The Editors (sga_guide_mods) wrote in sga_guide,
The Editors
sga_guide_mods
sga_guide

How to Build a Guide

So you want to contribute by writing a page for a character or pairing/poly relationships. That's fantastic! We're always looking for new contributors. This page should tell you everything you need to know about how to go about doing that. If you have any questions at the end of it, please leave a comment here or email the editors at sga.guide.mods AT gmail DOT com.

Choosing a Topic


The first thing you need to do is decide what you want to write about.

There are three types of entries:
  • pairing/poly entries that focus on one particular pairing or poly relationship
  • gen entries, each of which focuses on a particular character
  • rare het/femslash/slash/poly/gen character pages, for characters and relationships that are less well-represented in fandom and don't have enough reccable fanworks to each merit their own page
If you're reading this post, chances you already have a good idea of what you're interested in writing about. If not, take a look at the master list and see what's missing that you might be interested in doing, or take a look at the request page and see what people are expressing interest in. If you're still not sure what to do, you can email the editors at sga.guide.mods AT gmail DOT com and we'll give you some suggestions.

Once you've decided what character or relationship you want to write about, take a look at the master list to make sure we don't already have a guide for them, and then check the volunteer post to make sure no one else is currently working on that post. If it's a particularly small area, you may also want to check the various rare pages (character/het/femslash/slash) to make sure it's not already listed there.

If we haven't already covered that character or relationship, then head over to the volunteer page and sign up to do it.

Alternately, if we've covered that character or relationship on the rare pages, but you think it deserves a page of its own, then you can sign up to let us know you're doing that. But before you do, make sure you can meet the minimum requirements: at least ten fanworks by at least three different creators that you think should be included on the page.

If there's a character or relationship you're interested in that doesn't meet the minimum requirements for a page of its own, but which isn't covered on the appropriate rare page, you can also sign up at the volunteer page to do that.

Starting Out


The basic purpose of the guide is to provide a starting point for people who decide they're interested in a particular character or pairing, but don't know what's out there. This could be a long time SGA fan who wakes up one morning with a sudden interest in Elizabeth/Teyla fic, or it could be someone who's new to Stargate fandom altogether and trying to figure out what their options are. Ideally, this is one of the places they will come to find out where to go for a character or pairing, and what kinds of things they'll find when they get there.

The big topics you need to cover in a page are communities and thing-a-thons, archives and lists, common fannish tropes, and major fanworks, each of which is covered in more detail below. The first thing you'll want to do is start putting together a list of each. If you're already familiar with this area, that should be fairly easy. If this is an area you're less familiar with, you'll have to do some hunting around.

Places to look:
  • Check out the sites on our resource page for relevant fannish works.
  • Search for communities on Livejournal and Dreamwidth that list that character or pairing/relationship as an interest. (Remember to try different variations of the names!)
  • Search on Delicious for the relevant characters or relationship.
  • Run a general search on Google.
Once you have the basic information organized, the next thing you need to do is solicit opinions from other people who know the character or relationship. You've got a few options on how to go about this. If there's a community dedicated to that character or relationship, then that's probably the best place to begin. Put up a post and ask the members if they have suggestions for other material! (Check with the mod first if it's not clear such a post will be welcome, of course.) If your flist has a lot people who know that character or relationship, you can put up a post on your own journal. And you also have the option of posting to this community and asking for our suggestions.

You can post collaborative entries in more than once place, but you must have at least one somewhere. We'll ask for the URL of that entry when you submit your post.

Sections to Cover


Basic Information

The first thing you need is some basic information about the character(s). You don't have to go into a lot of depth here--that's what sites like Fanlore and Stargate Wiki are for--but there should be enough background to give readers some idea of who you're talking about, especially if they haven't seen the series or if you're dealing with minor characters who only appeared in a handful of episodes.

If you're covering a pairing, you can also provide a bit of background on that pairing, including whether or not it's a canon pairing. If it is a canon pairings, it would be helpful to include a brief summary of the progression of the pairing over the course of the show.

