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6 Tips for Writing Reader Inserts

UnluckyAmulet's avatar
By UnluckyAmulet   |   Watch
65 16 1K (1 Today)
Published: May 1, 2017
1) Make sure the words you're using are correct.

I know that this seems almost as obvious as the standard 'spelling and grammar' advice, but the amount of stories I've read where the author has put 'defiantly' instead of 'definitely', for example, are staggering and very off-putting. I know that sometimes it's difficult to spot when you've accidentally typed a word wrong, since spellcheck usually doesn't pick up on an incorrectly-used word unless it's spelled wrong, so it's important to proof-read. (I used to be incredibly guilty of this, and sometimes when I post things when I'm tired I still make errors.) I’m not saying that you can’t make mistakes, just try to catch them when possible.

2) Don't go into detail about Reader's appearance.

I have come across quite a few stories where it's basically an OC/Canon story, but the author thinks if they slap "Reader Insert" in the tags, nobody will notice. Thing is, if you give a Reader a skin colour, hair colour, eye colour, etc, then chances are, it probably won't match up with whoever is reading the story, thus meaning they can no longer put themselves in the Reader's shoes. On that note, giving them names is also something that pulls you out of the narrative; unless maybe it's a nickname Reader acquires for something they did in-story. Also, to be honest, unless the plot calls for it (say a person with a particular physical characteristic, like pointy ears, is being targeted or is noted as special in some way) the Reader's appearance shouldn't really be terribly important. The whole appeal of them is to be able to imagine yourself in the story, so spend time on that and not on arbitrary physical characteristics.

3) You don't need Abbreviations

There is a huge variety of these things, we've all seen them. There's "____", "(Name)", "(Y/N)", etc. And the thing is, the majority of them are completely unnecessary and it’s often really confusing. I can't tell you how many stories I've bailed out on reading because of the abundance of them. This is especially bad if the story has like a key code in the beginning so you can keep track of what the hell they all mean - like (H/C), (E/C), etc. Putting "you flipped your (h/c), (h/L) hair behind your shoulder" is totally unnecessary when all you need to write is "you flipped your hair over your shoulder" - the colour of your hair (or eyes, or skin, or handbag) should not matter, and the audience will fill in the blanks by themselves anyway, as it is a Reader Insert. Putting in all these abbreviations distracts the reader and pulls them out of the story. With "(name)" it's slightly harder to avoid, but there are ways around it, like, "You heard him call your name" instead of adding in an obvious blank space. Ultimately, keeping it simple is the best way to go.

4) Have a plot

This probably seems obvious to most of you, but I'll elaborate a bit more. I know that there are a lot of stories out there that are popular concepts, like "Vampire!Character" or "Tsundere!Reader", and that's absolutely fine.

BUT.

I've only recently gotten back into Reader Inserts, and to be honest, I rarely read them on DA. Why? Because younger readers will copy a work they like, then others copy THEM, and so on, and they are all the same. I've read so many stories that have minimal plot and it's like someone just copy/pasted the whole thing and put it under a different account. If you want to do a super-common story, that's fine, but make it your own. Add a twist to it, put something in there that makes it stand out from other stories with a similar idea, or yours will be literally indistinguishable from the thousands of identical ones already there. A great example is a high school AU - so many things you could do with it, so be creative! Try something different.

5) Canon characters are important - don't sideline them.

Again, this might go without saying, but let me elaborate. The whole point of Reader Inserts is to imagine yourself in whatever universe you want, interacting (whether romantically or platonically, whatever) with whatever characters you want. That’s the beauty of it and it’s understandable with so many fandoms to choose from, the notion of a Reader Insert is growing ever more popular. But, just because you are an Insert in the story doesn’t mean that it should be all about you. In a lot of stories I’ve read, the canon characters literally have nothing better to do than talk about the Reader, discuss who the Reader is interested in, etc. (This happens a lot in OC stories too, or sometimes in fics where the characters have nothing better to do.) This becomes ridiculous for a lot of fandoms where there’s usually quite a lot of plot going on for everyone to stop and talk about a non-canon character. Instead it’s a lot better if you find a way for the Reader to interact with the canon character organically, joining them on their adventures, offering a new angle to a story arc, or having the story take place in an AU. Either way, don’t neglect the personalities of the canon characters, because they are probably the main draw to the story. Make sure they are in-character and have interesting things to say/do.

6) Do not spam author’s notes.

Author’s notes belong at the beginning or end of the story, before or after the audience has had a chance to really get stuck in and seen what the plot has to offer them. One way to really yank the reader out of their concentration and investment in the story is to continuously interrupt the narrative by inserting things that do not belong there. You’ve all seen it: (a/n: LOL!!!) – That right there is immediately going to ruin the tone of whatever else is going on. Not to mention, it just looks bad to insert every thought you have about what you’ve just written in brackets, it’d be like if the author was constantly texting the reader in the middle of the story. I know some people are probably just trying to be funny, but unless it’s a comedy or a satire, then it doesn’t work. (Plus, it probably wouldn’t work for a comedy either unless done well. Writing humour is a lot harder than it seems.)

