If you are part of the PPC or looking to become a part of it, this is not the page you seek.
The Canon Protection Initiative FAQ
Before getting into the answers themselves, take a good long look at Fanfiction.net's code of conduct for fanwriters. Don't just skim it; read it. Emphasis is Araeph's.
List of Conduct
Here is a list of conducts that should always be observed:
- Spell check all stories and poems. There is no excuse for not doing this. If you do not have a word processor that has the spell checking feature, use a search engine such as google.com to find one.
- Proofread all entries for grammar and other aspects of writing before submission. "Hot off the press" content is often riddled with errors. No one is perfect, but it is the duty of the writer to perform to the best of his or her ability.
- Respect the reviewers. Not all reviews will strictly praise the work. If someone rightfully criticizes a portion of the writing, take it as a compliment that the reviewer has opted to spend his or her valuable time helping to improve your writing.
- Everyone here is an aspiring writer. Respect your fellow members and lend a helping a hand when they need it. Like many things, the path to becoming a better writer is often a two way street.
- Use proper textual formatting. For example: using only capital letters in the story title, summary, or content is not only incorrect but also a disregard for the language itself.
If you are a fanfiction.net writer and you have not spell-checked your stories, have not proofread all of your work, have not used proper textual formatting, and/or have been snotty to your reviewers, you can leave now. If you won't listen to the site that is hosting your story for free, then you obviously won't listen to anything anyone else will say. Nice meeting you, have a great day, and may someone PPC your work sometime soon.
For those of you who remain, below are offered exclusive answers to every fangirl's questions and complaints about the evil, über-cruel PPCers, MSTers, GAFFers, and other anti-Suvians.
"This is a hobby. It's just for fun. That means I can be as sloppy as I want."
Dear badfic writer, the rules of writing are not arbitrary.
If we were to give you a free pass simply because you think that amateur = lazy, it would be really unfair to the fanfiction authors who have actually worked to edit and proofread their fics. So this is informal; so what? Good writing is good writing, and should be treated differently than bad writing.
By the way, in most cases, this excuse automatically erases any right you have to moan about your work being mocked. After all, why be so sensitive to negative feedback if you didn't put any effort into your story in the first place?
"I worked really hard on this story. Honest!"
A casual glimpse at a story will usually reveal whether someone has put thought and effort into it. Unfortunately, the majority of people who use this argument are lying either to us or to themselves—especially if they pull the "I worked really hard" card along with the "This is a hobby, so I don't have to make an effort" excuse.
If you really did work hard on your story, then you should be more than willing to do the work it takes to revise it so that the story doesn't catch our attention. As is stated elsewhere, it's seldom that the PPC goes after only mildly bad stories.
"Don't be hard on me. I wrote this at one in the morning!"
All this excuse does is show that you don't understand the need to revise and rewrite. First drafts are not good fiction. They never have been and never will be.
The burden does not fall on the critic to excuse you or be polite because of your impatience. It is your responsibility to post your story when you're ready. What, you couldn't wait eight hours until you were awake enough to write coherently?
Another similar excuse is the dreaded:
"I'm sugar high!"
Oh, brother. Look, if you really want to know what being high while writing a story actually does, check out Ashley Riddle, Pothead Sue. It's not pretty. If you truly write like that, how can you expect me or anyone else to take your story seriously? And if, as I suspect, your "sugar high" has more to do with hormones and lack of self-discipline, you should write for the drawer until you're mature enough to go public without embarrassing yourself.
"I'm only twelve! You don't have to be so cruel!"
Well, you must be thirteen to post a story on fanfiction.net, so I'm a bit unsympathetic. If you believed you were SO mature for your age that you could set up a fanfiction.net account, you should also have been mature enough to handle the feedback to your stories. With a modicum of power comes a modicum of responsibility, etc.
Some people use the "I'm only [insert age here]!" excuse to mean that they're young (or younger than we are), rather than underage. Apparently this means that we shouldn't criticize their stories. Well, guess what, kiddies? It's a lot easier to nip bad writing in the bud than to try to overcome years or decades of bad writing habits later on in life. Children learn faster than adults; use this to your advantage, and improve by leaps and bounds while you can!
(One of our original members wrote this at the age of fourteen. Maybe you should e-mail her and tell her how unfair we're all being. I'm sure she'd understand.)
"It's only fiction!"
I think you are confused as to what the term "fiction" really means. Are you implying that fictional writing is held to a lower standard than other forms of writing? Fiction does not mean that you can throw out every rule that governs the real world—or the world in the source material—and expect to have a coherent story. Fiction does not excuse bad writing or improbability. As Mark Twain said, "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't."
