Modern fan fiction has generated a considerable amount of terminology. This page serves as a brief summary of some notable terms from fan-fiction communities. For more information on fan fiction, see the main article, fan fiction. For more information on the terms listed here, please visit their main articles or the respective see alsos.
Not included are many terms that are used within the fan fiction community, but are not considered notable or unique to fan fiction. For instance, terms relating to erotica that are commonly used in reference to erotic fan fiction, but far from exclusively so, are generally not included here.
For ease of use, the terms are separated first by subject (the subjects themselves being alphabetized save for "General Terminology"), and then alphabetized under that subject. In the event that a term fits under more than one subject, it has been defined in its first occurrence on this page, and referred back to in any further occurrences.
A handful of key terms are applied cross-fandom and in a great many different contexts. These are listed below.
- Main article: Canon (fiction)
Canon (derived from the term's usage in the Christian religion and popularized in this context by the Baker Street Irregulars) refers to the "official" source material upon which fan fiction can be based. In recent years, some fandoms have engaged in lengthy debate over what is or is not "canon", usually due to multiple writers in various media creating contradictory source material, such as in metaseries like Doctor Who or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
It is important to note that something that is regarded as "canon" is regarded as being essentially a verifiable fact in the given fandom. Details as complex as the laws of physics in a given story universe or as minute as how a character's name is meant to be spelled can be referred to as "canon" details, so long as they are specifically shown or otherwise directly revealed in the source material; this includes character behavior as well, though debate over what can or cannot be considered "canon behavior" is often a point of contention in fandom. On occasion, authors (such as Joss Whedon or JK Rowling) also expand on what is shown in the original story in other media, especially personal websites or blogs. Comments on the nature of a story or character directly from the creator are often considered statements of "canon".
In short, "canon" in the context of fan fiction is both the accepted "official" material itself, and a concept or detail promoted by the original work and/or in accepted "official" material.
- Main article: fandom
In fan fiction communities, especially online, generally fandom refers to people who enjoy a specific story, character, game, etc., and actively interact with others; that is, a group of (however scattered) such individuals who share interest in the same media. The term also sees occasional use as a synonym for the canon work.
Though now used in the aforementioned contexts amongst readers and writers of fan fiction, the term "fandom" itself actually pre-dates the modern usage of the term "fan fiction"; the Oxford English Dictionary traces the term's existence as far back as 1903.
Though it is distinct from canon, fanon is an interrelated concept in that the term encompasses invented (non-canon or not verified as being canon) facts or situations, especially those which are used so frequently in fan fiction that they become seen by many as an extended part of the canon. They become memetic within the fandom as many writers and fans adopt the same fanon, often within a relatively short time frame.
One of the usual purposes of fanon is to fill in perceived contradictions or gaps in the canon by answering (or asking) questions that the source material either will not or cannot address or simply hasn't addressed before. Prime examples include the first names of Uhura and Sulu in Star Trek or the belief that the acronym NCC means something, which were "fanon" long before official adoption.
A collection of fan fiction produced as a magazine, either in print (printzine) or online (webzine).
Filing off the Serial NumbersEdit
To render a fan fiction of copyrighted material suitable for mainstream publishing by removing any specific references to canon.
Jossed or WhedonizedEdit
Fanfic which introduces an unusually powerful or favored-by-the-author character who is near-perfect, very popular, or good at everything without any explanation why. This character is often female, and may represent the author's own wish-fulfillment fantasy. Often the Mary Sue character will rescue the nominal main character (e.g., James T. Kirk or Harry Potter) from a series of impossible situations, or nurse him back to health after he is seriously wounded or driven to the edge of insanity. The term can be used derisively by saying a story is contaminated by "Mary Sue-age" where the "Sue-age" is a homonym of "sewage."
A "name smoosh" is one way to denote the relationship pairing in a fanfic. Whereas the traditional notation is "First character's name / Second character's name" (sometimes using "X" instead of "/"), a smoosh creates a portmanteau by combining elements of each character's name into a single word (not unlike "Brangelina" and other celebrity smooshes).
