Sometimes people who aren't members of the PPC have questions about us. This FAQ was written to help these Other People out. If you are an Other Person with a question that isn't answered here, drop by the Board and ask us! If you do, make sure you read our Constitution first, though. Thanks!
What is the PPC? Edit
What do you do? Edit
We are dedicated to promoting good writing while criticizing and making fun of bad writing. We usually do this by writing stories where our characters travel into bad fanfics and sort them out by getting rid of the eye-bleeding character defamation, eye-sporking slash, eye-watering Mary Sues, and other things that may cause ocular damage.
Why do you do it? Edit
Well, because it's cathartic to rip into a piece of bad writing, because it can be educational (maybe), and because we have a genuine distaste for bad writing and a passion for good stuff, among other reasons.
But mostly because it's really really fun.
Who are you, anyway? Edit
Me, the person writing the answer to this FAQ question? Hi! I'm Thoth, one of several PPC members with really pretentious mythological names. I wrote some of the responses to these FAQ questions, including this one, largely because I felt really passionate about replacing the angry rant that this whole thing kinda used to be.
Oooh, you meant the PPC generally! We're a group of writers and writer-adjacent people with a passion for fanfiction, and good, high-quality writing. We are of varying ages, levels of experience, confidence, physical locations, genders, sexualities, and whatnot. As you may have noticed, we're pretty diverse, and we try to be fairly inclusive. :-)
Why do you care so much when it's only fanFICTION? Edit
Basically, because we love the fiction your fiction is based on, and we want to see it treated well. Because the person or people who created the fiction your fiction is based on put a lot of thought and effort into it, and we respect that. Because we love the craft of writing, and because "fiction" does not mean writing with low standards. Quite the opposite, in fact! The fiction your fiction is based on probably had to meet some very high standards indeed in order to get published and become popular in the first place, especially when it comes to enduring classics like The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars.
Not that everything that gets published is great, but that doesn't mean its creators didn't care about it. Its fans certainly do. Care for your fanfiction, and you're caring for what inspired it, the people who love it, and indeed yourself, too.
What do you mean when you say...? Edit
... 'canon'? Edit
- Main article: Canon
HFA said it so well it bears repeating:
- Canon is the rules by which we live, the books, the plotlines, the story. Canon is what makes us, protects us, and what as a fanwriter you must respect. Our Canon maintains us, and holds our world together."
- —James Potter, "The Hogwarts Fanfiction Academy," Chapter 22
To expand on that a bit, what's considered canon for any given franchise is the information contained in the official body of work(s) acknowledged by its creator(s), whether the medium is books, films, TV series, video games, something else, or some combination. Word of God—what a creator says about their world in a letter, interview, blog post, or whatever—may also count. What's canon is what we know to be true about a story, its world, and its characters.
Granted, this can get a little murky at times, especially in large franchises with multiple creators, but PPCers believe that if we choose to write about someone else's work, we are obligated to know and respect their rules about it to the best of our ability. Even if we don't necessarily like parts of the canon. Making an informed decision to ignore something for the purpose of a fanfic is fine by us; messing things up out of ignorance or spite is not.
"Canon" may also refer to a "canon character," which is any character found in the canon.
... 'Suvian' (or 'Mary Sue', 'Gary Stu', etc)? Edit
In the simplest terms, when a PPCer says a character is Suvian, they mean it is poorly written and unsympathetic, usually due to an abundance of narrative "telling" that is unsupported by or outright contradictory to the narrative "showing." In other words, the audience is expected to take it as a given that the Suvian is special because the story says so rather than come to respect the character through their struggles and growth. This can refer to canon characters as well as fanfiction characters.
We know other people use these terms in other ways. That's why we have two whole articles expanding on our definition.
... 'canon Sue'? Edit
- Main article: Canon Sue
A canon Sue, also rendered Canon!Sue, is a canon character that is also a Mary Sue, either naturally, as written in canon, or due to the manipulation of a fanwriter. Usually, if we're talking about canon Sues, we mean the former, and the names of Bella Swan, Eragon, and Drizzt do'Urden are likely to come up.
