What I Like in Fan Fiction
(The Fannish Definitions page will help you understand some of the terms used in this page.)
What do I like in fan fiction? Maybe I'll start with what I don't like.
I don't like stories where the author can't write; where they can't spell, where they don't know grammar, where they change tenses, where they can't format conversations properly - you know the drill. I don't like stories which are nothing but narrative summary; stories which are basically plot outlines rather than actually being a story.
I don't like stories where the author doesn't know the characters of the show, or distorts them to a parody of themselves.
I don't like illogical plots, nonsensical motivations, or continuity errors. There are two kinds of continuity errors: internal ones, and external ones. Internal continuity errors are where, within a story, some fact or property is demonstrated, and then forgotten or ignored in some other part of the story. If Methos is introduced to Fred as "Adam", and then Fred later in the same story calls him "Methos", then I'd like an explanation, thank you! If Blair declares that he's going to be at the university all day, and then appears at the bullpen with a cup of coffee for Jim, then I'd like to know how he suddenly developed the ability to teleport... If Avon tells Cally and Vila not to use their real names, and some stranger comes along and addresses them by their real names, then I'd expect Cally to feel alarmed... External continuity errors are where the story is inconsistent with facts or properties established in the universe in which this story is set. One is more likely to get away with external errors if (a) one declares this to be an alternative universe or (b) your reader is not that familiar with the source material. For example, in reading an X-Files story, I'm not likely to pick up on any but the grossest external continuity errors, because I haven't watched a lot of the X-Files.
I don't like Mary-Sue stories -- but then, who does?
What do I like? I like something extra. I like ideas I haven't seen before. I love beautiful poetic prose. I love themes and layers; things that make a story mean more than just a there-and-back-again adventure. I like wit (as distinct from situation comedy). I like snappy dialogue.
I like the familiar made strange - which is something that the best crossovers do. I like crossovers; and my favourite part of a crossover is the bit where one lot have to explain themselves to the other lot, in character. I hate it when a crossover author bypasses that bit with a one-paragraph summary -- that makes me feel cheated.
I have a soft spot for psi stuff -- you know, telepathy, telempathy, the "special powers" sort of thing, whether it be cast in a SF mode or a fantasy one.
I like seeing the characters grow and learn - but of course in fanfic that isn't always an option, because you have to bring them back none the better or worse for wear-and-tear, after you've borrowed them. I like to see inside the characters heads, see what makes them tick, sometimes learn something about them that I never realized before.
I like villains who aren't Random Psychos or Evil Megalomaniacs - I prefer villains who have real motivations, and don't actually think of themselves as evil. Ruling the universe is such a bore.
I like balance. I like a mixture of action, drama, character exploration, angst, friendship, comfort. Too much sacharrine sweetness makes me sick. Sadistic torture makes me really sick. I'm not into stories whose sole purpose is to beat up on one character and make the other characters into nurse-maids (yeah, h/c). I can take that in small doses, but my tolerance level gets saturated pretty soon. The same for pure unadulterated smarm. Moderation in all things.