Fan Fiction Terms

The world of fan fiction has its own language. Many times it will scare the living crap out of newcomers who have no idea what "slash" or "A/N" or any of it means. So I'm compiled a dictionary of common terms found on many fan fiction sites. The website Writers University was a huge help in making this, though none of the definitions are word-for-word from there. But it is a much larger collection with some lesser-known terms on the list so I highly recommend visiting it. The link is in the Fan Fiction Links page.


Actorfic – Fan fiction about a real person. Not recommended because it could be considered libel or slander.

Adult – Story that contains violence, sex scenes, language, or all of the above. Not for children, thus adult.

Alt. Universe – Alternate Universe. The story contains the characters of a fandom, but it may not necessarily be the same place. (eg. Harry Potter visits the U.S, LOTR characters in modern day. I read a pretty good one once, unfinished unfortunately, about Lupin and Sirius that took place in the Amazon.) or The story has the same characters with the same pasts, but something is different enough that it completely leaves canon.

A/N – Author’s Note. Something that sometimes appears before or after (sometimes during, but it’s not recommended) a story or chapter that isn’t part of the story, but something that the author felt was necessary to add.

Angst – A tragic story. May contain character death(s) or break-ups. Normally doesn’t have a happy ending. Angst stories can be very, very good or very, very tedious.

Anti-shippers – People who hate certain pairings. (eg. Harry and Hermione)

BadFic – A story that is purposely written to suck.

Beta Reader – Someone who reads and edits a fan fiction author’s story before posting it.

Buddy Fic – A story centered around the friendship between two characters.

Canon – Details and situations that come directly from the original source. (eg. Al follows Sam in a hologram form in Quantum Leap, Harry Potter’s parents were killed by Voldemort)

Challenge – A story idea set out by someone to see what others can make of it. May be part of a contest.

Cliché – An overused idea. A Mary Sue is a cliché. Occasionally they can be used to the author’s advantage and a decent story can be formed from one, but it is rare. I read a good story on that had them, but made them work.

Constructive Criticism – Advice to the author on what could improve their writing. Note that to be constructive it must be friendly. Any attacks or unfriendly reviews are considered flames.

Crossover – Combining two fandoms to write a story. (eg. Star Trek meets ER, Quantum Leap meets the West Wing)

Dark – Similar to angst, but these stories cannot have a happy ending. Always have unhappy or unpleasant themes.

Deathfic – A fic in which a character or characters die a horrible, grotesque death.

Derivative fiction – A piece of work based on another. Fan fiction is a derivative work.

Dino – Someone who’s been reading and writing fan fiction for a long time.

Disclaimer – A note that the author does not own the characters/settings/ect. that they are using in their story. Used for legal reasons. Can be as simple as “None of the following characters or settings belong to me, they all belong to someone else” or more elaborate and amusing.

Divergence – A story that follows the original up to a point, then makes a very sharp change.

Drabble – A one-shot fic that focuses on a character’s thoughts or emotions.

Ep – Short for Episode.

Fan Fiction – A genre of writing that is based on existing books, movies, TV shows, ect. that the author does not own.

Fanon – Details and situations made up by fan fiction writers. (eg. Remus Lupin was raised in an orphanage, Jack Sparrow was in love with Anamaria) Sometimes fanon can be mistaken for canon and that can make things seriously confusing.

Femslash – female slash – Stands for One of the Internet’s largest fan fiction sites. Strongly recommended, for either learning more about fan fiction or to start posting.

Fic – Short form of fiction.

Ficcer – A fan fiction author.

Ficlet – A short fic.

Flame – A reader review that contains no constructive criticism, only insults on the writer. Ranks up there with Mary Sue in annoyingness, but much more harmful. While Mary (and her partner Gary) can only irritate, a flame can destroy a beginning writer’s confidence. There’s really no point to flames, so don’t bother. But if you really feel the need to rip out a young heart, at least have the guts to sign it. (Sorry, just a pet peeve of mine)

Flame War – An argument between two people in which most of the fighting is done through flames. Also known as Flame-Fests and Firestorms.