- Jayne Cobb/River Tam (from Firefly/Serenity) becomes "Rayne"
- Jack Harkness/Ianto Jones (from Torchwood) becomes "Janto"
- Christian Clarke/Syed Masood (from EastEnders) becomes Chryed
- Calleigh Duquesne/Horatio Caine (from CSI: Miami) becomes "DuCaine" (also partially derived from "Duquesne" being pronounced like "Ducaine")
- Draco Malfoy/Harry Potter (from Harry Potter) becomes "Drarry"
- Severus Snape/Harry Potter (from Harry Potter) becomes "Snarry"
- Troy Bolton/Gabriella Montez (from High School Musical) becomes "Troyella"
- Chandler Bing/Monica Geller (from Friends) becomes "Mondler"
- Logan Echolls/Veronica Mars (from Veronica Mars) becomes "LoVe"
- Skipper/Marlene (from "The Penguins of Madagascar") becomes "Skilene"
- Edward/IsaBella (from "The Twilight Saga") becomes "Bedward"
- Carlisle Cullen/Aro Volturi (from "The Twilight Saga") becomes "Caro"
- Damon/Elena (from "The Vampire Diaries") becomes "Delena"
While particular smooshes may appear strange to people outside of their respective fandom, the fandom and couple is usually quickly recognizable by those familiar with the fandom, even if they weren't previously familiar with the particular smoosh.
A variant common in japanese based fan fiction is to combine the first two syllables of each character's name, producing smooshes like "NaruSaku" and "IchiRuki". It is traditional to put the seme, or aggressor, first. Such as the popular yaoi pairing "SasuNaru".
A Oneshot is a fanfic that consists of only one chapter and/or is first published in its completed form, as opposed to a fanfic consisting of multiple chapters which are published over time.
A Drabble is a one-shot that is typically exactly one hundred words in length, though some consider other very short stories to be drabbles as well, regardless of their exact word-count.
Drabbles are often considered to be 'feel-good' fics and usually are not very sexual in nature (though it's common to see displays of affection in drabbles making them erotic in nature would usually categorize them as a pwp or as a lemon or lime )
Due to the popularity of fan fiction online, many terms exist as acronyms, or have a popular acronymic variation. These are listed below.
- Main article: Alternative universe (fan fiction)
AU stands for Alternate Universe. AR stands for Alternate Reality. AT stands for Alternate Timeline. AH stands for All Human.
An AU/AT/AR story is one that makes major changes to the canonical storyline or premise, such as killing off a major character, changing characters' motives or alliances, annulling major events or changing the setting.
They may also involve a "what-if" experiment in which the author wishes to explore what might have happened if a certain canon episode had turned out differently—if, for example, Romeo had not stepped between Mercutio and Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet or if Harry Potter had sorted into a different school house.
AU (Alternate Universe) - means the world (universe) is different. The physics, geography, technology etc. are different, e.g. no magic in Harry Potter, no chakra in Naruto. Popular in this category are HS (High School) and college fan fictions, where the canon characters are written as students in real world's school.
AR (Alternate Reality) - the world is the same, but some basic (or most) of canon facts are different, e.g. for Naruto - Namikaze Minato never died and is Hokage, in Harry Potter - Harry never goes to Hogwarts, being tutored by his godfather.
AT (Alternate Timeline) - fan fictions that take place in another time than the canon (e.g. in Ancient Greece, when the canon is in present time), or is changing the time line itself. Special case of it is TT (Time Travel), where some character travel back or forth in time.
AH (All Human) - used in fan fiction based on texts which have supernatural beings, but the characters are portrayed as human.
AU and AR are often used interchangeably, with AU being more common in most fandoms.
Author's note, when the author wants to create an aside to explain something. Traditionally, these notes are placed at the beginning or end of the chapter and are used to explain everything from research they've done to create the chapter, to apologizing for the long wait between chapters, to stating when they believe they'll update again. In some instances however, the AN will be in the middle of the chapter (usually distinguished by bold or italics), although this is usually frowned upon by readers.
Short for "collaboration". A fanfic written by several authors working together. May involve different authors for different chapters, or all authors working together on the entire fic.
General or non-romantic, used as an official subgenre category on many archives, including fanfiction.net. There is some controversy about what qualifies as a "gen fic", but usually it denotes a story in which there is no sex and any and all romance is a background element of the story, while the main plot centers around non-romantic themes.
