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A Basic Guide to Fanfiction  

Last Updated: Jun 2, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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A Basic Guide to Fanfiction, Rachel Clark '16

A Basic Guide to Fanfiction


What is fanfiction?  Many of you readers may have heard of it before, but some of you may be unclear on what exactly it involves.  Fanfiction is any work of literature based off of a work of a previously published and acknowledged work of fiction.  This does not just involve books - movies, songs, TV shows, comics, video games, manga, operas, plays, and more.  Any officially recognized source of media can be an inspiration for fanfiction.  


Where is fanfiction found? Fanfiction can be found almost anywhere.  People write fanfiction in their notebooks and hide it in their rooms.  People post stories to dedicated sites, like, or  Writers post on LiveJournal, on Fiction Press, on Wattpad, even on sites not meant for literature like Youtube.  Fanfiction can be found in a lot of ways, but the safest is to go to a site that is known and recognized widely in multiple communities to hold a wide variety of fanfiction for others to read.  Sites like and are fanfiction giants and they are both safer and more likely to contain the stories you want to find.


How do I find the category I want?  Most websites have their fanfiction split up into categories by type, and a menu somewhere near the top of the page which will help the reader find the correct category.  Not all sites will be this convenient, but some will and with a little effort, most sites are easy to navigate.


Isn’t Fanfiction inappropriate?  This is a misconception expressed often by people who hear their friends talking about the horrific things they’ve read over the weekend. Clarification: The problem is with your friends.  Fanfiction is not by definition one thing or another.  It varies wildly based on the author and the source material.  You may recall the types of books that have been read in your recent English classes.  Most fanfiction will not be worse than that, because most people aren’t taking the time out of their busy lives to write something that awful.  There are a few people who do, but the use of tags and warnings helps readers avoid stories they will not be comfortable with.


I don’t understand the terms used in the description!   Well, You’re in luck, because you can look at the Glossary:


! - The exclamation point is used to show that whatever name follows immediately after is affected by the word, usually an adjective, in front of the exclamation point.  For example, take Captain America.  The author wants to make it clear that their Steve is really smart.  They write it as  Smart!Steve.


A+ Parenting - This is a term that originated in the Avengers fandom but grew to be included in others.  It usually refers to parents who did a terrible job being decent people, but in the form “Actual A+ Parenting”, in which case the parents in question were decent parents.


AU:  Alternate Universe - And alternate universe is a story set in a world that is in some way different than the original canon.  The changes are usually big changes that the author did not want to make in-story, choosing instead to have it as a pre-existing rule of their particular world.  For example: A Superman AU in which Clark Kent was friends with Bruce Wayne in college.


Abandoned - This is what happens to a story when the author cannot or will not finish it.  Abandoned stories are nightmares for readers, so authors try to keep their promises and finish what they start.


Arc - Arcs are not exactly seasons.  It is the same principle as a season of a TV show, but more specifically it is a stretch of material that is related by a theme or quest.  Practically, arcs tend to break up fairly evenly no matter the source material.


A/N - A/N is an abbreviation for “Author’s Note”, which is exactly what it sounds like.  They may be placed anywhere in the story, but unless there is very good reason, more professional authors avoid breaking up the story by putting A/N’s in the middle of a chapter.


Angst - Angst is a category of story which contains lots of sad people desperately regretting their life choices.  Essentially, it’s the category for difficult deep thoughts.


Anon - Short for Anonymous, Anons are usually either commenters who don’t want to be identified by username or people making story requests.


Badfic - A badfic is a story that is intentionally atrocious.  They are usually parodies and they are either written because someone dared you too or because they happen to be hilarious, at least when the reader is aware that the story is a joke.


Beta - A beta works like an editor for a writer.  They look over chapters, suggest ideas, give feedback, and correct grammar.  A good Beta is invaluable.


BNF - This stands for Big Name Fan.  These are fans whose works are so widely acclaimed they gain minor celebrity status in their fandoms.  Unfortunately, like real celebrities, many BNF’s let it go to their head.


Bashing - WHen an author does not like a character, they may choose to ‘bash’ them in their story.  Bashing exaggerates any and all bad character traits to new extremes, and sometimes adds a few new ones.  Characters being bashed will often do things that defy all logic and rationality just to be evil.


BAMF - This abbreviation cannot be spelled out but it you think about it, you’ll guess.  This refers to people who are awesome, epic, or simply more competent than everyone else they know.  This state of elevated awesome can be temporary or a constant state.  For example: John Watson.


Backstory - Backstory is the background and motivations of a character.  Often backstories are sad and complex and provide the reasons for a character’s actions later in life.