"It's only fanFICTION!"
Yes, indeed. Fanfiction. A combination of the words "fan" and "fiction." Now, "fan" is a shorter form of "fanatic," which suggests that you should be obsessed with your chosen canon, to the point of knowing it fully and respecting it. There should therefore not be these radical and unexplained departures.
Remember, these characters aren't yours. The authors expect them returned in recognizable condition which, sadly, a lot of you don't do.
"My grandfather died/my cat hates me/I'm depressed/my parents don't understand me. Because of that, you should spare my feelings."
I'm sorry for your troubles. However, if your emotions are that raw, it's not a very good idea to be posting your story publicly for all to see, is it? If you feel that you can't handle the criticism, either wait until a better time or post your fic in a friends-only Livejournal entry. Nobody owes you a positive review out of sheer sympathy. This is especially true since many fanwriters are drama queens who commit Internet suicide multiple times, try to guilt-trip people into showering them with praise, and pretend to be upset about incidents that didn't actually happen. You're probably sincere, but if you're not, what's the sense in my burbling false adoration or keeping silent about mistakes?
"I'm not a native speaker!"
You may have heard of a service available known as a beta; that is, a proofreader. If you don't feel comfortable writing in English, you should get one. Out of courtesy, people should probably be a little more forgiving. However, if you make a funny mistake, it's kind of hard not to laugh.
If you absolutely cannot write competently in English, then write in your own language until you know what you're doing with ours.
"It's not my fault I write badly: I have a learning disability!"
[following rant courtesy of an Anonymous Fanfiction Writer]
A disability— learning or otherwise— does not preclude you from putting time and effort into making a good fic. Some people have ADD. Some people have Dyslexia. Some people just don't have the magical fountain from which creative and original ideas spring forth at will, and have to think long and hard before they come up with a solid way to tell their story. Bottom line: having a disability doesn't stop you from writing a good story. It means you have to put in more effort to overcome your weaknesses.
This is something that all writers struggle in. Experienced, well-read writers (fanfiction or otherwise) have strengths and weaknesses in writing that they must work with. Just because you have a different skill set doesn't excuse you from being held to the same standards as everyone else. Simple things like spelling errors can generally be taken care with spell-check or a beta— or even, Thoth forbid, both. Problems with coherency and plausibility can be polished by using writing strategies, such as writing an outline and plotting out details beforehand. And canon-compliance is most easily fixed by taking a few minutes to research the pertinent bits.
There really is no excuse. All fanfiction writers who wish to be taken seriously have to put in effort. You and your stories are no different.
"It’s only bad because you think it’s bad, I do not. What’s good or bad is only based on opinion, not facts."
Dear badfic writer, the rules of writing are STILL not arbitrary!
Why is Shakespeare's poetry enjoyed by people everywhere, while someone else's silly doggerel about their cat hasn't even been published in the school paper?
Why is it that people commonly criticize "Twilight" as being poorly written, but not "Dracula"?
Why can your high school literature teacher justify giving you a bad grade for poor writing, even if your grammar and spelling are fine?
The fact is, people judge each others' writing all the time. Book critics make a living from doing it.
If you try to make brownies with rhubarb jelly instead of eggs, we have every right to (a) not eat it, or (b) if we do, say we don't like it. If you try to hold a house together with glue instead of nails, we have every right to laugh at you when it falls apart and point out that nails would have held it together better, so you don't make the same mistake again.
Just like the rules of brownie-making say you need eggs and the rules of house-building say you need nails, the rules of writing say you need SPaG, a coherent plot, and a grasp of characterization. This is for a reason: it makes your story hold together and appeal to more people, just like eggs make brownies hold together and taste good; just like nails make a house hold together and not come crashing down on your head. It is not merely a matter of opinion.
Sure, some of what's good or bad is pretty subjective. If we're targeting your story, though, we're not doing it because it's mostly competent and we just don't like the direction it's heading. We're doing it because it contains glaring problems in the building blocks of the story: characterisation (especially in characters from canon), world-building, sentence structure, plotting and pacing, among others. These aren't subjective; they're objective standards, and to get our attention, you need to have failed them pretty hard.
KNOCKING OUR KNOWLEDGE
"You guys are way too obsessive!"
So was Tolkien. He worked on the world of The Lord of the Rings for his whole life. Don't you think that deserves a bit of respect?
Really, though, we just want to make fanfiction better. We dislike shoddy writing and have a good time mocking it. Entertainment =/= obsession.
At any rate, while argumentum ad hominem may work in political debates, the fact remains that it's usually used when the person making the argument cannot dispute the facts against him or her, and so chooses to dispute the person presenting said fact. The story is still a bad one.