"Gen fics" also tend to lack a specific focus of any kind. They are not focused around any particular genre (romance, comedy or humor, tragedy or angst, adventure, drama, fantasy, horror, mystery, sci-fi, suspense, etc.). If the author can't fit their story into one (or sometimes two) of those categories, they may label it a "general" fic.
Stands for Hurt/Comfort, a plot framework in which one character in a particular ship experiences pain (physical or emotional) and the other character offers comfort. May qualify as darkfic depending on the origin and amount of focus on the "hurt" aspect of the story. May also qualify as a lemon or lime or a PWP if the "comfort" is of a decidedly physical nature.
- Main article: In character
IC is an acronym which stands for In Character, and refers to the behavior of (usually canon) characters which seems logical given what is known about them and their previous behavior in canon (see: OOC later in this article). Its usage in reference to fan fiction is thus somewhat distinct from, but similar to, its usage in acting (see in character).
MPreg stands for "Male Pregnancy". It's a short description for men becoming pregnant.
- Main article: MSTing
MSTs, also known as MSTings and sometimes called MiSTings, are commentaries on fan fiction stories, written in the style of the television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). In MST3K, a man and some homemade robots trapped on a spaceship watch bad movies and make humorous comments about them. For written MSTings, bad fan fiction is used.
Some archives have banned the posting of MSTs, commonly citing that they include writing that is not the work of the author of the MST. Their existence on FanFiction.net is hotly debated. Some fans consider them rude, while others enjoy what they see as witty commentaries.
In some cases, the writer of a fanfic will offer their own story up to be MSTed by another. This is more likely to be viewed in a positive light by fans who might otherwise disapprove of the genre. Other times, the writer who does the MSTing will do so without the permission of the original fanfiction's writer. These are more likely than volunteer-based MSTings to be met with disapproval.
"Non-consensual": the fic's plot may incorporate rape or other sexual assualt. There is also "dub-con", or "dubiously consensual", in which a character isn't being raped, but whether they wanted it to happen is questionable.
- Main article: Original character
Stands for Original Character, i.e. a character created by the author of the fan fiction, as opposed to one already existing in canon. OMC is an original male character, and OFC is an original female character, though the more general and gender-neutral OC label is more prevalent. OMC and OFC may also mean other male character and other female character in less common instances.
- Main article: Out of Character
Stands for Out of Character. The acronym form of the term should not be confused with the version from the online role-playing community, in which the same acronym is often used to denote comments made that are made to be read outside of the context of the game's story (such as notes about when a player will next be available). Its usage in fan fiction is different, and closer to the original literary meaning of the term Out of character, referring only to the behavior of (usually canon) characters in the story itself regarding whether or not they seem "in-character" (see: IC, above).
Stands for One True Pairing. This term is used by authors to indicate they believe the characters in question are meant to be together. The term can be used ironically as well, and a person can have several different OTPs with a common character, such as john/sherlock and rose/10th doctor. By declaring their OTP, authors can meet other authors with the same pairing preference. On the downside, however, declaring an OTP can lead to debates or flame wars.
OT3, a variation on OTP, stands for One True Threesome. It describes a similar situation in which three characters (usually all from canon) are romantically and sexually linked. The term can be expanded indefinitely, as OT4, OT5, etc., although higher numbers tend to be parodic. OT3 is more likely to appear in fandoms with multiple canonical characters operating in an ensemble.
- Main article: Point of view
Stands for Point of View and much like the acronym's usage elsewhere, refers to the perspective in which the story is written or meant to be viewed. It is sometimes also spelled with a lower case o (i.e. PoV), though the all-caps variation is common.
Stands for Porn Without Plot or Plot? What Plot? or Poorly Written Porn and is used to indicate or imply that a fan fiction story contains little or no plot, but instead acts merely as a vessel for pornographic scenes.
Stands for Read and Review can also be written as "R'n'R" or r&r. It is meant as an encouragement for the reader to read the story and review it afterwards. C&C or critique and comment is also sometimes used, though not as often. Sometimes it is also used as Rate and Review.
