tags and terms
Especially when you’re new to the world of fanfiction, all those tags authors use on their stories might sound a little confusing. I decided to put together a list of all the tags and terms I’ve run across so far to help you out if you don’t know what a certain tag is supposed to mean.
If I missed out on a tag or term, please let me know in the comments down below so that I can add it to this list!
If you’re looking for a specific tag or term, you can press the key combination ctrl + f and then type in your desired word.
Each and every fanfiction can be sorted into a certain genre. Those genres can be the same as for original stories and regular literature, but there are also some that are exclusively used for fanfiction.
A fanfiction containing a lot of action and adventure, as the name already states. Stories of this genre could e.g. deal with heroes saving the entire planet from aliens in an epic battle. The main character(s) will have a certain goal which they try to achieve throughout the story, even if that just means winning a soccer match.
A thriller that mostly deals with an unsolved crime which is investigated. The readers get their chance to make up their own mind on who is the suspect, and in the end the criminal is often revealed and the crime solved.
A mix of two different fictional works, mostly referring to characters of two different original works meeting and spending time together. The canon of both works usually remains nearly untouched.
As in dramatic, or sometimes tragic. The story deals with dramatic experiences characters have to deal with and get through. Tragedies are a form of drama.
A story that has exactly 100 words. There are double-drabbles (200 words), triple-drabbles (300 words) and quad-drabbles (400 words) as well.
A fanfiction which is designed to put the reader in fear or sorrow. They’re usually quite dark and sometimes depressing.
Similar to a crossover, a fusion connects two or more different fictional works, but much more intensely than a crossover. The only thing that has to stay intact in fusions are the characters’ personalities.
You know horror movies, right? Well, a horror fanfiction is just like that, but in a written form. Designed to creep you out and give you nightmares.
Fun stories, ranging from puns to slapstick, designed for your amusement.
Just like a crossover, just with three or more different fictional works.
The reader is left with many questions, and each time an answer is found, new questions arise. If you find yourself trying to find out what is actually happening in a story, chances are you might have run across a mystery story.
In terms of fanfictions, this often refers to the story making fun of the original work.
Type of text with line breaks and rhymes, known as poems.
One of the characters has a flashback in the story. They are most likely to remember something that happened before the story or that wasn’t included in the story up to that point.
A story including a romantic relationship, often explaining how both partners got together. Filled with love and harmony and mostly having a happy end.
pain / comfort
One character is having a hard time and is comforted by another one.
These stories mostly take place in the far future, sometimes in space. You might encounter advanced technology, lots of lasers and spaceships in these.
Form of writing, similar to historic dramas. The text is put in dialogue form, any actions are written separately.
These are ideas which don’t really fit into story A and therefore are put into story B. In contrast to a sequel, you don’t have to know story A to understand story B - both stories might be vaguely connected or share a character at times, but they’re not part 1 and 2 of the same thing.
A story full of (dramatic) tension. Thrillers don’t have to be bloody or full of violence - the tension itself might be created very subtly as well.
In these stories, a character faces a conflict they can’t solve and which therefore breaks them. Tragedies often end with suicide or mental illnesses and never have a happy end.
Types of fanfiction
Tags of this category give an insight into how the fanfiction was written, in terms of outer style. They don’t give away anything much the content of the fanfiction - they purely describe the text form and can be used for every genre.
The story uses, as the tag implies, bad language such as swear words or heavy slang.
A story which was (mostly) intentionally written horribly - mostly in terms of style as well as in terms of plot.
In this fanfiction, a case will be solved systematically. Whether that’d be a crime or a case for the court is up to the author.
Fanfictions with this tag follow specific regulations. There are many challenges out there and I’ve touched upon some of them in the writing practice section of this blog already. A challenge fanfiction might e.g. have to contain a certain object, a certain word or even a specified word count.
crackfic / acidfic
When reading such a fanfiction, you get the feeling the author was on drugs while writing that. The characters are usually put in surreal situations, the whole story can be created OOC, and nothing makes sense at all.
A curtainfic shows a character doing housework and living a very normal, non exciting life, e.g. buying curtains. If the characters of the original work were travelling a lot, curtainfic can also mean that those characters more or less willingly decide to stay in one place for a long time.
darkfic / DF
Darkfics usually center around the antagonists of the original work and are, as the name says, dark. They might include some of the originally good characters turning over to the dark side, which is usually shown by the tag Dark!Charactername (e.g. Dark!Rico).