Canon - Canon is the original source material.  This is the basis of any story written and can be any type of media up to and including real life.  Stories that stay accurate to canon are usually considered better than stories that carelessly ignore it, but any writer can choose how much canon is necessary to the story they want to write.


Challenge Fic - Challenge fics are stories that someone was challenged to write.  Challenges can be personal and given by friends, or they can be posted somewhere online for anyone who wants to try and answer them.


Crack - Funny stories with little real depth and a loose sense of plot and character are referred to as ‘crack’.  Most crack stories do not take themselves funny and they tend to be hilarious.  Some stories are serious, though, and the only way they can be identified as crack is the improbability of the storyline happening in canon.  For example:  A story in which Harry Potter becomes the Minister of Magic and Accidentally Invents Wizarding Internet.


Crossover - A Crossover happens when someone wants to mix two fandoms into one story.  The characters and backgrounds of the two worlds should mix together.  For example:  Percy JacksonxEnder’s Game (Terrifying idea)


Concrit - This is short for Constructive Criticism.  Most fanfic archives make provision for comments of feedback from the readers in some way.  However they chose to do this, the best kind of comments are usually considered to be either detailed praise or detailed (and kindly given) criticism.  Concrit should be useful and well thought out.  It can be very valuable, especially to a new author who wants to know what works and what doesn’t.


Continuity - Continuity is a slightly abstract concept to define, but in practice it is very simple and easy to spot.  A continuity error is something that does not fit with the established plotline, something that makes the established plotline impossible.  The continuity is essentially the same as canon, but a single continuity can stretch across many different types of media.  As long as their individual canons match up with each other, they are a continuity.  Ex:  Star Wars - movies, books, tv series, games, and comics all mostly match up.


Continuation - Continuation is exactly what it sounds like.  When a series ends, fans mourn that which has been left undone.  Sometimes a creator hears their tears and creates a continuation of the series.  Sometimes these are well done and sometimes the fans regret they ever asked.


Cosplay - Cosplay is a popular phenomenon in which fans dress up like characters of concepts from their favorite fandoms.  The results range from...interesting to impressive.  Some people are professional cosplayers and produce studio quality photo shoots with full costume, accessories, and backgrounds.


Character Death - This is a warning that a character will die in the story, or that a character’s death will be referenced.  Stories with this warning should be read at one’s own risk.  If the character death is already known, and you know it is too soon, don’t read the story.  Usually authors distinguish between minor and major character death and will label accordingly.


Daemon - Daemon fics are a growing trend in fanfiction.  Based off of the His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman, these stories are not considered crossovers because they usually only include one part of his series - the daemons, animal companions viewed as an extension of one’s soul.  These companions change shape until the character reaches maturity, are usually the opposite gender of the character, and other people are banned from touching them.  A story may use only a few elements of the story, or most or all of them.


Doujinshi - Doujinshi are fanmade comics based on a particular fandom.  Some of them are aimed at giving a particular pairing, or ship, more screentime and a definite favorable conclusion.  The rating level depends entirely on the author, so be careful.  Doujinshi are usually beautifully drawn and some contain fantastic writing and pacing.


Drabble - A drabble is a specific kind of short story.  Usually they are less than 500 words, but the technical limit is 100.  Many authors write drabble series, with each ‘chapter’ being drabble length and either capable of standing alone or in series.


Disclaimer - Disclaimers are often written at the beginning of chapters by authors who are attempting to prevent their work being taken down or called out for copyright violation.  Disclaimers don’t do anything legally, but are still considered a nice touch.


Dark - These are fics that have heavy themes and not much levity.  Don’t go into a dark fic expecting cheer or happiness.  Often there is angst, character death, violence, depression, anger, nuclear warfare, anything and everything.  Dark can also be used to describe a character (ex: Dark!Tony Stark) who is darker and grimmer than their canon self.


Ensemble - The ensemble is just the cast.  So, the whole group of characters involved in whichever fandom.  An ensemble fic just makes sure to include the whole cast, or at least the entirety of the main crew.  Minor characters of characters that don’t appear more than once may be omitted.


Faction - A faction refers to a group inside of a fandom that has some stated belief or goal or practice that separates them from the rest of the fandom.  They are not however, considered separately from the fandom as a whole.

Fandom - A fandom is a group of people who follow and love a particular work of fiction or media.  Large or small, being part of a fandom ensures that there are other people to talk about your interests with, and gives fans a chance to come together and create works of art.


Fanart - Fanart is art created by fans of a particular fandom.  It has the side effect of allowing artists to practice different styles and ideas before trying them in their original work.


