This essay is designed for anyone who has not written an SCP before, or may have posted successful articles but still feel like they don't quite get it. Made with readability in mind, this guide attempts to spell out in clear and concise language the thought process that goes into an SCP. This essay takes inspiration from some existing guides on the site, but presents the material in a more readable way.
Hopefully, it is helpful.
Basic Overview of the SCP Idea
- SCP Objects are narrative writing in the SCP format. Like any other kind of storytelling, SCP Objects need to have a beginning, middle, end, and a narrative arc of some kind.
- SCP Articles are first and foremost a story. Most advice that applies to other forms of creative writing apply to writing for the SCP Wiki.
- Containment Procedures: These are how your anomaly is contained, usually with technology or supernatural elements counteracting or obstructing an anomalous effect. From a storytelling perspective, containment procedures are a good place for authors to put foreshadowing and buildup for the rest of the article.
- Story: The SCP Object must tell some kind of story through its documentation. It can be an evocative story, a matter-of-fact one, something mysterious or anything else. It can even be a concept alone, if it's clever enough to work.
- Scientific Tone: You want to make your article sound professional. This is a loose and vague restriction, as long as you don't slip into writing outright prose nobody is going to be upset. The best indicator of how the Wiki currently views scientific tone is the Top Rated Pages This Month page.
Using The SCP Universe
- Sharing the Existing Universe: The Foundation universe has a lot of detail and pages that link to each other. There is a connected web of content on the SCP Wiki now, and it is fairly easy to connect your articles to others you feel are fitting.
- Crosslinking: Linking to other articles can expand the reader's perspective, but make sure your article can exist without the article you're linking to.
- Canons: Not everyone's view of the Foundation is the same. Feel free to interpret the Foundation universe as you like, and if enough other people like it, it'll stay on the site.
- Magic Items: Everyday objects with an anomalous effect attached. SCP Objects like this need an original story to work. If your idea can be described simply as an "X that does Y" then it may need more development. Some successful items like this include A website that makes stuff float and a No Eye Phone.
- Deadly Items: SCP objects with no effect other than killing people. This is boring and nobody likes it. If the only payoff for your article is that it kills people, it will probably not succeed. Some articles that succeeded include The first SCP and A celestial object that only threatens to kill you, A thing that kills you if you write about it. Oh shi-
- Generic Monsters: Sometimes, SCP objects that are just monstrous creatures can work. However, this is usually either due to a strong narrative or an intricate and logical anomalous biology. Monster articles that work include the Headlights and A teddy bear.
These ideas usually don't work because there's not a strong story element, and since magic/deadly/monstrous items have been done hundreds of times on the wiki, a new one has to be ridiculously unique to work.
- Images: It is usually better to have a picture than not to, the Wikimedia Commons and SCP Visual Records sites have many images which may allow inspiration to strike. At the same time, a bad image can oftentimes sink an otherwise good article, so be wary in which you choose.
- Knowledge: Write what you know. You can use your own knowledge to think of something to write about. Perhaps something from horror, history, science or art can provide the spark of an idea.
- Themes: Think about the specific concept you want to express in your article. Try to think out the implications of that idea. Thought process: If the shark's not there, that means what it isn't can't be there. So if you're there, there's no air. And that's bad.
Bounce Ideas and concepts off people, and see what they think. Oftentimes you'll find that other's comments and thoughts can really get your own ideas flowing. This can be done with other community members on the forums or through IRC, but it can also be done with non-writing friends or family members.
Flexibility! Don't get married or nailed down to a certain interpretation of your concept. If someone comes up with something you think works better, don't be afraid to run with it. Sometimes abandoning a draft to start from scratch can be scary, but you want your article to be as strong as possible and nobody is timing you.
Listening to ideas from others and really try to take the advice of others into account, especially if you're just starting out. Tuning out negative feedback is a disservice to everyone. Writing is a collaborative process, and we all want to help each other to be the best possible writers we can be.
Putting Down Words
- Start Writing: lay an outline, pacing from the least exciting to the most exciting portions. This is also a good point to decide on what to cut and what to consolidate.