Rec or Recpage/ReclistEdit
Rec is a direct abbreviation of “recommend,” and as such when a fic is rec’d it is being recommended. Recpages and reclists are, thus, pages and lists of individual fanfiction. Typically these pages/lists are a collection of links redirecting the reader to the original hosting site of the story, and do not seek to re-host the work. Lists will often include the title of the work, a direct link, the author, the rating, and a brief summary. Most organized lists/pages do not include a reason for the recommendation, instead leaving it up to the reader to decide based on the basic information alone.
- Main article: Real person fiction
Stands for Real Person Fiction, RPF is fiction written about real people such as actors, politicians, athletes and musicians. Due to the nature of the stories - being about real people as opposed to fictional characters - there are some people who disagree on whether or not RPF is genuine 'fan fiction'; most RPF does seem to be written by fans, but some believe true 'fan fiction' requires a fictional canon.
Additionally, historical fiction featuring famous historical figures is not generally considered to be (or at least, referred to as) RPF fan fiction, despite featuring real people as characters. Some major fan fiction archives (such as fanfiction.net) have a moratorium on RPF, usually citing legal concerns or a definition of 'fan fiction' that requires a fictional source for its canon.
Possibly the first modern RPF (predating the term by a considerable margin) was written by Charlotte Brontë and her siblings, who beginning in 1826 created a lengthy series of novels, poems and short stories based on the imagined adventures of the Duke of Wellington and his two sons, Arthur and Charles.
- Main article: Author character
Stands for Self-insert or Self-insertion. It refers to an author writing him or herself into their story. The resulting "character" is usually referred to as a self-insert or SI in the fan fiction community. The term is often closely associated with Mary Sue, but does not actually exclusively apply to the kinds of characters typically labeled a Mary Sue.
It is a common mistake to confuse the terms 'Mary Sue' and 'Self-Insert', especially since generally Mary Sues are seen as being the kind of person the author wishes they could be and often are a form of idealized self-insertion. The two terms have distinct meanings, however.
Stands for Time? What Time? and is used when the author of a fanfiction has no particular time line in which the story takes place. This is likely a pun on the term 'PWP' and has been adopted in multiple fandoms.
Stands for Unresolved Sexual Tension and refers to the lack of full or sometimes even partial resolution of sexual tension elements within a story. May refer to the content of the fan fiction story, or to a particular interpretation of the original canon story, or to both, if the fan fiction in question is intended to address sexual or romantic subtext in the original story.
Stands for "Warm And Fluffy Feeling" or "Warm And Fuzzy Feelings" and is applied to stories which are intended to invoke those feelings in the reader, i.e., "feel good" stories. Also referred to as "fluff" or "schmoop." Fluff often refers to a short story, chapter, or part of a chapter in which readers get a soft, heartwarming feeling.
Subgenres based on relationship to canonEdit
- Main article: Fictional crossover
Another fan fiction subgenre is the crossover story, in which either characters from one story exist in (or are transported to) another pre-existing story's world, or more commonly, characters from two or more stories interact.
While the crossover genre is extremely popular amongst fan fiction writers, it does sometimes occur in canon works – examples of this include the video game series Kingdom Hearts which crosses numerous Disney works with those of SquareSoft, and an episode of The X-Files which featured Richard Belzer as his Homicide: Life on the Street character John Munch, who also later began to appear as a main character in Law and Order: SVU.
"Dark" refers to plots which introduce elements such as death, violence, betrayal or loss. "Dark" fan fiction builds upon preexisting emotional attachments that readers have with the characters for dramatic effect. It may also refer to fics where the main characters, when Heroes, turn evil or just more aggressive (Example: Harry Potter becoming a Dark Wizard, Luke Skywalker becoming a Sith Lord, etc.)
"Movieverse" as a term refers to the film adaptations of books, games, etc.; the term is used both in the context of comparison/contrast between different versions of canon (such as in Jurassic Park, and many comic book movies where the storyline and characters of each may differ greatly) and to mark stories which are based explicitly and exclusively on the film adaptation.