Denials are written by authors who don’t want to accept certain canon things, such as a character death or a romance they don’t agree with. Fanfictions written in denial just pretend that certain things didn’t happen.
Short for dubious consent. In such stories the author doesn’t clarify whether or not sexual actions take place with our without a character’s consent. It’s neither mutually agreed on sexual actions, but neither is it rape.
Stands for episode addition. The fanfiction you’re about to read is an addition to a specific episode of a TV show or series.
Filk usually refers to a song of which the lyrics are re-written to match a certain fandom. If it’s used as a tag for fanfiction, it refers to some sort of musical comedy where lyrics are taken and twisted around to match the story which is written around them.
The story describes the character’s first experience with love, sometimes also their first sexual experience.
Fluff stories are full of love and harmony - there’s no bad blood, everyone likes everyone, everything is just perfect and pretty and amazing and we’re all happily hopping around on sunshine. Another term for fluff would be sap.
The story isn’t focused on pairings, pairings don’t make up a huge part of the plot.
lemon / lime
Both stories deal with sexual actions. While lime usually only implies said actions, lemons go into quite some descriptive detail. Lemons and lime are not limited to only sexual actions. The japanese terms are hentai and ecchi.
A story dealing with pedophelia, in this case involving an underage girl. The male equivalent would be shota-con.
Some fictional works do leave out certain scenes - e.g. somebody leaves the town for a while and returns without telling anyone what they were up to. A fanfiction dealing with those left out scenes and filling them with a plot is called a missing scene.
MST3K / MSTing
Characters comment on a fanfiction written about them, mostly tearing it apart. It’s a form of criticism, but you need the consent of the author who wrote the fanfiction you want to tear apart in order to publish one of those.
In a musefic, the author is talking to their muse, which can be a certain character, or a force.
A fanfiction consisting out of only one chapter which has a finished plot - like a short story.
The fanfiction takes place after the original story has ended, continuing the plot, keeping the characters IC and accepting canon pairings.
The story takes place before the original story.
Stands for “Plot? What Plot?” and means that the following story does nothing but describe sexual actions without explaining why the characters are in the situation.
The resurrection fic is a fanfiction in which a character is brought back from the dead, either through means of science or magic, or through unknown means before the begin of the story.
Usually a story which contains a self insert. Characters come and visit the author to get their revenge for what the author has done to them in previous fanfictions. Mostly ironic.
round robin / rr
A fanfiction which is written by multiple authors. One author continues a story written by another one.
The story is a continuation of a previous one.
Lyrics to a song are included into a story, often in a way that the story is written around the lyrics. Sometimes, the lyrics might be rewritten in a way that a character would sing them.
Fanfictions of this category are usually short and don’t make much sense. Their purpose is the point they bring across in the end, which usually is a joke. They often contain characters who are OOC and situations which don’t make sense at all.
Serves as a warning. The story will contain scenes dealing with torture, which can but doesn’t have to be described in a very detailed way.
This story wasn’t originally written in english, it is only a translation of a story which was created in another language. If you want to translate a story, make sure the author gives you their consent, and always link to the original!
In this story something horrible will happen to one or more characters.
This story will deal with a homosexual relationship between (two) men and might contain explicit and very detailed descriptions of sexual actions between them.
This story will deal with a homosexual relationship between (two) women and might contain explicit and very detailed descriptions of sexual actions between them.
Tags that declare in which way the setting of the fanfiction has changed compared to the original story.
alternate universe / altraverse
The fanfiction takes place in an alternative universe. Most of these fanfictions re-tell the original story after a change happened before the original story took place. This change can be very significant, or rather small but leading to various consequences that change the storyline of the original story.
Alternative reality, or parallel universe. To some degree similar to altraverse, however more extreme. Whereas an altraverse story can refer to rather small alterations, alternative realities usually include bigger changes.
Sometimes, certain things have to be said about a character, and this oftentimes happens through tags as well.
All characters are presented as humans in the story. This mostly only applies to stories in which some or all of the original characters are animals. In the fanfiction, these characters aren’t turned into humans, but they are presented as if they were humans (by e.g. being given the ability to read).
