- Writing an SCP
- Developing Thoughts
- Writing Style
So You Want To Write an SCP
You're reading How to Write an SCP 2.0. If you're reading this, you're probably a member of the SCP Foundation and want to try your hand at an article. This page is to help point you in the right direction when getting started. Read it carefully, don't skim it. After you've finished, read it again, because you're a human being (right?) and you'll have missed stuff.
Before You Start: Some Things to Consider
In general, successful SCP articles have most or all of the following components:
- An interesting idea.
- Reasonable containment procedures.
- A clear description.
These are necessary for a good SCP. An SCP should immediately draw the reader in; they can't be muddled under a lot of exposition. Try to get a clear idea of what your SCP does before starting.
Many first SCP articles fail miserably for one reason or another, primarily due to the writer's lack of experience.
This is not an excuse for not even trying
This is not a curse befalling all new members
This is not just a fact of life or a universal truth
This is a challenge
Some first SCPs do wonderfully, because their authors either had an instant understanding of what and how to write (which is rare) or because they took their time getting their bearings and learning the lay of the land. To help you avoid that dreaded failed first SCP, always ask for feedback on the Drafts & Critiques forum or in our IRC rooms. Take this feedback to heart, even if it's blunt and direct. If you feel someone left insulting feedback, you can always contact a member of staff. If boundaries were crossed, we'll take action.
Low-rated pages are always deleted from the site once they are rated -9 or lower and have been on the wiki for the requisite 24 hours (see the Deletions Guide for more info), so don't get too down about it if something you wrote is deleted. If your first SCP does fail, try to learn from the experience. See if the idea is salvageable, find out what worked and what didn't in terms of writing. Sometimes your skill as a writer isn't up to the level of your idea, and keeping track of your old ones for re-writing is a good tactic. You can always keep those in your sandbox. If you find that you have a problem with the clinical tone required, but you have a good grasp of the Foundationverse and the subjects and themes it explores, you can always try your hand at writing tales. Tales are in no way less than SCP articles.
Also, please note that posting a crappy SCP to 'get the bad luck out' does nothing except clutter the site up with crap. When writing your first SCP, put your best foot forward, because it is part of the standard by which your future works will be judged. Make jokes in chat. Put actual work up on the site. It'll make people think better of you, it helps improve the site, and it sets an example for the other newbies.
Really, the best possible piece of advice that any of us can give is to be patient. Sit back and lurk; we've got all kinds of articles. Spend some time to get an idea of how the site works. See what's good and what's bad, what's highest-rated and what gets downvoted. Learn what kinds of things people look for in an article; you'll be better equipped to succeed in your writing.
What Do You Do Next?
To see what you should do next to write your own SCP, return to the top of this document and choose another tab.
The idea is the soul of your story. Whether it concerns a tale or as an SCP, a good idea will carry you far and help you succeed. Here are a few tips to help you conjure on of those brilliant concepts for your article:
- If you want to write a creepy article, think of what scares you. The site has its roots in Internet horror, and we try to keep with that tradition. The stranger the fear the better; a lot of the common terrors and phobias have been covered, and we love creativity.
- If you want to write a weird article, think out of the box. The stranger and more original your article is, the better it'll stand out from the crowd.
- If none of the above apply, try to find another emotion or reaction you want to evoke from your reader. Maybe you want the reader to feel sad, or amused, or intrigued, so find a way to accomplish that.
- Try to find an interesting photo. The Internet is a strange, strange place, and there are thousands of weird or creepy photos you can use as the seed for an idea. Something unusual, to grab the reader's attention that inspires your imagination. Just make sure your image follows the site Image Use Policy.
- Take a look at our SCP fuel pages. You can find these by checking the Visual Records Wiki, run by Roget. We've got a whole lot of material there. Anyone can view the site, but if you'd like to contribute you'll need to join. To do so, PM Roget for the password.
- When you DO come up with an interesting idea, look through the list for similar SCPs. You should also ask around on the forums or in chat; other people may know of an article you missed. We have over 1000 SCPs; there's a fairly good chance that there's an article similar to your idea floating around somewhere. If you do find an existing article with a similar idea to yours, see if you can put a novel spin on your article to set it apart.