"Who made you God/Tolkien/perfect?"
No one is claiming to be the Ultimate Final Authority on all things canon, or all things fandom. The Protectors of the Plot Continuum, as Agent Nenya so cogently stated, practice vigilante justice. Nor do we claim to know all things about what a work of fiction represents, or what an author really intended. However, we do reserve the right that every good, hard-working writer has to point out errors in a bad, sloppy story.
We also reserve the right to laugh at careless mistakes and mischaracterizations that are unintentionally hilarious. Some canon is quite open to interpretation, but if you make Frodo a bungee-jumper or impregnate Jack Sparrow, we have every right to laugh (or cry) at what you've done to stories that we love. Hermione Granger is a smart and capable young woman; it is apparent in every single HP book on multiple occasions. We know it. You, as a fan, should know it. Therefore, we have every right, as fans, to remind our fellow fans that any deviation from that personality, except as parody, is just that—even if our "reminding" is a rather long expression of annoyance.
"What's so wrong about my fic that you get this upset?"
Well, let me ask you this: why do you love the source material so much that you will spend your time writing fanfiction about it?
Did you love the way certain characters acted, how strong or brave or deliciously malformed they were? Did you like the descriptions of the setting and the way that the environment and mood painted the scene? Did you enjoy the well-choreographed fight scenes? The swashbuckling? The romance?
Did you fall completely in love with a canon character?
These feelings aren't new to us, believe me. We like to immerse ourselves in good novels and films. Now, we understand that not everyone likes the source material, and that's fine. If a critic trashes our favorite movie, we might be a little irritated, but we'll shrug and move on. Here's what riles us: when someone claims not to be a critic but to be a fan of that work and then proceeds to write a story that is, in its way, much more denigrating to the canon story than any critical review could ever be.
"I'm a Harry Potter fan! Let's make Hermione want to be a prostitute!"
"I think I'll have Merry abuse Pippin! Can't you see my love for The Lord of the Rings shining through?"
"I'm a Pirates of the Caribbean fan! See me degrade and embarrass Anamaria!"
One really has to wonder how much of a FAN you are when you demonstrate zero knowledge about the canon characters.
Since you asked about our talent, I'm proud to point out that many PPCers have received fanfiction awards and lots of acclaim from fellow fans. (The creators of the PPC, for instance, received good reviews for the work, which was posted at the very selective Henneth Annûn archive.) Furthermore, if we didn't write our PPC fics well, we would long ago have been called on the fact that we bash poor writing while writing horribly ourselves. We do not. Sorry to burst your bubble.
"Who are you to judge? I bet you can't write half as well. Show me some of your work, if you're so much better!"
We are readers. As such, we know what doesn't work for readers. We know what makes us laugh, what makes us cry, and what makes us want to bleach our brains in sheer horror. Unless you didn't write your story to be read, don't question our qualifications as readers.
"You don't have to be so hard on beginning writers. Don't you remember when you were younger and wrote badly?"
Yes, I do remember. I was pretty awful, too. But I knew that I was awful, and I took the tons of advice I was given. Odds are that if you're reading this because you or a friend got flamed, that friend has been given plenty of advice, and has turned it down.
I wish so much that I'd known the PPC when I first started writing fanfiction. When you look back at your younger writings and you're a decent author, you will cringe in pain. We're just trying to dull that pain slightly.
"Nothing in fanfiction is canon. By your definition, canon is the source material so there isn't really any 'canonical' fanfiction."
A clever argument, but you commit the Fallacy of Equivocation. When we talk about "canonical fanfiction", we aren't talking about copy-pasting canon; we're talking about fanfiction that meshes well with the canon. These stories are easily recognizable.
Now, of course, the obvious question is, where do we, the PPC, draw the line? There will be small deviations in even the best fics, because no one can write exactly what the author would have written. The simplest answer is: we aren't interested in drawing the line. The stories we make fun of are not the stories that are mostly canonical, but have one or two flaws, or the stories that perhaps might be disrespectful towards the original work. We deal with the most awful, Sueish, worst-written, canon-warping fanfiction there is. I don't say the most awful fanfiction that we can find, because most often, we don't have to look for it: it's sitting right there, on every page of fanfiction.net.
If you think the critiques we do are bad, you should check out negative book and movie reviews more often. Again, we're not doing this to hurt people. For the sake of the story, if the situation warrants, egos may be punctured—not to be cruel, but to be honest. How many of the reviews that you get do you think could have said something to improve your story if the reviewers weren't so afraid of hurting your feelings or provoking a tantrum? How many stories would be better written if the reviewers felt that they could be honest about what they think of your story instead of having to tiptoe around your sensitivity to criticism? If you want to play Happy Sunshine Dictator, do it on your own site, not on fanfiction.net and certainly not on our boards.
