Fan fiction terminology and abbreviations
See all human.
This term is used when all the characters in the story are human. It's most often seen in fandoms that are inherently not all human (e.g. fantasy, horror, sci-fi, supernatural genres).
This is term sometime used rather than alternate universe.
This is where an author will choose to stray from the canon of the fandom and create events and/or characters that are on their own timeline. Usually this is when an author will deny a character's death, or act like an event in the canon story line never happened, or say "what if" a certain event occurred differently, or they will act like the canon story stopped a certain place and keep writing as if there are is no additional canon story line after that. Fan fictions that take place after the end of a canon story (e.g. final movie, show, book, etc.) are not considered alternate universe, however, because there is no canon for them to contradict.
Refers to the emotional wounds suffered and/or borne by a character, especially if they spend pages moaning about their miserable life in great detail. Can add intensity to a story or turn it into one big long pityparty.
A tale, generally a vignette and often first-person, which ruminates on the heavy emotional repercussions of a character's ruined relationships, life, month, day, hairstyle, etc.
See alternate reality.
Like the Wishverse and the Birthdayverse, a canon Jossverse AU—this one created by a Buffy season-six episode called "Normal Again" in which Buffy hallucinates that she's been in an insane asylum for the past six years. Thus everything since becoming the Slayer was never real, including the existence of her sister and the death of her mother. This term covers any AU fanfic connected to this premise. Also called "the Normalverse."
See alternate universe.
A beta reader is like an editor of fan fiction. This is anyone who is sent a story for the purpose of reading and correcting any errors in the story (usually in regards to grammar, spelling, and syntax) before it's published to an archive so that the author can make improvements to the story before everyone else sees it. We encourage everyone to seek out a beta reader for every fic they write.
Jossverse canonical AU; this one comes from the third season Angel episode "Birthday," in which we see what would have happened if Cordelia had come to LA and met neither Angel nor Russell Winters. She becomes a famous actress with her own sitcom; Angel gets mystical visions and goes mad. See Asylumverse and Wishverse for other popular AUs in this fandom.
An adjective referring to a character, event, plotline, relationship, etc. that happened in the actual source material.
This term may be used to describe a fan fiction that adheres to the original fandom in every way.
This term is most often used to describe a relationship in the fan fiction that is used in the original source material. Canon pairings are more common than canon compliant stories, since canon pairings can be used in any type of fan fiction, including all human or alternate universe stories.
See canon pairing.
See canon compliant.
An informal game played in writing circles—one person says "Hey, I dare you to write about [X]!" and anyone who likes the idea responds with a story about it. [X] can be a character, a particular set of characters, a crossover, a situation, an event, or even a set of funny lines or objects that must be included within the body of the story.
A challenge must be interesting, unusual, and original—something that hasn't been done before, if possible. i.e. if characters X and Y have been written as a couple a hundred times already, asking for more stories about them is not a challenge.
Any story written as the result of a challenge.
A heading or warning put on stories warning the reader that in the story one of the canon characters dies.
Indicates a tale with a strongly erotic tone, yet without necessarily including graphic sex.
This term is used in the BtVS and/or Angel fandoms in reference to the comics that have been published after the television show(s) ended. Similar to canon compliant, this term states that the fan fiction is compliant to the comics as well as the television series.
A heading in adult fan fiction that says that all the parties that have sex in the fan fiction are consenting and want to have sex. This is as opposed to dubious-consensual where consent is forced or a character is nudged but not outright forced into sex, or otherwise having sex but not for reasons of their own (a character sleeping with someone to save someone's life for instance), and nonconsensual which says that one of the characters is raped.
A fan fiction which carries on after the end of a movie or series. This doesn't break canon, but merely extends in the author's imagination. It isn't an alternate universe because a continuation has no canon to break, since all the canon ended with the end of the book/movie/tv show.
A fanfic in which the concept is so out there, one wonders what the author was snorting when they wrote. Sometimes deliberate, sometimes just WTF?
Describes stories featuring pairings with a large age difference, with the younger character usually (but not always) underage.
A fan fiction which incorporates characters, events, places, ideas, etc from another fandom. Crossovers are also denoted sometimes with the word: "xover," the X standing for cross.