... 'OC'? Edit
- Main article: Original Character
"OC" stands for "original character." It refers to a character made up from whole cloth by a fan writer, as opposed to a canon character.
... 'OOC'? Edit
- Main article: Out of Character
"OOC" stands for "out of character." It's what happens when a fan writer does not grok a canon character's personality and writes their actions and speech in ways that contradict what's shown to be true of them in canon.
We know that no fan can ever write a canon character exactly how their original author would, and that's fine. However, we do expect people to make an effort.
... 'MST'? Edit
- Main article: MST
This stands for "Mystery Science Theater" and is a reference to the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000. In the show, a man is stuck on a spaceship with only snarky robots for companions. They're forced to watch terrible old B-movies For Science, and the only way they can keep their sanity is by injecting commentary over the film to make each other laugh about it.
The verb "to MST" means to critique a work in the manner of the show, by injecting commentary with the intent of being funny.
... 'mission'? Edit
- Main article: Mission
The premise of the PPC fictional universe is that there exists an agency whose purpose is to protect the plot continua—that is to say, the worlds created by books, movies, TV shows, games, etc., also called the canon—from the effects of bad writing in fanfiction set in those worlds. In-universe, a mission is simply the task of a team of PPC agents to repair the damage caused by a particular fanfic.
Ex-universe, the answer gets a bit more complicated.
A PPC mission is a form of fanfiction, twice removed from the original book, movie, etc. It is also a form of literary criticism that critiques, parodies, and deconstructs the source fanfic. Note that the criticism in a mission is not directed at the fanfic's author, though, since we don't go around rubbing people's noses in the fact that we've sporked their fic. Occasionally a fic's author will request a mission to their work, but it's rare. So, the criticism is primarily for the benefit of other writers who may learn from the example.
To be successful, a mission must accomplish three goals:
- To demonstrate the problems in the source fic;
- To stand up as a story in its own right;
- To be funny.
Each of these is equally important. If it fails in the first point, it's not good criticism; if it fails in the second, it might as well just be an MST; and if it fails in the third, it's missing the heart and soul of the PPC universe.
As literary criticism, a mission is unique because the criticism takes place from within the story rather than without. It doesn't merely explain that a story has missing apostrophes, purple prose, and an unsympathetic main character, it shows what happens as a result.
The linchpin of a mission, the thing that allows it to accomplish all its goals, is its characters. Most missions star two PPC agents, partners who are assigned to work together on a particular category of bad fanfic. The agents are the audience's eyes and ears (and noses and tongues and hands). Because they experience fanfic firsthand as opposed to simply reading it on a screen, the effects of bad writing can be shown as very real—often surreal—and visceral. To a PPC agent, a missing apostrophe isn't important just because it's the rules—it's important because writing a name as plural instead of possessive can cause a person to split into multiple copies of themself. Bringing the rules of writing and canon to life through the experience of the agents allows a mission to a) show the importance of the rules in creative ways rather than just dryly telling about them, b) provide its characters with interesting challenges to overcome, and c) crack a whole lot of jokes.
And it's a whole lot of fun to do.
... 'spork' or 'assassinate'? Edit
A spork is a utensil that has a spoon-like shallow scoop with the addition of the tines of a fork. It is blunt like a spoon, yet pointy like a fork, and it has many uses. For instance, it can be used to (figuratively) gouge out one's eyes while reading badfic that's causing ocular discomfort, or to (again figuratively) gouge out the problems in the badfic itself.
The spork has become emblematic of inflicting blunt yet pointed commentary on a badfic in an MST, mission, or other format, as in "sporking a fic." It can also refer to the MST or mission itself, as in "see my spork of this fic at [link]."
Suvians may also be sporked to death (literally or figuratively), or assassinated by other means at the hands of PPC agents. The ones who work in the Department of Mary Sues are known as assassins because that's their main job.
