First Things First:
Alright, I'm making this partly to help people and partly because I'm tired of seeing specific things.
Now I'm by far not the best writer ever but I am quite experienced in the trade (that's probably the wrong word to use but eh) so I'll just give out some useful tips that I've developed myself as well as tips I received from friends or my english teacher (Love ya Mr Smith).
I'll be focusing on two things, Story and Characters.
Chapter 1 and 2:
Alright, the first chapter (be it Chapter 1 or Prologue) or simply the beginning, is one of the most important parts of the story. It's the hook to get readers to read it. In other words, if your first chapter is boring, people are mostly likely not going to continue reading your story.
That means, your first Chapter better be the most interesting Chapter other than the Climax.
Your first chapter should be short and instill a sense of mystery so that readers would want to continue on with the story. It should set up the world but also not tell you everything (why would you want to read the entire book if the entire story is told to you in the first chapter).
Because it is a story, you need to set up the basics of the world quickly. That's where Chapter 2 (or after the introduction is over) comes in. Set up the world early and explain the rules early; keeping the reader guessing is great but doing it half way through the book is still too much.
The second most important chapter. This is the pinnacle, the most exciting moment of the book. Thus, it has to live up to the excitement.
Every moment in the book is to reach this moment, this epic moment.
You see I'm trying to get at? If the Climax is lack luster then...well, it's not good, especially when the start is good.
You can make this happen basically by planning ahead, or just planning in general. Plan what goes on at the start and then at the end, then just work your way through the middle.
Every Beginning has an end. Just as the opening must be good, the end must be good too.
Don't just end it, resolve it. By the end, problems within the story must be solved and/or set up problems for the future.
However, you cannot leave the ending open and say "Oh, it's because there's going to be a sequel. The perfect example of this is the original Star Wars trilogy. The First Movie is a complete story but the Second Movie is just a set up for the Third Movie.
That's a no-no. Each story must be a complete story, you can provide problems to the next story but that should not be the main focus.
This seems to be a major problem among people.
When there's no build-up to a problem or a scene (that's also a problem with the Climax), it makes the scene less appealing. (though in some cases, build up is not needed and it comes as more of a shock)
Another pacing problem is not letting a scene sink in. For example, character loses powers suddenly and scene immediately moves on after the revelation.
It makes (possibly) major plot point forgettable when they shouldn't. The order of things go too fast basically, there should be a pause sometimes between each plot point.
Don't be afraid to extend the narrative a bit by beating around the bush for a while (this is the only situation where beating around the bush is allowed).
Another way to fix this is through the power of implying. Basically allow the reader to put two and two together before actually confirming their suspicions, the time between they read the line and the time when it take their brains to realize it, that itself a good way to set pacing.
A perfect example of this is Thalia's rebirth. Even though it is only said that she is Thalia at the end of the book, we ourselves have already put two and two together and with it realise the consequences that come with Thalia's rebirth.
This is important, I cannot stress this enough.
The character that appeared at the start of the story must be different from the character at the end. That's the basic description of Character Development. Be it in a good way, rag to riches, or a bad way, degrading into the story's villain. Most of your characters must have development (except in a one-shot, that's a different kind of development). However, not all characters require development. For example, a 'Mentor' figure in the story doesn't exactly need to change as long as he/she continues to be a mentor. The class clown/comic relief also doesn't really require development either.
Too Many Characters:
Speaking of development, this another problem most people have. A big cast is not always a good thing especially when you're not good at splitting the attention and time amongst them. This makes one or two characters take the spotlight while the others take a backseat, which usually hinders development. Also, since most of the backseat characters don't have much development most of them will just blend into the backround or just mesh together so there is no difference between them.
If you're not skilled in characterization yet, stick to three main casts. That's the perfect number.
Useless (seemingly) Plot Points:
Otherwise known as Filler chapters, this chapters are just to add more chapters to the story and provide nothing to the overall story. Or worse, they claim to be major plot points but really do nothing in the end. Or sometimes they are there just to be 'cool' or for the sake of it.
For example, the hunters of Artemis come to camp. Why? Well....because. Do they progress the story in anyway? ....No Will removing them effect the story in anyway? ....No
See what I mean?
Basically, if you want to know if something is useless, ask yourself those two questions.
Another example is free stuff. Now, magical items received from gods are paramount for demigod quests, usually. But they need to be earned.
Percy didn't receive his backpack from Ares if he didn't go to Waterworld. He also wouldn't have gotten the pearls to escape the underworld if he didn't go to meet the nereid. ETC ETC.
