When trawling through the wilderness of human creativity that is ‘fanfiction.net’ you need to know what you’re looking for. Otherwise, you end up spending days suppressing the urge to chuck your computer screen out of the window. Here’s a summary of what I’ll read, what I won’t and why.
What I Look For
Slow Building Romance
I adore it those rare fanfics where, 100,000 words in, romantic tension is still building. There are two main reasons for this;
Firstly, I can sympathise more with a romantic situation if it’s romance borne out of people deeply understanding each other. Fics where two characters just see each other and are instantly in love or deep attraction always seem so shallow. People are all complicated with quirks, flaws and a past, I find it more interesting when two characters grow closer to each other while learning all those things. Building a romance on two people already being deeply attracted to each other is realistic but irritating because the characters are never able to look at each other from a unbias perspective.
Secondly, I love the angsty-ness of it, my favorite part of romance is always the buildup. When Y realises X has become a vital part of his life yet X is now growing closer to another man it just makes my spine tingle! Or when Y spends half the fic trying to woo X only for every pick-up line to fly over her head.
Certain Types of Female OC
Heres a list of what I like in a female OC
- Unique hobbies/fields of expertise – An OC that happens to love bee keeping or is a professional gemologist is always so much more interesting
- Generally unique personality – If you change the character’s name and context, are they still recognisable?
- Well thought out abilities (depends on universe) – If the OC is going to have a power, it has to be reasonable, with limitations. It’s also more interesting if there is a tactical or skill-dependent element to it e.g. character is telepathic, but finds it difficult to sustain and is rendered unable to move, making it unusable in battle
- Character Growth – As the fic progresses, characters learn from their mistakes and the people they meet, becoming wiser and possibly more jaded. This one often works better when the character is a bit naive or innocent in the beginning
- Few Mary-Sue characteristics – Being attractive or powerful or charming is not an inherently bad thing as long as it’s ‘or’ and not ‘and’. Caveats are incredibly important here i.e. super-attractive female OC has really ugly feet.
- Intelligent – It’s more insightful to read the perspective of a smart character
- Not Overly-Fiesty – A cliche that annoys me about anime is girls screaming ‘hentai’ and punching a guy in the face just because he happened to see up her skirt by accident. Similarly, when characters are unnecessarily or unwisely rude I find it super annoying, it’s like ‘that guy has you suspended in a cage over a pit of laser-sharks, now is not the time to call him a bastard’
This is by no means an exhaustive list, scrapping or loving OC fics has become so second nature to me over the years that it’s hard to convert the process into words. Also, sometimes I can really like an OC despite them bending a rule or two, but I’d normally like them more if they didn’t
Explains Obscure Aspects Of A Universe
Sometimes I wonder what life is like for the people who protect those Hebridinian Dragons in Harry Potter or live in Kumogakure in Naruto. Writing these fics often takes skill and imagination as the pre-existing canon universe becomes less of a crutch, but when done well, they can really add to a readers mental view of a universe.
Things That I Avoid
My three main grievances with harem fics;
- I have no problem with polyamory, or even polygamy, as long as it’s fair. If one partner (usually male) is allowed to have multiple lovers then the other partners (usually female) should not be expected to show unconditional devotion.
- Harem fics are annoyingly anti-feminist, usually because they require women to think with their hormones and not their heads.
- They rarely make sense in-universe
In theory, there could be a harem fic that avoids all these traps, but I’ve certainly never seen one.
This is a weird one but something I feel very strongly about.
I hate stories with accidental pregnancy, a ‘let’s raise a child’ scenario or really anything to do with human fertility. Part of it is that I find it difficult to sympathise with characters who want to have children for emotional reasons. I don’t want children; I find pregnancy gross. Children are annoying, expensive and a unbearably vast life commitment. Plus, babies are normally ugly. This all sounds very harsh and I understand I’m in a minority to feel the way I do but the point still stands.