You could just use a spork to eat, we suppose. So many uses!
... 'flame'? Edit
- Main article: Flame
Flaming is verbal hostility over the Internet, malicious or occasionally unintentional. Examples of flames include personal insults, hateful remarks (e.g. racial slurs), and any other use of language designed to provoke or hurt the target rather than help them.
The PPC does not condone the flaming of anyone, for any reason. We avoid mentioning fanfic authors at all in our stories, and if our members choose to talk to them directly, we encourage them to be nice and give constructive criticism. If someone has flamed you and claimed it was on behalf of the PPC, please tell us so we can either discredit them if they're not a member or correct them if they are.
... 'concrit'? Edit
- Main article: Constructive Criticism
Constructive criticism, commonly abbreviated to concrit, is a useful review of a story, artwork, performance, etc.
A fanfic review containing constructive criticism makes useful, specific comments about plot, characterization, or technicalities such as punctuation or spelling, either to point out problems (negative concrit) or to compliment excellent technique (positive concrit). Whether positive or negative, good concrit should tell the author specifically what was done well/poorly, and why, preferably with examples. If negative, it should also offer suggestions for improvement, either of the work in question or of future works. The less ambiguous it is, the more useful it will be to the author.
Concrit is greatly prized in the PPC and by all authors who desire to improve themselves. Taking the time to write good, solid concrit is just about the greatest boost you can give a writer, because it shows you were paying attention and that all their hard work was not wasted, even if it didn't pan out exactly as intended. We crave concrit, we love it, and many of us strive to give it whenever possible.
Writing concrit takes time and concentration, though, so we're not likely to make the effort if we don't believe it will do any good. If a fic is too far gone, or if the author appears too unconcerned or belligerent, we may consider it a better use of our time to just spork the fic instead, have some laughs among ourselves, and hope someone else can learn from it.
In PPC stories, "concrit" may also refer to a building material used in HQ, possibly a pun on "concrete."
What gives you the right to...? Edit
... say what's good or bad writing? Edit
As it turns out, you don't actually need some kind of special right to decide whether you think something is good or bad. It's something anyone can do.
And we are by no means some ultimate arbiters of truth and of good writing. What, do you think we'd be hanging around here if we were? We're just a bunch of writers. Nothing special, no magical powers. If you disagree with us and you can explain why, we might decide that we were wrong and that a piece of writing we thought was bad is actually great!
The odds of that are about a billion to one. But it could happen, theoretically.
... say my character is badly written? Edit
Once again, we don't really need any sort of special right to do this. As for how we can tell whether or not your character is badly written... if you read enough fiction, you sort of start to get a sense for it. It's still subjective (ask the internet whether Shinji Ikari, Kirito, or Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality are bad characters, and get ready to duck the flames...), but there are some danger signs most people can recognize. On the far end of the spectrum, you have characters that are almost objectively bad. Like Rose Potter.
... say what's in-character? Edit
Once again, no real right required! As for why we may be right about it... much like people get a sense for what is and isn't good characterization, people get a sense of what a certain character would or wouldn't do if they've had enough experience with the character. In most cases, we've had a lot of experience with the canon characters we're talking about. Of course, it's subjective to an extent, but there are some things that are pretty cut-and-dried OOC. Like, say, Gandalf falling for some random girl that he came across and marrying her. That's pretty objectively something he wouldn't do.
... use my writing in your missions? Edit
To use another explanation, we have the freedom to use your writing in our missions for more or less the same reasons that you have the freedom to write fanfiction in the first place. You can use Tolkien's stories as a basis for your own, and we in turn can use your stories as a basis for ours. Fair, right?
... bully other writers? Edit
Absolutely nothing. Which is one of the reasons why we explicitly try not to do that. Other than, you know, the fact that it's an awful thing to do, and just... really really nasty.
If you're talking about missions, missions are not bullying. In fact, read any mission in recent history, it's rare for the author to even really be mentioned in the mission itself. We focus on criticizing, judging, and making fun of stories. Not writers.