Some free stuff is fine. Lots of unearned free stuff is bad.
These are a different kind of filler chapters, they provide character development. Usually not much action based and sometimes it's just two characters sitting down and talking to each other, most of the time it's two characters talking to each other.
This can reveal the past of a character or future endeavours or just seeing how these two characters react.
This chapters are important because they provide the pacing you want, the built up you need and the development you require.
The most powerful tool in your arsenal (minus your imagination and grammar), use it well.
Rules set by story:
This only applies to fanfiction.
Yes, we are writing fiction which means that everything is possible.
But with fanfiction, you are writing within a universe with its own set of rules, so don’t break them.
If you do, you better have a damn good explanation for it within the story. (If you want to see one being done right, read Luna, Daughter of Artemis)
Inspiration and Copying:
This is a sensitive subject. There's a fine line between the two.
Inspiration is fine if the initial idea came from a specific thing. Taking something and not changing much, that includes the name, is not okay.
Reading about a different character is by far more interesting than reading about a copy of an existing one in a different setting.
Anime inspired dialogue:
If you know what I’m talking about, you’ll recognise it when you see it. If you don’t, then you don’t have to be worried.
“Power of friendship” and stuff like that.
Some of these dialogues are amazing, I’ll give them that. Most however are cheesy, so use them sparingly.
This is what sets characters apart. It separates Tom from Bob and Sally from Christa.
This can be done in a lot of ways from having a signature catch phrase(The Hulk with, 'Hulk Smash'!), a distinct physical trait(a scar over and eye), a unique name(Dust or Fauna) or in the case of demigods, their own personal weapon(Riptide, Backbiter).
You can take it a step further with how they use their powers. For example, if two characters can manipulate water, one can heat water up and bring it to a boil or freeze it and another can solidify it, making weapons or other creations.
Or just their personality. A sarcastic and cocky boy is different than the shy and gentle guy. You probably would not mix the two up.
If there's ever a time where a reader goes "Who's Sally?" Even though Sally has appeared from the start and is part of the main cast, you've done something wrong.
Powers and Abilities:
This. Take a seat, this might take a while.
My main advice is to follow a theme for your powers, which is already easy since demigods have a theme already(their godly parents).
This is to avoid something I call the 'Superman Syndrome', where your collection of powers don't make sense and are only there to make your character to be more 'powerful'.
A good example is Flash. His theme and main power is Super Speed. Every other power is either an added benefit to the Super Speed (time traveling or increased metabolism) or to complement his Super Speed (superhuman endurance so he doesn't liquefy when he runs or he doesn’t get tired when he runs for two seconds).
Balancing is also a major issue with people. A simple rule of thumb is if you spend more than half of your character page describing how powerful your character is, your character is probably overpowered.
A good way to prevent that is to give a drawback to every ability. For example, heightened senses? More vulnerable to bright lights or loud sounds. Super strength? Slower strikes.
However, this is not an excuse to overpower your character. Less powers allows you to be more creative with your writing as your character does not solve problems by flicking his or her wrist and requires a little bit more of their wit or help from other people.
For demigods, their weapons almost always define them/are part of their character.
Riptide, Backbiter, Katropis and Annabeth's Knife, you think of those weapons and you immediately identify them with a specific character. You usually want to mimic this for your own characters.
Now despite you might want to believe, there are more weapons in the world than just swords. Just examples are Knives, Polearms (Spear and Halberds, blades on a stick really), Maces, Axes and Lances, change it up a bit.
Even then, there are many different types of swords. There's Rapiers, Shortswords, Arming swords, Hand-and-a-half Sword, Long swords and Greatswords. The most common are the first four, the Greatswords usually just too large (we're talking about swords that are just as tall as you) for use. Though not to the extent of things just like the Buster Sword.
While we're on the topic of that. Swords are swords, they are cutting weapons not bludgeoning weapons. There's no point in having a large sword that is just going to knock the wind out of someone rather than cutting them. If you want to knock someone out, use a mace. (Or the just the pommel/butt of the sword).
Though, remember that they are Greek/Roman demigods, so having greek style weapons would be preferable. Xiphos is a type of shortsword (like the Riptide) and a Kopis (Looks like a short Curved Blade). However, these swords were usually only secondary weapons; a sword and shield were usually a Spartan's weapon of choice.
One the topic of Spears, spears are usually the more efficient weapons. Why? They were usually easier to make and it's easier to wield a spear than a sword. Where a sword requires years of training to wield properly, a spear usually just comes down to thrust and don't let your enemy grab the shaft.