You should also try to include a picture or two! Lots of people find their way into a show through the fandom, and pictures are very useful if they haven't seen the show. Please don't hotlink pictures. We have a group Photobucket account that you're encouraged to use. We'll send you the user name and password when you sign up to write a guide.

In general, pictures should be between 200x200px and 400x400px. (They don't have to be square!) If you're having trouble finding or editing a picture, please email the editors or post a request for help to the community. If you're not sure where to look, good starting places are sgapicfinders and the Gateworld Galleries.

Key Scenes & Episodes

As the heading says, this section should include a list of scenes or episodes that are important to the development of the character or relationship. There's no minimum or maximum number here, because this section will vary strongly according to the character or relationship. In some cases, especially if you're discussing a crossover pairing with another Stargate show, the characters may never have directly interacted. In those cases, you can omit this section altogether. You're also welcome to list SG-1 or SGU episodes if appropriate.

Major Fannish Tropes

This is the section where you discuss major patterns in how the characters or relationships are portrayed in fandom. For example, a page about John might note that there are a number of fannish works that focus on his difficulty in expressing his feelings, his abilities as a soldier, and his mathematical ability. A page about John Sheppard/Cameron Mitchell might note that there are a lot of fannish works that portray their relationship as having begun during "The Return," and a lot of works that assume they've known each other for years, having met early in their Air Force careers. The purpose of this section is to help orient people toward fannish works in this area.

One tricky thing that can come up here is that not all tropes are positive. For example, there's a tendency for some female characters to be portrayed as incompetent or overly-emotional. This is an area where you're going to need to use your best judgment, and it's often useful to discuss specific cases with other people who like the character or relationship.

In general, if a trope can reasonably be said to arise out of canon, and if you can find fanworks that offer a balanced exploration of that trope (i.e., a fair study of flaws and limitations that also assign the character(s) positive traits rather than something that's clearly character bashing), then go ahead and include that trope. On the other hand, if the trope appears to arise purely out of race or gender stereotypes, or a desire to end a canon relationship so that another relationship can take place, or if all of the fanworks that use the trope do so in a way that's unfairly negative toward the character or relationship, then please leave it off.

Major Works/Fannish Sampler

In general, the kinds of works that should be included on this post are:
  • Touchstone works: works that everyone who cares about this character or relationship has read, or at least knows about
  • Works that do a great job of exemplifying a popular trope
  • Works that do a great job of countering a popular trope
  • Works that people who like this character or relationship all seem to love (regardless of your perception of the quality of the work)
  • Works that do a great job of exemplifying a trope that's popular in fandom, even if it's not common for this character or relationship
  • Works that highlight a particular author who writes this character/relationship a lot
  • Works that do something interesting or unusual or that strike you as particularly well-written
  • Works that you personally really, really like
This list is roughly in descending order of importance. Definitely try to include touchstone works if there are any, and then go down from there. Obviously not every post will have all of these things, and that's fine.

For number of works, we're looking for around ten to twenty-five suggestions, which ought to be enough of a starting place for most people. If you can't come up with at least ten, then this section will probably go to the rare pages, where there are no minimum numbers. If you have more than twenty-five suggestions, then perhaps you ought to put up a rec list on your own journal, and link to that in the resources section of the page.

Please don't just list the works; there should be a little discussion of what they're about and why they've been included on the list. It doesn't have to be long; just a sentence or two will usually do. And please indicate all pairings (including background pairings), all warnings given by the author (or indicate if the author states they don't warn), and the rating.

Works in progress: You can include WIPs on rare pages. Just make sure they're marked. If you want to include a WIP on a non-rare page, you can do so as long as there's a good reason for it. If it's a WIP that everyone references or that you think does something especially well, go ahead (and make sure it's marked as a WIP). If you have a choice between two equally good stories, one a WIP and one not, then please choose the finished story. And please try not to include more than one or two WIPs per page. (Note that WIP status only applies to unfinished stories, not ongoing universes.)

