There is a frightening yet wonderful part of the fandom world that we have not spent enough time dissecting here on My Fangirl Life. It is common topic among fangirls, yet is rarely discussed by inhabitants of mainstream media. That subgenre of geekdom is Fanfiction. It can be amazing, helping you keep a series you never wanted to end alive. Or it can be terrifying, making you sift through mounds of poorly written, unedited garbage to find the gems underneath. Either way, it is something I want to help all of you to understand.
Whether you are a fanfiction veteran or a total newbie, you will notice fanfic culture has its own vernacular. Unless you speak the language, you will be at risk of reading something you are just not ready for, or can never unread. If only there was a handy guide to these important words & phrases…
There are some basic terms that I will throw around, expecting you to know them. These are things like Fandom, Fangirl, or Ship. If you need to brush up on basic “Fangirl” (yes, Fangirl is a language) you can check out The Fangirl Glossary: The Basics. Or you can jump over to our newly unveiled glossary page: THE FANGIRL GLOSSARY.
Now on to fanfiction terminology, although I should probably start with the word itself…
Fanfiction (noun) A story written by a fan about their favorite fandom & its characters (book/tv show/movie/etc.). Fanfiction can be used to describe one story (also called a fanfic for short) or the entire genre.
A/N (noun) “Author’s Note” Signifies a note by the author of the fanfic that should not be considered part of the story. A [A/N] is typically found at the beginning or end of the story/chapter, but could be dispersed throughout, hence the need for a way to distinguish it from the story itself.
Beta (noun & verb) An editor or the act of editing. This reader could perform typical grammar & spelling editing or edit for content, suggesting plot points or checking if the story is in line with the fandom/canon/etc.
Britpick (verb) When a fic is beta’d to ensure it is properly British, using correct locations, vernacular & slang, etc. (e.g. Fries are Chips, the Subway is the Underground or Tube)
C&C (phrase) “Critique & Comment” A call for Feedback (FB) from the readers on a fanfiction. Authors LOVE feedback so if they end a story with C&C be sure to join the conversation.
Collab (adjective) A collaboration between multiple authors to create one story/video/etc.
Disclaimer (noun) Each fanfiction starts with a disclaimer specifying that the author of the fanfiction does not own the characters, setting, etc. borrowed from the fandom.
Flame (noun & verb) An unneededly mean, negative comment or review meant to enrage. You can write a flame (noun) or you can flame someone (verb), by sending a comment to them. Flames can get you banned from message boards & comment sections.
Prompt (noun) Anything meant to inspire. It could be anything: a pairing, line of dialogue, situation, setting, etc. A prompt given to many at once is considered a Challenge (noun). Challenges can be competitions or just a call for creators to use the same prompt simultaneously.
Spoiler (noun) A piece of information that gives away what will happen in a book/movie/tv show/etc.
Squick (noun & verb) Anything that disturbs or upsets you, usually in the way that you are grossed out.
Avatar (noun) When the author inserts him or herself into a fanfiction the character they create to represent themselves is called an avatar.
Mary Sue (noun) An original female character who is too perfect to be realistic. This poorly written character lacks flaws & depth but is often the protagonist of fanfiction.
Marty Sam (noun) The male equivalent of Mary Sue.
OC (noun) “Original Character” A fanfiction character created by the author, who is not in canon fandom. Could also be called at OFC “Original Female Character” or OMC “Original Male Character”.
Pairing (noun) The ship(s) featured in a fanfiction.
Ship (noun) Derived from the word relationship, a ship is a romantic pairing of two characters. Ship can also be used as a (verb). To ship two characters is to pair them in a relationship. It is important to note that shipping does not have to be romantic (characters could be shipped as friends or into a bromance), however it typically is.
OTP (noun) “One True Pairing” The pairing you believe in above all others, regardless of canon or the opinion of the masses. You would be be willing to metaphorically “go down with this ship.”
OOC (adjective) “Out of Character” When a character in a fanfiction acts in a way that is against canon.
WIP (adjective) “Work in Progress” An incomplete fanfiction.
One-Shot (noun) A one chapter fanfiction story that is just a snapshot of time, often only one scene.
MC (noun) “Multi-Chapter” A fanfiction with multiple chapters, usually at least 3.
Drabble (noun) A short, self-contained fanfiction, of typically 100 words. A Half Drabble is 50 words and a Double Drabble is 200 words.
Fluff (noun) A light fanfiction story that has a day-in-the-life feel. It is usually more about character interaction than plot.
Silly fic (noun) A light, silly fanfiction. A Silly!fic very similar to Fluff but requires less adherence to canon, with characters often being OOC in order to add to the silliness.
Song fic (noun) – A fanfiction that is based on or includes a song.
Crack fic (noun) A fanfiction story that contains insane pairings (crackships), ridiculous situations and/or nonsensical writing. Crack!fics are sometimes actually intense parodies, but usually are just a poorly written serious attempt at a story.
Dark fic (noun) A fanfiction story that is dark in nature, usually featuring mature content like alcohol use, drug abuse, self-harm, assault, etc.
