Don't speak Latin in front of the books, Xander.

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Tiny Marshmallows Want to Be Free

by Mer

"Let the Tiny Marshmallows Go!" is the rallying cry of the Canon Liberation Movement. Donít get me wrong, I love canon, I love people who get their facts right and support their conclusions from the text, and if in addition to that you can extrapolate intelligently I may actually propose, even if I donít particularly like or agree with the direction youíre going.

But the key word here is *extrapolate*. Canon comes in two flavors, leit motif and one-off, and it is vitally important to tell the two apart. Look at the show, what does Spike usually drink? Beer, blood, bourbon. Spike drank the cocoa and asked about the tiny marshmallows once, with Joyce. It was cute. It was a moment. Now itís done. Heís not the Swiss Miss.

Yet Iíve lost count of the fics where Spike is eating the marshmallows, shopping for the marshmallows, mourning the absence of the marshmallows... and not even as some kind of ongoing weird food bonding moment between him and Joyce, which would make at least a little sense. Iíve seen the tiny marshmallows surface in Spike/Giles! Heís not obsessed with the marshmallows for their own sake. Really, I swear. They stick to the fangs.

In S/B fic, for example, it is fine to have Spike call Buffy ĎSlayer,í because he *does it all the time.* In fact if you have him stop and routinely call her something else (pooky?) youíre going to have to sell me on it and make the transition a plot point. On the other hand, "Hello, cutie", while a truly wonderful and memorable introduction to their relationship, he said once. Once. Once!

Yet there are so many fanfics in which Spike has called Buffy cutie. This isnít the right lesson to take from that scene. We now know that Spike is attracted to Buffy (a new record for fast foreshadowing), we know that he has no problems whatsoever admitting to same or using seemingly affectionate or positive pet names for his enemies, and that he likes to make an entrance. So great, we can work with that. But pick *another* endearment, at least. In the same vein, Spike does not actually call Angel Peaches every time they meet. Really. He doesnít. TBQ can give ya episode chapter and verse.

We need to ground our writing firmly in the canon, yes, and someday maybe Iíll do ya a rant about imports from other (and notably more poncy) schools of vampirism and why they need to die in embarrassing ways. But we also need to move at least a cautious step beyond the canon, or its not so much a fic as a mere pastiche of lines that canonís already done, and (usually) done better. If we wanted to watch the show again we could just watch the show again. Thatís the beauty that is my VCR, now that TBQ and Lucifrix have made it quit speaking French.

Now I have some sympathy on the name thing, ícause god knows Keren and I have found there are only so many Small British Food Items Spike can call Dawn. And since weíve developed their friendship so that in our stories it comes up a lot more often, weíve picked a couple and stuck with Ďem. And god knows canon took a one-off and gave it legs with the blooming onion, or Anya and the bunnies. Iím not saying it canít be done, but it has to be done sparingly.

And ideally, originally. I know thereís nothing new under the sun but there is a *lot* of canon. 9 years now, between the two shows. If youíve seen the tiny marshmallows in a bunch of fics already, canít ya pick *another* one liner to build on? Whoever first came up the Xander is addicted to chocolate thing, you get ten points for clever and unusual use of canon. The eight hundred people who picked up the fanon and ran with it like scissors each lose ten.

(If you are an unconventional shipper where the canon only gave you one or two one-offs as believable jumping off points, you are excused from this rule provided you remember to actually jump off into something and not just hang around going "look what he said!")

But the most crucial point is that you can pick up a one-off and play with it, if you do it carefully, but you canít reuse the showís one-offs for your own one-offs. Thatís just lazy writing and it doesnít work, because if theyíre memorable, well, we remember them, and they just donít pack the same punch the second time around. Particularly from characters who are known for their repartee. They can have stock phrases certainly, case in point "Are you evil again?", but they donít recycle their bon mots. You need your own Xander-style jokes and your own Giles-style putdowns.

TBQ is wont to cite that episode where Angel smells that Wesley had sex with a bleached blond last night. This tells us that Wes has casual sex (or arguably a relationship he keeps private from his friends), and that Angelís vamp senses are pretty damned acute. But TBQ, who reads far more Wesley than I, has seen that bleached blond in fanfics all over the place. Let the tiny marshmallows go! Itíd be okay, with me anyway, if you wanted to pick up the blond thing and run with it, give us back story and an explanation and a reason to care who the blond was and what they were to Wes. Secret girlfriend? Secret boyfriend? Trick of last resort at his favorite non-Caritas watering hole? Does he just pick up a series of bleached blondes because they remind him of his lost love Spike? But if youíre just trying to make the point about Angelís senses, pick another thing to smell. If youíre trying to make the point about Wesí sex life, at least give him a different one night stand.

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