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Top Five Pitfalls of Angel Fanfic
by Joanna C

1. The curse
The curse that restored Angel's soul has a clause that prevents him from having a moment of true happiness. It is debatable just what constitutes true happiness, but the only canonical time we have seen this happen is following sex with Buffy. This means you've got to be very careful writing smut involving Angel, because people are immediately going to want to know how you've gotten around the happiness clause. And no fair having a spell, or a mysterious intervention by the Powers-That-Be doing it in two sentences. The last time someone re-souled Angel, it was Willow and it nearly killed her. It's just not that easy, and if you want Angel to have sex, you have to play fair about it. Thankfully, the show itself has given us two outs. First, it is prophesied that one day, Angel will "shanshu," or become human. So you can write a future-fic where this has happened already (remembering that the prophecy says it will not happen tomorrow, or soon, but in the FAR future). Or you can flashback to before he had his soul (but of course, you'll be working with Angelus then, not Angel). The other out involves the only time, save flashback, that we've seen Angel have sex since Buffy. It was with Darla, and Angel kept his soul because sleeping with her was "perfect despair." So as long as he doesn't enjoy the sex...

2. fanon vs canon
Canon refers to anything that happened on the show, that we have seen. It is fact, law, and the final world in any matter. It refers to such things as what the character's names are, how old they are, their life story as told through the episodes etc. Fanon refers to things that are commonly believed but that have not been proven on the show. Some of these things may later be proven false. The common belief that Angel sired Spike was proven wrong when we saw Drusilla do it on-screen in the cross-over episodes "Fool for Love" and "Darla." Other things might never be proven, but are widely believed anyway. The idea that Liam, Angel and Angelus are separate "people" is popular, for example. It is also widely accepted that Angel and especially Cordelia actively miss Doyle and think of him often, although he is never spoken of on-screen. Many authors think Cordelia has nightmares, at least occasionally, from the visions. Cordelia's canonically peripheral ghost roommate Dennis is a frequent star player in ficdom, and the idea that Cordelia's parents aren't very good ones is hugely popular. Can you use these details in your fics? Of course. Just remember that nothing is guaranteed when you work outside the canon..

3. The Powers-That-Be
They are remarkably convenient, aren't they? The PTB manifest themselves in a variety of ways, ranging from the now-deceased Oracles (since replaced by the host at Caritas) to prophecies that turn up at opportune times chock-full of useful information. Be very careful using the PTB in any way, shape or form to solve a problem. It's just too convenient. Remember that the PTB are characters too, and as such, have to act as the show has defined them. What does that mean? Well, generally they are pretty cryptic, and they seldom interfere directly in what's going on. They do not materialize from the sky to hand-hold and wave their magic wands, so don't set up any plots that you can't solve using good old-fashioned logic.

4. The name game
Names are unusually tricky in the Angelverse. Some characters have multiple names which mean different things, such as Angel/Angelus/Liam. Other characters have nicknames. Doyle was seldom called by his given name, and both Giles and Gunn use last names. Xander and Oz are both known by short forms, but they are exceptions. While Will, Buff and Wes are fine, when you start making diminutives of Rupert, or call Gunn "Charlie," people are going to pause and go "huh?" Cordelia seems especially prone to re-naming in ficdom. We've seen her name abbreviated to "Cordy," and Doyle called her "Princess," but we haven't seen her called anything else. Yet in fanfic, diminutives like Cora, Delia and Lia appear with epidemic frequency. It isn' t necessary, and furthermore, it's plain distracting. If you must re-christen an established character, think hard about why you are doing it. If you truly feel that a new name is called for, make it a plot point and explain it logically. But if you're just trying to be cute, skip it.

5. The rules
Writing for Angel does not exempt you from the unofficial "rules" of fanfic writing. Thou shalt research: be it historical info for past fic, medical info, mystical...whatever you need, learn enough to be credible. And do your research on the show too: Phantom Dennis has a last name, and they've told it to us on-screen. There are lists and web sites that will happily tell you what you need to know. And thou shalt use a beta-reader if your spelling and grammar are weak. Yes, I know this is just for fun. But there is a difference between fanfic and GOOD fanfic. If you want to be known for the latter, you know what you have to do.