Fanon - A companion to canon, fanon refers to facts and ideas about original works that are not confirmed by word of God to be true.  Instead, so many fans choose to believe whatever idea that it becomes as good as canon, but with no official confirmation.  For example:  Hogwarts’s uniform does not include a skirt or pants.  It’s all robes, people.

Fanservice - This is a term with complex connotations.  Fanservice in its strictest terms refers to things and author includes in a work that are designed to please fans rather than advance plot or character.  Fanservice can be useful, as a side effect, but its primary purpose is to excite fans.  Because of this, fanservice ranges from cameos of popular characters, fandom jokes appearing on screen, and author shoutouts to nudity.


Feels - This term simply describes the intense feelings gained from reading emotional stories.  In other words, remember that time you cried at Mufasa dying in The Lion King (it’s not a spoiler, it’s been out for literally ages)?  Those bitter tears were feels.


Feedback - Feedback is exactly what is sounds like: readers responding to a story to tell the author what they liked, what they loved, what they hated, what was weird, what wasn’t working, what they hope to see - anything.  Most authors love feedback, especially thoughtful concrit.  However, authors should take care not to write solely for the feedback.  It doesn’t go well.


Fix-it - A fix-it fic is a story that takes some problem in the original storyline - normally a tragedy the author either feels should not have happened or cannot deal with having happened - and changes it.  A common tactic is to go back to a particular character’s youth and give them skills or powers or even just the inquisitiveness needed to make a few vital changes and avert tragedy.  Fix-it fics can be epic and amazing to read, or they can be cliche and improbable.


Ficlet - A ficlet is a small fanfic.  The erm can be used somewhat loosely, but in general the difference between a ficlet and a drabble is the length.  Drabbles have word limits or restrictive themes, ficlets are a bit broader.


Flag Waving - This is a term that basically just mean that a fan is in favor of one or another pairing, headcanon, or concept and has openly declared their support.  It is not used much because most people declaring their support just do so in their story.


Flames - FLames are the bane of any writer’s existence.  A flame is a comment left, usually by an anonymous user, which criticises the story for stupid reasons, often with derogatory language and bad grammar but does not intend to help the author improve.  Flames can be posted on any story by bored or antagonistic trolls.  They should not be taken seriously, but can discourage and demoralize new or insecure writers.  As a reader, DO NOT leave flames.  Concrit is very easy to distinguish from flames, and they are universally considered bad internet etiquette.  On some websites, they are enough to get you banned.


Fluff - Fluff refers to stories that focus on the positive, happy, fluffy emotions.  Fluff can be romantic, platonic, or familial.  Usually stories with this theme are written for the author, who is experiencing too many sad feels about her favorite characters and want them to get the hug they desperately need but will never get in-universe.  For example:  Darth Vader had a very tragic life, and most of it was arguably not his fault.  He’s dead, so he’s never getting the hug he needs.  Why not write a fluffy story about Vader relaxing in the afterlife with friends and family who love him?


Future-fic - A future-fic is a story written about characters  past the point where their canon stories end.  Alternatively, it can be a story written about the descendants of the original characters and set a variable amount of years in the future.


Fusion - A fusion story is similar to a crossover in that the story contains elements from two or more different fandoms.  However, the casts of each fandom are not present in fusions as they are in true crossovers.  Instead, elements of one story are imported to another fandom.  Daemon fics are a good example of this, ad the characters and setting of Philip Pullman’s books rarely if ever show up.


Gen -This category describes stories where the main objective is plot and character development, rather than romance.  There may be background romances or canon pairings, such as characters’ parents but they do not take over the plot.  Gen stories may be rated anything from K to M although they tend to have lower ratings than other categories.


Genderswap - Genderswaps are exactly what they sound like:  stories in which the gender of a character is swapped.  This may sound weird, but some authors do it to see how gender roles play out in their chosen universe, and some do it because the cast is full of either gender and needs a little balancing.  Changing a character’s gender usually introduces major changes in plot for a variety of reasons.  These stories may be fantastic or horrible.


Genre - A genre is a category of story.  It is usually decided by the major emotional tone or theme of the fic.  Some examples are : hurt/comfort, angst, romance, adventure, tragedy, and science/fiction


Gijinka - A japanese term meaning “humanoid”, or “anthropomorphism”.  Gijinka is not a commonly used term outside of some niche fandoms, but it essentially refers to characters that are not humans or sometimes even sentient being made anthropomorphic.  This happens more than most people assume, such as in fics where the story is told through the eyes of an object, or in fics about spirit creatures taking human forms.


