As a writer, I have one enormous pet peeve regarding fan fiction: writers who use the form as a means to indulge their own non-canon fantasies or exorcise their own RL demons.
Before anyone gets offended, by this I mean people who use fan fiction ONLY for such purposes. I have written many fics that draw on my own experiences; most of them, in fact, touch on my deepest RL pains.
But the best fan fiction is not the sort where the characters and plot are thin disguises for the “issue” or even the “fun” at hand.
What fan fiction is for, what the form does best, is to explore the characters and situations from the source in a way that the book or show is not able to, whether that is in more depth, from a different point of view, in the aftermath of events, or in speculation about things that may have contributed to a character’s growth (or lack of it) prior to the start of the source timeline. If an author is deeply invested in the fic she is writing, it will naturally draw on her own experiences (painful and joyful) as well, but the best fan fiction is neither self-involved nor self-excluding.
The best stories happen where personal emotional experience and source canon collide.
Why am I writing about this right now? Mostly because I’m astonished at the ill-fitting fic being written in some of my newer fandoms. Numb3rs is not The Sentinel--the one is a mix of crime procedural and family drama, and the other is a buddy action/adventure show. There are certainly similarities (so many that I am currently writing a crossover between them). But there are also many fic ideas that, although they worked well when the story being told belonged to Jim and Blair, don’t work at all when passed over to Don and Charlie and Alan. Blair’s an adventurous guy for a scholar; he’s nearly an adrenaline junkie (hey, re-watch “Warriors” if you don’t believe me; he admits it). Charlie is an academia-insulated mathematician, who nearly goes off the deep end in first season when he realizes that his own work could end up getting his brother into dangerous situation.
I can buy Blair bouncing back from abduction. Heck, he does it multiple times in the TV canon (Lash, anyone?) Whereas Charlie? Well, write the story if you must, but please take into account his inexperience and his extreme emotional reactions. You can’t write the same story about these two characters.
Not if you’re paying attention to the canon source, anyway.
Actually, that’s something I’ve been seeing more and more in fic, especially where I’m watching people cross from one fandom into the next: The attempt to write “more of the same,” just with different characters. Guess what? Jim Ellison and Don Eppes are not interchangeable; neither are Daniel Jackson and Blair Sandburg; or Alan Eppes and Simon Banks.
Each set of characters, while they may find themselves in similar situations, have their own stories to tell and their own journeys to take. It seems rude or ungrateful to me to impose one on another, rather than appreciating each for their uniqueness.
If you like watching show canon, then why ignore it?
If you don’t like show canon, why the heck are you writing in this fandom?
Yes, I am a mostly-gen writer, who is anti-slash…though more than anti-slash, I think, I should call myself pro-canon. It’s the root of the thing that we love.
I’m not ruling out Aus or crossovers, here; knowledge of canon and very precise deviations from it is what often makes those stories work. Dasha’s TS AU, for instance (“Imperfections”), actually includes plotlines from the show, extrapolating the differences within her AU.
Okay, this really is more of a rant than an essay, so I think I’ll stop while I can. Discussion (real discussion) is welcome, as always.