Fan fiction also exists in the form of independent, fan-produced pastiches and parodies of established works, including fan-produced film and video. The first such parody was 1978's Hardware Wars. One of the best known is Troops, a parody of the reality television show Cops, depicting Star Wars Imperial stormtroopers on patrol.
Sherlock Holmes, the Cthulhu Mythos and several of Edgar Rice Burroughs' fantasy series have fan fiction pastiche communities. This tradition comes from the establishment of literary societies, dating back to the 1930s and 1940s. These societies attracted both professional and fan writers. They practice a semi-professional level of publication of fan fiction of a specifically sophisticated literary nature, both in print quality and community expectations. Star Trek fans quickly developed a pastiche community around the Kraith series, which began appearing in fanzines in 1967 and had about thirty contributors. Probably the best-known example of such a community as of 2006 would be the followers of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series.
The virtual season is usually a collaborative effort to produce a compilation of fan stories or scripts portraying episodes of an entire season for a television program – usually one that has been canceled or is no longer producing new episodes. Often, these writers will elect members of their group to be the imaginary producers, head writers, editors, and other traditional roles to aid in the coordination of the virtual season's material, direction, and continuity. Every effort is made to reproduce and carry on the details of the program as professionally as possible.
- One of the first virtual seasons was for the TV series Forever Knight, which was canceled in 1996 and followed by a virtual fourth season ('V4S').
- Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, which was canceled in 1997, spawned several virtual seasons, continuing the trend. The Unaired Fifth Season ('TUFS') and Season 5 ('S5') each "aired" on Sunday nights during the 1997/98 television season, while 'Season 6' followed during the 1998/99 season.
- Millennium was canceled in 1999, six months short of its millennial climax, so a Virtual Season 4 completed the storyline for fans.
- JAG spawned a Virtual Season which was designed to give the fans something to do and read during the summer hiatus. It ran from 2000-2005.
- Voyager Virtual Season Project ran for 2 years, starting in 2001 and ending in 2003, extending Star Trek Voyager's story an extra two years and into yet another "Lost in Space" adventure.
- The most dedicated of these virtual season teams sometimes produce fan films like Star Trek, New Voyages.
Subgenres based on character relationshipsEdit
- Main article: Shipping (fandom)
Fans often refer to a pairing as a "ship" (short for "relationship") and people who are in favor of two particular characters pairing up are referred to as "shippers." See shipping (fandom) for more information. Different fandoms tend to have different ways of referring to their ships. Most common are the name smooshing seen above (Draco + Harry = Drarry), adding a slash or an "x" between the characters' names (Draco/Harry, DracoxHarry), and simply writing their initials together (HPDM, HP/DM, HPxDM).
Lemon and LimeEdit
- Main article: lemon (anime)
Explicit sex stories in general, especially in anime fan fiction, are known as lemon, lemony-goodness, and lemonade, a term which comes from a Japanese slang term meaning "sexy" that itself derives from an early pornographic cartoon series called Cream Lemon.
The term lime denotes a story that has sexual themes but is not necessarily explicit. "Lemon" stories without much plot other than sex are also referred to as smutfics or as PWPs ("Porn Without Plot" or "Plot? What Plot?"). Similarly, many authors will call their stories "citrusy", or a mix of both limey and lemony.
Slash and HetEdit
- Main article: Slash fiction
Slash fiction is, depending on one's preferred definition: a subgenre of romance fan fiction which exclusively deals in homosexual relationships; a subgenre of Alternate Pairing that addresses a romantic relationship between characters of the same gender, especially males. The expression comes from the late 1970s, when the "/" symbol began to be used to designate a romantic relationship between Star Trek characters, especially between James T. Kirk and Spock.
Stories with male homosexual pairings are the most common. Lesbian relationships are often referred to as "femslash" or "femmeslash" to distinguish them from the male/male pairing stories, though some fans prefer to use the term "Saffic" (a portmanteau of "Sapphic" and "fiction"). Fans of Japanese manga or anime tend to use the Japanese terms relating to the subgenres, referring to male homosexual pairings as yaoi or shōnen-ai and lesbian pairings as yuri or shōjo-ai. The former term for each typically represents the more sexually explicit stories, while the latter generally represents more romance-centered stories, though they are occasionally used interchangeably.