Fluff – A plotless story that involves romantic or friendship themes between two characters. Never angsty, at least not for very long.

General – A fic that isn’t any particular genre.

Genre – Type of story. (eg. Action/adventure, romance, parody)

h/c – Hurt/Comfort – One character is suffering and this causes another character to be concerned for the other and try to comfort them.

Het Fic – Stands for heterosexual fic. A story with a romance between a male and female.

IC – Stands for In Character. The characters act in the way that they would in the canon.

Iconoclast – An author who writes about obscure fandoms in which the characters are often ignored. Some of these writers may flaunt their uniqueness.

Insertion Fic – See self-insertion

Kleenex Warning – A warning at the beginning of a story that the story is so sad that the reader will cry, so have some Kleenex handy.

Love Triangle – a story in which a.) Two characters are in love with the same person. Or b.) A character is in love with another character who is already in a relationship.

Lurker – A person who is part of a fandom and may read fan fiction, but never writes it or participates.

Mary Sue – One of the most hated scourges of fan fiction. The characteristics of a Mary Sue include: • The main character is normally female and either based on the author or one of his/her friends. • She has a tragic, mysterious past • She has at least one incredible ability. (eg. Telepathy, magic, beautiful singing voice, ect.) • She is related to one of the main characters. (Harry Potter’s wizard cousin, Legolas’s sister, Jack Sparrow’s daughter.) • One of the canon characters fall madly in love with her. • She dies in the arms of her beloved after saving the day.

Not all Mary Sues involve all of these themes and just because a story has one of them doesn’t make it a Mary Sue. Most times you can tell a Mary Sue because it will irritate you for no apparent reason.

Mature themes – Themes that are not suitable for children. See Adult.

Media Fan – A fan of television or movie fandoms.

Missing scene – A fic about what may have happened during a missing scene in the canon.

MPAA Ratings – Movie ratings. Often used in fan fiction.

NCC or OC – Non Canon Character or Original Character. A character created by the author.

Newbie – A new fan fiction writer.

OOC – Out of Character. When a character acts differently than in the canon.

Original Fiction – Fiction that is not based on pre-existing works.

Parallel Universe – see Alt. Universe.

Pairing – Two characters who are involved either romantically or sexually.

Parody – A story written to poke fun at a fandom (eg. Bored of the Rings, Harry Pothead)

Pen name – Name used on the Internet to publish fan fiction. (eg. Babigurl, Oysterpop, Ari45)

Plot Bunny – An idea that enters an author’s mind and refuses to leave. Called so because they tend to breed other ideas like rabbits.

Post – To publish a piece of fan fiction

Post Episode – A piece that focuses on events taking place after an episode of a TV series.

POV – Point of View. Who is telling the story, an omniscient narrator or a character?

PWP – “Porn without Plot” or “Plot? What Plot?” A story with no real plot to it. Usually romance or slash

Review whore – A derogatory term for someone who will do or write anything for feedback; a joking name many writers use to describe themselves.

R/R – Read and review. Often put at the end of a chapter or a summary to entice people to review. There’s really no point to it. People will decide whether or not to review on their own. I for one have never gone, “I wasn’t planning to review, I didn’t think they wanted me to but then I saw R/R and changed my mind.” So yeah, don’t bother.

Self-Insertion – When an author writes a fic involving him/herself in the fandom. See Mary Sue.

Sequel – A story taking place after the events of another. A fan fiction could be a sequel to the original story or to another fic.

Shippers – People who love certain pairings. (eg. Harry and Hermione)

Slash – A story involving a homosexual relationship between two characters that are straight in the canon work. Called so because of the / mark between names. (eg. Harry/Draco, Jack/Will)

Songfic – A story based on or around a song. Usually there are a few lyrics, some story, more lyrics, more story. Can be irritating and grating, but can also be moving and beautiful, depending on the story, song, and ability of the writer.

Spoiler – Canon information that is revealed in a fan fic.

Spoiler Warning – Warning written at the top of a fic to tell what spoilers are in the fic.