"Curse? What curse?" or "Clause? What clause?" A reference to the "curse" that prevents Angel from achieving "perfect happiness." CWC is used for stories in which the writers choose to have Angel's curse without the canon clause.
Alternate definition, also used in BtVS and/or Angel fandom: "Comics? What comics?" This is a reference to the comics that have been published after the television show(s) ended. Writers continue to write fan fiction as if the comics don't exist.
A story involving a large amount of death/pain/trauma being inflicted on the characters, often to force out characterization. To quote Elsa Bibat's essay "A Long Strange Walk": "Those who really don't like seeing their favourite characters slaughtered or emotionally and mentally scarred for life are advised not to read anything with a [DARK] tag or warning."
A fic where one or more characters die or have just died, usually written to focus on how the remaining characters cope with the loss.
A header that is put before all fan fiction in which the fan fiction author acknowledges the copyrights to the material thaty they are writing for. This is both a courtesy and necessity among fans who write fan fiction.
Set by the Birmingham University SF Society as thus: a self-contained vignette of exactly 100 words, no more, no less, with up to 15 more words are allowed for the title. Hyphenated words are in dispute. The term originates from a Monty Python skit: "Drabble. A word game for 2 to 4 players. The four players sit from left to right and the first person to write a novel wins." Drabbles started in British SF fandom in the late '80s. A half-drabble is fifty words long; a double drabble is 200 words long.
In fan fiction, a drabble can sometimes mean a very short fic that is not exactly 100 words but extremely short, for instance, it is not incorrect to call a 500 word fan fiction a drabble.
Short for dubious consent. The story contains shaky consent issues—one character may not have been interested in a sexual act, but ends up enjoying it (against their will); or, they started off having fun but the experience got frightening or unpleasant. Often also involves psychological torment.
A highly subjective term often used to differentiate "tasteful" or "classy" x-rated stories from "trashy porn." As Gloria Leonard says, "The difference between pornography and erotica is lighting."
Short for "Extended Universe." This term refers to any published material for a fandom beyond the original source, canon, material.
For example, the canon source for the Star Wars fandom is the movies. EU refers to published novels, comics, video games, etc. that are about the Star Wars universe.
See EU for definition. EU compliant is used for fan fiction, to refer to a fanfic that adheres to and/or builds upon character, event, plotline, relationship, etc. found in EU source material.
The activies, canon, characters, fan fiction, and fans of a particular show, movie, book, or other thing. This is also used as a synonym for "universe," meaning the world in which a show, movie, or book takes place.
Information or characterization that has never been confirmed in canon but is accepted as such by fans, i.e. Bobby Drake's orientation, Cordelia Chase's nightmares, or Yoda as Qui-Gon's Master. As a reader on CABS pointed out: "Fanon refers to much more than pairings. Mulder's insomnia, his dead fish, his Armani suits are fanon. Methos tossing bottlecaps behind the fridge is fanon because he did it once on the show [but] fans expanded it to ridiculous proportions."
Tales regarding romantic or sexual relationships between female characters. This idea warrants its own term in fandoms where lesbian themes are either very rare or are overshadowed by male/male pairings. See slash.
A story that chronicles a couple's first romantic and/or sexual encounter. Often tooth-rottingly sweet.
To "flame" someone is to viciously insult them or their work in a manner that has little or no redeeming value. Note that "flame" is a general-usage netword, and is not appreciated anywhere...especially not in writing/creative groups.
Lighthearted, inconsequential. A fluff fic is somewhat like a sillyfic, but more cute than humorous -- it's generally short and sweet.
A type of crossover wherein the characters in one series, instead of meeting the characters in another series, actually replace them in the continuity. Again quoting Elsa Bibat's essay "A Long Strange Walk": "A fusion is what you would get if you tossed one series in with another in a blender and pressed 'MAXIMUM PUREE.'"
Short for "general"—denotes a fanfic suitable for all ages and mores, containing no sexual or overtly romantic overtones.