A character suffers from amnesia, thus can’t remember what happened to them. This can be used to explain why a character behaves vastly different compared to the original, or to create a new view on other characters without having to introduce a new character who wasn’t part of the original.
anc / annoying new character
A new character who wasn’t part of the original story is introduced. Said character will probably be involved into the plot quite a lot and they will go on your nerves a lot.
All or some characters who were human in the original story are now animals. That might be because the fanfiction is placed in an altraverse, or some characters might have been turned into animals through means of magic or science.
The antagonist in a story is usually the enemy / foe, in contrast to the hero who is referred to as the protagonist.
A character is being put through hell in this story, mainly for the author’s pleasure.
CD / character death
A character will die throughout the fanfiction or the chapter.
A character doesn’t wear what would be considered normal for characters of their gender - e.g. a male character wearing a dress.
The male equivalent to our beloved Mary Sue.
The opposite of animalised. All of the characters in the story are now humans, whether that’d be because the story is set in an altraverse or because of magic or science is up to the author. The japanese term for this is gijinka.
In character, the opposite of OOC. The characters act exactly like they did in the original.
The Mary Sue doesn’t have to be female. The term is referring to a character who just generally isn’t liked by the reader. That can be because the character overcomes every problem at an instance, because they are flawless, or because of their cardboard personality. A Mary Sue doesn’t necessarily have to be an own character.
A male character will be or is pregnant.
One character will have two or more (sexual) partners at the same time.
A new character who wasn’t part of the original gets their role in the story.
Stands for own character. Other forms are OFC and OMC - original female character and original male character. Own characters are characters who were designed or invented by the author themselves.
Out of character. A character isn’t acting the way they would be in the original. Opposite of IC.
The good guy, the hero of the story. Opposite of antagonist.
Stands for real person slash. Describes a homosexual pairing between two real characters who mostly don’t have that relationship in reality.
A person from our reality (can but doesn’t have to be the author) is included in the story, mostly but not always knowing something about the original.
The characters live during different times, in a different place, have different jobs and might even have a different name. They are only recognised as who they were in the original because of their personality (and sometimes other things which give away their identity, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case).
Many fanfictions include certain pairings. Those pairings can have many different forms - and therefore many different tags.
A pairing which was established in the original work of fiction already and won’t be destroyed by the fanfiction.
Each and every pairing has a name, which is usually created from their names. Character code defines those names for pairings. There are two different ways to name a pairing, either through letters or through an actual name. H/D stands for the pairing of Harry and Draco in a Harry Potter fanfictions. Kipper is a fusion of Kowalski and Skipper and stands for the pairing of those two characters in a Penguins of Madagascar fanfiction. Sometimes a pairing can have multiple names as well - Kipper e.g. is referred to as Kowalskip in some fanfictions.
er / established relationship
The relationship is already established at the beginning of the story, so you’re not going to witness how the characters have gotten into that relationship.
het / heterosexual
As the name says, the pairing(s) in the story are heterosexual.
One true pairing. The one and only romantic pairing a fan accepts. Can be canon, fanon or none of that, or even obsessive.
A pairing describes the romantic relationship between two (or sometimes more) characters in a story.
Describes a pairing that isn’t really common throughout the fandom, mostly between characters who don’t have to do a lot with each other in the canon, or characters who are foes or enemies in the original story.
The story has a homosexual pairing. It can be differentiated between maleslash and femslash. The japanese terms are Shonen-Ai and Shojo-Ai.
Unresolved sexual tension two characters have between them. They’ll never be a couple or seen as one throughout the story, but it seems like they could have the perfect romantic relationship.
There are also tags that don’t really have to do too much with the fanfiction itself but rather with its background or the author or just generally have to do something with writing. Tags that didn’t fit into the categories above will be listed here.
A./N. / author’s note
Is usually placed at the end of a chapter, declaring that the following paragraph(s) will be dedicated to a few things the author has to say about the story. There’s no limit to the content here - the author could explain why they decided to write the story, why they took so long to upload, or why they decided to let a certain thing happen. They could tell you that their cat died and therefore they had to brutally murder one of the characters in their story, or they could talk about their excitement over a muffin. This is also the place where you’ll find greetings, gratitude for reviews or announcements.
beta / beta reader
A beta is a person who gets to read a fanfiction before it is being uploaded to correct any mistakes the author might have made. This can apply to language flaws as well as logic and plot holes. Some authors decide to have a beta to prevent getting too many negative reviews, to get some help finding the right category for the story on the page they’re uploading to, or simply to feel more secure about their work.
