Old Man Jenkins all along, and he would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you pesky kids! They usually turn out to be someone who stands to gain from the failure of the protagonists, but whose real identity remains on the sidelines for most of the story, either because they aren't seen as a real threat, or because they aren't very involved in it. Their alter-egos, on the other hand, become extravagant and dangerous, but leave many clues and red herrings that lead the protagonists to deduce their identity.
      • Supervillain - the Supervillain is a direct foil to the Hero, using their powers for nefarious ends - to steal, to murder, to try and rule the world (or at least their small portion of it), and always to defeat their archenemy, the Hero, who stands in their way every time. They don't always need to be unstoppable juggernauts of destruction; many, in fact, use their minds more often than their might, such as Lex Luthor, Doctor Doom, and even the prototype of the early supervillain, Professor James Moriarty, supervillain foil to Detective Sherlock Holmes. Some are even simple agents of chaos - the Joker, for example, has no intention of ruling anything, and doesn't give a fig about money. Some men just want to watch the world burn. What raises them from the ranks of petty villain to supervillain is their ambition - Lex Luthor doesn't just want to control his little patch of Metropolis, he wants to rule the world. Magneto doesn't just want to protect mutants, he wants to obliterate the human race and replace them with mutants entirely. The Joker isn't content with blowing up a few buildings and murdering a few district attorneys - he wants to descend Gotham City into complete and utter anarchy and chaos. They usually work alone, though they have a large number of loyal but expendable henchmen willing to follow their lead, and when forced to work together with another villain, their grand schemes usually fall apart because neither trust the other, and with good reason. More villain team-ups have collapsed because of backstabbing than the actual efforts of the heroes they're teaming up against.
      • Trickster - the trickster is, if you will read further, chaotic neutral - just as likely to turn on the antagonists as he or she is to oppose the protagonists. The trickster has no allegiance, and his agenda is his own, whether this benefits the villain or the protagonist, sometimes both, and sometimes neither. Loki, the best known trickster of Norse folklore, was a shapeshifting giant-born God who caused unending problems for the other Norse Gods, and birthed monstrous children Fenrir and Jormungandr, as well as the goddess Hel, ruler of Helheim, the underworld. But he also helped the Gods many times, tricking the Dwarves Sindri and Brokkr into forging Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, helping Thor retrieve it from a Jotunn warlord, and was also the father of Sleipnir, Odin's eight-legged horse. In the end, his final trick is killing the god Baldr with a piece of holly, for which he is punished. Tricksters appear in most religions - the Native American Coyote, the British Puck and the enigmatic fairy folk whose tricks were mystical but also terrible, the aforementioned Loki, the Japanese Kitsune who were treated as relatively benevolent, rewarding those who see through their tricks and even falling in love or being the object of love by and for humans, and even Satan in his original incarnation. Satan wasn't always the embodiment of evil - according to the bible, he's a trickster and tester, and an important one - he showed humanity evil, without which we could not know good. Let's not forget that even Satan is still an angel, albeit a fallen one. Satan, as a trickster, is a much more malevolent one than Loki or the Kitsune, though. I'll leave sorting out demonic identities and allegiances to others, and leave you with the observation that tricksters are important figures - a Hero is often tested by one, and whether he passes, fails, or sees through the trick entirely, it is a comment upon his character. The Norse gods, when on the receiving end of Loki's tricks, usually overcame, forcing Loki to undo the damage and emerging the better for it; the Kitsune can possess people, causing havoc for those involved, but if defeated, or if apologetic, will protect a person for life; and Jesus himself rejected the temptation of Satan in the desert, and emerged certain and victorious.
    • Miscellaneous - this is only a brief list, and will lack the detailed description of its predecessors if only to save space and time. If I did, you'd be here all day, and I'd be here for months writing it up. If you're interested (and I recommend it) find and read the related Wikipedia or TV Tropes pages for more detail.
  • The Art of Characterisation
"Many of my characters are fools and they're always playing tricks on me."
―Jorge Luis Borges
    • Name:
"Hi my name is Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way and I have long ebony black hair (that's how I got my name) with purple streaks and red tips that reaches my mid-back and icy blue eyes like limpid tears and a lot of people tell me I look like Amy Lee (AN: if u don't know who she is get da hell out of here!)."
Ebony Enoby Dark'ness Dementia Raven Tara Raven Way.

There are two ways you can go about finding a name. Some writers create an elaborate character first, and then find a suitable name that fits their image of the character. The other way is the reverse – they pick a name, and then construct a character around that, using the context and association that the name has as the basis. Both methods are perfectly legitimate, and both can produce a good and interesting character. But remember – as the Bard once said, “What's in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Let’s use a character of mine as an example – Amanda Vasquez. I created her as a squadmate of another person, Grant Wallace – I picked the name because it was an homage to the Aliens character Jenette Vasquez. At first, it really was just an homage – I liked the sound of the name, I needed a squadmate for Wallace, and I wanted the squad not just to be dominated by dudes, so she stayed. And over time, I found her slipping into a niche – the associations with the original Vasquez made me think of her as tough, gutsy, willing to do anything the guys can and able to do it better. And then I began deepening that – she has to prove herself, because being a Marine is still a men’s world, so she has something to prove. She has a resentment toward officers, because she applied many times to join the Helljumpers, and was only let in when her squad was requisitioned, not because of her own merits. She’s a heterosexual, and off duty she frequents bars – not to pick up guys, but to wait for an excuse to pick a fight with the biggest, toughest man there and take him apart. She loves her squad mates, especially Wallace, like her brothers and sisters, and acquires the nickname of “Mama Vasquez” as an affectionate nickname, compared to his “Papa Wallace”. Since I’ve decided to adopt the events of Alien, Aliens and Alien3 as canon, I like to think that Jenette Vasquez was an ancestor, and that she’s constantly been looking to find out what happened to her.

All of that came from a name. See? You can build a character around just a name.

On the other hand, there are plenty of characters who you can construct the basic profile for first, and then pick a name later. Most of the Spartans were done this way, especially Andrew-306. Originally, I just had some numbers – “306”, “123” and “666”, remnants for an old RvB Fanfiction I tried and promptly rejected. But the numbers remained. “306” has a special significance to me – it’s my date of birth, June 30th. There was never any question of not using that. Built a character, and an entire team, around why his number is higher – that it’s deliberate subterfuge by Halsey to confuse higher-ups and convince them that there were many more Spartans serving than there really were. I built a character – team leader, close-quarters specialist, used the original Mark V because of wartime shortages of Mark VI. For the longest time, he shared my name, Michael. Eventually, I decided it just didn’t fit, and looked for a new name. I used this site to randomise names that fit the profile I had, and eventually decided upon Andrew, which I stuck with. The numbers for the others also changed to 125 and 068, in the former’s case because it was stupid and in the latter’s because I really didn’t see the need for a satanic reference, but their names never changed – Laura and Jeremy. Andrew’s did.

Or let's talk about another group to pick names for - aliens. There is a wonderful Elite Namelizer that can generate an Elite name using your name, a nickname, and the town/city you live to produce a first and last name and a possible rank. Using "Michael", "Specops" and "Matamata" to fill in the relevant fields, I get a minor, Elma Epsalee. Or, you could string together random syllables until you find a sequence you like - a process I used to arrive at for Tulo 'Kotarq and Zuro Dun 'Xoram. Or, you could create a name that is based on actual words - like Qura 'Morhek. The Qur'a part is based on the Qur'an, the Islamic holy book. It was originally spelt Kora, as in Koran, but I prefer the newer spelling. The 'Morhek part is pased on another Elite name, Ado 'Mortumee, changing the "tum" to "hek", which is itself an in-joke for myself and how I try not to swear often. Other races' names can be generated using similar means - Brute names sound Greekand Roman, and end with "us", ie; Tartarus, Bracktanus, Erebus, Hephaestus, and so on. Prophets are named after virtues, like Truth and Mercy. Engineer names are more complicated, describing their physical properties - Lighter Than Some, or Too Much Ballast, being examples. Hunters have three names, with the first having three syllables, the other two having two. Hunter pairs share the middle name, like Igido Nosa Hurru and Ogada Nosa Fasu. Jackal Names are single syllables, like Yeg, Jak and Bok, but higher-ranked names are constructed like Chur'R-Yar or Chur'R-Mut. Grunt names are more complicated, but there is still a definite "sound" to it. These "rules" still allow plenty of freedom, but you need to pay attention to them. Creating a Grunt called "William Jennings" is a terrible idea, stretching the realms of plausibility. We have one Elite nicknames Henry - but it is just a nickname, and the story he appears in makes it obvious that this is not his name, because humans have trouble pronouncing it. So they settle on Henry. Even this detail provides characterisation - it humanises the character while at the same time emphasising his alien-ness.