If you still feel like criticizing your work is inherently attacking you... we can't really help you with that. But attacking you isn't our intent.
... try and get my fic taken down? Edit
Usually nothing, which is why we don't. The only time a PPCer will try to get your story removed from whatever archive it's on is if it violates the terms of that archive—for instance, by exceeding the allowed rating, or by being direct plagiarism of another story.
... judge my story? Edit
Being a human being! As it turns out, anyone can judge a story. You can, too. Heck, you can judge our stories, and decide that they're terrible and that we're really bad writers. And if you do that, and you can explain why you think our stories are bad, we might actually agree with you. And then we'll do our best to write better stories. Because we all want to be better writers.
Why is it important to...? Edit
... pay attention to spelling, punctuation, and grammar? Edit
Aside from the fact that you'll make our poor agents suffer if you don't...
- Because "a wizard popped out of thin air" means something different from "a wizard pooped out of thin air."
- Because "the panda eats shoots and leaves" means something different from "the panda eats, shoots and leaves."
- Because "relieved I am to know you are very much alive" means something different from "relieved I am to know you are very much undead."
- And because "May I be informed of a name that beholds you?" doesn't mean anything at all.
The basic rules of writing are important because they aid clarity. If you follow them, people are more likely to understand what you mean and to assume you know what you're doing. If you don't, they are more likely to be confused and less likely to take you seriously, especially if the mistakes are as ridiculous as the examples above. All real, by the way.
Furthermore, it's rude to make your readers do extra work to understand your story just because you couldn't be bothered to check it over for basic errors. You are the story-teller; it's your obligation to make your meaning plain, not the reader's to decipher your misspellings and bizarre syntax. The harder a reader has to work to understand your writing, the more likely they are to decide it's too much trouble and stop reading. (Or, if they're a PPCer, that it's too funny and start sporking.)
Also, consider this: the language we use shapes the way we think. We know this because concepts that are impossible to express in one language have words for them in others, and people with the words to express certain concepts approach the world differently than people without. By paying attention to the way you use language and developing your vocabulary and writing skills, you add tools for thinking about the world to your mental toolbox. By becoming a better writer, you can also become a better thinker. Why not strive for clarity, elegance, and order in your approach?
... write the canon characters accurately? Edit
We presume that you're writing about these characters because you enjoyed the work they came from and really liked them, or really hated them, or had some sort of feelings that moved you to want more of them. We did, too! That's why we went looking for more writing about them.
About them. About the people they are in their stories, with all their admirable qualities, their flaws, and their unique little quirks.
If you're not writing a canon character accurately, you're not writing the same character you loved or hated or otherwise felt strongly about, or the same character we came looking to read about. Frankly, we just don't see the point of that. We especially don't understand writing a canon character in a way that directly contradicts their established personality for no reason. If you didn't want to write about someone with that personality, why did you pick that character to write about? Why not just make up your own? It's extremely confusing. And confused readers are not going to stick around for very long.
That said, there's nothing wrong with making an informed choice to write a character in a different way for the purpose of an alternate universe fic or other speculative story. The trick is to have a reason for the change, and to logically work through the impact it would have on the other characters and the events of the plot. Character traits do not exist in a vacuum, and respectfully exploring what a difference it can make to change them is what makes that kind of story interesting and fun rather than random and stupid.
There's also nothing wrong with exaggerating a character's traits for the purposes of a parody, but there it's important to remember that humor only works when it's based firmly in the truth (or at least what your audience accepts as such). If you don't really understand the character you're parodying, then your jokes won't make sense, and they will not be funny. There is such a thing as bad parody.
... avoid writing a 'Suvian'? Edit
Oh boy. At this point, we could probably write a book about this if we put our minds to it. We'd have plenty of material based on all the accumulated critique of Suvians found in the corpus of PPC missions written in the last decade and change, which is where the best answer to this question may be found. It's a vast, complicated question with a vast, complicated answer.