Hurt/Comfort - THis is a genre of story in which a character suffers some hurt, either canon or made up, and another character comforts them and makes them feel better.  These stories can focus on relationships, but often focus on the bond between friends and family.  They are prevalent in fandoms where everybody has a bad life and nobody gets hugs.


HEA - Happily Ever After endings are usually for canon media that either end tragically or have no ending.  An example would be Romeo and Juliet not making bad life decisions and eloping to France to get married.


Headcanon - A headcanon is an idea that is formed by a fan that they think must be true because it fits in with the canon and the circumstances described in the source material, or because it fixes a plot hole.  Some headcanons are brilliant and create fascinating situations.  Some are just amusing and create crack fics.  Some headcanons are practically confirmed to be canon, and some are technically possible but very unlikely.  Some are tragic beyond belief.


Het - This refers to heterosexual pairings.


Hentai - The japanese word for ‘pervert’, this label refers to pronographic material.  Avoid at all costs.


Hiatus - This is a break taken by the author of a story.  During this time, the story will not be updated.  Having an author declare a hiatus is only mildly more hopeful than an author abandoning a work.


Humor - This is a category of story which aims to be funny above all else.  Whether it meets this aim is entirely up to the audience.


IC - IC means “In Character”.  It refers to a character who acts quite as they did in the original source material.  It is a desirable trait for most authors, who wish their work to resemble the original in tone, but some people avoid it because they are trying to achieve a different feel.


Imagine - This term is used mostly in real people fic, which are a source of contention for obvious reasons.  It is essentially the same idea as a self-insert fic, but even more so because the people involved are all based on real people.


Jossed - This term refers to writer and director Joss Whedon.  Fans of his shows were fond of making guesses and headcanons because of the unpredictable nature of his writing.  Unfortunately, Mr. Whedon was equally as fond of proving those fan theories wrong and coming up with even stranger ideas in his plotline.  Today, this term refers to a fan theory that was proven wrong by the author.


Kidfic - A kidfic is a story that focuses on children.  They can be original characters or canon characters who are either young or de-aged.


Kripked - The opposite of being Jossed, being Kripked is what happens when a fan theory is confirmed and made canon by the author.  It is named for Eric Kripke, the creator of Supernatural, who had a habit of making fan theories canon.


Lemon - A lemon less of a term and more of a codeword that denotes explicit sexual interactions.  The term has fallen out of usage somewhat in the last few years, probably as people’s parents learned what it meant, but if the term is seen, take care.


Lime - Similar to a lemon, and just as imaginatively named, a lime indicates sexual interaction, but on a smaller scale.  Some readers can ignore a lime, but most people avoid lemons.

Limp! - This tag describes a character who has becomes so damaged during the course of the story that they end up in some kind of helpless state - comatose, unconscious, paralyzed, exhausted, etc.  It is more frequently attached to whump stories, because at some point the author realises that their character has taken more damage than the human body can reasonable bear.


Lurker - A lurker is someone who reads a story on a website but does not comment on it.  Most readers are lurkers, so don’t think of it as a bad thing.


m/f - Short for Male/ Female, this tag means basically the same thing as het.


m/m - This is short for Male/ Male, and has alternate names: slash or yaoi, depending on the author.


Mary Sue/Gary Stu - An author-created character that had no flaws, or has flaws that are celebrated by other characters when they should not be and is consistently the best, the most beautiful, the most skilled - even to the point of displacing canon characters who have established traits - is a Mary Sue.  Mary Sue’s are despised almost universally across fandoms, even though just about every author had one at some point.  It can be difficult to tell when your OC is a Mary Sue, but there are quizzes and checklists posted online to help young authors.  Gary Stu is the male version.  An example of a Mary Sue is Princess Evangelina Raven Emerald Magestica III, Heiress to the throne of Narnia, High Queen and Sparkle Fairy Extreme, The Sassy Voice of Reason, and The One Who’s Prettier Than Queen Susan (And Better at Archery Too).


Masterlist - A masterlist is a big list of something.  It can be favorite stories, a certain genre, a certain trope, anything, but it must be big and it must be comprehensive.


Meta - Meta is a complicated term.  It is a term used to describe things that refer to themselves.  For example:  A picture of a pug dressed in a pug suit is meta.  Commenting on the extreme usefulness and magnificence of this glossary is meta. Media can be meta as well.  For instance, a mystery show, in which the characters spend part of an episode talking about the unreality of mystery solving when everyone drops clever clues and never resists arrest.