There are a few guidelines to picking a name that are really important. Firstly, make sure it sounds right for the character. Having an Elite named Henry only works once, as a nickname – creating other Covenant characters with human names, or ones that are too similar to human ones, just draws away from their believability. Likewise, human names follow rules – western names follow the “first”, “middle (optional’ and “last” name sequence, while Asian names invert it, with “last” then “first” name. Don’t make names that sound odd, or out of place – there’s a reason why My Immortal causes either tears or mirth or tears of disappointment. A protagonist called Ebony Enoby Dark’ness Dementia Raven Tara Raven Way is just absurd, even by Goffik standards. “Vampire” Potter, “Bloody Mary Smith”, formerly Hermione Granger, “Diabolo” Weasley or “Dracula” Longbottom aren’t names, they’re just idiotic. Nobody believes them, and it just hurts the writer (more than the rest of the “story” does).

When you decide on a name, mull it over. Does it fit them? Is it likely to be a name that someone of their background, age, gender would have? Would they like it? Would it stand out, or blend in, and is either one a good or a bad thing? Deciding on a name is a pretty big step. Make sure you choose well.

    • Appearance:
"It is wrong to judge by appearances. Despite his expression, which was that of a piglet having a bright idea, and his mode of speech, which might put you in mind of a small, breathless, neurotic but ridiculously expensive dog, Mr Horsefry might well have been a kind, generous and pious man. In the same way, the man jumping out your window in a stripy jumper, a mask and a great hurry might merely be lost on the way to a fancy dress party, and the man in the wig and robes at the focus of the courtroom might only be a transvestite who wandered in out of the rain. Snap judgements can be so unfair."
―Terry Pratchett, Going Postal[1]

Despite all insistence to the contrary, Fezzes are not cool. Unless you're Turkish. Are you Turkish? No? Then put the fez down and back away slowly.

The appearance of a character is just as important as their name – both are useful supplemental reference for the reader to get a good grasp of your character, how they see themselves and how they want others to see them. When you create a character, try to visualise what they will look like – How old are they? Are they tall or short? What colour skin and hair? What gender? What clothes do they wear? What little accoutrements do they have on them? Some of these are fairly basic – gender and age are obvious influences on a character. An old white man will act differently to a young black woman, for example. This has an effect on the character, and how they behave. For other factors, the character itself affects how they look. What are they likely to wear? What kind of clothes will they wear? Think about your character – do they like dressing up, wearing rings, necklaces, watches, earrings, and so on, or are they more modest? Are the clothes they wear meant to stand out from a crowd or blend into it? Appearance doesn’t vastly affect the character, and in many cases it can be unimportant. But it helps the reader visualise them, and it shows aspects of the character that you don’t need to then tell us about. They wear a lot of jewellery and expensive clothes? We can see that they like attention, perhaps that they are vain, or that they’re overcompensating and are really insecure. If they have a watch, perhaps they keep looking at it, feeling a need to constantly know the time, a need to control their surroundings? If they have a hat, is it ostentatious or reserved? All these things are little tells. If they're in the military, they'll either be in a battle dress uniform, or if they're at a special occasion, a ceremonial dress uniform - research how they would look, and be accurate. A Marine talking to a general isn't going to have his hands in his pocket, and a civilian talking to a Marine in his "dress blues" is not going to be at ease unless they know each other very well, or unless he is very, very confident.

Make sure that what they look and act like keeps in line with how you think of them. Don’t make them too ridiculous – if they dress in ragged black, wear make-up and have fake incisors protruding, I’m just going to close the tab and read something else. That isn’t to say make them boring – you can interesting quirks, without making them silly. I have two friends who wear fedoras – one of them, let’s call him Alpha, is an awesome guy, a gamer who’s into the Warhammer 40K series and is a Terry Pratchet fan, and likes metal music. The other, Beta, is an idiot who has the intelligence of a three-year-old and keeps asking female co-workers for their numbers so he can send them creepy texts in the middle of the night, in the mistaken belief that this is what women like. The hats are part of their characters – Alpha’s is grey, a little worn in, used but not ragged, a nice hat that fits and suits him. He wears it because it looks good on him, and he knows it - it shows confidence and style. Beta’s is bright blue, looks like it was bought cheap at a discount store, and is worn because he thinks it makes him look good, when it does nothing of the sort. It just shows an inability to see himself how he really looks, and a need to look "cool" by imitating popular fashion trends. In the case of Alpha, it works. In Beta’s case, it very much does not, but it’s still a part of his character. The hats reflect a little of their personality, especially the kinds of person that would buy and wear them.

These things apply for non-human characters, but please don’t give them items that are explicitly human. I don’t want to see the Prophet of Regret head-banging to an iPod, or the Arbiter adding baggy jeans to the ancient armour. Context is always important, and species affects it too – Prophets are ceremonial and ornamental, and prefer elaborate robes. Elites are functional, but like the ornate, and wear elaborate but functional armour. Brutes wear pieces of armour, but are just as comfortable in bare fur. Alien cultures will not behave like our own, and remember not to base their experiences too closely off your own.

More importantly, it is a way that the writer can show rather than tell the reader aspects of their personality. You don’t need to tell us that the character is reserved and nervous – just show us a character who is reserved, constantly fidgets with their watch/bracelet, and is constantly adjusting how their clothes hang. You don’t need to tell us they’re outgoing, if you show them in a shirt and shorts, very casual wear, and paying less attention to themselves than to others. Don’t give it to us in one go – don’t make the mistake Enoby does and just run through their wardrobe every time they appear or change clothes. Makes their appearance have relevance – how it shows aspects of their personality.

I’m going to use a real example that I used for a workshop:

"The dairy wasn’t far, but baggy pants weren’t always a good idea – especially jogging on a warm, humid autumn day, past people walking dogs and kids. Things weren’t helped by the sweater with hoodie, pulled back away from John’s face, or by the thick socks. It had rained yesterday, and rain was forecast for tomorrow. Why, then, had he expected a little consistency? This was Hamilton, after all – a far too unreasonable expectation for the city’s weather."
―My writing excerpt, from an ENGL217 – “Writing and Audience” tutorial.

I’d meant the passage to illustrate the character’s sense of humour, how he regards the rain, but the feedback I got was that the character seemed a little insecure, and worried about what he wore. He was also not a good planner – dressing for a cold, wet day when it was a warm, dry one. It wasn’t what I’d intended at all – I’d meant them to be outgoing, a bad planner but not concerned too much with it. Be careful with how you deal with a description – it can be just as important as what you’re describing.

    • Back-story:
"What's past is prologue."
―William Skahespeare, The Tempest

There's a saying I like that applies to most situations - "you have to know where you have been to know where you are going." If I could find a reliable source to attribute it to, that would be the section quote instead. It's still excellent advice, though, especially in creating a character, both for fanon and fanfiction. In this case, creating a piece of fanon helps with the creation of your fanfiction. To know a character, you need to know where they come from. What culture or society he or she was raised in, what social class they are, how they relate to others, how events in their past have shaped their growth into the character they are. I'm going to use two examples. Firstly, there is Sergeant Grant Wallace, a grizzled sergeant who appears in my [www.fanfiction.net/s/6514233/1/Halo_Venator Halo: Venator fanfiction], and Ultra Qur'a 'Morhek, who currently exists only as fanon. They're both different characters entirely, and I think of and deal with them entirely differently. The one story where they meet, I have yet to (and may not) put to paper because of a busy schedule. But they both illustrate different ways to characterise.