I feel more comfortable with the idea of a female character losing a leg than having a child, especially if rape was involved. On top of that, I’m pro-choice, not on feminist or human rights grounds but because I don’t understand why society values the life of a fetus more than a cow. Again, that is harsh and I completely understand why people, especially religious people, disagree with me. But when a pregnant woman in a fic is agonising over having the baby of her rapist or how she will be unable to support a child or be a good mother I just end up screaming at the screen “have a fucking abortion!”. Even if the universe doesn’t have doctors able to perform one then I would be desperate enough to throw myself down a flight of stairs or something to induce a miscarriage.
In conclusion, parenthood is an annoying and bizarre concept to me. That said, I don’t mind reading a fic from the perspective of a child.
I just don’t get yaoi, I don’t find it hot nor does it give me that mushy romantic feeling, when reading a yaoi fic I feel like an asexual species of alien reading 50 Shades of Grey. To clarify, I don’t feel disgust or revulsion at the thought of two men in a romantic situation just mild discomfort. The only yaoi-ish thing that I find gross is mpreg, I don’t like normal pregnancy and the fact the baby would probably gestate in the rectum does not help.
Yuri I like slightly more, although I still don’t look for it in a fic.
In real life, I have no problem with homosexual people, at least consciously. I’m not religious, so I don’t have any moral opposition to gay people. Gay marriage and adoption seems like the simplest idea in the world to me and I liked David Cameron soooo much more after he pushed gay marriage through Parliament (he’s the leader of the Conservative party, you really wouldn’t of expected it).
‘Me and my friends’ self-insert fics
Self-Insert fics can sometimes be okay (Dreaming of Sunshine by Silver Queen is awesome) but when more than one character is placed into a universe, it seems to almost always be crap. Aside from anything else, having a friend inserted into the universe with you prevents a character from becoming fully immersed.
This a pet peeve of mine. I normally don’t like it when characters are plagued by nightmares or have prophetic/significant dreams. This is mainly for realism, in my experience dreams are meaningless and rarely do I remember them the next day. If I do have a nightmare, it’s not based around a traumatic event or a phobia but something random. For example, I remember a nightmare when I was 7ish I had a terrifying nightmare involving Grandpa Simpson dying in a pit of quicksand.
Did I really like the Simpsons? No.
Was I deeply afraid of quicksand? No.
There are some exceptions. If prophetic dreams are part of stated magic that exists in the universe (like Bran in ASoIaF) then it’s less annoying, although I still don’t like it. Likewise, I mind nightmares less if they’re something the character deals with on their own i.e. not just a cheap excuse for shipping.
- OOC – Especially Character-bashing
- Formating Issues
- Mind-Fuckery – Although I find these fics addictive once I’ve started
- Second-person POV – Why on earth does anybody do this?
- Mid-Chapter Authors Notes
- Feces/Urine – Pretty self-explanatory.
- Pop-Culture references
- Time-Travel – Time travel is inherently paradoxical, yet most variations of the time travel fic somehow attempt to make it make sense. It never will. You cannot logic your way out of a paradox, that’s why it’s a paradox. I find stories (fanfic or not) that concern themselves with ‘time-loops’ and ‘not changing the sequence of events’ to be just annoying. To others its an interesting sci-fi/fantasy device, to me it’s just an irritating logic-trap.
- Slut-Shaming – This is a reflection of a real-life pet peeve. A woman(or a man) being promiscuous is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. I hate the word ‘slut’ or ‘whore’ and if the author portrays a character as being inferior due to promiscuity then I just stop reading.
Things That Other People Avoid That I Don’t Mind
This is mostly down to the fact I’ve never been particularly bothered by taboos. However, please bear in mind that I don’t actively seek out these fics.
- Adult/Child relationships – In real life, pedophilia is often damaging and justifiably illegal, however fictional relationships can be interesting to explore.
- Beastiality – If the animal is intelligent and/or willing
- Non-con/Dub-con – Rape is unacceptable, but can lead to fascinating stories