Who am I?
The words I dread most in beta are "warning: OOC" Out Of Character.
Characterisation. It's a vital part of any piece. If you can't recognise the characters, then it ain't fanfic - simple as that. It doesn't matter if you take the characters and read them a little differently - God, I make Spike and Angel gay fairly often (as well as quite a few others) and it works.
The reason it works is because the characters are true to their known personalities. Take away their most common traits and you have just a couple of vampires getting it on, and though that may be lovely, it's not fanfic. If you just want to put people together - change their names and make it original fic - don't kill my favourite people.
All characters are prone to being altered, but for some reason Spike has been getting it bad lately. The urge to pair him with Buffy has had people falling over themselves to show what a sensitive guy he is. Ugh!
Spike the victim
He gets tortured/raped/beaten up and crawls to Buffy/Angel/Xander (whatever your preference) and throws himself pathetically at their feet despite the fact that he's tried to kill them/eat them on numerous occasions, and begs for the tender care that only they can offer.
There is even an instance of Spike getting raped and falling in love with his rapist. Can we say WRONG!
The fact is, Spike is a killer. Despite his current disability, he is still mentally and physically tough. The only time he has ever asked for help was when he was starving to death, and even then he tried to bargain and even threaten for what he wanted. He is not a victim - he doesn't have the mental set-up for pathos. He'll whine occasionally, but he doesn't beg.
Fluffy/needy Spike (also known as Disney Spike)
He's just a big fluffy puppy with bad teeth. He loves Buffy/Willow/Cordy/Dru and shows it by mooning around writing love poetry and making cow eyes. Enormously long and eloquent speeches about the nature of love flow from his lips and he is the original hearts and flowers man.
Please! Despite the fact that canon now has William the Bloody as a middle class poet before he was turned, the fact remains that he never wrote poetry afterwards. He can be romantic, but more often than not it is in a grudging, self conscious way. He makes these gestures because he thinks that's what's expected. He's trying to do it right, but more often than not gets it a little wrong. Witness him practicing giving Buffy chocolates and ending up smacking her round the head with them. Romance may be in his heart, but it's pretty well buried.
Common to some bad slashfic is the notion that Spike does whatever his Dom (ususally Angel) tells him to do. He's totally housebroken, living in domestic bliss and acting like a 1950's housewife all round.
If you've read what's above, you should by now understand that Spike is capable of many things, but total submission is not one of them. He's brash and loud and sarcastic and lives to piss people off. The thought of him in a pinny and marigolds makes me twitch.
He will concede to his sire, but not ususally without a fight.
Examples of good Spike characterisation can be found in
The Clockwork Vampire by Spirit, Many Loves by Jessica Walker and Days of Our Unlives by Kita and Jessica Walker
In all of the above works, Spike is in love. His sort of love. It's loyal, feisty and fierce. But he's not a sap or a wimp or a girl. Read them. Please.
Angel the wimp & St Angel
Angel walks around looking pained and pledging undying love every ten minutes. He will happily die for a total stranger (especially if she is Mary-Sue) and is utterly selfless in all things.
He knows all, sees all and is never wrong.
Angel and Cordy/Willow/An Other sitting in a tree...
It's Sunnydale. It's a couple of years ago. Angel has all-of-a-sudden gone off Buffy and fallen madly in love with Cordy/Willow/Xander and everyone thinks that Buffy should just get over it...
Well first thing - Angel loved Buffy. Good or bad, he considered her to be the love of his life- his soulmate. If he was to pair up with someone else, it would be a highly traumatic time for all concerned, with much tortured soul-searching. His connection with Buffy is such that if he were to be attracted to one of her friends he would like as not do nothing about it.
Which brings me to the other part. The scenario decribed above is common to an area of fanfic know as the Willow/Cordy-Sue. In it, the female of your choice becomes something more and holds an instant attraction for Angel/Spike/Xander who immediately break with the loves of their lives and wish for nothing more than to spend the remainder of their existance with this goddess.
Buffy's a selfish bitch for being pissed about that isn't she?
Never write this. Not even in jest. It's just evil.
Angel is a quiet brooding man. He is a penitent man. He has a lot of issues that weigh heavily on his shoulders. He is not a bloody pansy. He will not take endless crap from people just because he has a soul. Neither is he perfect and saintly. He is a man. He gets mad. He is sometimes impatient. He has empathy for others, yes, but he doesn't always do the right thing. He tries to - but doesn't always make it.
Giles the stuffy old man
Giles drinks tea endlessly, rolls his eyes at modern music and creaks when he stands up. His wardrobe is stuffed with tweed and he drives at 15 miles an hour.
Now I know that some younger writers may feel that anyone over 30 is ancient, but Giles is still a youngish and very vital man. He's a little world-weary compared to how he was in S1, but then aren't we all? Remember Oz wanting to kidnap his record collection? Remember Ripper. Face it - the guy has moments of total cool. Let him enjoy them.
Willow knows all
Willow is wise, gentle and sweet. She never raises her voice and her laptop is the font of all knowledge. Whatever ails you, she has a spell to cure it.
Spike/Angel fancy her like mad and she modestly can't understand why...
Oh God - evil Willow-Sue
Please remember a few simple facts. Willow is sweet, yes, but she can also be snarky and vengeful. She gets mad in a slightly repressed way. She spent most of her formative years as an unpopular nerd, leaving her uncomfortable with confrontation. This doesn't mean she's a saint. Neither is she the world's most powerful witch. Only recently has she had the power to perform more than the most simple spells solo.
She is not going to remove Spike's chip with magic - sorry.
Xander the love god
Xander has the power to make men, women and children fall at his feet, swooning with desire.
His sensitive nature and natural beauty make him the perfect foil for Cordy-Sue, Willow-Sue and even Buffy-Sue. He's great in bed too, having the skill of Casanova and the sensitivity of a girl.
Come on, let's be honest. I think Xander is a sweetie, but the fact remains that he was a geek in High School and a loser after graduation - it took until S5 for him to find his place in the world. He's gawky and awkward. The only time he was attractive was when he was possessed by a hyena/soldier or when he was a vampire. He has had intimate knowledge of two women - only one on a regular basis. I doubt he was up to much in the bedroom stakes before Anya started teaching him.
Basically, it's all down to staying true to certain themes. If you need more help, the BTVS Writers Guild character zones are a good place to start. Just remember - if you have to constantly use a character's name so we know who it is - you're doing something wrong.
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