- Show it to other people: Often times, you might come up with something you think is a really cool idea, and want to write it up as soon as you can. Before you post it, you should always make a sandbox page and show the draft in the Drafts & Critiques forum or post your idea for an article in the Ideas & Brainstorming forum. You can also do this in our IRC chat. Note that people will not magically find their way to your sandbox to give you feedback, you really need to ask for it in the aforementioned places.
- Don't force an idea. Going and trying to force an idea that feels incomplete will usually end up with an underwhelming article or story. If you're having trouble with a piece, try to bounce it off other members in the chat, or make a thread on the forums.
Here are some general tips to help guide you in writing your SCPs.
- Act as if every SCP will be the first that someone will read. That means do not put too much in there that requires knowledge of anything else on the site. You are of course free to link to other articles on the site, but do so at your own risk. Too much of that and people will have no idea what is happening if they haven't read the other material.
- Less is more. While some articles successfully pull off multi-page exploration logs, recovery logs, and experiment logs, a majority of SCPs are best left as brief, easily-digested pieces of fiction. Don't begin writing with the assumption that your SCP needs a huge amount of explanation, logs, and addenda; include them if they improve the article, but leave them out if they don't add anything.
- Get a clear idea of your core concept before you start writing. This will help you narrow down what details you include, and which you leave out. Leaving out the right details can add mystery to an article, and keep the reader thinking about why, or how, the object works.
- Dangerous does not always equal interesting. An item that has the ability to instantly liquefy bone in a 100 mile radius is dangerous, yes, but unless you can write it in an interesting way people won't like it.
- Find a hook of some sort. A hook is something that immediately draws the reader in. SCPs that are merely anomalous things that do anomalous things are rarely successful. What that something is depends largely on you, but make sure it's effective and include it as early on in the article as you can. If you leave it until the end, it isn't really a hook, and chances are people won't even have gotten to it before they stopped reading.
- Accept what critique you get. Nobody is obligated to give you feedback once you've posted on the main wiki, and they don't need to pull their punches. If you sincerely think you are being treated unfairly, contact a moderator. Do NOT engage in a running shouting match with someone you think is being mean or cruel. Take their advice into consideration, even if it's terse or harsh.
- Gore for the sake of gore is stupid. If your article has nothing going on besides buckets of entrails (linguistically) flung at the reader, or if your article hinges on a gory picture but has nothing to provide context to it, it's going to fail. Gore is fine, but it needs to be supported by actual content.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. There's almost always a bunch of us in the chat room and on the forums who are more than happy to give a hand or a read-through.
The very first thing you need to know when writing your article is that the motto of the SCP Foundation is Secure, Contain, and Protect. Not Destroy, Destroy, Destroy (or we'd obviously be called the DDD or D3 Foundation.) Very few SCP articles can get away with intentionally calling for the destruction of an object.
Containment of an object should be clear and logical. No flourish, no extraneous resources; every SCP should be provided with what it needs, no more, no less. This means that if the containment of your SCP is not dependent on something in the containment procedures, it doesn't belong there. A good example are the dimensions of the cell/locker/briefcase/jockstrap your SCP is contained in. Would it really matter if the room was 1.31 cm off-specification? If not, don't put them in. If it does matter, you'll have to convince us of that.
Also, don't put stuff in your containment procedures that is self-explanatory. If your article concerns a living creature, you can assume it's fed. That doesn't need to be in the containment procedures unless its diet is special. In addition, remember that the Foundation is cold, not cruel; yes, we could stick anomalous fellow human beings in an empty concrete cell without windows, but that will only get us terminally depressed SCPs. For this reason, you can assume they're given basic amenities, and that they do get some opportunity for leisure, even if it's within the confines of their cell. If they need something special, you can put that into the containment procedures.
Overall, containment must strike a balance between logically and successfully containing an object as well as current technology is capable of, and being reasonable in its demands for resources. Most SCPs don't need an on-site nuke to contain them.