On the one hand, with a sufficiently broad perspective, it doesn't matter at all whether you write a Suvian or not. You're not going to start a war or destabilize the global economy or anything by doing it. We know that.
On the other hand, shrink the perspective just a little bit, and we can talk about Suvians and feminism. We think Suvians perpetrate a harmful view of women and are anti-feminist. For more on why that's bad and should be avoided, see the "Isn't this sexist?" part of this FAQ.
Shrink the perspective some more, and we can talk about Suvians and the craft of writing. We believe Suvians are, by definition, poorly written characters that inhabit poorly written stories. We think it's important to avoid bad writing and instead strive for good writing.
Shrink it even more, and we're talking about Suvians in a particular fandom. Suvians tend to upstage and warp the canon characters and mess up the canon. The more this happens, the less recognizable the fandom becomes as having any connection to the work or works that inspired it. We think this is ridiculous.
And finally, in the narrowest possible view, why should one writer avoid writing one Suvian in one fanfic? Because it will be a better fanfic with a better OC that way. Simple as that.
... make my OC fit into the canon? Edit
As stated earlier, when people are looking for fanfic, they're looking for an extension of canon. Their ability to tolerate deviations from canon may vary depending on who they are, but for many of them, if your OC is a part of groups that they shouldn't be a part of, starts a relationship or is a child of a relationship that shouldn't happen (especially if the canon ship broken in the process is one the authors deeply care about), or something like that, that's going to trigger a very strong reaction in them and break their suspension of disbelief. And as such, it should be in your best interest to prevent that happening—if you are only writing fanfiction to serve yourself and your personal fantasies, without keeping your audience in the back of your mind at least, you should best keep it private.
... work out how other characters would react to my OC? Edit
Basically, because it's part of writing the canon characters in-character and your OC as a believable person. If the canon characters don't react to your OC in ways that make sense either for their personalities, for the context of the setting, or with the OC's behavior, then we can't believe in your OC as a character to take seriously, and we lose our ability to get immersed in the story. All we see is a writer forcing their pet character down the universe's throat without respect for the canon characters or for good storytelling.
... not make my OC one-dimensional? Edit
Not all OCs need to be three-dimensional (see Characterization), but when we're talking about a main character, and we are, it's important for them to be three-dimensional in order to be interesting enough to carry a plot. Three-dimensional characters are characters who learn and struggle, grow and change, like we all do in the course of our lives. Even if we disagree with their choices, we can understand and sympathize with them, and get invested in what happens to them. One-dimensional characters just don't have enough substance to grab the audience in the same way. And you want your main character to grab your audience.
To be fair, it wasn't always the fashion for any characters in fiction to be 3D, and stories about flat, archetypal characters still have a place when it comes to relating moral lessons and such, as in children's books and allegories. It is the fashion in most modern fiction for youth and adults, though. If you're writing for a general modern audience, it behooves you to bear in mind that we expect to read about characters who resemble real people, with all their depth and complexity.
Isn't this sexist? Edit
Is the term 'Mary Sue' sexist/misogynist? Edit
Many writers have eschewed the term "Mary Sue" because they believe using it is an act of misogyny. Because "Mary Sue" is a girl's name, and because some people use the term to insult any disliked female character or even a real person, whether she shares the traits of a Mary Sue or not, these people believe using it at all perpetrates a culture that oppresses young women trying to empower themselves through their writing.
The PPC respects this viewpoint, but does not share it. Our reasons can be summed up as follows:
- By our definition, Mary Sues are fictional characters, not real people. Disliking or insulting a fictional character is not the same as disliking or insulting a real person.
- We believe many Mary Sue characters themselves are anti-feminist in their portrayal of women (see below), and Gary Stus don't do men any favors, either.
- If we called Mary Sues something else, the new term would still have the same definition and baggage. A different term would not change what we think about these characters, or what other people think about our opinions.
We do agree, however, that calling any disliked female character a Mary Sue is bad, and we strongly discourage our members from doing so. Although we do dislike Mary Sue characters in general, that doesn't mean we think any character we dislike is a Sue, or that we dislike all female characters.