In general usage a genre is a class of story, such as fantasy, sci-fi, romance, etc. Fanfic itself is technically a genre. When specifically used by a fanficcer, however, the word can mean be more specific, denoting stories that can be lumped together by some common concept, setting, style, element, or pairing.
Happy Ever After, or Happily Ever After. If a story has this tag you can be assured that no matter what trials the characters are put through there will be a good (happy) ending to the story.
The opposite of this is Non-HEA, which is usually a story in which one or more of the main characters die, leaving the other character(s) and the readers in a state of grief.
Short for "heterosexual"—denotes fanfic depicting a romantic or sexual relationship between opposite genders.
A style of story in which one character is harmed (physically or emotionally) and another must save them, make them feel better, or both.
Refers collectively to the "worlds" created by Joss Whedon. This does not imply that Firefly takes place in the same story canon, merely that it is part of the set of Joss-flavored creations.
Refers to any kind of explicit NC-17 sex in a story; some sources say it comes from the pornographic "Cream Lemon" anime series.
A cute 'n' fluffy lemon.
A fanfic denoting a tasteful seduction and fade-to-black or simply the R-rated version of the sex scene.
Information from a movie adaptation, generally accepted as more correct than fanon but not as solid as canon from the original source. Usually used to back up a ship or pairing where canon alone cannot provide.
The generic name for any original character (usually female) who's an ego-stroke for the writer: she's beautiful, has amazing skills/powers, gets into a love affair with an existing character, or (usually) all of the above. Good writers can write good Mary Sues, but this is not the norm.
A crossover involving characters from several different works—at least four or five.
Made For Each Other, Meant For Each Other. Refers to two characters who "ought" to be a couple, and thus a popular rallying cry for 'shippers.
Describes a story involving male pregnancy—found mostly in slash stories.
"Everything everywhere" -- includes all alternate dimensions, other realities, parallel universes, and fandom genres. There is only one multiverse. Period.
See National Novel Writing Month.
Usually abbreviated to NaNoWriMo. November. Participating writers across all genres go stark raving mad for a month.
A newcomer to any online group/place/genre, sometimes less charitably called a "virgin," or in older circles a "neofan" ("neo" for short). Can be meant cruelly or as a simple statement of fact, pending on context. Sometimes seen as "n00b" or, as clarified by White Raven:
"n00b is often [used to] point out that a person is not new but acts like they are. n00b is an insult while newbie, in comparison, is much kinder. n00b is a more polite way of calling someone extremely stupid and annoying without stooping low enough to be profane. It is often used on boards as an insult which isn't going to be blocked for language."
A tale focusing on the children/descendants of canon characters. Also called nextgen.
See Next Generation.
This term is usually used to refer to pairings/relationships among the characters. It's a pairing/relationship written about that is not in the canon (source) material of the fandom.
Non-consensual sexual act. The jury is still out on the shades of meaning here—some say non-con is just another word for rape, while others see the two terms as subtly different.
Not Safe For Work—denotes material, usually pornographic, that would not be safe to view on an office/school computer. Click at your own risk.
See original character.
See Original Female Character.
See Original Male Character.
The belief that a given fandom only contains one "real" couple, and that any other 'shipping is preposterous. Usually abbreviated to OTP and nowadays often used humorously. An OTP with three members is an OT3.
See out of character.
Any character who was created by a fanfic author, rather than being from the original canon material. Often abbreviated to "OC" or "oc."
Any female character who was created by a fanfic author, rather than being from the original canon material. Often abbreviated to "OFC" or "ofc."
Also seen as Annoying Original Female Character (AOFC) and other such bastardizations.
Any male character who was created by a fanfic author, rather than being from the original canon material. Often abbreviated to "OMC" or "omc."
A "perfect relationship" involving three characters, not two. Sometimes miswritten as 3TP, which makes no sense really. See One True Pairing.
See One True Pairing.
For a fictional creature acting in a manner not consistent with his/her/its established personality. This can be on purpose for a plot device or merely due to bad acting/writing. Often abbreviated to OOC.
Any combination of characters who are romantically and/or sexually involved, either from established continuity or (more likely) desired together by fans. Sometimes a fanfic "pairing" can be a threesome or more; however, trios (or more) where those involved are not all interested in each other are referred to as triangles.