MPreg - MPreg stands for “male pregnancy”.  It might occur to some that this is usually impossible, but some authors ignore all that.  Most stories of this kind are avoided like the plague not so much for the subject matter as for the fact that authors rarely explain the specifics of how exactly they are making the concept work.  It is theoretically possible to write a masterful story based on this concept, but such a story is rarer than an albino peacock.


Muse - A reference to the muses of Greek mythology, a writer’s ‘muse’ is the little voice in their head giving them crazy ideas and telling them to write.  It’s an author’s way of referring to their inspiration.


NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November, is a time honored tradition where new and old authors alike try to write a novel in a month.  For fanfiction authors, often it means a dreaded hiatus must be taken, as the author has a life to live and cannot spend all of their time writing fanfiction and novels.


NC-17 - This is a rating that denotes stories that should not be read by anyone below seventeen.  Because there is no one official rating system for fanfics, ratings may be fairly random and there is no guarantee which system the author prefers.  Nonetheless, it is usually very clear which stories are rated too high for your personal preference.


Novel(la) - This term means a fanfic that is fully novel length, or the length of a small novel.  It may come as a surprise to some readers that fanfiction often reaches such length, but fanfiction is essentially teens writing short novels over a short period of time which they cannot formally publish because the plot and characters are not their own.  Some people go on to write their own novels based on their experience with fanfiction.


NSFW - This is a rating that refers to works that should not be read in public.  It stands for Not Safe For Work.  This is not an official rating, but rather something that authors label their stories with if they feel like their story contains something it would be awkward for a co-worker to read over your shoulder.


Not!Fic - A story that is not written out properly but sketched out or outlined by the author with the intention of at least getting something online is referred to as a Not!fic, because it is not really a story.


Non-Con - This term refers to sexual acts where previous consent is not given.  When tagged, it is usually mentioned along with rape but listed separately, probably because to a lot of people it seems to have a broader definition.  Most authors who tag this are referring to a previous incident in a character’s backstory.  There are far fewer authors who chose to take on such a serious topic as part of their own plotline, probably because most of them realise how hard it is to accurately portray a crime like that without trivializing it, but a few authors do try, usually in the hopes of creating a story that will create a conversation and help others learn.


OC - OC stands for Original Character, or a character who was not in the original work and was created by the author.


OOC - Short for Out of Character, OOC means a character who acts very differently than the original character they are based off of.  In some cases this is done intentionally and the author is only warning the audience of the fact, but sometimes it is simply because the author does not have a good grasp of the character they are trying to portray.


OFC - This is an Original Female Character.


OMC - This is an Original Male Character.


Oneshot - A oneshot is a story that takes place entirely in one chapter.  They are usually much longer than a drabble.


OP - Short for Original Poster, it refers to the person who starts a conversation thread or prompt.  


OS - Referring to Original Story, OS is essentially the same as canon, or source material.


OTP - An abbreviation of One True Pairing, and OTP is the couple that the reader thinks should be together no matter what, the perfect twosome, the pairing to end all pairings.  OTP’s are always romantic, because there are other ways to describe friendships that were meant to be.  Two people who have opposing OTP’s can get into huge arguments, because fans are usually very emphatic about them.


Outside POV - An outside POV refers to a story written from the point of view of someone who is outside the normal canon cast.  Often this person is an OC, but sometimes they are simply a minor character who doesn’t interact with the main cast much, or even an inanimate object or an animal.  These POV’s can be taken seriously as a character study, or humorously as crack.


Pairing - A pairing refers to a couple the audience supports romantically. Pairings are serious business in fandoms, mainly because they can be divisive in fandoms that have more than one popular pairing.


Parody - A parody is exactly what it sounds like.  When applied to fanfiction, it means a fic that is intentionally written to be either crazy and funny, like crack, or bad like a bad!fic.  Either way, they usually end up being hilarious to read.


Plotbunny - A plotbunny is the way authors refer to the brilliant or crazy ideas that attack in the dead of the night, while in the shower, listening to music, being bored - whenever. Some of the best stories come from random plotbunnies.


Podfic - A podfic is a fanfic that has been recorded so that people can listen to it instead of reading it.  They are growing in popularity, but usually a fic must be somewhat popular in order to get a podfic.  Most authors don’t bother.


POV - Short for Point of View, POV is the perspective from which the story is written.  It can be a person, an animal, or even an object.  It can also refer to the way the story is written, or in other words, first person, second person, or third.


Pre-series - Pre-series fics are stories written before the canon story begins.  Often these are stories about childhood, or stories written to fill in missing backstory of grown up characters.