Other criteria to consider:

Relationship Fic: Fanworks mentioned on pairing/relationship pages should feature the relevant romantic/sexual relationship in a fairly central way. This doesn't mean the characters have to have sex in the story, or even kiss. It also doesn't mean they have to be together for the whole story--obviously that's not going to happen in stories where they get together or break up. But the relationship should be sufficiently central that if they weren't in a romantic and/or sexual relationship (or engaging with each other in a romantic and/or sexual fashion), the story couldn't really exist. Or at least not without major modifications. (This can be relaxed a bit for really rare pairings/relationships, but there still needs to be some sort of romantic or sexual interaction. Even if they're just madly flirting in the background or if at the end of the story readers realize that a large part of the story was build-up to the characters becoming interested in each other.)

It's also fine if relationship fic includes additional romantic or sexual relationships. But ideally, if you're recommending it on a specific pairing/relationship page, then that's the relationship that should be the main focus. Or at least it should receive as much attention as the other relationships in the story. If a story is predominantly about John/Elizabeth/Radek with oblique hints of Teyla/Kate in the background, then it probably shouldn't be included on the Teyla/Kate page. On the other hand, if John/Elizabeth/Radek and Teyla/Kate each receive equal time, then it could go on either or both pages. (If there are other relationships in the story, please mention them when listing the story. Some people are picky about the relationships they read, and won't appreciate being surprised.)

Finally, relationship fic should be about voluntary romantic and/or sexual relationships. So stories where one member of the pairing sexually assaults the other should not be included, unless it's of the sex pollen/AMTDI and that's how they discovered they actually really like each other variety. (Obviously stories with involuntary encounters can be included, but the majority of the interaction between the members of the relevant pairing/relationship should be voluntary.)

Gen Fic: For the purposes of this guide, gen fic is fic that doesn't focus on voluntary romantic or sexual relationships. Yes, that's very broad, and we made that decision because for minor characters, it's sometimes very difficult to find fic that's completely relationship-free (or even free of non-canon relationships, which is another way definitions of gen often go). So yes, there can be background relationships, both canon and non-canon. And yes, the character can mention having been in a relationship in the past, and yes, occasionally the character can even be in a relationship as long as that's not the point of the story.

However.

Gen fic should not include any explicit, voluntary on-screen sexual activity. Ideally, there shouldn't be much off-screen voluntary sexual activity either, at least as far as the main character goes. If the story has fade-to-black sex scenes, it's probably not gen. And if the main character (the one whose page you're including the story on) spends the whole story flirting with one of the other characters (and not just in a let's-charm-the-local-leader-but-it's-not-going-anywhere way), or is frequently shown kissing or fondling one of the other characters, then that's probably not gen either.

Involuntary sexual encounters (non-con and dub-con) do count as gen (and should be properly labelled and rated), as long as they don't lead to a romantic and/or sexual relationship. (So AMTDI-and-that's-how-they-discovered-that-they've-both-been-longing-to-be-in-a-relationship-this-whole-time-and-just-thought-the-other-wasn't-interested stories aren't allowed, and neither are stories where the characters get together after one of them has been sexually assaulted. But sex-pollen-leads-to-the-main-character-continually-hitting-on-his-bemused-teammates-with-hilarious-results could absolutely be gen, and so could dealing with the aftermath of a sexual assault.)

Fic in which the character's partner never appears, but the character spends the whole story talking to a friend about his or her romantic relationship is not gen.

Fic in which the main character is not in a relationship, but other characters' romantic relationships play a major role in the story could be included on a gen page, but if you're going to include that kind of story, there should be a good reason for it. Good reasons include things like "this is one of only a handful of stories written about this character," "this is the absolute best example I can find of this particular trope," and "this is one of the best character studies I've ever seen."