H/C (adjective) “Hurt/Comfort” A type of fanfiction where the focus is on a character experiencing ‘hurt’ (whether physical injury or emotional pain) in order to be conformed by another character.
Genfic (adjective) A general fanfiction censor rating. It is equivalent to a G or PG cinematic rating, meaning there is no sex or violence in the story.
Adultfic (adjective) An adult fanfiction censor rating. It is equivalent to a PG-13 or NC-17 cinematic rating, meaning the story will have sexual or violent situations.
PWP (noun) “Porn Without Plot” or “Plot? What Plot?” or “Poorly Written Porn” A fanfiction that not only contains graphic sexual content but is basically just graphic sexual content. The plot is unimportant, if included at all.
Canon (adjective) The official story, as told by the original source material. In the Harry Potter universe the books and facts provided by JK Rowling about the series are considered canon. Fanfiction and fandom imaginings are based on this canon information but are not canon themselves as they are invented by the masses (not the fandom’s writers or creators) and are not presented as part of the official story.
Fanon (adjective) Non-canon material used so often in fanfiction/fan imaginings that it has almost been accepted as canon by the fandom.
Head Canon (adjective) Something you have accepted as canon in your own head, although it is not actually canon.
For example, the Marvel movie universe has not told us that Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) & Natasha Romanova (aka Black Widow) are romantically involved. However I have fully accept Clintasha as a real thing in my head. I don’t doubt it one bit. The important thing about head canon is that it will color the way you see things in your fandom. Natasha is wearing an arrow necklace in Captain America 2? Why, because it’s stylish? No, it is obviously because she is in love with the archer Hawkeye. Head Canon Accepted.
Continuation (noun) A story that takes place after all of the canon material has concluded. This allows authors to keep their fanfiction canon while still having lots of room to use their imaginations. A popular continuation genre is Next-Gen (adjective) in the Harry Potter universe, which follows the children of Harry & friends.
Crossover (noun) Also called a xover, this is a story which includes multiple fandoms. The crossover is denoted as: Fandom1xFandom2. The CW tv shows Arrow & Flash have had multiple crossover episodes (ArrowxFlash). There are exceptions to the notation rule, such as the #1 fangirl dream of a SupernaturalxDoctor WhoxSherlock crossover, which is usually referred to as SuperWhoLock.
AR (adjective) “Alternate Reality” A fanfiction or story that takes place in the same world but under different circumstances. For example, Harry Potter is still a wizard but instead of going to Hogwarts he is raised & educated by his Godfather.
A common AR subgenre is Reverse-verse, where the protagonist & antagonist are switched. Suddenly the hero is bad and the villain is good (Harry is the Dark Lord & Tom Riddle is tryign to stop him).
AT (adjective) “Alternate Timeline” A fanfiction or story that takes place in the same world but different time period. For example, Harry Potter & friends going to Hogwarts in the Marauders or founders era. Also, BBC’s Sherlock could be considered an alternate timeline to the original Sherlock Holmes books.
A common AT subgenre is Movieverse, where the story takes place in the timeline laid out by the movies rather than the original source materials. Most Avengers fanfictions take place int eh Marvel Cinematic Universe and almost all Jurassic Park stories follow the timeline laid out in the films, rather than the novel.
AU (adjective) “Alternate Universe” fanfiction or story that takes place in a drastically changed world. For example, Harry Potter with no magic.
A common AU subgenre is AH “All Human” (also referred to as RL “Real Life”), where all magic and supernatural aspects have been removed. The Twilight vampires are now all regular humans, or Sam & Dean fight normal serial killers rather than ghosts & demons. It is also popular to take things a step further with HS “High School”, where all characters are now high school students, no matter their age in the canon material. HS can be done with or without AH.
Slash (noun) Pairing of two same-sex characters who are heterosexual in the canon story. Slash typically refers to male/male pairings, while the term Fem!slash is used to describe female/female parings.
Smut (adjective) Sexual situations in a fanfiction. These can vary in nature from light kissing to graphically described sex scenes. Smut can be considered very similar to erotica, but is written by amateurs & can therefore be varied in quality & content.
Lemon (noun) Heavy smut within a fanfiction. Lemons are fully described sexual situations and can be quite graphic. A fanfic can include one or multiple lemons within it.
Lime (noun) Light smut within a fanfiction. Limes are sexual situations described without as much details as Lemons, or with less graphic content to start with. A fanfic can include one or multiple limes within it.
Pairing Codes (abbreviation) These codes allow you to see what kind of sexual pairings will be featured in a fanfiction. These describe the sexual situations you may encounter while reading and can be considered warning of slash content. F stands for female; M stands for male:
F – A sexual situation with 1 female (female masturbation)
M/M – A sexual situation with 2 males (slash)
F/F/F – A situation with 3 females (threesome fem!slash)
F/M – Heterosexual situations
Non-Con (adjective) “Non-Consensual” The fanfiction will include non-consensual sexual situations.
Now off you go… you are armed with knowledge and ready to face the world of fanfiction! Just beware: it’s a strange and scary world out there. Check out fanfiction.net as a great place to start. They have tons of stories from a multitude of fandom!
Love & Luck,