(For an excellent example of how bad things can get if an author tries pulling this card (among others) in the "real world," take a look at BigAl's review of "The Greek Seaman" by Jacqueline Howett, which is a polite and tactful critique of the book's faults, even specifying that most problems were in the grammar, not the plot—definitely not the harshest critique out there. Unfortunately, the author reacted... badly. The review was posted on March 16, 2011; two days later, the author replied to it, and by March 28, it had gone viral across the internet, ensuring that no one will ever read the book now—except perhaps for laughs. The author committed professional suicide.)
See also Stage Analogy.
"Bitch! Lesbian! Geek!" and other "insults."
Gee, I thought we were the ones who were supposed to be mean and overreacting.
"You all just need to get laid!"
Even if this were true, the average PPCer is about sixteen, so we're not exactly old enough for this to be an insult.
Also, I'd like to hold up a mirror for a bit. Consider how often badfic writers' hormones take center stage in their fanfiction. We are not the ones who spout endless praises of Johnny Depp's "chocolate orbs" or think Snape is "hott" because he is Alan Rickman. No PPCer I know voiced the urge to have Elladan's twin babies or rape
Orlando Bloom Legolas by way of Aragorn. (In the words of Wolfychann: "Am I the last person in the world who thinks that publicly expressing physical lust for a complete stranger is... kinda creepy?")
In fact, badfics are drenched in bad romance and/or inept erotica—mostly at the cost of good character development. According to the evidence, sexual frustration is a problem that these authors experience either much more frequently, or much more publicly, than we do.
"You're a nerd who lives in a basement/lives with parents/has no life."
There are many ways to answer this one. Some PPCers responded by telling us how fulfilling their lives were; others, by asking who gets to be a judge of what a "life" is. (A wise GAFF quotation reads, "I'll get a life when you demonstrate to me that it would be superior to what I have now.") Still others pointed out that the people who write and like badfic use computers to read and write, just like we do; at least if we're "nerds" then we can carry away some useful knowledge about what we do in our spare time.
I, however, will only say that badfic authors may preach about having more of a life when they know enough about life to create even ONE character that remotely resembles a true human being.
"You must have had a deprived childhood. You only mock others' fics to boost your own low self-esteem!"
If we had low self-esteem, we wouldn't ask for critical feedback on our own works, for fear of baring our fragile egos to the world.
By the way, if you spot any errors on this page, please feel free to inform me.
"You all think you're so cool/You're egotistical and snobbish!"
Well, which one is it? Are we overcompensating for our sense of self-loathing, or are our heads inflated? You can't have them both, you know. I realize that this is just another ploy to draw us away from the real issue—your writing—but I'll answer it, anyway.
Our only claim to superiority is this: if you are a badfic author, then we are better writers than you. This is not because we think we're so wonderful, because it has nothing to do with how smart or talented or even experienced we are. In the words of Dumbledore, "It is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities." We are better writers because we have made the choice not to jeopardize the quality of a story just because we feel like writing a glorified version of ourselves into it.
Original characters exist to serve the story. Mary Sues exist to have the story serve them. The moment a fanfiction OC decides the story should revolve around her, then the story is sacrificed in favor of the author's oh-so-super avatar. That is one of the most immature choices a fanfiction author can make, and we will point that out to you.
IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT...
"If you don't like it, don't read it!"
That would be a valid argument if this was about the content of your piece. But it's not.
"If you don't like it, don't give me bad reviews!"
So... you want us to give you good reviews, regardless of what we may actually think of your work? Wouldn't that be kind of... well, dishonest?
"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!"
First of all, whenever you post a story for the WORLD to read, you open your work up to criticism. That's the flip side of free speech: if the badfic author can write whatever she wants in her "very own story," then we have the right to say whatever we wish about it.
This, of course, begs the question: if you are so attached to your precious story that you defend it at the price of good writing, why in the world are you posting publicly? You have just done the equivalent of going on stage naked in front of a crowd whose objective is to assess the merit of your body. It is not a prospect for the highly sensitive.
Suethors take this a step further. Most of them put little effort into their stories. They can't even bother to make up a new character... they just recycle what they know of themselves and spruce it up a little! Then they demonstrate love for neither the canon universe, nor writing itself, but only for their beautified self-insertions.
