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What NOT to Do in Fan Fiction

Updated on February 27, 2009

I've been reading fan fiction since 1999. I've stuck my nose into several different communities, including Harry Potter, Spiderman, and Moulin Rouge. It's a wonderful way to escape reality.

Recently, it's become the favorite pastime of most young teenagers to write fics about their favorite characters falling in love, discovering a long lost father, etc. With the wide selection of stories to choose from, it's getting increasingly difficult to find the good fiction among all the bad eggs. Over the years, I've made a mental list of all the bad habits of fic authors that really get on my nerves. Hopefully, this list will help you plan your next fan fic and before you know it reviews are pouring in on So without further ado:

The 10 Fan Fic Commandments!

Note: I've used Harry Potter fic as my examples because it is one of the larger fan fiction communities.

1. THOU SHALT NOT write songfics - Personally it gets annoying when a character
opens his/her mouth and lyrics to an Evanescence song comes out.

2. THOU SHALT NOT post before spell-check - It's hard to take any dramatic scene seriously when someone has to spend most of their time trying to figure out what word you really meant: quite, quiet, or quit? Get a proof-reader. Please.

3. THOU SHALT NOT write a fic that is purely dialogue - Unless you are aiming
for a minimalist approach and the dialogue is engaging, usually people don't want
to read about endless conversations where one is asking another out
or multiple "I love you"s are used.

4. THOU SHALT NOT portray a character other than what is obvious in the
established book/movie/show that you are “ficcing” - I know many of us
like to explain away canon, and that's okay if there is a decent
explanation for it, but PLEASE don't make Hermione suddenly a slut or
Snape someone who is simply the sweetest guy in the world. That's not
how they were written in the books. So please don't confuse people.

5. THOU SHALT NOT mention specific commercial products in a fic. - Most of us get
enough product placements in real life. Most of us don't want to hear about
Coca Cola, Yahoo, or anything else of that nature in the fics.

6. THOU SHALT NOT bring popular culture (mentioning current movies, music,
etc) into a fic. - I once read a fic where the Golden Trio (Harry, Hermione, and Ron) were
watching "Charlie's Angels" and they were commenting on how Cameron
Diaz was hot. Even though Cameron Diaz may be attractive, people read fan fiction because they want to read about their favorite characters in interesting situations, not a commentary full of personal opinions on the actress-du-jour. That's what People and Star magazine are for.

7. THOU SHALT NOT solely recount actions. - Have you ever read a fic where it
went something like this: "She went to the bathroom and then she took
a shower. She dried her hair and put on clothes. ‘Hi Sev’ she said."
It's always "she did" this or that. Mature readers want to hear about personal
reflection, background... details people!

8. THOU SHALT NOT bring your personal hobbies into a fic as a main role. -
Now this one can have some major exceptions. But when all of a sudden
we are reading about Hermione's favorite pastime being playing the
game of Parcheesi and of course, Snape is a aficionado of Parcheesi as
well, and THEN, in addition we have to get a brush up course from the
author about how to play Parcheesi... Well, anyways, people feel like they are reading about the hobby more than the characters.

9. THOU SHALT NOT assume the reader already knows everything about the movie/book/TV show
you are “ficcing”. - For the love of character development. It helps to
back up the actions in your plot with background references. Not all
of us can remember all the details about Harry Potter all the time.

10. THOU SHALT NOT write about emotions that you have never experienced
before, or are too young to experience (like true love) (Basic rule:
If you are too young to watch/read a specific rating, do not write
stories with that rating). - You will find there is nothing worse than
someone who is 13 trying to write a sex scene especially when they
have no idea what it's like. And then there are the 13 year olds that
write about romance problems, and once again, the characters are
acting like hormonal teenagers. It just doesn't bode well when all
the characters are acting petty and petulant.

AND I could add a number 11:

11: THOU SHALT NOT write about the endless descriptions of clothing and
makeup. - We are sure that Hermione is having the wedding that you
always wanted. And we are quite sure that all the Gryffindor girls
looked dazzling at the Yule ball, but we don't want an entire chapter
on who wore what and how it matched this and that. This is a story,
not a constant fashion commentary.

Go ahead and disagree with me or point out any errors I might have
made. Once again, I acknowledge that there are exceptions to these
fics. You should notice that I left out the ever incredible "Mary-
Sue" in these commandments. I did this because just as long as it
isn't YOU magically transported to Hogwarts, I don't have a problem
if the character is well-written.


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    • Veroniquebee profile image

      Veroniquebee 5 years ago from Czech republic

      I started paying attention to fanfiction back in 2005 and I have to say it's curious to see the trends in fanfics. I agree that songfic, when more than half of the whole fiction is copy-pasted lyrics, is bad. But it can also be done in nice way, when the lyrics (usually one or two lines) can help to describe the atmosphere pretty nicely. Canon is nice - and although I think it's good to follow it, nice AU is also good, I think. And if someone is unsure about canon, there is so many Wikis, I think it's terrific how many things you can find there.

      Anyway, I think that another commandment should be "Summarize your stories properly." Story describtion is not only rating, characters or genre. It's also good summary, which may attract readers.

      I realize it had been ages since this was written - but hey, comments are good for soul I'm told :)

    • auroraivy profile image

      auroraivy 7 years ago from Port Saint Lucie, FL

      I really liked this hub. I dabbled in Fanfic a few years ago, wrote anime fanfics. Your commandments certainly apply to much of the writing you can find. :) Great hub, I enjoyed reading it.

    • GALAXY 59 profile image

      Galaxy Harvey 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very funny hub and so true. I gave up reading fan fic a while ago as I couldn't get over how many people broke all of your rules.

    • Thorn058 profile image

      Thorn058 7 years ago from Grand Forks, ND

      I dabble in fan fiction because it is a great way to just keep writing when you seem to hit a road block and can't get past it in your own original work. Having a ready made sandbox such as Star Wars or Harry Potter is nice because you can almost cut and paste characters, settings, objects and such but it is the compelling story that makes readers want to read it. I might add a half commandment about slash fic(i believe that is the term) where you have two main characters of the same sex have a relationship. Some people really want to see Ginny and Hermione go lipstick lesbian but really do we need to read that?

    • Real Fantasy profile image

      Real Fantasy 7 years ago from Cleveland

      You know, I actually really liked reading this. I hate admitting it with my own identity because fan fiction is sometimes looked down on, but I write it and read it. The 10 Commandments you have are great. I laughed quite a few times. My favorite though was number 10. I have little-to-no right to judge because I'm 15, but I'm not trying to write lemon or smut or anything like that. Seeing kids' ideas of sex is kind of freaky. Also it feels like reading a trollfic.

      Nonetheless, great hub. It made me smile and feel good that I've only broken number 2 and that was one time :)