"Het" is the opposite of "slash" (by most of the term's definitions) and femslash, yaoi, shounen-ai, yuri or shoujo-ai, classifying a romance and/or sexually explicit story which has as its main focus a heterosexual relationship.
Sometimes when a pairing is written in the name/name format, it generally follows either a male/female convention (for heterosexual pairings) or a dominant/submissive (or in-charge/following) convention (for either heterosexual or homosexual pairings). This one applies mostly to Eastern fandoms (anime and manga), and only very occasionally to Western ones (usually by fen from Eastern fandoms).
Named after the drug to imply that it can only be the product of a deranged mind, crack fic is identified by its random, nonsensical contents. The plotline might be twisted into a knot, the fic might be a thick parody, or the fic might feature an unlikely or rare pairing ("crack pairing"). Generally these aren't humor pieces, to the great disapproval of the fandom.
A genre which the stories usually have heavy and sometimes depressing themes, and have the characters suffering emotionally (and sometimes physically) in some way. Relationship break up, character death, hurt and comfort are all forms of angst stories.
A story in which a character, usually major, dies. They also will occasionally deal with things like funerals, characters recovering from people they love dying or, usually after the death of a loved one, the character commiting suicide.
A genre in which the story is devoid of angst and takes on a mood of light-hearted romance, see WAFF, above. While the terms "fluff" and "schmoop" are interchangeable in the broad scope of fan fiction, individual fandoms tend to adopt one term or the other for this genre of fic.
This is a genre, defined by its distinct format, in which an author takes an existing song and uses the lyrics to generate the theme of his or her story, or to add emphasis to certain aspects of it. "Songfics" are usually one-shots though there are exceptions, including lengthy series that either include various songs, or utilize the songfic format for only select portions of the work.
Though more common in fan fiction, it is not unheard of to see "songfic" appear in original fiction on occasion, and while most songfic authors use lyrics to others' songs, some do write original material instead. Some archives - most notably FanFiction.net - currently forbid the posting of songfic with lyrics not in the public domain to their archives in their Terms of Service or explanations thereof, generally on the basis that it includes copyrighted material not owned or legally usable by the author of the work.
Though unheard of to date, it is in fact technically possible for a fan fiction author - and possibly even a given archive which allows it - to be legally sued for the unauthorized posting of song lyrics which are still under copyright, as demonstrated when the Recording Industry Association of America attempted to sue a number of websites for listing complete lyrics to their artists' songs. This is sometimes credited as the origin for the songfic ban on some archives.
Squick, out of the context of fanfiction, refers to the physical reaction one feels when confronted with a situation, idea, or theme that makes one uncomfortable. This discomfort may be nothing more than an “icky” feeling, and may be as powerful as full and complete disgust. Further definition can be found in the Urban Dictionary .
Within the context of fanfiction, squick generally denotes a story somehow dealing with, generally sexual, taboo themes such as incest, pedophilia, an underage aggressor (such as Lolita), underage sex (both people are under the legal age of consent), and bestiality. Non-sexual themes are generally from the point of view of a drug user, killer, self abuser (cutting, eating disorder, etc), or someone with a mental disorder.
The squick theme is not always central to the story, but is usually noted as a warning to readers, that they won't be entirely unprepared for something potentially uncomfortable. These stories can portray the theme in either a negative or positive light. When the depiction is negative, the fic often falls under the larger category of Darkfic.
Also known simply as whump. Describes a style of fic in which the plot or events focus on physical (or sometimes emotional) violence done to the lead character or characters. Whumpage overlaps with Darkfic, but is not synonymous, as whumpage can focus on the character's endurance or survival as well as on suffering. Whumpage differs from H/C (Hurt/Comfort) in that the "comfort" side of the dynamic is rarely present. The term may also be used to describe a story element in a fanfic that is not otherwise specifically focused on violence and suffering. It was mostly featured in (and probably originated from) Stargate fanfictions.
- Sheenagh Pugh (2005) The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a literary context p.242
- ^ Sheenagh Pugh (2005) The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a literary context p.243
- ^ http://www.supernaturalwiki.com/index.php?title=Kripked
- ^ Taurnlaide and Tarien's Detour to Destiny.