Grant Wallace is a veteran Marine, one who's seen plenty of action since the fall of the Outer Colonies, serving in Marine special warfare groups before eventually applying for and being accepted into the Helljumpers. He's a career Marine and has a tight bond with his squad, who made the jump over to the ODSTs with him. He has a wry sense of humour, a respect for Spartans, and detests Insurrectionists. All of this is who he is - not who he was. Right now, I have yet to write a really detailed article about Grant Wallace - where was he born? Is he from Earth, one of the Inner Colonies, or was he a refugee from the Outer Colonies? What was his pre-enlistment life like? How did he get along with his family, did he have any friends, what kind of society was he raised as a part of? I have some answers to those questions, but they're constantly changing - at one point, I wanted to make him unknowingly the younger brother of Andrew-306, before deciding that was too clichéd. I have no core idea about who Wallace is, beyond the stereotype, and I think his characterisation in the story suffers from it. I have a much clearer idea of who Indigo Team are, and even my version of Helen Calypso has an article of her own with my ideas for her, but poor Sergeant Wallace has no such luck. Before I finish the third chapter, because it'll deal with him a little more, I really should write a fanon article for him - if I put down my ideas, set them out and organise them, set them in concrete somewhat, I'll be able to better visualise him as a character, and write his parts.

On the other hand, Qur'a 'Morhek is fully realised as a character. I know exactly who he is, where he came from, and where he is going - a runaway heir to a Kaaranese empire, fleeing the restraints of court life, he has found sanctuary and kinship among the Covenant, forging tight bonds with his warriors. His childhood was a tough one, plagued with assassins and other dangers of courtly life, and it has toughened him. He willingly serves the Covenant in their war against the humans, and has killed many - yet he questions the need to massacre so tenacious a species, and wonders what sins they might have committed to earn the Prophets' and the Gods' eternal wrath. After the Great Schism, his faith is tested sorely - the revelation of the Prophets' delusions, the less than divine nature of the Halo Array, and the horrors of the Flood have all taken their toll. Returning to his homeworld, he manages to forge an alliance of nations who agree to ally themselves with the rest of the Sangheili as a species, joining the Sangheili Armed Forces as a protectorate. Part of my Labyrinth Canon will eventually focus on the rise of Qur'a to his rightful place as Emperor Morheka. But while I know all of this, I haven't put anything down in story form yet, besides a very amateurish attempt at a short story, which reveals none of these details. The story of Qur'a 'Morhek alone is enough to write a trilogy of full novels, and I have so many other stories I want to tell first. So he remains, in the back of my mind, his role and history still evolving but along the guidelines that I've set forth.

There are other ways to characterise. Some authors ignore creating a back-story entirely, writing on-the-fly. I find this to be haphazard, and can result in outcomes a writer does not expect - you take the character in one direction, then find the story needs them to take another. Not getting your ideas about the character in order before hand can also lead to sloppy writing, inconsistencies and contradictions in the narrative, which pull the reader out of the experience. On the other hand, taking directions you didn't plan can lead to some very interesting outcomes, and if the story allows the writer to take a character in a direction they aren't necessarily hindered by it - I wrote Calypso on the fly, and I like the direction she's taking. When I started her part of the story, she was just going over to poke around, fight a few Aliens, and return to the ship. But I ran with the idea, thought "what would the UNSC need to do to a ship infested by aliens," and played it out with Calypso. I also thought about what the Aliens would do, and that'll be expanded a little more later. But I had none of this planned when I started - the ground campaign, at the Raptors Nest site, was meant to be the bones of the story, and it has not been. I think I've spent more time with Calypso's solitary exploration than any of the other characters.

Back-story is a very important part of a character. Our past shapes our present, which becomes past as it shapes our future. Our characters aren't immune to this - when creating a character, try to get some basic facts down - species is obviously the first necessity, followed by gender. How old are they? Are they military, and have they been long? How was their family life - where did they live (ie; region, country, planet), how did the character get along with their classmates and friends, what was their social status where they lives? What were their parents like, and did they have any siblings? How did they become the character they are now? Important events shape us just as much as the continuous flow of minor ones do - moving from one town to another, say, or losing a loved one. If they're a Spartan, as so many characters on Halo Fanon are, this will be more important - what kind of life were they denied, and how attached were they to their old lives? once you know where a character has come from, you can begin to shape their present - you'll be able to get a feel for how they would act in certain situations, what they would feel about certain things, who they would associate with and who they would not.

Back story can be dealt with in a number of ways - you may just describe it to a reader in summary, to get the point across. I find this to be a bit too overt, and too blunt. Your character, or others, may refer to it in dialogue or monologue, allowing the reader to piece it together themselves. If a writer can, he or she should try to work it into the main narrative itself so that it has bearing on 'current" events. It may be seen in flashback, or dealt with an an internal reflection by the character. If the back story is going to be relevant to the main story, try not to deal with it right before it becomes relevant - if, say, Qur'a has expertise in bomb-diffusion, don't go into a whole spiel about how he studied in the War Academy on explosives right before they need him to - it ends up looking like a deus ex machina to move the story along, and it looks as though the writer has hastily modified his character to deal with it. It looks much better if it gets dealt with a few chapters before. If you've read Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men, then you'll understand - Tiffany's back story is her relationship with Granny Aching, and it helps her defeat the Queen of the Elves with nothing but a frying pan and small but fierce Scottish warriors. Her history with Granny Aching is dealt with in flashback, each flashback relevant in some way to the current plot as it proceeds, but cumulatively these flashbacks allow the end to happen - without them, it's just a little girl being helped by the ghost of her grandmother. With them, we know the significance it holds to her, and it makes the story truly fantastic.

Back-story doesn't just apply to characters - you can also apply the process to objects or factions. Give a weapon or ship you create a history that is interesting and varied - take a look at my UNSC Aeneas article if you'd like. I've tried to give it a history that is long, varied, and interesting - involved in corporate incompetence, acquired by the military at a bargain price, nearly decommissioned three times before being involved in a special project to modernise it and participating in Operation: HOT GATES. I've applied the principles I've outlined to it, and it's produced an article that is (at least, in my opinion) interesting and gives the inanimate object a personality. Again, this can be applied to a faction you create - my Kaaranese Sangheili has been described by some as "the best foreign-culture article on Halo Fanon", and it is something that I have taken care to make different from what other people were doing but still in keeping with the Sangheili aesthetic.

    • Personality:

Once you have the background of your character, you can start to craft their personality.

Please, don't make the mistake of thinking that a personality is a cut-and-paste template that you can superimpose on your character. TV Tropes is very bad for this - when you read it, you start seeing characters matching some tropes perfectly, and in some cases we start to apply them to people - I know that I've done this. Tropes are all well and good, and can be used as a loose guide, but please don't take then as hard rules - a personality is more than just a stereotype, it's a collection of reaction, opinions, and memories. When you create a personality, it's important to have even a rudimentary backstory or, failing that, to create one as you write by showing it. There's a reason why blank slates are boring, and funnily enough, it's because it's blank.

"Actions speak louder than words."
―Generic idiomatic phrase that is nevertheless correct.
  • Behaviour
  • Actions
  • Character
"Cor, blimey guv'nor! Stone the bleedin' crows! Put that in yer pipe an' light it!"
―Cockney stereotypes annoy me.
  • Flat vs Round
  • Development
  • Platonic:
  • Romantic:



for a more detailed examination, click here.