Pairings are often denoted by using the abbreviations of their names together or just their name (e.g. B/A or Bangel refers to Buffy and Angel pairing).
To shamelessly promote a fanfic, picture, author, artist, archive, link...anything, really, that you think others ought to see. See also rec.
Ever get hit with a story concept that doesn't really go anywhere but you have to write it? You've just been attacked by a plotbunny! Possibly inspired by John Steinbeck: "Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen."
Point of View—specifically in fanfic, a type of story told first-person from a character's point of view.
The people who control the canon material, be it book, comic, movie, or TV show. In other words, the people who hold the rights to the stuff we like to write fanfic about, and who could probably squash us like bugs if we pushed it. So far, so good. ;)
This term lies somewhere between respect and sarcasm, and usually does not include writers/creators beloved by the fans. TIIC (The Idiots In Charge) can be used if you're feeling particularly sarcastic. Note: This term can also be applied to any nebulous agency or persons who "hold the reins" in a story. Most commonly used in X-Files fic, but seen almost everywhere.
A pre-reader is anyone who is sent a story for the purpose of reading and reviewing it, providing the author feedback, before it is published so that the author can make improvements to the story before everyone else sees it. Not to be confused with a beta reader.
A story that takes place prior to the timeframe of the series in question.
A story that is not strictly adult or strictly about a homosexual relationship but which introduces the possibilities, situations, and circumstances for one to occur. Tends to be PG/PG-13, and not very commonly used. See slash.
"Plot? What Plot?" or "Porn Without Plot"—the nickname for a story that was written purely for the sake of creating pointless sexual escapades.
Rape/torture. Be careful—in some fandoms this can be a common theme in H/C.
A pairing not usually seen in its respective fandom. Sometimes damn creative, sometimes a thought-provoking stretch, and sometimes requiring bleach in the eyes afterward to erase the images. But always fun. ;)
An author—or archivist—applied system which lets readers know what they're in for before they start reading a story. Not all archives or mailing lists require ratings, but most of the good ones do. Ratings have become a solid component of good fanfic etiquette, and at very least authors are expected to warn readers if a story contains explicit adult content. Using the American movie guidelines as a template, most fanfic can be rated as follows:
Note: Due to bitchiness on the part of the MPAA, many sites have set up their own rating systems.
Read At Your Own Risk—a slightly cheeky disclaimer joke.
The dread eternal reason why fans vanish, authors stop posting, and archivists fall behind in their duties. Often abbreviated to RL.
Fanfic written about the actors or creators behind a fandom—often abbreviated to RPF. Also called actorfic where appropriate. See also real-people slash.
Slash written about the actors or creators behind a fandom—often abbreviated to RPS. Also called actorslash where appropriate. A form of real-people fic.
Noun (recommendation) or verb (recommend), this usually indicates something you'd like others to read. Like pimp, but more dignified-sounding and usually only referring to readable materials like fanfics or books.
Originally, a fan/writer who fervently believes that Mulder and Scully "belong together"—"shipper" for short. This term has since popped up in other fandoms about other characters—for the comics explanation, see 'shipping.
"Resurrection fic"—in which an author brings a beloved but canon character back to life. Often just improbable wish-fulfilment.
Short for "retroactive continuity," a retcon is a plotline wherein the writer decides to pretend that an existing plot happened differently than originally portrayed...or simply never existed/happened at all. A retcon is also the name for a plot written to replace and erase the original version. Retcon is also a verb—to tamper with or wipe out previous ideas/plots is called "retconning."
A) A story in which the fictional characters whom an author has inflicted misery and suffering upon return the favor on the author. The term is originally from anime, but has also surfaced in other fandoms, including Star Trek and MST3K.
B) A story written as a "return volley" at someone whom an author feels insulted them or their work—basically a flame in story form.
Choice B) is the meaning usually meant in comic fanfic.
To Rice out is to make an ass of oneself by reacting to negative feedback by insisting that one's creative work is superior in all aspects. To be fully worthy of the term, the author should throw down in public and insult both reviewers and readers alike. Inspired by a notorious hissyfit thrown on Amazon.com by the inimitable (and apparently too-good-for-an-editor) Anne Rice.