Not only do they put up poor work in a place where it is vulnerable to criticism... they then beg, B-E-G in big, bold, underlined, misspelled letters, to PLZ REED N REVUE!!!!! (I'm not sure if I have ever seen a Mary Sue fanfic without this.)
That is like going up on a stage naked, not having bathed in a week, with un-brushed hair, chicken pox, and a thorough drenching in sour milk... then screaming out loud to the observers, "TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK OF ME!"
... Why are we mean for saying that it stinks?
"Why don't you just stop reading it after you've realized that you hated it?"
The question above makes much more sense than the rest of the complaints. This is where you should know that, as much as we talk about brain bleach and sporking our eyes out, we do find badfic and fangirl fawning very entertaining.
-I'm Captain Jack Sparrow of the Black Pear, savvy?
-A wizard pooped out of thin air.
-This is suck a good story!
I'm sure you've seen the outtakes that some movies have during the end credits. Aren't you mean for laughing at the mistakes of the actors? Why, those actors worked really hard when they fell flat on their faces. They were probably really tired, and besides, they're not bad people. Don't mock them when they fudge their lines; I'd like to see you try to act as well as they do!
Well, I can't act as well as they do, and maybe the actors did work hard and are nice people. That doesn't mean it's not funny. Also, perhaps you happened to notice a little something called editing wherein those outtakes were fixed before the final product was released. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone likes to see other people make mistakes. The problem with badfic is that most authors either refuse to acknowledge their errors or refuse to correct them.
"I can do whatever I want with my story!"
You CAN, but does that mean you SHOULD?
The "my story" argument is old. I once came across an author's note that read:
"Yes, I realize that Celebithil should/would be pronounced with a "K," but, I've never seen that, (I'm not saying those who have are wrong, I just personally have no idea where exactly they found it, not yet anyway, and it's my story, my world, my name, therefore, it's pronounced how I want it to be pronounced."
So, authors, just what do you think the disclaimer, which you are obligated to place before every story, means? Let's take a look at the standard disclaimer.
"I do not own Tolkien's works or any of his characters or story."
Can you really make the argument that it's your story? Who created the world? Who formed the characters? Who pieced the plot together? Who coined the catchphrases?
Legally and creatively, your fanfiction is not your story; it's really your take on someone else's story. If you take out what Tolkien owns from your story, what would you have left? A piece of original fiction. So, if you twist and degrade every principle and character on which his world is built... what do you have left of the source material? You have original fiction wearing a fanfiction costume.
COMPLAINTS ABOUT SEXISM
"Writing a Mary Sue is empowering to women!"
You are mistaken if you think that Mary Sue cares about female empowerment. The majority of Mary Sues tend to be skinny, white, able-bodied, cisgendered, heterosexual females, which is definitely not representative of women as a whole. Giving representation only to the most socially-privileged class of women is not empowering to all types of women.
Mary Sue only cares about empowering Mary Sue. Her incessant need to hog the spotlight means she tramples over characters, timelines, plots, romances, deaths, and births, just so she can exist. And her treatment of strong canon females is particularly shabby. At least the male love interest for the Sue only gets a fanfic lobotomy. But the unfortunate female canon characters... well, let's take Hermione, for example.
This idea of the "empowering" Mary Sue-style should be instantly dispelled the moment one reads one's first Suefic about Hermione turning out to be adopted. Suddenly, she's rich, she's a pureblood, and by the way, her appearance changes completely and she has huge boobs and smooth hair and all those hallmarks of fantasy women built to cater to male desires.
Yes, let's take this strong female character and turn her into a male fantasy. Yes, very empowering indeed.
"Mary Sues can do anything! That makes them strong women, right?"
Unlike the Suethors, we understand that just giving a character heaps and heaps of power for no reason doesn't make that character strong. Neither is treading on the personality of a well-developed canon character just to puff up Sue's ego. It doesn't make the Mary Sue better, or as special as the author thinks she is. After all, any author can rain a golden shower of gifts on a pet character; why does that make the character great?
What strengthens a character is allowing him or her to earn power for herself by virtue of the conflicts that arise in a story. Even having a character try to earn power and fail honorably is more empowering than just imbuing a character with incredible abilities and watching her take out ridiculously enervated villains. Strength of character in a literary sense has absolutely nothing to do with a character's abilities; it has to do with the consistency, believability, and integrity of the character's portrayal within the story.
Ultimately, Mary Sue is bowling-with-bumpers safe as a way to experience a story. She is unrealistically beautiful, inhumanly powerful, and always gets rewarded for everything she does with only the barest of struggles. She can't fail. She can't get humiliated. The story itself will dutifully remove all real obstacles from her shining path. And a character who needs her author to do all that work for her is not a character who has any sort of power. On the contrary, that character is weak.
