Death Dogs' Tourist Guide to
Magnificent Seven Fan Fiction
Death Dogs
Awards for Magnificent Canon Storytelling

Faithfulness to Canon Characterization

To us, characterization is the essential element of a Mag7 fan fiction story.  It's especially crucial in an alternative universe story in which the characters and the bonds among them might be the only connection to the series.  For us, the draw of the Seven is the examination of seven disparate men  with no blood or legal ties coming together and creating what amounts to a family tied together through loyalty, courage, sacrifice,  etc.    Because of the importance of canon characterization, we will generally not award stories which change the ages of the characters in relation to each other, or which impose legal or blood relationships onto any subset of the Seven [even the kidfic will be judged as though the kids were OMCs]. Blatant errors of factual canon in an OW story will also disqualify it.

As in the series itself, characterization changes somewhat in comedy story lines so our criteria for characterization in humorous stories differs from that for more serious fare.  Satire is a related area in which characterization is usually somewhat skewed.  However, in both satire and comedy the characterization touches base with canon if only to mock it - gently in comedy; perhaps less so in satire.

A related requirement is that a story flow from a heroic, action background - old West peace keepers, ATF agents, private detectives, soldiers of fortune, law enforcement officers,  outer space adventurers, bounty hunters, military men, etc.  Award winning stories will include  comedies, satire, character studies, relationship stories, etc. which do not necessarily contain action or heroic elements, but they must be set within an action universe and be about heroic characters.  Heroic does not mean perfect - the most interesting literary heroes have flaws.  As Chris says about JD in Achilles, "If he was perfect, he wouldn't be one of us."

Of course, single or two-character stories can be within canon.  The Seven aren't joined at the hip (well not in most stories).  Pre and post timeline stories and stories of the men's childhoods can all use canon characterization.

Is there only one acceptable interpretation of canon characterization?
Who Do They Think They Are?

Of course, we each believe there is one "true" interpretation of canon characterization as to each of the Seven.  Problem is, there are seven of US interpreting canon as to seven of THEM and WE  haven't agreed on that "true" interpretation of characterization for any of them.  But we have agreed on the  range of characterization that could be said to flow from canon.

Examples of characterization that, to us, would deviate way too far from canon to be considered:  Vin calls Chris his sexy bunnykins.  Buck rapes a woman (or a man).  Chris beats up Ezra for "talking fancy."  Josiah goes on a fundamentalist Christian rampage, ranting about the nonbelievers doomed to hell for card playing, dancing, fornication or for just not being Christians.   JD shoots his horse because it dumped him in a water trough.  Nathan lets Ezra bleed almost to death because he's irked at the way Ezra exploited the sore loser who shot him.  Ezra plays the silent martyr who lets himself almost bleed to death because, although he is a misunderstood, saintly philanthropist, he thinks the rest of the seven would rather the bandages be used to bind the paper cut Vin got from tearing down his wanted poster.

Okay, not only are the foregoing examples exaggerations but some of them might actually be appropriate in a satire.  In truth our interpretation of canon characterization is probably narrower than that of some writers but we certainly accept that there is a range of characterization that can point to canon for support.  We've given a lot of thought to just where to draw our canon line in the sand.  How pathetic and emotionally needy can Vin be?  How much of a martyred saint can Ezra be?  How much of a glaring bully can Chris be?  We've come to this conclusion in each case:   a little more than we really love; a lot less than some authors like to write.

Literary Merit

The easiest way to describe a story that meets our criteria for literary merit is that the writing sings (or at least hums a sprightly tune).  The writing style, plot, atmosphere, dialogue, description, characterization, plot, etc. are all exceptionally pleasing to the reader.  We strive to include stories on our recommendation list that all proudly state "Good."  We want the stories for these awards that can shout, "Great!"  (With only one exclamation point.)

We strongly agree with the author of Arduinna's Chrestomathy:  Writing on Writing and urge everyone to give it a look.  She talks about the essentials of good writing and why it's important "even" in fanfic.  She lists the things we're looking for:  spelling, grammar, punctuation, showing not telling, POV, and internally consistent plots.

To win a merit award, a story should be virtually devoid of awkward sentence structure, misplaced modifiers, misused and misspelled words, incorrect punctuation and pretentious passages.  The writing should evoke emotions from the reader by getting into the characters' heads rather than trying to force them by telling the reader what the characters are feeling.  The plot, whether simple or complex, should be internally consistent and flow without clutter*.

*Clutter Ė the  inability of a writer to self-edit.  Clutter includes researched facts that are inserted just because the author canít bear to omit them, not because they further the plot or enhance the story.  It also includes undue rehash of common fanon or unnecessary paragraphs of canon facts that are simply thrust into the story rather than subtly blended into the narrative or dialogue.  Some writers also clutter their stories when they include mundane details and actions because they donít know how to move their character from one place to another without tracing each tedious step.