Alignment is sometimes a difficult thing to determine, firstly because doing so requires to know a character intimately, and secondly because it can be limiting. If you have a character that you've decided is one thing, they may need to act like something else for the sake of the story and of the character. It may not be out of character, but it goes against the alignment system - this is not inherently a bad thing. As I said, the system can be limiting - it restricts a character to one set of characteristics, and only one. Real people are not like this


"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before."
―Willa Cathar

Any story must have a plot. A lot of people, however, fail to grasp properly what a real plot is - a plot is not just a set of events that happen, a progression from point A to point B. Plot is much more than that - it is the progression itself that is important for the story - how does the character change by accomplishing X, and how do they grow emotionally by doing Y? What do these actions do to affect the story itself - do they increase the tension, reveal something about the story or the characters, or lighten or darken the tone? A plot is the meaning of the story, and how this is achieved. The plot of Halo: Combat Evolved is not just a description of "fight your way off the ship, land on Halo, save Marines, attack Covenant, find Silent Cartographer, find Control Room, hunt for Keyes, fight Flood, help Guilty Spark, be betrayed by Guilty Spark, try to rescue Keyes and blow up Halo." This is what happens, but it's just the events that occur and the order it happens in. The plot is the dire straights of humanity, represented by the guerrilla resistance of the Marine survivors of the Autumn, and their salvation in the form of the Master Chief, and it spans three games - the tragic fall of Reach and the devastating loss at Halo, the Covenant invasion of Earth during Halo 2 and the turning point as the Covenant breaks apart, and humanity's triumphant victory as they push the enemy off Earth and crush them at the Ark alongside their Elite allies. I have some problems with how they accomplish this - giving us the totally bad ass Arbiter in Halo 2, and then reducing him to the role of sidekick in Halo 3; the lack of emphasis on urban environments in Halo 3, to emphasise that this is truly humanity's darkest hour; the lack of emphasis of this same thing in Halo 2. But the plot itself is a classical heroic myth of sacrifice and triumph in the face of adversity.

"Fear and pity may be aroused by spectacular means; but they may also result from the inner structure of the piece, which is the better way, and indicates a superior poet. For the plot ought to be so constructed that, even without the aid of the eye, he who hears the tale told will thrill with horror and melt to pity at what takes place. This is the impression we should receive from hearing the story of the Oedipus. But to produce this effect by the mere spectacle is a less artistic method, and dependent on extraneous aids. Those who employ spectacular means to create a sense not of the terrible but only of the monstrous, are strangers to the purpose of Tragedy; for we must not demand of Tragedy any and every kind of pleasure, but only that which is proper to it. And since the pleasure which the poet should afford is that which comes from pity and fear through imitation, it is evident that this quality must be impressed upon the incidents."
―Aristotle's Poetics. The intention of the quote is an examination of plot as related to tragedy, but it's equally applicable to other genres.

See the Incentive Moment to Climax and then Resolution.

Aristotle had some funny ideas. Besides believing that the world was composed of five elements and inflicting formal logic on poor university students for centuries after his death, Aristotle believed that tragedy was the superior form of literature, and that characterisation should come second to plot. He also defined the structure a story should take - that it consists of an "incentive moment" that sets the story in motion, creating the cause and leading to the effects that the protagonist must deal with; the "climax", where these effects come to a head; and the "resolution", where any and all problems are solved and the status quo is returned or another one set up in its place, the character finishes their journey, and the story ends.

Aristotle also had a few things to say about the "unity of action", that a story must be self-contained - avoiding "deus ex machina" is imperative, because it's simply too much of a stretch for the audience to believe, and that each part of a story must lead naturally to the other sequentially and causally

Simple or complex, complex better

Forza and Forda

The mirthful tears of sweet Thalia mingle with the weeping of dear Melpomene, where the comedic and the tragic flow together. Ah, the glorious drama!

Today, we would contest that interpretation - and Ronald B. Tobias does. "Dante understood human character. These two sins [force and fraud] come from two basic functions of human beings. Forse is power, strength, physicality. Fraud comes from wit, cleverness, mentality. The Body and The Mind. If we look at plots, then, we should divide them into these two characters: plots of the body, and plots of the mind."[2] Tobias suggests, then, that there are two basic undercurrents to plot - forza, force, and forda, mind.'

  • Forza is the Theatre of Force, the action adventure. In such a story, the characterisation takes a back seat to the characterisation so that the plot can advance. The point of a forza story is the story itself - you have a tale that needs to be told, and the characters serve as tools to advance it, always with the view that this is what they are there for. This is the bulk of most popular media today - think Star Wars, Terminator, Die Hard, Iron Man - the characters in these may be likeable, and sometimes they may be complex, but the point is that they advance the story to its conclusion, taking the viewer on a rollercoaster of emotions. In Aristotelian terms, Tragedy would be an ideal forza - the plot is the inevitable fall of the protagonist, and everything they do, everyone they meet, and everywhere he goes serves to carry him a little closer to his final destination, the climax of the story. It doesn't need to apply to tragedy alone, now - an action or an adventure story needs to be fast-paced and active, things constantly happening and the tension constantly being ramped up. There are no diversions from this - there should be no asides to the plot, no side stories that never get resolved, because this leaves the audience wondering what the hell happened to the girl you introduced in chapter four who lost her parents and then never got mentioned again.
  • Forda is the Theatre of Mind, the intellectual, and surprisingly enough Comedy is its epitome. Whatever comedy is, it needs a mind that is thinking to "get" it. You can't explain it. It can only be understood. The best comedy is simple, but deals with complex themes - let's take the Communist Quiz sketch by Monty Python. Four communist philosophers and leaders - Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong and Che Guevara - are on a panel, answering questions about English middle-class life. They're quite willing to talk about the conflict between the bourgouise and the proletariat, but when it comes to naming a football team they're completely lost. On the surface, it seems absurd - four people who would never sit in the same room as one another, answering a popquiz on football? But if you know their context, and you know that it's a brutal criticism of their complete indifference to the lives of ordinary people, who don't care about words proletariat or bourgouoise or who controls the means of production,who are happiest at the pub quiz watching a football game, you can understand that it's a comment on how these supposedly "great men" were completely out of touch with the same proletariat they claimed to serve. Most comedy works like this - a joke isn't funny if you need to explain it. Some jokes rely on puns, or plays on words - some are a clever and ironic twist. But all require at least some level of intellectual engagement. It's part of the reason slapstick passed out of favour, and is not seen as a crude and cheap gag - nobody does it right anymore. Getting kicked in the testicles isn't funny, unless it's a particularly fitting fate for the character. A pie in the face only works if it's a character people can love or hate - it's the characters themselves that provide the comedy.

Simply writing "and then he kicked him the balls and ran off" is not comedy. It's a tragedy.

  • Comedy
"Dying is easy; Comedy is hard."
―Paraphrase of Edmund Gwenn

Comedy is a tricky thing to classify. I should know - I'm taking a paper on it. It's often the case that you can't force it - you can't simply say something and it will be funny. I've found that a huge part of humour in general is the context. A person needs to understand the ideas behind a joke, or it's just an odd sentence, or a strange act.

Let me illustrate my point:


When you see this, it seems like a non sequiter. Tina Fey takes a sip of a drink, gets smacked on the face, and then smiles stupidly. It's not even as if she's channelling Sarah Palin - the implication seems to be that if women drink this, they will be physically abused. How is this funny?