Each SCP must be assigned an Object Class based on their overall containment difficulty. Essentially, the three main object classes follow these guidelines:
- Safe class SCPs are easily contained. However, Safe does not automatically mean harmless. Instead, it means that we can lock them up and not have to worry about them. Safe class objects come in all shapes, and include The Skin Wyrm, the Endless Garage, and the Brahmastra.
- Euclid class SCPs require fairly specific containment procedures, but if they're followed, the SCP is easily contained. Most humanoids and sapient/sentient animals should probably be classed Euclid because they are capable of free will. Euclid class SCPs are some of the most varied on the entire site; this class includes the first SCP, SCP-173, the Nexus of Abandoned Places, and Demisers.
- Keter class SCPs require extremely specific containment procedures, and are simply so difficult to contain effectively that they need higher levels of care and resources to suppress. If you lock it in a box, and there's a chance it bursts out through the lid of its own accord unless you follow very stringent containment procedures, it's Keter. A Keter class SCP needs to stand out from other articles and be a unique threat all its own. This class includes Shadow Person, An Incomplete Chronicle, and The Maybe There Monsters.
- Thaumiel class SCPs are capable of and in some cases actually used by the Foundation to contain and/or counter-act other SCPs, usually Keter ones. This is a rarely-used class and for good reason, as it's incredibly hard to write one successfully. This class includes Deus Ex Machina, Sauelsuesor, and Preferred Option
There are also several secondary classifications, like Neutralized and Explained. You can read more on those here.
Certain articles use other, more author-specific object classes; indeed, there's no rule saying you can't use a different object class. However, the S/E/K system of classification is in most people's head canon; using another system or class may get you downvotes, so do so at your own risk.
A lot of people misunderstand what we mean by clinical tone. They think it means using big words, or trying to sound smart. Or they think it means a focus on "grimdark." This is not correct. The following are things to remember when trying for the right tone.
Be Precise And Concise.
Be precise: Avoid ambiguous wording. Be concise: Don't use many words where fewer will do the job. Don't use longer words just because they "sound smarter" (unless they actually are more appropriate). Avoid ambiguous or flowery wording. Don't use more adjectives than are necessary. You're writing a technical paper — write plainly.
You're writing from the perspective of an SCP researcher. Most professionals wouldn't send their boss a report with a fart joke in it. You also probably wouldn't use slang in a research paper for school.
As well, researchers should try to be detached and unemotional in their writing. Not because they don't have emotions, but because letting that slip into their writing makes them seem less objective and makes the writing more emotionally charged.
Example: If describing a werewolf, you should not write:
The entity is a ten foot tall wolfman with glowing crimson eyes and teeth like daggers. Its howl sends shivers down your spine, as if you instinctively know that we are its prey.
Instead, write something like:
The entity is a canid biped, approximately 3 meters in length. It has luminescent red eyes and prominent incisors. Its vocalizations universally trigger a fear reflex in human subjects.
Redactions, [DATA EXPUNGED], and similar censorship can be used to add mystery or remove extraneous data. You should know what information you are expunging. Don't expunge something so you don't need to write it; hide key information to draw the reader in deeper. Make them wonder what's behind the hidden information.
Also: don't redact anything in containment procedures. If the procedures are redacted, how can personnel know how to contain the item?
If you want to know more about effective expungement, there's an excellent guide out there for you.
- Don't refer to the subject of your article as "the SCP"; SCP in-article stands for Special Containment Procedures. Use SCP-XXXX when drafting and make sure to replace the XXXX with the number of your article when posting. If you wish to avoid repetition (which is not mandatory), you can instead use terms such as "the organism", "the specimen", "the object", "the artifact", "the entity", and so forth, or just restructure your sentences.
- If you use "subject", make sure you don't confuse the reader, because "subject" usually refers to experiment subjects like D-Class personnel or people involuntarily exposed to SCPs.
- In interview logs, try to write what would sound most natural when spoken by an actual person — here, terms like "skip" are fine.
