The Big List of Fanfic Peeves

From Fanlore
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Title: "The Big List of Fanfic Peeves"
Creator: Sandy Herrold and The Bitkahs
Date(s): 1999
Topic: How-to, resource
External Links: The Big List of Fanfic Peeves, Archived version
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

"The Big List of Fanfic Peeves" is a 1999 essay by Sandy Herrold and The Bitkahs (especially, but not exclusively: Michelle Christian, Shoshanna, Gwyneth Rhys, torch, Jane Carnall, elynross, Terri, and Keiko Kirin) and helped enormously by some folks at the Crossroads, a private Sentinel mailing list.

Similar Sites/Lists


I'm going to go out on a limb and say, "There is no such thing as an inherently bad idea in fanfic (not even Krycek/Scully), only poorly executed ideas."

But there are a lot of poorly executed ideas. Or, to put it another way, there are a lot of clever and interesting plots undercut by the author's inability to write a sentence, to stay faithful to a character, or to not be their own worst enemy.

And of all the things that lead to poor execution, the thing I hate the most is...


  • Peeves
    • One: Epithets ;What's wrong with swearing, I hear you say.
    • Two: Fear of "Said"
    • Three: Excessive emphasis
    • Four: Other excessive use of symbols
    • Five: God in slash fiction
    • Six: Ellipses and other punctuation
    • Seven: Point Of View
    • Eight: Excessive displays of emotion
    • Nine: Exaggerated size (or more rarely, age) differences between the two guys
    • Ten: Yentas
  • Peeve-ettes
    • Grammar is NOT optional!
    • Excessive use of disembodied body parts to avoid possessives
    • Misused homophones
    • Expository lumps
    • Excessive quoting of lyrics
    • Using 'literally' as an emphasis word when the action isn't literally true
    • Speech patterns only an author could love
    • Misuse of foreign languages in fanfic
    • Misuse of cock rings
    • Misuse of dialogue

Some Excerpts

One: Epithets

What's wrong with swearing, I hear you say.

Epithets aren't usually swear words, but terms used to characterize a person or thing, such as "rosy-fingered" in rosy-fingered dawn, or terms used as a substitute for the name or title of a person, such as The Great Emancipator for Abraham Lincoln, or The Sentinel for Jim Ellison.

Two: Fear of "Said"

Just like the reader's eye passes quite happily over the characters' names being used over and over, it also passes quite happily past multiple uses of "said." Do not be afraid of this word. On a single page of dialogue, there's nothing more fearsome than seeing:

"What do you mean," he ejaculated.

"I'm mad," he growled.

"Well, I'm mad too," he muttered.

"What? I didn't hear you," he yelled.

"Sure," Sandy expostulated, "in moderation, they are a quick way of telling tone of voice or volume, but overused, they can become ridiculous!"

Four: Other excessive use of symbols

Such as the use of // . . .\\, or /.../ or */ \* or italics or *asterisks* to indicate thoughts.

After years of reading badly formatted fan stories, I fear this might come as a shock, but... you don't need to offset thoughts with any typographical device whatsoever.

You can just make it clear that the dialogue is going on in someone's head.

Five: God in slash fiction

I was brought up proper, warned never to talk about politics or religion among strangers. But I can't seem to resist. Here are the three most annoying ways fan writers misuse the word God. First: Writing G-d or G_d instead of God.

This seems to be a growing habit in fandom, one that I would mind less if I thought most people had any idea why they sometimes saw it done.

In Hebrew (though largely not in English), many observant Jews do not write out the whole name of God because of a belief that once you've written out the full name of God, the paper on which you've written it becomes sacred. This is not particularly desirable for ephemera like letters, so references to God are purposely defaced (by omitting the vowel) and thus the paper can be thrown away when you're done with it.

But we're not writing on paper here -- these are pixels. Even for observant Jews (and I'm thinking they're a pretty small percentage of slash writers), there is no reason in the world to use G-d instead of God when you write online. In fact, using G-d online could be seen as an affectation, as taking on a sacred custom of another culture. And you wouldn't want that, would you?

Second: writing Gawd, or Ghod, or some other hideous intentional misspelling.

This also could be considered part of a Jewish tradition of not using the full name of God even in sacred texts. But again...why are you, a slash fan writer, doing it? Do you think that your characters write "Ghod"? Think "Ghod" in their heads? If you do think that, what on earth gave you that impression?

Last but not least: Gods.

There are damn few of our BSOs who ever have ANY reason to say Gods instead of God. Xena, Gabrielle, Herc and Iolaus...yep, the older Caine on Kung Fu, Chakotay, maybe, (Methos, perhaps in a flashback, but come on; he's the master of fitting in -- he uses the terms of the dominant culture) but that's about it. And even those characters...have you ever heard them use "Gods" as an oath?

So, before you have a character say "Gods," ask yourself why you're doing it. And more importantly, have you supported your character's use of it? (And no, "Well, I say 'Gods' so I have my characters say it" is not a good enough reason.)

Six: Ellipses and other punctuation

First, ellipses, because they're easy.

As Christy says, "Dots are social creatures, but they also tend to hate large crowds. You'll never see them in groups of more than four, and they will more commonly be seen in groups of three. It is unheard of for them to only travel with one other companion. On top of this, they are, in reality, not all that common in either grouping. For, like many of us, sometimes they just want to be alone. Therefore, you're best off leaving them to their solitary contemplations at the end of each sentence. They get cranky if they feel peer pressure."

Eight: Excessive displays of emotion

Think about it. Most of our guys are on episodic television. At least once per season, TPTB put them through the wringer: they kill their wives (or fianceés), their children, their partners (or at least make them believe they're dead)... So, we know what they do when something really horrific and terrible happens to them, right?

Then we write fanfic where they sob (or even wail) at the slightest provocation.

Even the guys who have actually cried on screen (Mulder, Duncan, a few others) are not sobbers; as I recall, they're just the sort that crumple up and have a tear or two slide down their cheek.

If you really want them to cry, make sure that you've supported it.

In fact, Excessive displays of emotion is really just a subset of an issue big enough to have its own peeve list:

Ten: Yentas

If I could choose eight words I hope never to see in fanfic again, they'd be:

"Does he know you're in love with him?"

I swear to God and all the angels in heaven, if I never read those words coming from another character -- original or canonical -- again, it will be too soon!

Okay, okay, I admit it, there are some very entertaining "yenta" stories in fandom. (The Professionals story "Yenta" for one.) But for the most part, the character asking the question has no reason in the world to ask it. Either they are the sort of tough boss that would rather be boiled in oil before butting into their subordinate's love life (much less homosexual love life), or they're perfect (and usually suspiciously Mary Sueish) strangers who barely know the guys, much less have any reason to interfere in their domestic affairs.

Let's test this. How often has anyone ever said those words to you? How often have you said those words to other people? Assuming that in either case the number is larger than never, how often did they involve complete strangers, or your boss?

I thought so.

Fan Comments

Back when I was a bitkah (1998-99), I contributed to this list. I'm especially proud of this scene from an unwritten Blake's 7 story:

The little thief fucked the burly rebel so hard that he screamed as he came, waking up the emotionless computer expert. The Auron telepath had been awake for some time, and she nudged the blonde pilot, who woke with a big jerk. The big jerk grumbled, "My limiter is killing me."[1]


  1. ^ Jane Carnall, Recs (2004)