We have taken this image out of context, from which all of the humour derives. When you realise that the image is titled "Theflavorhitsyoup1.gif", and you realise that this is the motto of the product, the image takes on a new context. It's not a creepy example of Japanese humour - it's a visual pun. Of course, some people might find the image of Tina Fey being beat up amusing anyway. We'll just set these people aside for a moment (and promptly forget about them) and focus on the fact that the image has separate and entirely different meanings when you consider it with and without the context. In this game, context is everything - if the joke is short, then it needs to be self-enclosed, carrying the context with it. It doesn't even need to be much, so long as it's not just the punchline - you need to hear or see the joke first. If it's longer, you can set the context long before you reach the climax of the joke, or before you even start the joke. Without any context, though, a joke can fall flat - there's a reason why the films of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer are consistently panned, but are often box office...well, if not gold them golden-coloured. They consist almost entirely of a single premise, and then a peripheral injection of pop culture references - Meet the Spartans, Epic Movie and Vampires Suck have no originality of their own, and simply lift concepts from whatever is popular at the time (300, Chronicles of Narnia/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Twilight) and graft memes and jokes from other movies onto them, in the desperate hope that it will make people laugh. And, to my increasing annoyance, it works - people turn up to the theatres to watch these abominations, cobbled together like some misshapen Frankenstein's monster, because their context is popular culture - but pop culture is constantly shifting and evolving. In 2010, if you'd told me the internet would revere a children's cartoon aimed at young girls about talking ponies, I would have laughed. If you'd told me before that a little girl who taunted 4chan would inspire half a dozen memes and draw the ire of the internet, I would have been sceptical. Tell me something unlikely now - it may well be true in a years time, but I'll doubt it. But more importantly, things drop out of popular culture. We still quote 300, but really, does anyone give a damn about Paris Hilton anymore? Twilight is a series that badly needs a parody, whether you're a fan or not, but Vampires Suck just takes a bunch of "trendy" stuff cobbled together. And Epic Movie just mashes up the first Narnia movie with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and throws in X-Men, Harry Potter and Snakes on a Plane. The only "epic" anywhere near these films is epic failure. It just isn't funny. They make a bunch of cash in the short term because they're relevant, but as soon as the pop culture shifts they're forgotten, as they should be. I try to avoid some memes in writing this guide, because they probably won't be around forever - some persist (it's OVER 9000!, THIS IS SPARTA, and constant movie quotes), but someday I may go through it, removing some and adding new ones in. I may go through the images, replacing them all with ponies. Because ponies are cool.

What horrors have been unleashed???

Comedy can also arise from situations that aren't intended from the outset as funny - further down, in the Horror section, you will find an example of it. Some stories put characters in situations that are less than ideal - stalked by a psychopath, lost in a forest, or perhaps attending the death of a loved one. There are genres that we don't associate with laughter - being hunted or lost is a frightening experience, and grief is as far from comedy as you can get. And yet these situations can still be humorous without losing their appeal - Death at a Funeral is exactly what it says on the tin, but uses the unusual subject to invert how we think we should feel - a time supposedly for mourning and grief and saying goodbye becomes a farcical madhouse with a gay dwarf lover, mistaken psychotropics, and romantic misunderstandings.

    • Situational comedy - the situational comedy, or Sitcom, seems to be in vogue. The structure is always the same - open on the status quo - let's say it's Friends. The characters themselves are interchangable - two people will be talking. A third enters with a big problem. Whoops! There goes the status quo? Simultaneously, the other three are going through their own trials, usually minor, while the first three attempt to resolve the problem and restore the status quo. Every episode ends with a restoration, usually a happy one. There may be some long-term tension between some of the characters - Rachel and Ross's attraction to each other, and the troubled history they go through. But you don't need to understand or even care about this to watch the series. Or let's take another example - Black Books. Setup - angry, Irish smoker (Bernard) owns a shop. Naieve and caring man (Manny) helps him. They have a woman friend who pops in (Fran). Whoops! Fran has to go away, just as Bernard and Manny have to write a children's book! She has a terrible time, discovering her friends have never liked her, and revealing that the other two friends had a threesome with the third's husband-to-be; meanwhile, Bernard and Manny write a thousand-page novel dealing with a survivor of the Stalinist purges, a lens grinder's daughter, and a foreign journalist before stumbling upon a winning solution and drunkenly burning it to preempt the "media hounds". Fran returns, smug that she predicted their misery and depressed that they predicted her own. Status quo restored.

The most common situational comedy I've seen follows a very tiresome formula - X is a Y year old boy/girl who loves the Z books/films/games. When X gets transported into the Z world, its a choice between going home or staying. Which one will he/she choose? Here, the "comedy" is supposed to stem from the fact that this is a gamer, sucked into the world of the game, able to exploit it because she (I'm going to use she arbitrarily) know what's going to happen and know the characters. Yet this world is real to them, so she appears omnipotent to them, and they refuse to believe that their world is reduced to a game. The protagonist, antagonist, or a minor character may fall in love with them. At the end, usually, they find their way back to the real world, the characters of the game world missing them dearly.

Boring. Boring, boring, boring, boring, boring, boring, boring, boring, boring, boring, boring.

Here, the comedy needs to arise not from the situation, but the way the characters deal with it. They bumble. They make mistakes. They contradict each other, or cancel out the efforts of the others trying to resolve it. They sabotage each other. It is this that is funny. Just putting yourself into the world is not funny. It's a self-insert. Guess what that leads to!

Incidentally, returning to Friends (and other series), medieval and renaissance literature held that a comedy HAD to end with a wedding, because that constituted a happy ending. Have we come much further?

    • Satire: Satire is parody with a point. Usually a sharp one. Things get exaggerated, parodies, compared and juxtaposed. But while the entire point of the parody is to be funny, the point of a satire is to subvert the conventions of the original by using humour. Duty Calls is a satirical take on the Call of Duty franchise - the setup is tired, the execution is so boring even the guns say so, the villains and heroes unbelievable stereotypes, and the events are all cliched. And then, the satirical twist is that this is not just a parody - it's an ad for Bulletstorm, a game which promises to put the object of Duty Calls to shame. There's often a heavy use of wit and irony - here, we see mostly irony, and it is hilarious.
  • Tragedy

The tragedy is either the polar opposite of the comedy, or it is its identical twin, depending on which scholars you talk to. Often, it is also linked to other genres: a romantic tragedy - Romeo and Juliet, where Juliet thinks her lover dead, taking poison. Romeo wakes, finds his lover dead, and really kills himself, distraught at his loss; the tragic comedy - a comedy that weaves tragic elements into it, finding the humour by subverting or inverting them, or a tragedy that adds a few small poignant moments of humour to lighten the mood a little, only to plunge the audience back into the darkness; and most commonly, the tragic horror. As an example, the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde works because it shows us that Edward Hyde is a horrific character - brutal, ugly, arrogant and contemptuous. It then pulls the well-known twist - all along, this man was the same person as the kind and well-meaning Doctor James Jekyll, and that the story is not a horror, or a mystery, but the tragedy of a man who is losing himself to evil, and can only stop it by killing himself. We see the fall of the good man devoted to the scientific overwhelmed by his creation, his desperate and vain search for a cure or antidote, his increasing loss of control over himself and the rise of the abominable Hyde, and his final painful end to it all.

The tragedy is about the fall of the hero or heroine, and usually follows a few set patterns. The protagonist starts out well enough - perhaps they're royalty? Perhaps they're a wealthy stock broker? Perhaps they're a member of the clergy? But they have faults, serious ones, and these lead to their inevitable and, it seems, immutable downfall. The prince is arrogant, and alienates his people - they revolt, exiling him, reducing him to the level of the peasants he so despised. The stock broker's ponzi scheme collapses, revealing himself to the world for what he is, and he ends his days in prison. The priest abuses his status and power, and his victims reveal his transgressions - he is forced to resign in disgrace, loses the faith he has betrayed, and the former man of the cloth commits suicide. The tragedy is marked by a fall, and it should be spectacular - as the saying goes, "the bigger they are the harder they fall." Any attempt they make to stop it only leads them further into their fate - too late, the king realises what his people think of him, and he tries to mend his ways - but they see it as an arrogant bluff, and ignore it; the stock broker desperately borrows more money, hoping to keep his scheme afloat until he can make enough money to pay back some of his debts and convince others that he's a safe investment - but this heaps more debt and ruin on him, collapsing the bubble even quicker; the priest sincerely begs his victim for forgiveness, but is coldly rebuffed and forced to endure public humiliation.

