The Ten Commandments of Fan Fiction

by Kathryn A

(This isn't exactly an essay, but it's Meta, so it goes here.)

In the beginning, the story was without form, and void, and blankness was upon the face of the paper. And God said, "Let us create Authors in Our own image, that there may be sub-creations." And it was so, and God saw that it was good.

And the Authors increased and multiplied upon the face of the earth. And behold, there was much writing, and there were books, and there were movies, and there was television. And God saw that 90% of it was junk, but yet there was 10% of it that was good.

There came a day, when the children of the Authors were enslaved by a great nation, whose name was Copyright and Trademark. For before, where Authors had made works based upon other works, now they were swooped upon by Lawyers who put them in chains.

And the Lord God led the people out of Copyright, into the land of Fanfic. And the people rejoiced, and wrote.

And so that they should strive to write well, the Lord God gave them these commandments:

Thou shalt have no canon but Canon. Thou shalt not confuse fanon with canon. For if thou writest fanfic, thou shalt obey the laws of the universe in which thou writest.

"But what about AUs?" said the Author.

"Thou canst write AUs only if thou dost demonstrate an understanding of Canon," said the Lord God.

"And crossovers?" the Author asked, in the midst of the thunder.

"Crossovers are one of the blessings of the land of Fanfic," the Lord God said. "But a knowledge of Canon precedes them all."

Thou shalt not make thee any Mary-Sues, whether they be in thine own likeness, the likeness of canon characters, nor in any other likeness. Thou shalt not give them improbably long hair, nor exotic names, nor shalt thou make them fairer and smarter and more loveable than all mankind, for probability distortions are anathema unto me. Thou shalt not indulge yourself in them, nor serve them, for they are too perfect, and take the attention away from the other characters. Thou shalt not worship thy characters, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing lovingkindess unto to thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Prime Authors in vain, for verily, thou art playing in their sandpit. If thou hatest the way a continuing series hast been written, thou shalt speak softly, and quietly write AUs, not squabble about it in a loud and unseemly fashion. For without the Prime Authors, thou wouldst not have a sandpit to play in, and thus they deserve respect.

Keep the stories free to sanctify them. Make thou no profit upon your labour, for profit is a thing of the land of Copyright and Trademark, and will put you in the power of their Lawyers.

Remember that you were a servant in the land of Copyright and Trademark, and that the LORD your God brought you out there through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the stories free.

Thou shalt honor thy fellow authors, as the Lord your God has commanded you; that the days of your writing may be long, and that it may go well with you, in the stories which the Lord your God giveth you.

Thou shalt not insult the intelligence of thy readers. Thou shalt not bore them with info-dumps. Thou shalt resist the urge to explain. For thy readers are at least as intelligent and well-read as thou art, and shouldst not be likened unto a ten-year-old child.

Thou shalt remember that character is plot, and that plot is character.

Thou shalt not steal, moreover thou shalt not plagiarize. For plagiarizing is a sin against Creation and against Me, says the Lord your God. I shalt cast off all plagiarizers and they shall no longer have the name of Author.

"What about ideas?" the Author said.

"I, the Lord your God, am the giver of Ideas." The Lord God Almighty pointed to the daisies in the field. "Every story is different, just as every daisy is different."

"They all look the same to me," the Author muttered.

"However, it is polite to acknowledge your inspirations," the Lord God said.

Thou shalt show and thou shalt not tell, says the Lord your God. For telling dost remove the vividness from the story.

Thou shalt use beta-readers, for thou art not perfect, and fresh eyes can see the flaws that thou hast overlooked. To refuse to use beta-readers is the sin of Pride, for which Lucifer was cast out of Heaven; for even the best and the brightest of Authors dost have need of them.

Author's Notes

Inspired by "The Ten Commandments of Fanfic" by b_cavis. Structure and many of the words taken from Deuteronomy 5:6-21 in the American King James Version and the American Standard Version.

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