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Fanfiction 101: Customizing Your Superheroes

Key Terms to Know

  • A/N - Authors Note. Typically contains a short message to the reader either explaining details from the story, setting the background, or just letting them know about real life changes that are impacting the author.
  • Beta - A reviewer or editor.
  • BDSM - Bondage, dominance, sadomasochism. Typically used as a warning to readers that the story contains one or more of these sexual elements.
  • Canon - As in 'canon law'.  Plot elements, characters, and background that have been established in the "real" work that has inspired the fanfiction. For example, in Star Trek the "canon" is anything that has appeared on screen as part of one of the television series or movies.  May also include supplemental material released by the author/creator(s) but not appearing in the original work itself. This is often a subjective designation dependent on the fan base consensus and is subject to change in larger more complicated fandoms - like Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and Star Wars.
  • Char death - Warning indicating the story includes at least one or more character deaths.
  • Fan art or fan pic - Indicates the work is a visual production rather then written or includes one or more visual elements.
  • Fanon - Used to indicate ideas or plot elements that are not part of canon, but have reached such a high level of acceptance by the fan community that they are considered to be part truth.
  • Filk - Fan created music about or involving a genre - typcially science fiction/fantasy related.
  • Flame - Malicious postings degrading an author or their work involving little or no constructive criticism. May lead to a flame war, where the author and the flamer hurl insults and criticism back and forth.
  • Fluff - A cute or light piece, typically short and covering a single day or event.  Rarely has much actual plot.  May also be referred to as a vignette.  Similar to a character study, but usually with less heavy content or exposition.
  • Lemon - Contains graphic sexual situations. Often used to warn readers in the summary.
  • Lime - Contains sexual situations but lacks the graphic nature of a lemon.
  • Mary Sue or Marty Sam - A female character, usually original, that is too perfect and unrealistic.  Typically used to indicate poor writing but may also be an element of parody. 
  • MST or MST3000 - Mystery Science Theatre 3000 -  Indicates a fic that, in the style of the television show, picks apart  a piece of work in a humorous fashion. 
  • MtoF or FtoM - Male to Female or Female to Male - Used to designate a story involving one or more characters changing gender. May be used when the character undergoes the change as a part of the story, or where the author is creating an AU where the character has always been a different gender than canon. Example: Watson on the television show Elementary.
  • Newbie - Also referred to as a 'virgin'.  Someone who is new to fandom and/or fanfiction.  May also be used by a seasoned fan that is entering a new genre. For example: "I'm a Who virgin, so please forgive me if I get some of the back story wrong."
  • Non-con - A warning placed on a story to indicate a non-consensual sexual situation is included.
  • OC -Original Character - Used to designate the inclusion of a main character that was not in the canon and that is created by the author.
  • Oneshot - A work that is a 'one off', rather then a multi-chapter piece.  Typically a short work. 
  • OOC - Out of Character - Warning used to indicate that one or more characters are behaving differently then seen in canon. For example, Spock being emotive.
  • OT - Off topic - Usually seen in author's notes or reviews. Used to indicate a change in topic away from commentary on the piece itself.  For example:   OT: My grandmother passed away last night and I haven't slept in 36 hours. 
  • Plot Bunny - An idea for a story or story element that will not go away.  These tend to 'breed like rabbits' when left unattended and can distract a story away from it's original purpose.  Plot Bunnies are sometimes put up for 'adopton' meaning that the original author is offering the idea for use by someone else.  Plot Bunny orphanages exist on some sites for this purpose. 
  • RPG - Role Playing Game - Indicates a story that takes place inside the world of an RPG rather then the main canon format. For example: Star Wars: RPG Edge of Empire.
  • RL - Real life.
  • Shipper - A shipper is someone who reads or writes about a specific romantic pairing, or ship.  These romantic 'ships' are often designated by either placing the characters names next to each other with a forward slash or by combining their names.  For example: Harry/Snape or Snarry OR Katarra/Zoco or Zotarra.  This is done for both heterosexual and homosexual pairings, but the forward slash is how "slash" fic (male/male) derived its name.
  • Spoilers - Used to warn readers that the fic contains elements that will 'spoil' the plot for some part of canon. For examples: Warning: Spoilers for the V and VI movie.
  • Squick - Upsetting, gross, or generally disturbing plot element. Often used in a review.  For example: "That non-con scene was great, but it really squicked me out."
  • UST - Unresolved Sexual Tension.
  • Vanilla - Used in reference to sexual situations.  Indicates a story does not contain any unusual sexual practices.
  • Virgin - see newbie.
  • WIP - Work in Progress - indicates a story that has not been completed.
  • Zine - A fan run magazine.  These may be print or online.


Want more?  See or for more examples of common fanfic terms.  WARNING: Many terms are genre specific or specific to the host site.  When in doubt, ask someone familiar with genre.