And we certainly don't dislike the idea of women writing! The PPC was started by women and was majority female for a good chunk of its history, and nowadays we have a good balance of men, women, and non-binary folks, too. We just want to see fans, including women, writing well.
Is a Suvian a strong character? Edit
No indeed; by our definition, Suvians are weak characters.
Suvians are unrealistically attractive, disproportionately powerful, and always successful at everything they do with only the barest of struggles. They're handed heaps of privilege without having to earn it. They can't fail. They can't get humiliated. The story itself will dutifully remove all real obstacles from their shining path. And a character who needs their author to do all that work for them is not a character who has any sort of strength.
What strengthens a character is allowing them to earn power for themself by virtue of the conflicts that arise in a story. Even having a character try to earn power and fail honorably is more empowering than just imbuing a character with incredible abilities and watching them take out ridiculously enervated villains. Strength of character in a literary sense has absolutely nothing to do with a character's abilities; it has to do with the consistency, believability, and integrity of the character's portrayal within the story.
Is a Suvian a good role model? Edit
You are mistaken if you think that Suvians care about representing or empowering anyone but themselves. The majority of Suvians tend to be skinny, white, able-bodied, cisgendered, and heterosexual, which is definitely not representative of people as a whole. They trample over characters, timelines, plots, romances, deaths, and births, just so they can exist. They have mad fighting "skillz", extraordinary powers, and supposed intelligence, yet insist on having the sole reason for their existence be forcing someone to fall in love with them. They act like spoiled, selfish monsters to friends and enemies alike and demonize anyone who has the temerity to criticize them.
And their treatment of strong canon females is particularly shabby. If they're an OC, they may force their way into the main plotline by humiliating or killing off strong female characters who were already there. If they come from a canon character, they receive not just "sooper speshul" abilities, but physical transformations to make them more appealing to men. Let's take Hermione Granger, for example.
This idea of the "empowering" Mary Sue should be instantly dispelled the moment one reads one's first Suefic about Hermione turning out to be adopted. Suddenly, she's rich, she's a pureblood, and by the way, her appearance changes completely and she has huge boobs and smooth hair and all those hallmarks of fantasy women built to cater to male desires.
Taking a strong female character and turning her into a fashion ad is not empowering to women, and giving representation only to the most socially privileged class is not the sort of example anyone needs more of.
Is mocking Suvians anti-feminist? Edit
Quite the contrary, actually. A Sue is a poorly written character who never has to work for her accomplishments and quite often spends her time pining for the affection of one or more male characters to the detriment of the story. A feminist character makes things happen; a Sue has things happen to her.
All too many Mary Sues ascribe to the basest tenets of the patriarchy (heterosexual marriage is the true way to happiness, women need to be rescued, men are allowed to be territorial over "their" women as long as they're hot, etc.). How many Mary Sues join the Fellowship only to have Aragorn or Boromir save them in a dramatic manner from a danger that a so-called empowered female could have got out of herself? How many Mary Sues fall in love with a wholly unsuitable, even dangerous man (e.g. Sweeney Todd, Severus Snape, the Phantom of the Opera), and expect the power of "Twu Wuv" to turn him into the perfect mate and father so she can have a perfect life? How many Mary Sue stories depend on a man to complete the fantasy? We don't see how any of this is advancing the cause of feminism.
Furthermore, you know how everyone criticizes rail-thin models because they threaten the self-image of preteen girls? A Mary Sue is what happens when that negative self-image crosses over into fanfiction, when a girl is convinced that in order to be special, she has to be a superpowered goddess... instead of just being herself. Sue stories embody the notion that a woman's superficial traits—such as her looks, family connections, valuable possessions, and level of ability—are the most important things about her, rather than the content of her character (both literal and figurative). We think using our missions to dismantle this notion is far more feminist than encouraging it.
Also, if you really want to find out whether we hate the idea of women being empowered, the best way is to read our stories and analyze the portrayal of the female agents.