Pre-slash - This is the term used when a story is heading towards a homosexual pairing but the characters are not considering any such thing.  Anyone who does not like that particular ship is warned that they should not hope for their favorite pairing and that reading is at their own risk.  Many of these stories are intended to be part of a series of connected stories, which is why the story is not gen but pre-slash.  If a reader is not fond of slash pairings, or that particular one, they may chose to read the story that is labeled pre-slash but not continue the series.


Prompt - A prompt is an idea posted online about for a story, with the hope that someone will fill the prompt and write a story based on your idea or specifications.  There are websites specifically for posting prompts, but they can be posted almost anywhere other people are.  It is considered bad taste to chastise people for suggested prompts, even if they are weird.  If no one wants to fill a prompt, it is generally acknowledged that that either no one wants to write or the prompt was bad.


PWP - Short for “Plot?  What Plot?”, PWP refers to stories with no real point other than sexual activity.  Do not read these stories looking for deep meaning and literary genius.


R&R - R&R stands for “Read and Review”.  This is a common phrase that authors add in their notes and in descriptions to try and encourage feedback.  When used nicely, it is a cheerful reminder that authors love hearing from readers.  When used as a threat, such as “R&R or I don’t release the next chapter”, it becomes the quickest way to prevent people from commenting on your story.


Rarepair - A rarepair is an uncommon pairing, usually with a few dedicated supporters.  Every fandom has its more popular pairings, but rarepairs are an interesting look at something new.  Some of them are very improbable, and some of them turn out to work out better than anyone expected.  Either way, they’re fun and underrated by definition.


Rating - Ratings are applied to stories in an effort to give readers an idea of the contents of a story, just as with movies, books, and tv.  But unlike all of these things, fanfiction has no official, universal rating system.  This makes it harder for authors to ensure that everyone understands the ratings. The answer to this problem comes in all the other tags given to the average story in the hopes of explaining what it is about.


Reboot - Authors reboot a story, original or otherwise, when they taken an old plotline that has fallen out of favor and redo it, this time adding in some new element to catch the audience’s eye.  Reboots can be excellent, and often revive interest in ideas or even in the original source material.


Rec - “Rec” is short for recommendation. These are fics that readers mark as good to read and advertise to other readers.  This can be done formally or informally.


Retcon - A retcon is when a theory is made up to change something already established, usually a plothole.  For instance: Canon states that Elizabeth killed Frank, but it could not have happened because thirty minutes before Frank was killed, Elizabeth was at a party with locked doors at least a forty minute drive away.  The retcon is: Elizabeth left the party as soon as she arrived, and her best friend Amy dressed as her and left the party at a normal time while Elizabeth drove to Frank’s house.  The difference between a retcon and a simple explanation is that Elizabeth has to have canonically really been at the party, trapping the author into a mistake which he must solve by changing the official facts.


Review - A review sounds much more formal than it really is.  A review is basically just a comment someone leaves on a story.  The best reviews are usually a mix of praise and well thought-out concrit.  Flames are not considered reviews, because they’re rude.


RL - This is short for Real Life, that odious thing that intrudes just as one reaches the best part of a fic.  We know it exists, but many of the best stories ignore it entirely.




RPG - A Role Playing Game is a game where the characters are made up and or directed by the players instead of a script made by the game developers.  In RPG’s, you decide your own fate.  They are very popular with some very creative people.  There are some RPG based fics.


Rule 34 - Rule 34 of the Rules of The Internet states that if it exists, there is porn for it.  This rule is included because it will appear around the internet in general and is a rather obvious indicator of what a story, article, picture, or web-page may contain.  


Rule 63 - Rule 63 states that any character has an alternate form that is the other sex.  In other words, genderbending.  Every Boy!character has a Girl!character.


Self Insert - This is a fic in which the author puts an OC into the story that is either exactly them, or simply has many of their character traits.  The author uses this character as an avatar to interact with other characters in their universe.  Self-insert stories can sometimes be very good, but many people dislike them because the author is essentially playing around in their favorite universe.


Seme - The Seme is a term referring to the dominant partner in a slash or yaoi pairing.  They are usually listed first when pairings are written in the description.  It should be noted that slash and yaoi are heavily formulaic and not representative of actual real life homosexual relationships..


Sequel - A sequel is the story that comes after.  Sequels are sometimes the best hope for fans who desperately want a story to continue.  However, sequels can sometimes not live up to the original book.  It all depends.


Series - A series is a group of connected stories.  Some of them may be read separately and in any order, while some of them must be read in a specific order to be understood.  Some websites are better at helping authors organize stories into series than others.