A Much Debated Exception - The Curse of the Typo:  We've discovered that even some of the most meritorious stories have typos.  [Heck, our meritorious website has typos.]  Although a few writers consistently produce perfectly proofread fanfic, there are many otherwise brilliantly written fics that don't quite achieve that perfection.  We found it was rather easy to distinguish simple typos from true inability to use good grammar, spelling and punctuation.  So after much arguing, citing of examples and re-reading of stories that truly did sing but had some noticeable typos, we decided to make the following concession to the dreaded typographical error:

First, we'll make sure that the typos in a story are the result of a slip of the keyboard, not ignorance of any aspect of the basics of good English.  Second, there can't be so many as to be distracting to the reader (to the type of reader who is distracted by that kind of thing - as we are),  In order to recognize those stories that are typo-free, each award of merit will be accompanied by a ribbon in blue, red or white.  A blue ribbon will designate a story that is virtually typo free.  A red ribbon will indicate the story did not quite achieve near-perfection.  A white ribbon will suggest that this was a great author who could use just a little more help with the proofreading.  This exception is not meant to suggest that a story rife with typos will be considered for an award.

For additional explanation  about canon characterization and literary merit Death Dog style, see our auxiliary pages.

What the Heck?
All Those Divisions, Categories & Length Classifications.

First, when someone nominates a story, she needn't worry about what division, category or whatever the story belongs in - just send in the nomination and let us worry about the proper classification.  So if you want to, ignore all the crap below.

Okay, here goes:  There are seven divisions as described on our nominations page:  Old West canon, Old West Slash, Gen/Het AUs. Slash AUs, Satire, Kidfic and original AU creation.

Each division will be divided into three categories:   Drama, Comedy and Dramedy.  Of course, a true drama will often have bravado comedy or humorous moments (think West Wing or ER).  Even a sit-com often has poignant "awww" moments (think Friends or Mary Tyler Moore - depending on your age).  But there are some light melodramas that  just aren't an easy fit in either category (think Ed, Laredo, most episodes of Simon & Simon, many episodes of MASH.)  Dramedy is a fail-safe category; most stories will fit nicely into the Drama or Comedy categories.

Each category will be further divided into length classifications:  Short (1-35 pages),  Medium (35 to 100 pages), Long (100 -200 pages), Extended (over 200 pages).  The length of a story will be determined based on print preview and KB properties and to some extent - intuition.   [Web site formatting, font sizes, graphics, page set up, etc. can affect page preview and KB, so we will adjust for those factors.]

Vignettes will be in an additional category that overlaps short stories in terms of length.  That is, a vignette is short but it is a special kind of story.  To give some dictionary definitions, a vignette is:  A brief literary description.  A short piece of writing, music, acting, etc. which clearly expresses the typical characteristics of something or someone.  A short, usually descriptive or illustrative literary sketch.  A short literary essay, especially one describing a person's character.  Generally a vignette will be under ten pages.

Ready for the last complication?  Each size category will divided into independent stories, sequentials and cross-overs.

Too complicated?  (Blame Outrider and Midnight Blue).  Take a look at a sample award page.  "One picture is worth . . ." and all that.  Just click on our dog Link.

The nominated stories will not be competing against each other but will be judged against a standard of magnificence.  Every story that meets that standard will be honored even if that means honoring more than one story in a length classification within a category.  However, we have set the bar very high for these awards so there may be no award winning stories in some categories or length classifications.   The stories will be listed on our awards page permanently and the scroll added to annually.   We hope some people will nominate stories not on our current rec list.  However, all stories receiving an award will be on our rec list by the time the awards are announced because any story worthy of an award is certainly more than qualified for our list.

The Judges.
We were determined to use only judges very familiar with the fandom and with the proven ability to produce or recognize good writing.  Of course, the judges who meet these qualifications are busy with their own writing and beta reading for their friends (i.e. their "regular customers").  We're familiar with several contests in various fandoms and know how difficult it is to get sufficient volunteer judges who will actually follow through and read/score a significant number of stories.  It's even harder to find qualified  judges to do so.  So we decided to proceed in the following fashion:

The seven of us who run this site are experienced writers, although mostly in other fandoms and writing non-fanfic.  We've done a significant amount of editing and beta reading.   Perhaps most importantly, we really know and love this fandom and all the characters.  We will sort all the nominations into three categories.  Any story  the seven us unanimously agree is award worthy will be put on the award list.  Any story the seven of us unanimously agree should be rejected for lack of excellence in either canon characterization or literary merit, will be put on a rejected list.  Unanimous agreement among the seven of us will  not be an easy thing - it will involve much defense of favorites, gnashing of teeth and pointing out of problems in some stories and strengths in others.

Any story that gets at least one vote for an award or one vote for rejection will go on a list for the outside judges.  The outside judges will also have access to the other two lists and will be free to give us a "what were you thinking?" wake-up call which will cause the story to be reconsidered with the help of several outside judges.

A panel of judges with experience as writers/beta readers and with thorough knowledge of, and appreciation for, canon characterization will determine which of the nominated stories meet the criteria for magnificent storytelling.  Cross-overs will be judged by panel members familiar with the cross-over series.  Judges will not judge their own stories and will not be informed of which categories they have been nominated in until after the judging.  Stories written by site owners will not be eligible.

Send nominations to


Magnificent Canon Storytelling Awards
Magnificent Canon Storytelling Awards
Magnificent Canon Storytelling Awards
Sample Award Page
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(or maybe just most).
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[More mush allowed.]
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