While we're on the topic of this (potential rant incoming); the Katana is not the only weapon in the world neither are they the best weapons in the world. Having a Katana(or any other weapon) doesn't instantly make you cool or the better warrior in any way, shape or form. Having a Katana doesn't make you the winner, being a better warrior is what you makes you the winner. Now you say "Archie, I don't know other swords." That is not an excuse. We live in a world where information is at the tips of our fingers. Read up, these things are actually interesting.
In an attempt to spark your interest, here's something you might like to learn. For Longsword uses (swords that usually require two hands) there's a technique called "Half-Swording" which actually is just a technique that makes grab on to the blade of sword to either have better control or to use the hilt of the weapon for strikes.
Using the pommel for a powerful strike, grabbing on to the blade to control the point of it or even grabbing on to the blade with both hands and using the hilt like a makeshift axe! So research, there a lot of things to learn.
Ah the description we all dread, this is a mistake that a lot of new writers make.
Basically, the most extreme description is that the world cannot function without said character. The sun would die, the earth will explode and the moon will crash on to the remaining pieces of it. A character that everyone in the story loves but most readers hate.
In a simpler description, they are 'perfect' characters, though not perfect in a good way.
Everything goes their way, everyone loves them (even if the character is a jerk to one of them) and they beat the villain with a flick of the wrist.
(OPness is techically a sub-catergory of Sueness, though not as extreme.)
These are big no-nos. These characters are usually boring to read about and because they are already 'perfect', they require no Character Development.
Most Sues are too far lost to be saved and any attempt to save them probably just makes them worse. So the most reasonable way to deal with a sue is too start from scratch.
- Pats your back* I know it's hard but trust me, killing characters off is probably the most fun you'll have as a writer.
However, all is not lost. Despite my earlier words. Some Sues are still fine. A well-developed Sue is still good character.
Harry Potter is technically a Gary in profile (the youngest seeker in history, a celebrity in the wizarding world, survived Voldemort's killing spell twice, etc), but he stumbled and made mistakes and had teenage problems. Those kind of sues are forgivable and fine.
Human Characters are the Best Characters:
This is a continuation with the Mary-Sue bit but this is to make(or fix) characters more interesting.
In most cases, the best characters are the flawed characters. The characters that have to learn to fight or to struggle to win, they are the ones you want to support.
Humans are flawed, that's something your character needs too. They need fears and problems, real fears and problems. Being scared of losing or dying or losing someone, these usually normal fears for kids who constantly live with the fear of dying.
Every character also has good and bad traits. They might be heroic but they are probably also reckless. They might be good at survival but have low social skills.
Think about these things properly. Allowing readers to learning about these things are already good development.
Villains are by far some of the most interesting thing in stories. It's something a lot of people skim over but they usually are usually what defines our heroes.
A good example is Joker.
Joker is a psychotic killer, at complete odds with Batman's 'no killing' rule. Joker has one objective, screw with Batman and try to make Batman do something that he will never do; kill the joker.
Batman has almost come close to it several times, though our dark knight has never done so. That doesn't stop Joker from constantly trying.
A good Villain always challenges the hero. He/she puts the hero into a position where the hero doesn't like to be or force the hero into the position where he has to choose between two evils.
A villain is supposed to be a threat, not a pushover. However, it works sometimes.
A villain that is constantly bad-mouthing or running his/her mouth even though he's weaker than our hero and needs to hide behind minions or other.
And it finally reaches that point of sweet, sweet justice is delivered when the Villains receives the beating he/her deserves from our hero. That works too.
Here's a fun one. There are two types of romances, the romance where the two people get to know each other more, getting more development and it takes a long time before they finally kiss and you go 'Finally!' (E.g Ron and Hermione. Percy and Annabeth)
Or the romance that the kiss comes first and then the development comes in after the relationship is set. (E.g. Bella and Edward. And most romantic couples in books)
Despite what people say, both are completely fine.
It's only bad when the relationship is forced or very shallow (that means there's no chemistry between the two or they are together just because) So don't do that.
A Greek God with a Japanese name, does not make sense, unless of course it's one of the names that the god has received before.
As such, that includes characters. A character with the name Paul name probably doesn't belong in Ancient Greece of Rome.
Also Japanese Honorifics probably doesn't fit into a Western setting (or any other setting) unless the character is from the east or grew up in a Japanese household.
Thanks for my friend, Lemon (Chey Herrera) for helping me out with certain parts.