Shipper - A shipper is a fan who intensely supports a specific pairing. They can be rather mild, but some of them are absolutely crazy.  Shippers usually do not base their favorites on logic or canon evidence, which is how crack!ships and rarepairs come into being.  Shippers occasionally get into Ship Wars, where fans of one pairing fight with fans of another pairing. Usually both pairings include one character, and the fight is over who that person should end up with.


Schmoop - Similar to fluff, schmoop is all the sweet little gross things characters get into when authors decide that their canon lives are too hard.  


Slash - Slash is the term for homosexual relationships.  In fanfiction and in certain types of media these relationships are roughly governed by rules and traditions that do not exist in real life. Thus, it is not a good idea to base any efforts at an actual relationship on slash or yaoi.


Slow Burn - Relationships that take their time to get serious and do not rush to bring characters together for many chapters are called slow burn.  Often this makes much more sense than quick, “fall in love at first sight”  romances, but it depends entirely on the characters involved and how they are portrayed.  Some people do not like slow burn because the potential downside is the possibility that the author might not finish the story before they get to the romance.


Smut - Smut is the term for sexual contact between characters.  If this label is seen then there will be explicit sexual contact in the story, and readers should take care if that is something they are trying to avoid.


Snark - Snark is the word for the type of fast-paced, sarcastic, sharp humor.  It is a combination of the words “snide” and “remark”.  It is a popular form of humor in fics.


Songfic - Fics containing song lyrics or original songs in the text are considered songfics.  Some websites don’t allow songfics in their collections, but others are less picky.


Spoiler - Spoilers are the bane of the dedicated fan.  Sometimes an over-eager friend accidentally reveals something - a vital plot point, a shocking twist, a secret backstory - which you have not yet seen or read.  This is referred to as a spoiler.  Not everyone is bothered by spoiler, but most people are and it is considered rude not to warn for or conceal spoilers when writing things that will be seen by the general public.


Squick - Squick is the term for disgusting, creepy things that readers find in stories.  It is a subjective term, so what squicks one person out may not squick another.  For instance, graphic descriptions of war might disturb someone who is not bothered by graphic descriptions of medical procedures or germs.


Stand Alone - Fics that don’t need a second chapter and wrap up the plot in one go, or are part of a series but can be read without first reading the other parts, are known as stand alone fics.  They can be very well done, because the concept requires good planning and development in order to be successful.


SteamPunk - Steampunk is a genre of story that creates rich, romantic settings that are both reminiscent of the past and very futuristic.  Mechanical inventions are very prevalent, using gears and gadgetry rather than electricity and digital technology.  Plucky heroines and high society are common as well, but the most prevalent theme is adventure.


Stream of Consciousness - A stream of consciousness is a story written from the perspective of a character, with the added depth of the author trying to show the reader how it feels to be in that person’s head.  Instead of just first person, there is a running list of thoughts and feelings at any given moment with little to no filter.  The degree to which the audience is privy to the thoughts of the character varies, but stream of consciousness cannot just be first person.


Subtext - Subtext is unspoken, unwritten, and sometimes unnoticed.  It lies in the implications made either by the characters in canon or the author of the story. Plotlines, reveals, relationships, and more are all fair game.  Sometimes subtext is imagined, and sometimes it is really being implied, but it is always something that the reader must puzzle out for themselves.


Summary - The summary is one of the most important parts of a story.  For new readers looking for something to read, the summary is what hooks them into the story.  For writers, the way the summary is worded will define your story and decide who reads it and who won’t.  There are many different tactics to interest people, but remember, when writing a summary do not forget to take the time and effort to put up warnings for people.


Tag-fic - A tag-fic is a short story that picks up at the very end of an episode or book.  It is a direct continuation from the last moments of that episode or book.


TBC - Short for To Be Continued, TBC simply means that there will be some form of sequel to the story.  So if a story ends on a cliffhanger but the author puts a TBC at the bottom, never fear, the sequel will probably come out before you grow old.


Tl;Dr - Short for Too Long; Didn’t Read, Tl;Dr is the quick way to indicate that something is either so monstrously long that you didn’t bother to read it, or that it is so boring you couldn’t make yourself finish it.  Either way saying it about internet posts might be fine, but saying it about a story someone slaved over is a bit rude even if it might be true.


Tinhatting - This is the practice of fervently believing that a pair of actors are secretly a couple, and are hiding it from the public out of concern for reputation or fear.  Fans who are tinhatters are essentially conspiracy theorists, as most of them have either scanty evidence or are actively making up and ignoring facts to prove or disprove their theories.  The name comes from conspiracy theorists who wear tinhats in order to prevent the government from reading their mind.  It can also refer to fans who blatantly ignore parts of canon that they don’t like to keep the media the way they prefer it.