"Mary Sues are good role models for women!"
Are we talking about the same Mary Sues who force their way into the main plotline by humiliating or killing off strong female characters that were already there?
Are we talking about the same Mary Sues who come from warped canon females and receive not just sooper speshul abilities, but physical transformations to make them more appealing to men?
Are we talking about the same Mary Sues who are lily-white, silky-haired, green- or blue-eyed, and anorexic-thin with huge breasts, because the Suethors honestly can't imagine that their real selves would be attractive to a male hero, so they give themselves imaginary extreme makeovers to win their idol's heart?
Are we talking about the same Mary Sues who have mad fighting skillz, extraordinary powers, and supposed intelligence, yet who insist on having the sole reason for their existence be forcing a hot guy to fall in love with them?
I thought so.
"By mocking Mary Sues, you are anti-feminist!"
All too many Mary Sues ascribe to the basest tenets of the patriarchy (heterosexual marriage is the true way to happiness, women need to be rescued, men are allowed to be territorial over "their" women as long as they're hot, etc.) How many Mary Sues join the Fellowship only to have Aragorn or Boromir save them in a dramatic manner from a danger that a so-called empowered female could have got out of herself? How many Mary Sues fall in love with a wholly unsuitable, even dangerous man (e.g. Sweeney Todd, Severus Snape, the Phantom of the Opera), and expect the power of Twu Wuv to turn him into the perfect mate and father so she can have a perfect life? How many Mary Sue stories depend on a man to complete the fantasy? We don't see how any of this is advancing the cause of feminism.
Incidentally, we find this argument to be in poor taste. Hiding behind centuries of oppression is not a valid answer to storytelling skills in need of improvement.
"Calling 'Mary Sue' is misogynist!"
Yes, every bit as much as calling a character "a Judas" is anti-Semitic.
There are those who believe that sporking Mary Sues perpetrates a culture that oppresses young women trying to empower themselves through their writing, and that the term itself is offensive. We disagree. Actually, it is the Mary Sues who are mostly the products of a misogynistic mindset. You know how everyone criticizes rail-thin models because they threaten the self-image of preteen girls? A Mary Sue is what happens when that negative self-image crosses over into fanfiction, when a girl is convinced that in order to be special, she has to be a goddess... instead of just being herself. We're convinced that if more girls were satisfied with who and what they are, we would have fewer Mary Sues to kill.
By the way, most of us are female, too. And if you really want to find out whether we hate ourselves and the idea of females holding power, the best way is to read our stories and analyze the portrayal of the female agents. Please feel free to find all the assassins who are weak, passive, incompetent, under the control of men, depressed about their self-images, in need of protection, and/or incomplete without romance! (We'd be interested to know where they've been hiding.)
"You think all OFCs in fanfiction are Mary Sues!"
"You think ANY strong and capable woman in fiction is a Mary Sue!"
"The term 'Mary Sue' has become too broad, so you shouldn't use it!"
First, we have our own definition to set the record straight. Second, "Mary Sue" may be a term applied too generally in fandom, but that doesn't mean it can't be used at all. I've lost count of how many times people misuse words like "dumb" or "irony." That doesn't mean the rest of us can't go on using them properly—or that we should get rid of those words just because some people misconstrue their meaning.
It would be prejudiced of us not to. Almost all fanfiction writers are female, so the percentage of badfic written by females is going to be higher than the percentage written by males. We are an equal-opportunity sporking society.
"You only criticize stories with female characters in them!"
Here is where I am pleased to inform you that we are a multi-purpose organization. Just look at our bad slash section. Most of the characters involved in bad slash are male, and we cheerfully squeegee them out of the plot continuum just as surely as we would any meddling OC. Also, it's entirely possible for a male OC to be as problematic as a female one, and male OCs who are will be terminated with just as much prejudice as females; see Gary Stu.
"Someone called a canon character I like a Mary Sue! They're wrong. Therefore, all people who call characters Mary Sues are wrong!"
Please check your logic and try again.
And, on the opposite end of the spectrum...
Just because both of your characters are men does not mean you are not a Suethor. This is particularly the case when so many slash authors make one of the male characters much more feminine than he was in Canon, even to the point of making him pregnant.
Case in point: this fic was reported by Potcsues. Her comment? "[The badfic author] also writes LotR bad slash. Apparently, she feels as though every character that Orlando Bloom plays must be feminized, defiled by a canon character (who would, if not possessed by Suvian demons, never do such a thing) for the sake of TEH ANGST, rescued by the nearest hot guy, and carried off for lots of steamy man-love." If Will Turner is suddenly Commodore Norrington's kept boy, and receives flowers from Jack Sparrow, and has "milky skin" and "crystals glittering in his eyes," and characters drop what they're doing left and right so they can be with him... how is he not a Mary Sue?