I've used the example of characters usually considered as stock 20th/21st Century villains - the out-of-touch monarch, the scheming wallstreet banker, and the hypocritical priest. But in a tragedy, they are explicitly not villains - the king is perhaps a good, generous man who has never known hardship. Why should he care that his subjects are suffering a drought? He doesn't know that it means a famine, and continues with his excesses, wining and dining his nobles who seek to gain his favour. Maybe the banker is a family man, who dotes upon his sons/daughters, loves his wife, and regularly goes to church. The ponzi scheme was to pay tuition for his kids, but economic factors have sent it spiralling out of control. And maybe the priest is a genuinely devout god-fearing man, and believes that both homosexuality and suicide is an unforgivable sin. But the respect he has gained and the status he has come into as the spiritual guide of an entire village or town makes him drunk on his own power, and he gives into temptation, seducing one of the altar boys in a moment of lust that will haunt him forever. A tragic character is flawed, yes, but it is rarely easy to say that they deserved their fate, or that they even brought it upon themselves. Their deeds and thoughts have caused them, but do all of them deserve the ends they meet?

    • Angst

Angst is something that gets abused quite a lot - characters are often given traumatic childhoods, to justify their subsequent angst. Now, that in itself is not a bad thing - angst can add drama, and is a decent motivation, when taken in moderation. But writers often go completely overboard - they "go dark" as I like to think of it, giving their characters completely horrific backstories and taking the angst levels Up To Eleven. Even then, this is not a bad thing - taken in moderation. But moderation is something few seem to learn, and it seems like every character that crops up has a past that would make Sophocles cringe - their parents are murdered in front of them, their town is burnt to the ground, they get raped by passing soldiers, etc etc, yada yada. Then they spend the entire story moping about this fact.

Now, rape and murder are traumatic experiences, and the devastating impact war has is well documented. But it makes your character less believable - it's quite obviously a transparent attempt to win the audience's sympathy, but it's so over the top that you only draw their ire. Angst, by itself, is boring. It's a tool that you need to use in order to show character development - it's a phase a character should pass through on their way to self-redemption, rather than their ground state of being. Have them start out, or become, dark, and then use the story to show the change of their character - they open up a bit more to friends or allies; they stop dwelling on their past and focus on the present and immediate future; they start to embrace the new, rather than obsess over the old. Wounds heal - never fully, and sometimes the scars are still horrific, but they do.

At the other end of the spectrum, don't make them happy fairy princes/princesses who go through life with things handed to them on a silver platter. These characters are just as boring, perhaps more so - even an angsty character still has some character. The opposite is a cheerful, happy-go-lucky person who always triumphs, and there is never any question that they will triumph. That is exactly the opposite of how you need to write a story - there should be suspense, twists, surprises. You can't have that if the reader never believes that the character is in danger - and to do that, the character needs to believe that he/she is in danger.

  • Romance

Just because you think the Chief and Samus would be adorable together doesn't mean it has a snowball's chance of actually happening.

Contrary to what most fanfiction would have you believe, the romance genre does NOT consist of just sexy time, much less the sometimes ridiculous pairings that find outlet. Romance is much more than that, and true devotees of the genre would probably be insulted that the word now conjured the image of two people getting their freak on rather than two people who enjoy spending time with each other, have some things in common and more than a few differences, and who possess feelings that rise above mere friendship for each other. Modern society ignores all of this - television shows us that if you love someone, you need to get naked for them as fast as possible. Most games ignore it altogether, because it's not something that you can make interesting gameplay mechanics out of, and they fear being labelled a "girls" game. Most modern "romances" are comedies, where the two are so hopelessly mismatched that their pairing is downright idiotic, or their relationship is on the rocks anyway.

The romance genre has thus become confused with the softcore porn genre. A romantic relationship is a give-and-take affair between two people who enjoy spending time in each other's company, and are attracted to each other. There doesn't need to be anything overtly sexual about this. The story of Halo is not just about a war for survival, or about alliances shattered and reforged - it is also the romantic story of the Master Chief and Cortana. He's a supersoldier cyborg who has and never will know a normal life. She is an intangible artificial intelligence with a tragically short lifespan. They can never "consummate" their relationship, no matter how hard shippers work on the problem. I was recently surprised when a co-worker, a manager at where I worked, observed that Halo 3 was very romantic. She mistook my look of disbelief for one of disgust, and told me, "romance doesn't mean just two people bumping uglies, ya know!" What surprised me most not that a forty-something woman even knew what Halo was, but how poignant the observation was. Cortana and the Chief can't be conventional lovers, but they still share a transcendent bond. When John makes a promise, he keeps it. Cortana may be a thief, but she keeps what she steals. You could look at John as a literal Knight in shining armour, a paragon of virtuous chivalry, saving the trapped "princess" from the "dragon". You could likewise look at Cortana as his conscience, twisted and warped by their experiences but ultimately good. John would die for Cortana, and she him. If you want a nice example of how the romantic nature of the Master Chief and Cortana can be played with, read Illusion by LadyLaconia. It's extremely good!

And remember too, chivalry works both ways, these days. Now it's the women wearing the armour, saving the prince from the tower. And this is not a bad thing at all. Women are just as capable as men of feeling attraction and devotion - I see no reason why the roles couldn't be reversed. The Master Chief ensnared by the Gravemind, Cortana hacking through his virtual snares to release him. Women aren't weak, they aren't helpless, and they aren't all passive. They don't need a big strong man to save the day, any more than a man needs a girl clinging to him for support. If their love interests are in danger, why shouldn't they set out to rescue them on their own? One of the first books I remember reading was "The Paper Bag Princess", where a princess does exactly this.

    • Shipping

You know the phrase "the face that launched a thousand ships?" Yeah, that's literal.

Shippers have ruined the romance genre forever. And I don't say this lightly.

"Shipping" refers to supporting one theoretical pairing of characters. For Halo, there a few "canon" ships - the Master Chief and Cortana being the most obvious one. I remember hearing somewhere that Kat-B320 and Carter-A259 had once been an item, something which the game hints at with the level of influence she wields over him. And there's the canon relationship that occurred between Catherine Halsey and Jacob Keyes, two lonely people in a long and desperate war looking for some small comforts and finding it in each others' arms. And this doesn't have to be a bad thing. These relationships are all emotionally moving in their own right - the loss of Kat gains more dramatic power when you realise that Carter has just lost someone he loved, the death of Keyes is the symbolic death of John's father, and the story between John and Cortana takes on a life of its own beneath the transparent stories of sacrifice and loss.

But Shippers have done a lot of damage, and there are good reasons why I feel exasperation when I hear of them, pointed out in the accompanying Mass Effect comic. Let me illustrate why by pointing out some of the ships:

      • John x Cortana - practically canon, barring Cortana's incorporeality. And death. And she's always on his mind!
      • John x Linda - semi-reasonable. They grew up together as the only family they ever really knew, and they're certainly close. At the same time, there's no real evidence to support this - it just grew out of the fact that they're a boy and a girl who work together, ergo they must be boning each other behind the gun racks. It just doesn't follow. It's too forced.
      • John x Kelly - pretty much the same as with Linda. Is it too hard to believe that a boy and a girl can be really good friends for a long time without having any romantic or sexual interest in each other? Apparently.
      • Fred x Kelly - this...well, I can sort of see it working out. But once again, no real evidence for it, if only because we haven't really spent as much time with Fred as we have with John. If future Halo novels expanded on it, I wouldn't cry foul, let's just leave it at that.
      • John x Miranda - I...what? She's a superior officer, not to mention that he's never met her before Halo 2-
      • Johnson x Miranda - wait, what? He's old enough to be her grandfather, not-
      • Johnson x Arbiter - WHAT?!
      • Arbiter x Tartarus - NO, WHAT THE HELL AM I READING!!!
      • Arbiter x Half Jaw - oh god...I'm so frightened now...
      • Arbiter x John - NONONONO AAARRRGH
      • Gravemind x Cortana - D: NO, MINDRAPE IS NOT ROMANTIC, WHAT THE HELL?!?!!!1!/

You see where this is going? Most of the relationships have no evidence for them, and are extrapolated from the flimsiest of details. And then there are the pairings that make absolutely no sense. And then there the pairings that are just...*shudder*

Now, don't get me wrong. Some of these could work. IF DONE WELL. The relationship between the Gravemind and Cortana is one of a nearly omnipotent godlike being taunting a lesser mortal, but it could also be one of seduction, the promise of immortality and an infinite library to pore through, if she will only be his slave. But, alas, quality is not an attribute that fanfiction is known for. Most stories would just reduce it down to the mind rape, and throw in the usual "she secretly enjoyed it" excuse that is a completely unfounded and appalling justification for rape. But Johnson and Miranda? Arbiter and John? These pairings...they just frighten me.