- Avoid giant blocks of text. They're visually unappealing and unstimulating. Break up walls of text with paragraph breaks, sub-headings, or bulleted lists.
- Use metric and not imperial units. The Foundation adheres to the International System of Units. Also, try to round measurements to a maximum of two decimal places, it looks cleaner.
- Proofread. Do this to avoid plot holes, check spelling, and remove redundant phrases and words. Absolutely ask others to proofread too, because as the author you develop a certain blindness to your own writing. Others can offer valuable insight when it comes to punctuation, spelling, and grammar.
Writing a Humanoid SCP
Humanoid SCP objects can be some of the most difficult objects to write. Why, you ask?
For many reasons. The most common reason is something we've termed the "X-Man Syndrome". That is, making a humanoid with "powers", instead of an anomaly with a story. However, there's no real set way to tell if a humanoid SCP will be an X-Man, or if they will fit in with the site; as stated before, there's no such thing as a bad idea, only bad execution.
Here's a brief list of things to remember when writing your humanoid article:
- Don't write its containment procedures to essentially be "Give it What it Wants". The Foundation is not a hotel, it is a prison.
- Don't go into an inordinate amount of detail regarding the humanoid's appearance or personal tastes. This is a very easy way to make them look like more of a comic book character, and less of an SCP.
- Avoid using personal pronouns; refer to the SCP as 'it'. While some humanoids are referred once or twice as male or female in their articles, there is usually a good reason for this.
- Don't make it so that everyone automatically loves your SCP in-universe. Unless it's a by-product of an effect, there's usually no real reason for personnel to voice positive feelings towards an object.
- That being said, don't make the Foundation be needlessly evil. As said before, the Foundation is cold, not cruel.
- Reality-benders, magic users, or overtly superpowered people are really hard to do right. While some have been successfully pulled off, it usually takes a seasoned, experienced writer to do them well enough to not dive-bomb into a negative rating. Examples of well-received SCPs of this type are An Abandoned Project, Liquid Life/Totenkinder, and The Rocket Surgeon.
- If your humanoid has more than one anomalous effect or property, make sure that they make sense and go together.
Remember, even though they are humanoid, they're still SCP objects in the Foundation's eyes.
Cross-links are at the heart and soul of our site, and it's how many people begin exploring the Foundation's universe. But while many old SCP articles crosslink to other articles on the site, most recent articles do not. We think this is a huge shame.
How To Cross-link Right:
- Link to SCPs in SCP Series 2 and SCP Series 3.
- Think of it this way: You want people to read your SCP, right? And crosslink to it, maybe? And you're writing in Series 2 or 3 with the rest of the current writers, right? — Then why the hell are you only showing love to Series 1 SCPs?
- You can link to any SCP you want. But if you link to a Series 1 SCP, then you should consider also linking to a few newer SCPs.
- Make sure your article is interesting all by itself.
- Your article doesn't need to be a stand-alone, but it needs to be interesting even if the original article disappeared.
- Make sure your cross-link is interesting all by itself.
- Don't just say "Might be connected to X popular SCP"; give us more material!
- Avoid cross-link cliches! Some examples:
- "My SCP is better/stronger than this old SCP!"
- "My SCP should NEVER come into contact with this old SCP."
- This makes us roll our eyes. Give us an actual reason — for example, if they did come into contact, and (interesting) bad things happened.
- Note: Don't try to use this to make your SCP seem more dangerous. It will not work. If your SCP is more dangerous, that's okay, but assume that no one should care.
- You don't need to ask permission to add cross-links to your own articles.
- …but always ask an author's permission before adding cross-links to their articles.
- Only veteran authors can cross-link. (Not true. You just need to do it right.)
- You can't cross-link to a Tale. (Not true. Just needs to work with the SCP article.)
- No one likes cross-links — you'll get downvoted! (Not true. A few people will downvote because they dislike all cross-links, but only a few.)
- We Just Don't Do That Anymore. (Not true. A few years ago, we dealt with so much bad cross-linking that many staff and veteran authors backlashed against the whole concept, and it became forbidden for some time. But we changed that policy years ago, because cross-linking is good.)