- Outlines: Anything from a basic list of properties to a detailed rundown of instructions to yourself on how to write the SCP. As detailed as it needs to be for work to be done later.
- Traditional SCP Layout starts with a physical description of the object, or an outline of the concept if it's not a physical object, then they go into the anomalous effects and the rest of the story. Articles need a beginning, middle and an end. A story fulfills some kind of arc, where there's setup and payoff.
Telling Your Story
- Framing! The SCP format allows for a lot of flexibility in framing your story. The article can be anything, picked out of the smoldering wreckage of a post-nuclear facility, or written by a bored clerk trying to inject some spice into dry writing, with both telling the story through documentation.
- Emotion! You ideally want the reader to feel something through your article. Whether that's horror, humor, interest or disgust, provoking an emotional reaction is a hallmark of good writing. Without it, your story is nothing.
- Pace yourself, and don't try to write something as fast as possible. You are the only person who can tell this story, and to do it right you're going to have to take your time and write. You might feel a burning desire to post the article as soon as someone says yes, but hold off until you know it's ready.
A note on novelty- it is still possible to do an SCP in a way that hasn't been done before. But since we've already got an all visual SCP, an all audio SCP, and loads of other format screws, it's never been more difficult to find something original to do for a format screw. This hasn't stopped folks from trying.
Drafting and Revising
- Finish It! It's better to write out a first draft entirely after you outline, instead of tweaking and editing every sentence.
- Reading what you've written aloud is a good way of seeing if it sounds natural and flows well. If it sounds disjointed coming out of your mouth then it will sound that way to the reader.
- Progression from physical description, to anomalous effect, to escalating anomalous effect, or however you structure your narrative, should feel natural and cohesive. Cutting out extra unnecessary detail can help make your points more clear.
- Feedback can be obtained on the forums, and also through the IRC chat. Use your own judgement and be honest with yourself as to whether or not you can think of any ways to improve it on your own before showing others.
- Be courteous towards anyone willing to read a draft and know that you are probably only the latest of dozens people to come to chat seeking feedback that day.
- Spamming drafts by repeatedly joining chat just to drop a draft link and waiting for somebody to bite is a great way to fade into background noise.
Using Draft Forums
- Drafts & Critiques: Used for fully or mostly written drafts, this sub-forum is good for testing the waters on your SCP and seeing if it's good or not. All feedback is valuable, but be sure not to just seek validating praise instead of honest critique.
- Ideas & Brainstorming: If you've got the seed of something and aren't sure what to do with it, spit-balling here with other authors can help it transform into a fully formed idea.
- General Advice: If you aren't sure about something you're writing and don't feel it falls into the other sub-forums, you can post about it here. Questions, format help, or sandbox/chat assistance can be rendered here.
Posting Your Article
- Posting: When you feel ready to post your article, find the nearest empty slot. Do a final proofread to get rid of any remaining SCP-XXXX's or other assorted typos, and be sure to add a rating module. Also be sure to announce it in the proper forum thread.
- Post-Posting it is essential to stay and monitor the first hour to hour and a half of your article's life. This can make or break the article.
- Obvious Defects or error can be pointed out by an early commentator, giving you a chance to correct it.
If your article gets deleted, don't worry about it. Hopefully you got good advice on how to fix it up in the discussion thread. Nobody remembers deleted SCPs in the long run, and few people who remember it if you post it back up shortly after will commend you for fixing it up. Take it as a learning experience and move on to the next one.
Further expanded essays on writing can be found on the Guide Hub, some of the writing essays include:
Doing the Safety Dance: Expanded information on containment procedures.
Zen And The Art of Data Expunged: All about redacting and removing information effectively.
How To Be Scary Without Saying Anything: For horror-inclined SCP Writers, this is indispensable.
Essays On Style: Develop your voice!
Clinical Tone Declassified: Additional advice about writing in a scientific tone.
In the interest of serving multiple learning styles, here are some author testimonials for those trying to write SCPs for the first time.