A joke or sarcastic comment made in immediate response to something one is watching, hearing, or reading. Can be said aloud or written down. To continuously riff a story or movie/show is to be riffing.
See Real Life.
A story written in installments by various writers, usually impromptu. Often abbreviated to RR.
See real-people fic.
See real-people slash.
See round robin.
Resolved Sexual Tension -- see U.S.T.
A fanfic where the author includes him/herself as a character; also a noun referring to the character in question. Sometimes abbreviated to SI, and often a Mary Sue.
Short for "relationship"—uses to denote which pair of characters are romantically involved in a given story. See 'shipping for more details.
Short for "relationshipping"—a 'shipper is someone who believes that a chosen pair of characters "belong together," and who diligently reads and/or writes tales to that effect. The term originated in the X-Files fanfic, but has migrated over to comicfic in full force with the advent of the X-Men movie and a subsequent boom in Logan/Rogue 'shipping.
HP fandom is unique in that they have a huge array of canon characters plus a (usually) tongue-in-cheek obsession with not only shipping every single possible permutation but giving each such pairing its own unique nickname! A well-detailed list is maintained here.
A term that refers to "lighthearted, usually short pieces written for the sake of amusement or to lower the angst-level of current fanfic traffic flow."
A type of fic, often written by women, involving romantic or sexual involvement between two characters of the same gender. The term originates from early Star Trek fandom, namely "Kirk/Spock" stories—the term "slash" comes from the slash (/) placed between the names of the characters involved. Also called alternative fiction in Xena fandom. Pure, sweet, fluffy, romantic slash is sometimes called mook. Powerfully emotional male/male relationships with no sexual element are sometimes called smarm. Also, as slash is traditionally about male characters, F/F stories are often called femmeslash.
A playful term in regards to slash overtones—also used to denote subjectively-perceived sexual tension between canon characters, e.g. "Ooo! Did you see the slashy look Bobby gave Remy on page two of that Uncanny issue last week?!?
A type of story starring characters, usually of the same gender, who care and worry about each other a LOT. Not sexual or slashy, but rather a noble not-too-macho-to-admit-I-love-my-buddy brotherly-love kinda thing. Often found hand-in-hand with h/c, smarm sometimes does lead to slash and is often associated with it.
Porn! But in a light amused "yeah, gimme some of that" sort of way.
To snarl rudely; to be sarcastic, impatient, or downright bitchy for little good reason. A person who snarks is being snarky.
Someone who's snarking an awful lot. See snark.
A story based entirely around the lyrics of a song. Thanks to a flood of sappy, pointless songfics in other genres, these are generally regarded as a Very Bad Thing. As long as a story would not completely collapse without the song to provide support, a story can be named after a song or even include a few lyrics to set the mood and not be considered songfic. The worst consist little more than the song itself...and the very worst are ones that seek deep personal meaning in a hot pop-song of the moment.
Named for the paste used to fill cracks in a wall, this is a story that tries to "fill in the holes" in canon, supplying missing scenes/motivation and trying to make sense of the creator's often dizzying leaps of illogic. Also used as a verb.
NOTE: This term seems to have been coined in 1999 by Greywolf the Wanderer, when he posted his zine story "Dark Star" online with this summary: "I always loved The Enterprise Incident, but it's got plot holes ye could drive a logging truck thru. Consider this my best attempt to spackle the bastards."
One of the rarest types of fan fiction, spin-offs are serials or single fictions set in a given 'verse, but not focusing on the characters from the source. Some would-be spin-offs are marked by the use of characters who are almost identical to those in the source in all but name. These are known as 'ubers', and may perhaps more accurately be considered a form of AU fiction. Another form is the 'nextgen' or Next Generation fic, which focuses on the children or successors of the canon characters.
A good poster or chatter always takes their audience into consideration and warns them if they're about to mention a spoiler (see above). This is done by a) telling listeners/readers that there are spoilers coming so they can decide to stop reading before it's too late, and b) in the case of a messageboard post, adding a page's worth of blank space or gibberish to force readers to scroll down to read the actual text, ensuring that the spoiler is not spotted by mistake by a casual browser.