One major view of the Foundation holds that we do not cross-test SCPs. Ever. These are dangerous items we're working with. Most of them act bizarrely enough on their own, and now you want to combine them to see what happens? This ranges from "bad idea" to "extremely dangerous". You could literally end the damn world.
Another major view of the Foundation holds that we do, in fact, cross-test SCPs. Yes, it's dangerous, but knowing more about an SCP can be very helpful for effective containment, and cross-testing can be an effective way to get that knowledge. We have limits — we're not the Chaos Insurgency — but scientific research is more important than excessive caution. After all, the more you know, the less caution you really need, right?
A third major view of the Foundation takes a middle road. Maybe some Sites cross-test SCPs, and others forbid all cross-testing. Perhaps researchers may only cross-test above a certain rank or clearance level. Perhaps there's controversy about it. Perhaps horrible things have occurred, but great discoveries made too.
Which view is correct? Well, that depends on you, and your story. Choose with care, because there are always people who will downvote if they feel you didn't execute it well.
- Whichever view you pick, make sure the Foundation don't accidentally look like fools. If horrible things are happening because of the cross-tests, the Foundation won't keep repeating the same mistakes. If, in your view of the Foundation, this is common, then cross-testing should be restricted or forbidden.
- Assume researchers have permission to cross-test, if they do cross-test at all. This means: Don't specifically forbid cross-testing in containment procedures, at least not without special reason. Implying that people can otherwise randomly cross-test with no oversight makes the Foundation seem like idiots.
These are some of the most common formatting styles used:
|[[[SCP-173|On-site links]]]||On-site links|
|[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page External links]||External links|
A blackbox (█), also known as FULL BLOCK, is used to censor information like brand names, dates, or Site designations. You can either copy-paste this from other articles, or press [ALT]+219 to get the character. You need to use your keyboard's numpad for this.
A complete list of supported syntax can be found on the Wiki Syntax page. Additionally, underneath every text editor you encounter on the site, you will find a link to the Quick Reference. You can also find many commands available in buttons above that text editor.
You need to place a rating module on every tale or SCP you create, using the following code:
[[>]] [[module Rate]] [[/>]]
Placing an Image
Pictures are optional but generally improve an article, so long as they are appropriate for the subject, don't break realism, and follow all of the site rules. If in doubt, consult the site's Image Use Policy.
Do not use a picture if:
- It is an illustration and realistically a photograph would be used instead
- It has visible watermarks or copyright notices (Removing the copyright is not acceptable, either, that's illegal.)
- It contains illegal or pornographic material (This is cause for immediate removal of the image.)
To place an image on your article, you must upload your image onto the page. Please do not hot-link directly to an image hosted on another website. To do this, first be sure that any images uploaded are in the proper format (.jpg, .jpeg, or .png) and are downscaled to the proper size (please don't upload multiple-megabyte images), then follow these instructions:
- Go to the page you want to add an image to.
- Scroll to the bottom, then click on the Files link.
- From there, click Upload a File from Your Computer.
- Locate and select the image(s) you wish to use, and click Open.
- Finally, click Upload.
At this point, the image has been uploaded to your page. To insert the image into the article with the proper styling, all you have to do is include the following snippet of code in the appropriate place (Below the rating module and above the "Item #:" line for your first image, wherever you choose for extra images.)
name=THE NAME OF YOUR IMAGE FILE|
caption=THE TEXT YOU WANT SHOWN UNDERNEATH YOUR IMAGE
Note that you can place all of this on one line. We broke it up here to avoid getting a horrible horizontal scrollbar. Be sure to replace everything after the equals ("=") sign to the pipesymbol ("|") or the closing brackets ("]]") with what's relevant to your article. It won't work if you mindlessly copy-paste the above.