On a similar note, if you need to move forwards or backwards in time, just state how far back or forwards you’re going, or just put in a scene divider. Writing “Ze timejump brought to you by meeee lmao!” makes you look, similarly to interrupting with stupid author’s notes, like an idiot.
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© 2017 - 2019 UnluckyAmulet
Hi there!

So about two years ago, I made a post called "7 Types of Readers I Hate", which (mostly) seemed to go down well, and it poked fun of various clichés that I've seen reading Reader Inserts over the years. This is more along the lines of a Writing Guide. I don't claim to be an expert by any means, but I've been on this website for a while now, even if I don't visit much these days, and I feel like these are a couple of observations worth sharing to anybody wanting to avoid pitfalls. Also, I am not targeting anybody particular here, these are just things I've noticed over time. Hopefully some of them might come in handy.
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Comments16
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RavenshellRorschach's avatar
RavenshellRorschachHobbyist Traditional Artist
Great tips!  I'm not really a fan of Reader Inserts, but a lot of that can be chalked up to these things.  I've taken to just calling the main character Yourname and skim over any detail tags.  #6 especially is like trying to add a canned laugh track to tell people when to laugh, aww, boo, etc.  Like, I didn't realize I had the commentary track running on this fic!
VanguardofFire's avatar
VanguardofFireHobbyist Writer
These are really useful. Thank you for putting these up, I'll add them to my favourites and check back on them often. I'm not afraid to admit that I still have a few things to learn when it come to writing my Reader Inserts.

Either way, thanks again. :)
Ms-Manhunter's avatar
Ms-ManhunterHobbyist Writer
Is it also safe to add, along with character's appearance, to not go into detail about things only a specific race does? I like Reader Inserts and I've honestly ran into that problem only once, where the writer mentioned something that only a specific tone of people would do. It put me off from the story a bit but I went back and basically skipped over that little part; it really was a great story, overall. 

Great post and some really good advice in here, particularly for those who want to dip into the Reader Insert genre.
TheLadyDothReadTooMu's avatar
TheLadyDothReadTooMuHobbyist General Artist
I completely agree with all the points you gave! I think the last one is the most annoying of them all. That, and when I see in a, but not limited to, Reader Insert story where the whole story is writing in one paragraph. No spaces between the various paragraphs or between the lines said by each character or scene breaks. Nothing. It's a real big turn off.

I'm not saying I'm a perfect writer - heck, I find it hard to even write - but I am appreciative of writers who take the time to make their works enjoyable for the readers by making their stories easier on the eyes and less confusing.
ShadowPixelator's avatar
ShadowPixelatorHobbyist General Artist
Aaaahhh thank you! I am just getting into writing reader inserts, and this will help a lot! Already I am guilty of doing #3, so knowing this now will help me get out of the habit! Like all of the other comments, thank you for writing this! \(^°^)/
UnluckyAmulet's avatar
UnluckyAmuletHobbyist Writer
No prob, Bob! :3
Raphadile's avatar
RaphadileStudent Writer
I was just thinking about how you've inspired me to be a Reader-insert writer and was trying to figure out how the heck I was gonna do it without being a nuisance. //cries Thank you so much for validating my decision to push forward on my next project.
UnluckyAmulet's avatar
UnluckyAmuletHobbyist Writer
Oh gosh, thank you for saying so! These are just little hints I've kinda figured out over time, so I'm glad they came in useful. :3
theunknownentity0's avatar
I like this. It's good advice. :)

#3, I used to do that a lot. Now I only use (Name) and nothing much else. It's easier for the readers, and myself as well.

#2...I hate it when writers do that. Giving reader an appearance/name makes me hit the back button in the blink of an eye. It's annoying. :x

Or when they label a story as a reader insert, and instead it's about their OC. Ugh. :disbelief:
AmeNoTenshi's avatar
AmeNoTenshiHobbyist Artisan Crafter
I don't like reader inserts for these exact reasons! I hope everyone heeds your advice
UnluckyAmulet's avatar
UnluckyAmuletHobbyist Writer
If you don't like them, why did you click on a guide for writing them?
AmeNoTenshi's avatar
AmeNoTenshiHobbyist Artisan Crafter
curiosity
Thepokemontraveller's avatar
All very good advice for old and new x reader creators. 
BadlyBadlyMalcom's avatar
BadlyBadlyMalcomHobbyist Writer
I will take your tips! I really need them now that I'm new and need the best help!

Thank you for the advices!
VernichtenAlles's avatar
VernichtenAllesHobbyist General Artist
You've certainly hit on several of my top pet-peeves about Reader-Insert stories (as well as fiction writing in general in some cases).
AmethystMoon420's avatar
AmethystMoon420Student General Artist
Wow, thanks for this! I myself am just getting back into reading reader-inserts, and soon writing again, and I needed some new tips.
anonymous's avatar
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