I hasten to point out that it is not because of any homophobic tendencies I may or may not have. I have no problem with gay relationships, and I actively encourage them - the concept of romance is certainly not exclusive to heterosexual relationships. What I object to is the forced way people enforce their favourite Ships. Arbiter and Rtas meet in a hallway, next three pages are filled with moaning in the broom closet, ending with them smoking the best cigarettes of their life. Or John discovers the Arbiter's armour reflects at an oddly enticing angle. Sudden, out of the blue, completely unrealistic and therefore uninteresting. I don't object to homosexual romance, even if I don't happen to partake in it, but please, make it a tiny bit realistic. When you do things like this, your fanfiction is not romance any more - it is just written porn. Smut. And smut is okay if that's what you're looking for, but I still think that it is deeply unfortunate that this has become the most common type of fanfic, drowning out everything else.

  • Horror
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."
―H. P. Lovecraft

The macabre holds a fascinating attraction to the human mind. We love to be horrified, shocked and appalled. Why do you think political blogs are so popular? More seriously, the horror genre is an outlet for our darker emotions, the side of ourselves that is forever swathed in the shadows. This is a small part of ourselves, but it is one all of us possess. On an instinctual level, we seek out ways to horrify ourselves. When you see a car wreck about to happen, you can't look away. When you see someone being injured, you feel disgust and horror, but also fascination. Thoughts of Unfathomable Horrorterrors From Beyond the Furthest Ring haunt our dreams, and we couldn't be happier with it.

There are a few variations on the horror story, but all of them boil down to one very important thing: fear. Sometimes it is fear of the unknown. The darkness is one of our oldest, most primal fears, but really what we fear is the unknown - you cannot see into or through the darkness, and you cannot know what it holds. Shine a light into it, and you cut through the fear. In the Cthulhu Mythos, it is fear not of something that is unknown but of things that cannot be known, that even known about can drive the knower insane.

Other times, it is fear of something that everybody knows - slasher films show the antagonist quite brazenly, hiding their "identity". But the identity is not important - you don't need to know that it was Old Man Jenkins, or that he would have got away with it if it weren't for those pesky kids. You know that the guy has a hockey mask and a machete, and he is coming after you. This is why horror films work hard to invest you with the main characters - they need you to imagine that you are the character, that the thing is coming after you, and that is where the fear comes from. Still other films play off phobias - snakes, spiders, clowns or disfigurement or some combination of them and other fears. Beware of some of these links, if you have any phobias - I myself am deathly terrified of snakes, and simply could not watch Anaconda, even with the bad CGI. My brother is likewise terrified by spiders. I doubt any particular phobia would be necessary to be horrified by the last link...

Notice too that horror does not preclude comedy. Sometimes, comedy arises from the horrific situation - Aliens Resurrection was originally written as a comedy, which I could see working in a very camp sort of way. But then it was changed to be a serious horror, and it lost any redeeming traits it may have had. Many horror films use comedic characters for added impact - usually they're the first to get a machete to the face, to shock the audience. They're meant to be likeable to the audience, though, and invariably they fail. They just come off as annoying. More than once, I've ended up cheering for the monster/psychopath/elemental force, hoping they'll weed out the morons, and bring new meaning to the phrase Survival of The Fittest. There are even the unintentional moments of comedy - when audiences were shown the 2005 remake House of Wax, they burst out laughing at the death scene for Paris Hilton's character. She gets impaled through the forehead by a spear, which sounds gruesome, and it is. But the scene is not helped by a few factors - it is badly clichéd, the effects are ridiculous, and it's Paris Hilton, the entitled strumpet everyone loves to hate. I doubt it was meant to be funny, but out of context and without sound, I found it hilarious.

Let's take a look at an example: the Weeping Angels.

The image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel.

Ignoring the screams of unbridled terror you are now no doubt emitting, the Weeping Angels work because they represent the juxtaposition between the mundane and the alien. Their form is nothing intimidating - posed statues that can't move. They're even modelled on angels, images that are supposed to engender feelings of pious respect. But blink...blink just once...and they are fast, so fast. Blink and they're gone. Blink and they've moved. Blink, and you're dead. All we're told is that they are called the Lonely Assassins - not a name that inspires warm, fuzzy feelings - and that they're the only psychopaths in the universe who kill you nicely, sending you back into the past to die of old age and consuming the energy of the life you might have lived. They are utterly alien, and they are powerful - the power to move in the blink of an eye, to kill you with old age, to slaughter entire worlds. You can't talk with them, because they'll just use the voice of someone you know. You can't reason with them, because they don't care about you at all. They are ruthless. They are alien. And they are fast.

Don't blink.

Horror stories don't just depend on the "enemy" that is faced - there is a particular structure they follow. Specifically, a horror story creates suspense, leaving the reader/viewer wondering until the final faceoff or climax of the story. Think of Jaws - you see the shark attack a number of people during the film, and the film opens on the first shark attack. But throughout the film, you never really see the shark until the very end. You get an occasional glimpse of it - a fin slicing through the water, splashing in the distance, deep red blood seeping through the water. But only when the heroes set off in a boat with an old sea captain to hunt and kill the beast do we finally see the shark itself - and it is big, visually impressive, entirely worthy of being the film's climax. Or let's use the example of Alien - once again, you don't see the entire thing until late in the film. You see the facehugger attached to a man's face, and we have no idea what it means. It falls off, we assume everything is alright - then we see a chestburster bursting out of the chest of John Hurt, taking the audience completely by surprise. We've just seen the alien die, haven't we? Nope, because we see the larval form scuttle off into the shadows. The crew start to hunt it down, expecting to search for a tiny little thing - mean, but not too tough. And then we see a monstrous, black behemoth descend, like some wrathful demon, and we scream. Even then, this is one of the few good glimpses we get of the creature - the look is not long, and we don't see it again until much later. Just shots of the monstrous head, swiping claws, a lashing tail.

You can see how what isn't shown is just as important as what is shown. We don't need to have it explained to us that the shark is stalking the beaches - we can see the victims being dragged out of the surf, mangled and bleeding. We don't need to have the Xenomorph life cycle explained to us - the entire premise of the film is that it is constantly evolving, unpredictable and almost unstoppable, and that every time the crew encounter it, the thing can do something new that takes them completely off guard. We don't need every facet of the Weeping Angels shown to us in a little documentary - some of it is explained, yes, but much more is not. We see the Angels claim their first two victims, before the heroine ever gets the warning not to blink. The episode builds up that they can move faster than the eye can see, because the eye can't see them. Most of the Cthulhu Mythos stories don't bother to explain what the monstrosities they deal with are - they insinuate, and leave clues throughout the entire story, so that the reader has to piece the riddle together to be solved, leading them to the same sense of horror the characters feel. Too often, I see stories and films follow the typical "slasher" formula, using gore and body mutilation for cheap horror - I don't care that you're being stalked by a thing in your nightmares, if you just explain who the guy is to me! Suspense is a vital part of horror writing, and it's important not to lose a sense of it.

  • Music/Songfic

And he said, "play the best song in the world...or I'll eat your soul!"