Note that by default, the standard image block is set to 300px width. If you need it to be a different size (such as if the native size of the image is less than 300px), then you can optionally add a width attribute to the image block as shown here:
name=THE NAME OF YOUR IMAGE FILE|
caption=THE TEXT YOU WANT SHOWN UNDERNEATH YOUR IMAGE|
The height of the image will automatically adjust to the width. Please do not exceed 300px, as blocks larger than that disrupt the normal flow of the document. If you have any problems or questions about using images on articles, please contact a member of the Image or Technical Staff Teams.
Test Logs and Records
Test logs are also optional, but can make or break an article. They come in a variety of formats, from the in-depth:
__**Test A - Date**__ > **Subject:** > **Procedure:** > **Results:** > **Analysis:**
To the casual:
Create a format appropriate for your article and use the same format for every entry in the log.
Collapsibles may be used to hide long logs or lists without taking up page space. To get an effect like this:
Use this code:
[[collapsible show="+ Title for showing text" hide="- Title for hiding text"]] [YOUR TEXT] [[/collapsible]]
You should of course replace the "+ Title for showing text" and its companion for hiding the collapsed text with something relevant to your article.
Footnotes can be used to put additional information into an article without breaking the flow of the text. To get an effect like this:
Use this code:
Basic Article Template
[[>]] [[module Rate]] [[/>]] **Item #:** SCP-XXXX **Object Class:** Safe/Euclid/Keter (indicate which class) **Special Containment Procedures:** [Paragraphs explaining the procedures] **Description:** [Paragraphs explaining the description] **Addendum:** [Optional additional paragraphs]
> **Interviewed:** [The person, persons, or SCP being interviewed] > > **Interviewer:** [Interviewer, can be blocked out using █] > > **Foreword:** [Small passage describing the interview] > > **<Begin Log, [optional time info]>** > > **Interviewer:** [speech] > > **Person:** [speech] > > [Repeat as necessary] > > **<End Log, [optional time info]>** > > **Closing Statement:** [Small summary and passage on what transpired afterward]
Note: When inserting block quotes with the > symbol, make sure you add a space after each > you use— otherwise your text won't show up as a block quote.
To post your SCP, follow these steps:
- Go to the relevant Series page2 linked in the top menu and pick an open number from the page. This will read [ACCESS DENIED].
- Click the number. You'll be brought to a page saying that this page does not exist, but that you can create it. Read everything on this page very carefully and only then click on the link at the bottom of the page to actually create the page.
- Copy the article text from your sandbox page (or if you dodged that important piece of advice, from wherever you've written your draft) and paste it into the text editor.
- Go through the text to make sure that all references to your SCP's number match that of the one you chose off the list.
- Fix the page title (above the text editor) from Scp XXXX to SCP-XXXX (caps plus dash), where XXXX is your chosen number.
- Click on the Save button below the text editor.
- Go back to the Series page, scroll down, and click "Edit". This will allow you to change the series page. Replace [ACCESS DENIED] with the title of your article. This title is not in-universe, so DO NOT put this on your article itself. Save the Series page.
- Announce your SCP in the current SCP Announcement thread in the Announcements forums. Optionally, also announce your SCP in the chat.
- You're done!
To post your tale, follow these steps:
- Go to the Contribute link on the left-hand side of the wiki. Find the box titled Tales and type your desired page name into the slot in that box. Wikidot will automatically replace any spaces with dashes, but keep the page name simple. If your tale's title is "Something went wrong at Site-18 on the 27th of December 2011", don't type all that in the box, it'll just cut off at some point anyway. Instead, you might decide upon "something went wrong" for your new page's name. Then click the Create Tale button.
- Wait for the page to finish loading and then paste the text of your tale, in its entirety, into the text editor. Be sure to change the title if you want your title to be different from the page URL.
- Click the Save button.
- Add tags
- The page will automatically be tagged tale if you post using the Contribute page. If you didn't, add the tale tag.
- If your tale concerns one of the groups of interest, you should add the appropriate goi tag to your tale too. Likewise for tales in a specific canon or in a specific series. You can find out which tag to use by first reading the tag guide.
- Announce your Tale in the Tale Announcements thread in the Announcements forum. Optionally, also announce your Tale in the chat.
- You're done!