TPTB - The Powers That Be refers to the nebulous authority figures that govern the life and death of a work of media.  Whether they are authors, editors, television companies, or mysterious organisations, they are the power behind the throne. Often, TPTB are mentioned for their part in ruining an author’s plans.  Most writers do not need to be concerned with them.


Trigger Warning - THere are some things that remind people of past trauma, or make them relive unpleasant experiences.  Often, these things come up in fiction.  Abuse, suicide, death, rape, war, trauma, sickness - there are lots.  Authors warn for these things as a matter of courtesy, and for serious cases authors post trigger warnings to let people know that if they know they can easily be triggered they might not want to read the story.  They are there to help people avoid having episodes because they were caught unawares and to give them a choice.


Troll - A troll is someone who purposely stirs up others by posting negative and inflammatory comments online.  They may or may not agree with the opinions they state, but their goal is really just to wind other people up.  The best way to beat trolls is to be a logical, rational minded adult, which is why trolls reign supreme in certain corners of the internet.


Trope - A trope is a word or phrase that represents habits or plot devices or stylistic choices that are recognizably used over and over again in different forms of media.  For instance, many works of media have friends who claim they are not friends and frequently are at odds, but strongly support each other without a second thought.  The trope for that is named “Vitriolic Best Buds”. There is an excellent website explaining tropes and listing examples called


Uke - The uke is the non-dominant partner in a slash or yaoi relationship.  Remember, neither slash or yaoi are true representations of homosexual relationships.


Underage - The underage tag refers to characters in the story who are under the legal age of consent in their country when they begin a relationship.  In most cases, the underage person consents fully to the relationship, but watch the warnings and the ratings to be sure.


Universe - The term universe is used to describe the setting in which a work takes place, and includes any places mentioned in any form of media connected to that work.  In a slightly more abstract sense, it also refers to the characters and the franchise, in whatever form that takes.  The universe of a work is all encompassing, so that includes adaptations and spin-offs, not matter how much some people might wish it didn’t.


UST - UST stands for Unresolved Sexual Tension, and is a staple of romantic works the world over.  The idea is that two characters are so attracted to each other that it is almost a tangible feeling, but that they either will refuse to work out their feelings or simply don’t have time.  


Vignette - A vignette is a short piece of fiction that looks into a brief moment in time.  It is not meant to advance a plot point so much as is meant to explore that one moment in time.


WAFF - Warm And Fuzzy Feelings is a tag for stories with lots of fluffy feelings.  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  Don’t go looking for deep plot, though.


Wank - When used in fandom, this is a term for forum discussions that have devolved into petty squabbling and lost the original purpose of the conversation.  


Warning - Warnings are posted on stories to warn people of the contents.  When writing fics, it is important to warn for things you think might disturb other.


Wingfic - Wingfics are a very simple concept:  Stories where one or more characters has wings.  It does not matter what type.  Most fics do not take the differences in anatomy between a bird and a person into account, but they can be enjoyable nonetheless.


Word of God - This is the way fans refer to the comments of the author or creators.  It is often referred to in order to find out facts that aren’t mentioned in canon.  In truth, anything an author says even after their creation is finished and published is usually considered to be canon.


Woobie - THe woobie is the person in a story who has everything happen to them.  They get beat up, abandoned, laughed at, everything.  And still they persevere.  Woobies are designed to make the audience want to comfort them.  However, don’t mistake someone with a bad past as a woobie.  Woobies are usually kind, gentle people who don’t deserve any of the things that have happened to them.


WIP - Short for Work In Progress, this is the the term for a fic that is not yet finished and is being actively worked on.  There is hope for these stories, and a lot of them are updated frequently.


Whump - Whump is the when a writer beats a character up and puts them through all sorts of grief for no other reason than because it makes them happy to see their favorite character in emotional or physical pain.  A odd as that sounds, that is also the reason why people watch soap operas so it’s not a new thing.  Many stories that include whump also include the endangered character being rescued, or rescuing themselves because they are just that awesome.


Yaoi - Yaoi is another term for homosexual relationships between men in fandom.  It is usually used with anime and manga in the same way as slash is used with western media.  There is no difference between the two and the terms may be used interchangeably.  It can also be referred to as Shonen-ai (literally boy-love) in it’s more cutesy form.


Yuri - Yuri is a term for homosexual relationships between girls in fandom.  It is almost never seen in fandoms that are not anime, manga, or some video games.  Yuri is slightly less common in fiction and fanfiction than yaoi.  Its western counterpart is known as Femslash.



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