"You're plagiarizing my stuff by using it in a PPC or MST!"
First, learn the difference between plagiarism and copyright violation. Plagiarism is stealing someone else's work and attributing it to yourself. Trust me when I say that's the LAST thing that any PPCer would ever want to do with a badfic.
We excerpt or paraphrase stories without permission; that is true. However, we give credit to the author and don't try to pass off the author's work as our own. Also, since what we're doing is parody, our mocking falls under "fair use" in the same way that the parody "Bored of the Rings" can be published without the approval of the Tolkien estate.
Finally, since your disclaimer says you don't own your fic, your fanfiction doesn't even legally belong to you in the first place! We're actually violating your authorial rights much less than you're violating the rights of your fanfiction's source material. So please stop threatening to sic your Internet lawyers on us. We will laugh at you... well, more than we are now, I mean.
"You're inhibiting my creativity! Because of your cruel remarks, I shall never write again!"
Over the ages, many people have received death threats and imprisonment for their writings. If you can be put off writing forever just because a stranger on the Internet said your story sucks, you were probably saved from getting hurt much worse later on, when you faced an audience of real critics.
"Thought you could stop me from writing, didn't you? Well, I won't! I'm stronger than ever and will never give up because of you!"
Conviction is good. Back it up with some writing skills, and someday you might find yourself understanding our point of view.
"You just like bullying people who don't write as well as you."
I should send the people who say this over to those who say I'm jealous of the badficcer's talent. The fact that both these mutually exclusive rebuttals are so commonly used is a fine testament to the fact that offended badfic writers try a little too hard to come up with reasons why we mock their fics. Reasons other than that, you know, the story is actually bad and deserves to be mocked. That would be inconceivable.
I don't think there has ever been an occasion where a bullying victim chose to go to school with hair coated in maple syrup, a shirt fished out of the garbage, shoes made of bubble wrap, and vibrantly pink clown make-up; stood in the center of the schoolyard; yelled out for all to hear, "PLS REVUE MY APEARENCE!!!!!1"; and expected—nay, demanded—that no one laugh.
In all seriousness, we strongly object to the idea that putting up poor quality work in a public place is "empowering", and that to comment on the quality is "bullying". No one is making you publish your writing. No one is making you beg for reviews. If you don't like the criticism, you can ignore it, you can not accept it, you can circulate your stories in a closed community. But if you publish it on a place like fanfiction.net, you are implicitly consenting to scrutiny. And we never force anyone to leave a site for any reason, unless they are violating the TOS.
"You are a flamer!"
Politely reminding people to not be lazy asses and that they should take the time to write correctly is not harassment. It's constructive criticism and, on ff.net, it's what you agreed to do when you signed the TOS. It's also something your teachers wish you'd do so they didn't feel driven to get wasted so often because their students are illiterate numpties.
Giving the author links to the mocking we do is frowned upon by both the PPC and GAFF. There have, unfortunately, been people who have taken it upon themselves to try to make us look like flamers. Anyone can link to our site, so the presence of that link does not make the linker automatically one of us.
Most likely, the "reviewer" in question is not a PPCer at all, but rather a vengeful fangirl trying to stir up authors and start a flame-war. Keep in mind while you're reading the reviews that we are a loose confederation, not a closed secret society with singular thoughts.
"Cowards! Why do you mock me on your own sites behind my back?"
Well, seeing as we almost always get whining when we criticize your work to your face, it's sometimes less annoying for us to keep you out of our critiques altogether. And then there's the fact that you won't LET us criticize your fic to your face. The most obvious example of this is the fate of the original PPC series. It used to be on fanfiction.net, where everybody could read it and know whose stories were being mocked. That is, before someone got offended and unjustly reported it and got it taken off, thereby causing us to relocate.
"You were trying to upset me, but I'm just laughing at your stupidity!"
I see this often after an author has posted an 800 word reply on how she is not upset. Really. She's not bothered. She's laughing! The fact that she took up an entire chapter with an author's note to say that she's not bothered just speaks to how little this has affected her!
For those authors who really are laughing, I'm glad you're not upset, because we weren't trying to upset you. I'll admit it's sometimes fun to poke an author after he or she has unleashed a diatribe against us. However, we don't go looking to upset people. It's just that fanwriters tend to have egos that are easily bruised by criticism, and what should be seen as doing them a favor by taking the time to point out errors is instead interpreted as a personal insult.