A story’s official background - all of the information which has been confirmed by the creator of the original work.
Short for chapter - chapters are the sections in which fanfictions are uploaded (you usually upload one chapter per time).
The story is interrupted at an especially interesting moment, leaving the reader wanting to read more. Usually placed at the end of a chapter.
don’t like don’t read / dldr
Used by authors who don’t want to get negative reviews. Most pages you can upload to do tolerate this tag, but they don’t really encourage you to use it as constructive criticism can help you improve.
A chapter which takes place after the whole story is finished. Sometimes, the plot of the epilogue takes place some time after the end of the last chapter, sometimes it’s just a postface.
Describes all of the fans of one certain fictional work - basically another word for the group of fans something has. If you say that the fandom of your fanfiction is Harry Potter, that means it’s a Harry Potter fanfiction.
A story’s background which isn’t verified by the original creator but seen as true by most fans.
An unfair comment which usually criticises the author, and not really their story.
The header can be found right at the beginning of a story, but not all fanfictions have one. It can be used to list warnings, fandoms and any other tags the author might want the reader to know about before diving into the story.
kink / squick
Commonly used in reviews. A reader can express that they really like something the story dealt with, or that they don’t like that topic at all. Bondage e.g. can be one reader’s kink and another one’s squick.
One or more ideas an author has but can’t yet turn into stories.
Short for point of view. The story, chapter or paragraph is written from the perspective of a certain character, or simply, in their POV.
A chapter of a story which comes before the first chapter. It can contain everything from an explanation of a backstory to a scene that comes later in the story in another POV to a character commenting on what they experienced throughout the rest of the story. Commonly shorter than an actual chapter and written to grab the reader’s attention.
Most pages which allow you to upload fanfiction will ask you to specify how old your readers should be. Taking violence, sexual actions and psychological impact on the reader into consideration, authors choose a rating which matches their story best. Common ratings are P0, P6, P12, P16, P18 and P18-AVL (P18-AVL means the story will only be available during the nighttime or once you have proven that you’re older than 18 since it can have a devastating impact on the psyche of younger readers).
Some pages do include slash or no slash in their ratings, e.g. P16-slash.
Read and review - the author would like you to read their story and leave your opinion on it in a review.
shipper / shipping
Shippers are extreme fans. They’re usually very enthusiastic when it comes to their fandom(s). However, both terms are mostly only used to describe a person’s obsession with a pairing. Even though you can literally ship anything, you usually ship two characters or rather the created pairing.
Some stories warn you that spoilers await you. That simply means you will read about an important part of the plot of the original or the end of the original. Keep in mind that many fanfictions will hold spoilers for you if you don’t know the complete original - and not all fanfictions have spoiler warnings on them. That is because fanfictions are mostly created by fans for fans, and if you’re a fan, you’re often expected to already know the whole original.
Summaries of fanfictions give a quick overview of the story and are created to grab the reader’s attention, not to give away all of the plot twists. You can compare them to the text you’ll find on the back of a book.
A sort of dramatic tension, created from the plot itself - its source is not a mystery. It is the feeling of not knowing when or even if something dangerous might happen.
To be continued. Put at the end of a chapter or a story, the author uses this to let their readers know that this story will be continued - either with another chapter or with a sequel.
Each and every story describes progression, and fanfictions are always put somewhere before, during or after the events that took place in the original. The timeline is sometimes explained shortly to help you understand what parts of the original story have already happened at the beginning of the fanfiction and which haven’t.
A warning for the reader. Some scenes in the story might trigger traumatic memories a reader has and might not want to be reminded of.
A warning is usually given before a chapter and includes all of the things the author wants to warn the reader of before diving into the story. This might include things like pairings, but also tags as torture or loli-con. Warnings are part of or make up the header.
Work in progress - the story or the chapter you’re looking at isn’t finished yet. If there are only minor details left to be added, the story might also be referred to as beta.