The songfic is an interesting idea. At its most basic, you simply write a song about the topic you enjoy - I've seen some pretty excellent ones about Halo, and a few really dedicated and talented fans have actually put picks to guitars, lips to mics, and churned out some fantastic stuff. I recommend you check them out - some of them are parodies or unrelated songs, some are serious treatments of the themes of Halo, some are lyrical renditions of the game's music and others are entirely original creations, lovingly dedicated to the series.

At the same time, though, there is one thing I cannot stand - taking an existing song, changing the words, and submitting it as original material. I do not need to read Bohemian Rhapsody dedicated to the Arbiter, unless it is a parody of the original song and completely rewritten to be funny. I also don't want to read the typical pop rubbish that gets churned out, replacing a name with something else. It's not original, it's not funny, and it's not interesting.

  • A Word on Irony

Irony does not mean what you think it means. Let's take the phrase "those who live by the sword die by the sword." A knight is killed by another, hacked to death by a broadsword. This is not ironic - it is fitting, yes, but not ironic. But let's change it - a fencer is accidentally stabbed by his opponent

  • Verbal Irony
  • Dramatic Irony
  • Situational Irony

Almost all stories follow a conventional structure. At its most basic, it can be broken down into "beginning", "middle" and "end", but this is a little simplistic, and doesn't accurately convey the flow of the plot. It would be more accurate to say that, rather than three parts, stories should be broken down into four components. My lecturer for ENGL104 "Telling the Story", Dr. Mark Houlahan, compared it to the destruction of a dam - you see the "break" in the dam wall, establishing that events are going to happen, the "rupture" as the water bursts forth, the "flow" as it continues to pour out, and the "return" as it slows to a trickle, and finally stops.


The Break is, in essence, the setup. This is the part of the story that introduces the reader to the characters and setting, and establishes them as minor or major characters. The break also sets up the status quo - ie; the balance of power, the relationships of the characters, the state of the world, and so on. By the end of the first level of Halo, Pillar of Autumn, we know that humans=good, Covenant=bad, and Master Chief=complete badass.


The Rupture is where the story properly starts, where the status quo is disturbed, the relationships are affected, and things change. Usually, a problem is introduced that must later be resolved, or characters introduced who must be overcome and defeated. This should mark an increase in the pace of the plot - this is where things start to happen, more often and more exciting. Halo's rupture occurs as the Chief lands in Halo - events start occuring that you would not have expected, and between now and Assault on The Control Room, the Rupture continues to reinforce that the Covenant want to destroy humanity, and the Chief sets about stopping them - and then you get another Rupture, when you discover the Flood in 343 Guilty Spark.


The Flow continues from the Rupture, consisting of the protagonists dealing with the problems or characters who stand in their way, either by surviving, overcoming, or avoiding them. The flow is the fastest paced part of the story, and should end in the climax, where the events of the story reach their zenith. Between The Library and the end of The Maw, the Master Chief massacres the Covenant, recovers Keyes' CNI so he can destroy Halo, and sets about to stop the Flood from escaping.


The Return is the at least partial return to the status quo, and the conclusion of the story. I say partial return, not happy, because all a story needs is a resolution. We like it to be a happy one, but we don't need it to be happy. Halo ends with the Master Chief, the sole survivor of Halo, sitting in a ship with Cortana as they return to Earth. He's destroyed the Covenant, but also lost the hundreds of human survivors to do so.

Every good writer should have a beta reader - someone who can go over what they have written, looking for spelling mistakes, logical inconsistencies, and areas that could be cleaned up and improved. I prefer to use myself, because I don't trust anyone I know to do a thorough enough job of it, and also because I'm extremely proud, and letting someone see an unfinished and imperfect version of it is embarrassing. Sometimes, however, you need to endure embarrassment to improve - someone completely new to what you've written will see things you don't, will notice things you don't, and will need things pointed out to them that the general reader will not know, but that you take for granted they will. It's a good way to sample-test how a fanfic will be received, and it's an opportunity to correct the most glaring mistakes before anyone else gets to see them. A beta tester fills the role an editor does to a professional author, and they can be invaluable tools - if you're not proud enough of your story to show one person, why would you upload it without any checks at all?

At the same time, be selective in who you ask to beta test your stories. Are they people who are going to actually read the story and offer real criticism? Or are they more likely to go "kawii gurl" and assure them it's good, regardless of whether it is. If it isn't, do they bluntly point out every mistake, or do they gently break the news and offer ways to fix them? Let us return once again, as if to an old friend, to Tara Gillespie's "My Immortal". I recently found a comic version of the dreaded fanfic abomination, where the artist confirms that they know the real Tara, and confirms that the story is a genuine travesty of fiction written by a young girl trying her hand at writing and failing. But for all it's hilarious mistakes and glaringly bad errors, the story actually had an author, "Raven," a friend of the author who supposedly checked the story before each chapter was posted. Evidently, she did a terrible job of it. Let her serve as an example of picking a poor editor - it's obvious that this Raven must have done only a cursory skim job, going over it briefly, because there's no noticable drop in readability after Raven and Tara break up - you can't get much worse than terrible.

As the Bard said:

Meme - ShakespeareWTF.jpg

If you do forego a beta reader, then there are some simply things you should do before even considering uploading your story. First, leave it for a couple of days and then come back to read through the entire thing - you'll often notice errors and inconsistencies better if you don't have what you meant to write in your head at the time. Writing can also be a draining process, and taking a break from it can rejuvenate you, allowing you to replace bad writing and dialogue as you re-read it. Go over it with a spellcheck, correcting spelling and grammar as you go. Be careful, though - a spellcheck often doesn't take into account the universe you're writing in, especially if you need to constantly use words that aren't in the spellcheckers lexicon - words like "Sangheili" and "Lekgolo" and "UNSC" will often be highlighted as spelling errors, because the computer has no idea what they mean. You can usually add them to the lexicon, so that they don't keep being highlighted, but be careful anyway "Lekgolo" become "Legwork" by mistake. This advice is good, even if you do have a beta reader - nobody is infallible, and even beta readers will occasionally let mistakes slip through, sometimes big ones, that would be easily caught by a simply self-check.


Alas, poor dialogue. I knew him, Horatio!

Unless you are setting out to write a piece of fanon, rather than fanfiction, you need to understand how to write dialogue. even writing fanon may require the skill, especially if you're planning to blend the two in your work

  • Interior Monologue
  • "Monologuing"

A word on Profanity

"How poor are they who have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?


MorhekWe Are The Vanguard Of Humanity
TALK CONTRIBUTIONS — Tuesday, September 21 2021 (Pacific Standard Time)
First and foremost, mine may be in the Project namespace, but it is far from the only guide to the wiki out there, and I'd like to thank and acknowledge my predecessors and contemporaries. Another Poetic Spartan wrote one before I started, and his inspired me to begin my own - his was in turn inspired by one by The evil O,malley. Tuckerscreator has a guide on debating with other people, a work in progress as mine too is. Leo Fox has an excellent guide to how to use the IRC, and Dragonclaws wrote an excellent overview of how to write Halo fanfiction here. Mine seems to be the longest and most...eloquent, shall we say. But these are also good, especially because I tend to ramble and theirs are more specific and concise. Check them out if you want a different perspective! Secondly, further thanks go to Sgt.johnson, for his invaluable help with the Minorca Saga, Matt-256 for proposing the Mandorla Campaign and helping with Operation: VORAUSSICHT, and The All-knowing Sith'ari for co-creating the War of Vengeance era with me. These experiences proven instrumental in how I dealt with, and continue to deal with, writing, and I thank all of you for it. Lastly, I thank all of the members of HaloFanon who offered feedback, both criticism and praise, on all of my work - without you, I would have no idea how good or bad I am at writing!


  1. Pratchett, Terry, Going Postal (London: Corgi Books, 2005) p. 94)
  2. Ronald B. Tobias, 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them (Cincinnati: Writers Digest Books, 1993)