Basically, the further you go from the more traditional, relationship-free definitions of gen, the stronger a reason you need to include that story. And ideally, at least half of the stories you rec should be gen in a more traditional, sex-and-romance-free sense.

Finally, please, when deciding what to include, keep in mind the creator's own interpretation and categorization of their work if that is listed or noted in or with the work. If the creator says a work is het or slash or femslash, then please respect that even if it reads like gen to you. And if they say a work is gen and then have the two main characters voluntarily falling into bed with each other every other paragraph, well, you don't have to include that one.

The discussion above is most applicable to fic, because we expect that the majority of the recs will be fic recs. However, you are absolutely free to recommend other fanworks such as art or vids as well. It's ten to twenty-five fanworks, not ten to twenty-five pieces of fanfiction. The same rules apply to other fanworks as to fanfic. Of course, with vids for non-canon pairings, the line between friendship vids and relationship vids isn't always going to be clear, so go with the creator's stated intention and your own interpretation when deciding what to include.

Resources

This is where you list any character or relationship-specific communities, thing-a-thons, archives, collections, indexes, thematic lists, etc. These should be subdivided into info and meta, communities and thing-a-thons, fic resources, and other media resources. If there's something else you want to include that doesn't fit in these categories, go ahead and add an 'other' category as well.

For the info section, you're encouraged to link to sites such as the character's Fanlore, Stargate Wiki page, etc. In the case of relationship pages, you're encouraged to link to pages relevant to both the characters and the relationship. You're also encouraged to link to any meta essays you can find.

If you're linking to a multi-relationship site because it has lots of material on this relationship, try to link in a way that gives people the fastest possible access to the material for this character or pairing. For example, if linking to stargateficrec, link to the appropriate tag(s) rather than to the community as a whole.

Please remember that these resources don't have to be all fic-oriented: icon contests, discussion forums, and so forth are welcome too.

Rare Characters and Relationships


Characters and relationships that haven't generated enough fannish works (i.e., the minimum of ten that you want to recommend) will be grouped together into five pages: gen, poly, femslash, het, and slash.

The rules for these characters and relationships are a little different. First, as noted above, the rules for what constitutes gen tend to be a bit more relaxed when there's less material to work with.

Second, if there are fewer than ten things out there, you don't have to choose between them or justify their inclusion on the page. Go ahead and list them all; there's no reason to make someone who's interested in that area hunt around for them. You also don't have to explain why a particular fanwork has been included, though the other requested information should be there.

Third, you don't have to come up with fannish tropes. Chances are good that if the area is that small, patterns haven't really emerged. If there are some sort of tropes, then by all means, include them. But don't struggle to find what isn't there.

Template


busaikko has developed two templates. Rather than copy them here, I'm going to link to her posts so that you can continue to leave feedback on them. Once things are finalized more, I'll recopy them here. The template posts are locked, so you'll need to be a member to see them. Remember that you're absolutely free to request membership without committing to writing a guide. Or doing anything, really.

Gen and Pairing Templates
Rare Slash/Femslash/Multi/Het Template

Posting Your Work


Once you've got the whole the whole post together, what next?

If you haven't already, you might consider posting it to the community for feedback. That isn't absolutely required as long as you have a collaborative post somewhere, but you're welcome to do it. Please note that all posts to the community should be locked. This is so that we don't spam the reading lists of people who are only interested in the final product, not the development process.

When you're satisfied with what you have, email the post (including the HTML formatting) to sga.guide.mods AT gmail DOT com. We'll look it over for typos and so forth, and then post it under that account to the community. The reason we use a central account for posting is a) so that people aren't in the awkward position of having to recommend their own fic, which can happen, especially with very rare pairings; and b) so that we can continue to edit posts even if the original developer leaves the community.

You might also consider cross-posting all this newly collected material to Fanlore. Hopefully we'll have a detailed post on how to do that coming soon.

And that's it! Thanks for your help, and feel free to do this all again with a new character or relationship.
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