Do you just call all female OCs Suvians? Edit
Absolutely not. As you will see on the Mary Sue page, we maintain our own definition of what a Sue is, and Sues must have a certain set of qualities to be called such. Note that none of those are even really female-specific, which brings us right to...
Do you make fun of male characters/characters by male writers too? Edit
Absolutely! Although many of our targets and their authors are female, simply due to the demographics of fanfiction writers as a whole, we here at the PPC will spork regardless of gender. Hence, meet Gary Stu, the male version of Mary Sue, in all his toxic-masculine glory! Mmm... delicious horror.
And just to clarify, we do also use Mary Sue in gender-neutral contexts, such as when we're speaking hypothetically or generically. This is because most Suvians are female, which is in turn because most fanfiction authors are female, because most people who are active in fandoms are female. This isn't sexist; it's simply reflecting the data.
Isn't the term 'Mary Sue' too broad to use any more? Edit
In some circles, perhaps! Some people tend to call anything they don't like a Sue. However, as previously mentioned, the PPC keeps its own, specific definition of the term for this exact reason. If people are calling something a Sue, and it doesn't fit our definition, then for our purposes it isn't a Sue.
Please may I be excused? I... Edit
... am just doing this for fun. Edit
Nothing's wrong with writing a story for fun! Who hasn't indulged in a little wish fulfillment in the past?
The problem comes when you post the story on a public website for everyone to read. Once it's out there, you're implicitly saying you think the story is good enough to share, which opens it up to criticism.
If you want to write for fun without the risk of other people criticizing your story, keep it to yourself or share it with your friends until you're ready to share it with the world.
... worked super hard on this story. Edit
No, you can't be excused. The amount you worked doesn't make the result any better. But if you really did work hard, and you're willing to continue working hard to improve, we're certainly willing to help. Here's some advice:
Read the spork. No, really. Most people have a hard time dealing with criticism of their work, but it is important. Honestly, a spork's primary job isn't really critique, so if you have proper concrit, read that instead, because it will do better, but in the absence of concrit, a spork will do. Learn from it. See what you can improve.
You worked super hard on a story, and you wound up with something that wasn't very good. There's no shame in that. Use what you've learned from both the process of writing and from the feedback you've gotten to write something better. If you want feedback, you can always ask on The Board. We can't promise anything, but we do like looking at fanfic. Heck, while you're at it, become a PPC Board member. We always welcome writers of any skill level looking to improve.
... was super depressed when I wrote this story. Edit
Writing can be a really great way to work through tough spots in your life. It's good that you have that outlet, and we hope it helped.
But the writing you do for catharsis is not necessarily something you ought to share with the critical public, especially if you're still not in the most stable headspace. If you choose to share it anyway, you are opening yourself up to critique, and you need to accept that.
... am only twelve / am new at this. Edit
No, being a young or inexperienced writer does not grant you immunity from criticism. First of all, although beginning writers are more likely to produce bad fanfiction simply due to not knowing any better, that doesn't mean they inevitably will. We've known lots of beginners who had tons of potential and still needed critique to grow and thrive. Many of them were ourselves. That's how we know that denying criticism to beginning writers just because they're beginning writers wouldn't be fair to the ones who could really appreciate it.
Second, we repeat, if you are choosing to share your fanfiction in a public archive (where the minimum age requirement is usually thirteen, FYI), you are opening yourself to the same level of critique as everyone else on that archive. If you want to keep sharing your writing with the world at large, you'll need to learn how to handle it, just like everyone else. We know it's hard—we've all been there ourselves—but the ability to take criticism gracefully is a great skill to have, and it will help you be more successful with your writing, and indeed life in general, in the long run.
We do understand the concerns of those who say that criticizing bad writing hurts the self-esteem of the young or beginning writers who tend to be behind it. That's one reason we don't use PPC missions to critique authors of particular badfics directly, but rather as examples for others; our agents tend to be a lot saltier than we are ourselves. However, we do subscribe to the belief that correcting a beginner's mistake with constructive criticism is better than allowing it to persist until it becomes an entrenched habit. Self-esteem is an important thing to have, but building it on false foundations can only result in a worse crash if it should be collapsed later on. No one likes finding out they've been deceived by people they trusted.