"You insulted the story/character, so in a way you insulted me!"
A Mary Sue is not a human being. A Mary Sue is a character type. It's like saying, "Storybook villains are stupid!" Authors of storybook villains may disagree, but you're not insulting a real person if you say that.
In fact, it's a common mistake of Sue-authors to believe that we are directly insulting them instead of berating their characters. There's a world of difference. One is a criticism, and one is a personal attack. You can be a smart and/or good person and still write a truly worthless story—believe me, I've seen it.
Mary Sue is, by definition, a character that can't possibly be a true human being. She is superhuman. She is beautiful. She is strong. She is talented. She is feisty. She is adored by every character that the author herself would like to be adored by.
What we PPCers mean when we say things like "self-insertion" is not that the author has literally inserted herself into a fantasy world, but that she thinks she has. If Mary Sue actually had all of the flaws of a true human being, she would no longer be a Mary Sue.
Here's an example for you. Let's say Amelia the PotC Fangirl is going to write a story. Here's the description of the actual person she is.
Amelia: Good at math, took a couple of fencing lessons a couple of years ago, has long blond hair and blue eyes, is overweight and nearsighted, and is self-centered and mean to her little sister.
Now, here is a description of Amelia's Sue.
Amelia's Sue: Really good at math, expert fencer even though she's 14, has long golden blond hair and sapphire blue eyes, is slender with eagle vision, is a little proud BUT ONLY BECAUSE SHE DESERVES TO BE AND NO SHE IS NOT MEAN TO HER LITTLE SISTER BECAUSE HER LITTLE SISTER IS A STUPID HYPOCRITICAL WITCH! (Did I mention she has a stellar personality?)
Amelia's Sue may seem cranky to PPCers... but to the author, she is adorable and everything the author wishes she were. If there are character flaws in Amelia's Sue, the author is so blind to them that she will insist that the flaws are really not flaws at all, thus making her character perfect even if the character acts like a twit.
If a character has all of an author's skills, and then some, then that character should have all of the author's flaws, and then some. Otherwise, she isn't a true representation of a human being, let alone a representation of the author. The Mary Sue attributes that we mock are usually traits that the real author doesn't have, or couldn't have even if she wanted to!
"My friend, Author X, is a nice person. Why did you pick on her?"
We don't pick on people arbitrarily; if a story is bad, there's a chance we will mock it. See what I wrote about separating the author from the work itself. Your friend being a nice person does not mean that she is a good writer.
"Why don't you just give constructive criticism?"
Because the chances of badficcers benefiting from constructive criticism are slim, at best. Constructive criticism only works when:
- The story in question has some merit to begin with. Before you "construct" anything, you need a foundation to construct it on. In this case, the foundation is the badficcer's basic understanding of English and the canon of a particular fandom. If there is no foundation—if the only advice we can give is, "Next time, please read the book you're supposedly a fan of!" or "Perhaps you could have a third-grader instruct you on the proper use of punctuation?"—then there's really no point in our giving criticism of the constructive kind. We are here to enjoy fanfic; we are not Remedial Writing 101.
- The author actually cares about the fanfic s/he is writing. More than once, I've caught blatant admissions that the badfic authors wrote a fic down while on the phone, in class, or watching TV. If that's the case, we'll have put more effort into our critique than they'll have put into writing the fic in the first place. To mock such a fic will give us entertainment; critiquing it seems like a waste of our time.
- The author is receptive to our critique. This is rarely the case in badfic. It's one of the many problems with creating a Mary Sue: since the Suethor identifies with the character so strongly, s/he tends to treat even slightly negative comments about said character as a terrible personal insult.
So while it's not unheard-of for us to leave constructive feedback, we don't always feel the need to waste our time honestly critiquing a story for someone who will not benefit from it and/or who did not put any effort into the story in the first place.
(The above has been adapted from Potcsues.)
"Why can't you just read and write good stories instead of making fun of bad ones?"
We do. In fact, we have a beta chain where we will proofread, for free, any author who comes to us. There is an "antidote" section on the GAFF boards. If we see a good story, we recommend it to the PPC board. Also, if you want to see what we write to counter the badfic, either find our members on fanfiction.net or check out the "LotRwriters" fanfiction.net ID. This is a collaborative effort of the PPC to put forth the best canon fics we can. Finally, by mocking bad stories, PPCers are writing good stories. We take the most un-readable drivel and turn it into something well-written and entertaining. If we can't find any good stories, well, we just make goodfic from badfic by PPCing the badfic. That's not so terrible, now, is it?