A piece of information that can reveal (and thereby "spoil") an important plotpoint in a movie, show, issue, etc. that the reader has not yet seen/read. See spoiler warning.
When combined with a name, this represents a canon character who has been so distorted by fanfic that they have been rendered non-canonical. Common Jossverse examples (provided by Phillip Eagle):
See To Be Continued.
Any erotic tale involving characters or monsters who use tentacles (often phallic) to mate with or simply ravish humanoid characters, the latter usually being female. Often violent, this is a popular anime/manga kink, but it's also often used as an example of exploitative PWP.
The Idiots In Charge. See The Powers That Be.
Too Much Information. Almost always in regards to sex or other intimate bodily functions, ie. "Last night my boyfriend and I [fill in the blank]--" "Ack! TMI!" Used outside of fandom but useful within it, which is where many ficcers first heard it.
See The Powers That Be.
Dredging through the Internet looking for information or images. This is often miswritten at trolling, which is something entirely different.
A plot situation often spotted in soap operas, wherein three characters are involved with each other but not all together (e.g. Edward and Jacob vying for Bella's attentions). More than three can be involved in a triangle, but three is the classic conflict number.
Someone who's a foul jerk just for the thrill of ruining other people's day, as seen on newsgroups, messageboards, chatrooms, mailing lists, and beyond. Trolls are not tolerated long.
Deliberately posting in such a way at to provoke anger, outrage, disgust, and general shouting chaos. Not to be confused with trawling—these words are often misused interchangeably.
See Unconventional Couple.
Any fan-promoted romantic pairing that has little to no precedent in the original source material. Often abbreviated to UC.
Interesting note, according to Lisay: "[UC] began in the Buffy fanfic list UCSL or UnConventionalShipList when someone noticed the subtext between Xander and Larry (BtVS's first openly gay character). Before the subsequent fragmenting of the fandom, UCSL was the one of the biggest Buffy ficlists because all UC ships were allowed there, slash or het. The first Spuffy fic written was posted on this list (during the airing of S2)."
Unresolved Sexual Tension—a term for perceived "chemistry" between characters who are not romantically involved in canon or are prevented from pursuing the possibility by circumstances (ie. career, danger, both same gender, etc.). See also R.S.T.
In kink vernacular this refers to sexual practices which are considered conventional and unremarkable—in fanfic this can be used as a disparaging term for boring, unimaginative erotica.
A suffix added to any fandom title to indicate the general body of canon work, the "world" created by the original creators. Examples: HPverse, Potterverse, Jossverse.
An abbreviation of "universe" popularized by Firefly canon, particularly notable in River's line, "Nothing in the verse can stop me."
A very short story dealing with a single brief period of time, a single subject (an event, an emotion, a relationship, etc.), and often only a single character. Rarely action-oriented, vignettes are usually involve a character's internal dialogue as they muse over something that's already happened, debate something yet to be faced, or simply "enjoy the moment." By necessity, drabbles are always vignettes.
Warm And Fuzzy Feeling. Describes any cute sappy pointless fic, sometimes but not always involving G-rated romance.
A combination of "wank" and "angst," wangst is woe-is-me misery so floridly exaggerated that "you'd like to punch the angsty character/person's lights out and see if they have something similar to spine." Symptoms include deliberately attempting to starve to death, sobbing oneself to sleep, cutting, Evanescence lyrics, and so forth.
Self-important arrogance—usually in reference to humorless elitist fans with massively bloated egos, but the meaning is becoming blurry. Of course it means something far dirtier in British English, but you ought to know that by now. :)
Work In Progress. A story that is is not fully published to the archive set, or in which the ending has not yet been written, or is a rough draft that has not been thoroughly betaread.
A subgenre based around the premise of a Buffy episode ("The Wish") which presented a dark AU in which Buffy had never come to Sunnydale and evil prevailed. Stories are either set before everyone died or after (conveniently ignoring canon). Sometimes abbreviated to WV. Another canon-established Buffy AU is the Asylumverse; in Angel, there's the Birthdayverse.
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