If a young or insecure author does stumble on a mission to their fic and it hurts their feelings, we're sorry—that wasn't supposed to happen—but it doesn't mean our critique is invalid, and we would encourage them to try to learn from it once the shock wears off.
... don't speak English as a first language. Edit
If that is the case, we generally try to be slightly more lenient on grammatical flaws, but ultimately, the onus is on you to learn the language you are writing in, and to craft a good story. And if we sporked your fic merely on the basis of grammatical failings, disregarding other issues, then your grammar and spelling are probably bad enough that it's hard for any reasonable human being to discern your meaning. If that isn't the case, we have other complaints.
In general, if your English isn't competent, we suggest practicing until it is, getting a beta reader who is fluent, or writing fanfic in your native language, which is entirely acceptable.
... have a learning disability. Edit
Having a disability does not mean you are incapable of doing great things. You may have to go about it differently, work a little harder, or get some extra help, but that should by no means bar you from aiming high.
Also, as noted elsewhere in this FAQ, if you're posting your work in public, you are implicitly stating your belief that it's good enough to share with a general audience and consenting for it to be judged accordingly. If you don't feel up to that, we recommend sharing your work in a private community instead.
I also want to say... Edit
Doesn't this make people stop writing? Edit
People have given up writing after being critiqued, yes. That's one reason we don't go out of our way to shove our missions in people's faces. However, that's their decision. People have also used critique to improve their writing and gone on to do really great things, even publishing original works!
Here's the thing: when you post a fanfic on a public archive like Fanfiction.net or AO3, you are opening yourself up to criticism. Not all of it will necessarily be good. We're sorry if you didn't realize that going in, but just as you have the freedom to write your fanfic, we have the freedom to comment on it. If you don't feel like you can handle that, it's okay, and we recommend sharing your stories with your friends in private communities instead.
Aren't you flaming with your missions? Edit
As noted above, the PPC does not condone the flaming of any person, for any reason. We avoid mentioning fanfic authors at all in our stories and instead focus on the writing. Since a fanfic and the fictional characters in it are not real people and do not have feelings, insulting them is not flaming.
If you read older missions, you may find the no-flaming policy was not always as strongly in place as it is today. For that, we can only apologize.
Are you trying to insult, upset, or attack writers? Edit
Not at all! We firmly believe there is a difference between a writer and their work. We wish those that we have sporked the very best. Heck, writers who we respect may have written work that is spork-worthy in the past, including many PPCers. Hence why a writer will occasionally request that their work be sporked.
We will not spork a work out of a personal desire to attack a writer, regardless of whether we like them or how we feel. Indeed, there are rules against bashing writers in our community.
Why not just give constructive criticism instead? Edit
Well, in a lot of cases, concrit doesn't get very far. If you, dear reader, found out your story was sporked, and actually looked, and then bothered to come to this wiki looking for answers, you're putting in a lot more effort than many writers would (thank you for that, by the way!). It's all too common for concrit to be ignored, and received extremely poorly. In addition, a number of the stories that we mission are so incredibly bad that it's hard to give them concrit at all.
Which isn't to say that we don't provide it at all! There are many members who will gladly leave concrit and reviews on fanfic. But we also do this. Why? Again, because it's fun.
Why not just read and write good stories instead of attacking bad ones? Edit
Because we have fun doing this! Besides, is there any reason we can't do both?
...The answer, by the way, is "no". That was a rhetorical question. The PPC has a long history, and we have a wealth of characters with their own stories and arcs, told through the rich medium of making fun of badly written fanfic, with the occasional interlude here and there.
Didn't this used to be a long, angry rant? Edit
You're thinking of Araeph's original FAQ: For Other People. It was written in 2007; after ten years, we felt it was time for a change.