I still stand by my claim that I know how best to riff bad fiction in a way that at least approaches entertaining. It’s probably the only thing I can brag about with confidence, which is pretty sad given that this is a dead art most people don’t even know how to read anymore. Every time I see other people trying to do MST’s, riffs, sporkings, or whatever you wanna call them, they break the following rules:
– Avoid bad gag delivery. Brevity is the soul of wit, but people have to get the metaphors and references you’re using, too. The gag also should try to relate to what’s going on as often as possible, not be completely random every time.
– Structure the riff for easy reading. Separate the riffs from the narrative so it is obvious at a glance when you’re interjecting.
– Don’t riff too often. Give the readers time to digest the awfulness of the story themselves, so they can then appreciate a clever joke at the story’s expense. If you riff too often, it’s easy for the reader to lose his/her place in the narrative, and eventually they’re not sure what’s going on in the story because there are too many jokes breaking it into pieces. It’s okay to riff every line for the first draft, but you then need to go back and cut out all but the best gags. Das Sporking users violate this one constantly with their riffs: every single gag is an in-depth essay about what’s wrong with the story (and an unfunny one, too).
– Without context, it’s a drag to read. I don’t want to read a story riff if I don’t know who’s riffing and why. Mystery Science Theater partly worked because it wasn’t purely making fun of bad movies: there was context to the situation. The characters were stranded on a satellite, and forced to suffer through the movies FOR SCIENCE. Each character had a distinct personality and favored certain kinds of gags. Fanfic MST’s used to do the same thing: they’d open with “host segments” just like MST3k to introduce the riffers that the reader will be suffering through the story with. It’s more fun when the riffers are distinguishable characters rather than a disembodied voice poking fun at a story. If the story and riffs somehow tie in with the host segment, even better!
– Remember that it’s all in good fun, and also for the sake of criticism and encouraging people to raise their standards. Try to minimize personal attacks on the authors themselves (unless you think of a really funny one).
– Don’t riff good stories, or stories that are deliberately bad. The whole point is to poke fun at genuine ineptitude, in order to encourage others to try harder when they write. Making fun of good fiction is just an exercise in masturbation. Making fun of deliberately bad fiction is pointless, because it makes fun of itself already. That would be like doing a Rifftrax of Sharknado (oh, wait, they did that already…sigh…).
– Proofread and edit your damn work! Don’t upload a riff the day you write it: quality over quantity. You should be taking the time and effort to refine your gags just like you would anything else. You might think of a better gag as you edit, or a better delivery for an existing gag. One episode of Fan-Friction ususally takes me at least two weeks.