The Best of the West
Bonanza Fan Fiction
What the Hell Are We Looking For?

The  Obvious:  What we learned in school.

The first required element is, of course, basic application of the rules of good grammar, spelling and style.   We don't need to explain -- we hope.  While that doesn't mean every story will be flawless, the authors are people who care about their writing.

The Non-negotiable:  Characterization - Them Cartwrights and their friends.
The crux of fan fiction writing is always, always, always keeping the canon characters in character.  A reader of any Bonanza story who grew up with the series should be able to recognize the characters not just by name and description but by all those  characteristics developed through the synergy of the series' writers and the actors.  The joy of fan fiction is that writers can take these characters and put them in situations unavailable to writers bound by the strictures of network television.  However, putting a character in a new situation doesn't change the character, it simply explores the way that character will deal with a new situation.
This requirement doesn't mean every story has to portray the character in exactly the same way.   Writers are entitled to make their own reasonable assessments based on what they saw in the series.  What is not acceptable is presenting an unrecognizable character and slapping the name Cartwright on him  to fit the character to a pre-conceived plot, to work out the writer's psychological problems or to give her a fantasy lover.
Of course, the series writers presented the Cartwrights differently in the broad comedies than in the dramas; we expect writers will do the same.  Similarly, when stories take place before or after the series timeline there will be legitimate differences of opinion on the characters.  What would Joe be like as a child dealing with the death of his mother?  What would Adam be like if he returned to live at the Ponderosa a decade after he left?   What would Jamie be like as an adult.  Certainly there's no single "correct" characterization.  However, a writer depicting the young Cartwrights are still bound to some extent by what they became.   The young Joe could not have become the kind of man we saw as a late teen through thirty-something if he'd spent his youth strangling cats  or had suffering constant beatings that constituted child abuse from his father.   [Not that he didn't get a tanning now and then.]  A writer depicting the post-timeline Cartwrights are still bound by what they were.  The returned Adam might have suffered or he might have flourished, but unless he suffered a head injury, he didn't get stupid or mean.
The writer should also have respect for recurring and minor characters.  Sheriff Coffee, Cousin Will, half-brother Clay, Grandfather Stoddard -- they all had characteristics in the show that should be respected.  A character shouldn't be distorted just because a writer needs a convenient villain or dupe.

The Negotiable:   Canon  and History -- Honor it Unless There's a Good Reason to Violate it (just like the series writers).
There are many facts both basic and secondary that make up series canon -- e.g. the age differences between the Cartwright sons, where they were during the Civil War, how Ben met his wives, how Candy, Jamie, Dusty and Griff became part of the Ponderosa, that Joe was left-handed and the others not.  Of course, we know the series writers often played fast and loose with historical timelines, historical characters, Virginia City history etc.  They also contradicted facts established in one episode for the purpose of the plot of a later one.  Did Mark Twain come to Virginia City in Adam's time or Jamie's?  Was Joe's mother's name Felicia or Marie?
While a writer shouldn't violate canon out of ignorance or convenience, a good "what if" might violate it for the sake of a good story.  Some very good stories have.   Of course, when a writer strays from canon it's even more important that everyone stay in character.   A crux of a story that deviates from canon is generally  to suggest how a character or characters would deal with the changed circumstances.

We've accepted some stories which add characters to the Bonanza basics because they're well-written and explore interesting possibilities.  If characters come in during the series timeline who did not exist in the series (i.e. wives, children, uncles) the stories will be labeled Alternate Reality [AR].  Post-timeline [PT] stories will be labeled as such and may also contain additional characters.  Pre-timeline storys, [YC for Young Cartwrights] can take place anytime after Adam's birth to prior to Joe's 16th or 17th birthday when the series started.  Therefore Adam or even Hoss might be a young adult.  An AU (alternate universe) will take the characters to another era - modern, scifi, medieval.  There aren't many of these in the Bonanza fandom, but we found a good one.

Only the Facts Ma'am:   Do a little research
Fiction writers, fanfic or otherwise, aren't expected to do exhaustive research on every aspect of a story, although some of the best writers have.  But don't make an otherwise good story ludicrous with major factual errors or anachronisms.  It would be a good idea to know the most important parts of a horse, saddle and gun.  Don't have a hurricane (ocean-based storm) rip through the Ponderosa.  Don't have a character die of AIDS or wear clothes with a zipper.  If someone is suffering from an illness or injury, know a little about it and how it would be treated.  If a character is poisoned, know something about the poison.  And if you do a lot of research, don't feel compelled to put it all in one story.

The Elusive:  A Good Story - We'll Know it When We See It
The last "requirement" is the most difficult to define -- maybe it's a wonderful twist in a plot - maybe it's a touching look at a Cartwright in an emotional situation - maybe it's great action that keeps the story moving and the reader reading -- maybe it's an  original character who brings out something interesting in a canon character -- maybe it's nonstop comedy.  Every story is not for every reader, but we're betting our group will recognize a good story when they read it (at least enough of them to have it voted onto the site.)

The Don't-Blame-Us-Too-Much Disclaimer:
While we're doing our best to choose only stories that meet the criteria set out above, and we think we've done a damn fine job,  sometimes individuals in the group disagree.  An occasional story that a Joe lover finds to be totally in character may leave  Adamites fuming and vice versa.  Although we've tried to judge characterization by looking at all the characters, a majority vote may have resulted in a story being posted here where one of the characters is "off," especially in the mind of the folks who love him best.   We still believe a reader will find the story to be well-written but the minority voters on the committee would also love to hear your opinion if you think a character is distorted.   (We aren't above a "we told you so" to our colleagues.)  And while you're at it, all other comments, criticisms, outrage and praise is welcome.   Send your views to     If you have a story recommendation please send it to  and let us know where we can find it or send us a copy so it can be reviewed.

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About this Site
Who do we think we are? 
Why are we doing this?
Our Fan Fiction Criteria
Standards & Practices
 Bonanza Fan Fiction Master Index
Alphabetical by Title
Bonanza Fan Fiction Master Index
Alphabetical by Author
Adam Stories
Joe  Stories
Hoss Stories
Ben Stories
Whole Family Stories
Young Cartwrights
Just for Fun [Comedy Lite]
Post-Timeline Stories
Jamie, Candy, Hop Sing, Griff
Alternate Universe
Death Fics
Fan Fiction Resources
Character Bios & More
Bonanza Fanfic Links
Site Forum
Input & Opinions from
Readers, Authors, Site Owners
Special Pages
Stories for Holidays & Birthdays
Authors Choice 
Authors'   favorite self-penned stories.
Authors Inspirations
Authors choose the stories by other writers that inspired them either as readers or writers or otherwise got them started.
Tip of Our Hat
We take a page to tip our hats to good authors and/or stories not posted here.
A Sampling of:
Ponderosa Fanfic