Daemon AU: Based on Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. All of the characters in your fandom have daemons (animal manifestations of their souls). What kind of daemon does each character have? How do the people and daemons interact? Do the daemons act differently toward each other than their people do, hinting at dishonesty concerning the characters’ true feelings? Imagine how the characters and world overall would be different because of this.
Ah, titles. You either love them or hate them. There’s no in-between. You come up with a story, and the perfect title may drop right in your lap. Other times, you may spend hours agonizing over what one-to-five-word statement is just the thing to encompass your work.
I can only offer limited advice, because the title of a work ultimately is determined by the author’s preference. However, I can give some tips on making a title that will attract your intended audience.
-Tip 1: Think about what your fanfiction’s genre is. Is it a fluffy romantic piece? An angst-ridden tragedy? Is it meant to be a funny story that will get the readers spitting soda onto their screens?
Your fanfiction’s genre should have some impact on what its title ends up being. Imagine a passionate romance taking place in a fantasy setting with dragons. What title sounds better? “The Brimstone Age,” or “My Burning Heartbeat?”
Granted, you may think that both of those titles suck, but you probably agree that the second title works better with a romantic setting. On the other hand, an epic fantasy about knights and evil dragons would call for a name like “The Brimstone Age,” rather than the other title.
Don’t try to mislead your readers with a baiting title. If they start reading your fic and don’t get what they thought they’d be getting, odds are that they’ll not only stop reading that fic, but also not bother reading anything else you’ve written.
-Tip 2: Don’t put your description in the title.
Too many new writers, myself included in my early days, make the mistake of putting things into the title that belong in the description. For example, one of my early Ben 10 fanfictions was called “A Change of Heart: A Gwevin Story.” I went back later and cut out “A Gwevin Story,” because it wasn’t needed. The tags already said that it was a romance story, and a story featuring Kevin and Gwen.
Another thing I’ve seen often are titles like: “Bob Falls in Love with Jane.” Boring! Again, the tags will tell readers who falls in love with who, as will your description. A title is meant to attract attention. Then, the description will provide additional information.
-Tip 3: Make it clever and catchy!
Think about what your story is about, and think of an image or idea that stands out. Then, think of a creative way to express that idea. It’s hard to explain exactly how to do this, as every story is different, as is every writer, so I’ll just describe my thought process in creating one of my story titles.
My RWBY fic, “Once in a Shattered Moon,” got its title from several factors. It’s a werewolf AU, making the moon an obvious image that can be used.
In the RWBY universe, the moon is shown to be shattered in the sky. Instead of cleanly rotating through its cycles, it’s shown with pieces drifting away, depending on what stage it’s in.
Finally, I took the phrase “once in a blue moon,” referring to an event that hardly ever happens. Since this fanfiction takes place in a world where werewolves and humans hate each other, a human and werewolf falling in love over the course of the fic can be seen as a nearly-impossible event in that setting.
So, out of all that, I ended up with the title: “Once in a Shattered Moon.” Pretty cool, right?
Remember, a title is the very first thing a reader will see when looking at your fanfiction. Make sure it packs a punch.
Toxic. Synonymous with terms such as hazardous or poisonous. My mom always used to warn me about what she called toxic people: individuals who make your life worse consistently without ever doing anything positive in your relationship. I’ve had to cut my share of toxic people out of my life over the years.
You’ve probably heard the term frequently if you have even a passing knowledge of fandoms. You hear about the toxic side of fandoms, the toxic opinions, and the toxic people behind them. They’re the ones who leave long, flaming reviews on your fanfictions. They’re the ones who harass you over what ships you have or don’t have. They’re the ones who are so quick to tell you to kill yourself because of one opinion dares to oppose theirs.
Why do such people exist? Fandoms are supposed to be safe havens for those who want to obsess over characters, plots, theories, and ships. Why do some people feel that it’s their ultimate goal to ruin a fellow fan’s day?
The first answer is simple: Cowardice. It’s the same thing that fuels all internet trolls. They have the freedom to hide behind a veil of usernames and avatars, and use that freedom to get into fights and harass people in a way they know they can get away with.
The second answer is a little more complicated: Ignorance. Yes, it’s possible for a person to be toxic without realizing it. With the anonymity granted by the internet, one can forget that it is all too easy to hurt someone or start an argument just by typing the wrong thing.
Here are a few of the common toxic people you’ll find in a fandom, and how to avoid becoming one.
-The Harasser: This is probably the most common toxic person you will run into. This is the person who will target anyone and anything that they don’t agree with. This is the person who will send multiple messages to someone with the sole purpose of making them feel bad. In other words, a Harasser is a basic bully who will put special effort into putting an individual or idea down.
I remember an incident not too long ago when a member of the Steven Universe fandom attempted suicide due to people on Tumblr ganging up on her for simply drawing a few plus-sized characters in a skinnier style. They sent her angry messages and told her to kill herself and said how horrible of a person she was. You get the idea. Thankfully, her attempt was not successful.
Not becoming a Harasser is easy. Okay, let’s imagine that you see a post by someone that says something you disagree with. Here’s what you do: Read the post and, if you feel the need, leave a reply that calmly and concisely states your opinion and why you feel that way. Respectfully disagree. If the person responds in a similarly-cordial manner, congrats! You are now engaged in a conversation with someone of a differing opinion. One or both of you may learn something! If the person doesn’t respond, that’s the end of your encounter with the post in question. Don’t keep coming back and leaving more comments. Don’t send angry messages.
To put it simply: Don’t be a dick!
-The Idiot: This is a stupider version of the Harasser. You know those people who leave angry, nonsensical comments that have little to no correct grammar or spelling? You know those comments that make you feel as if your brain is melting as you read them? Hell, some of them seem to have been written in a strange, foreign tongue that no sane person on the planet has ever heard of.
A good example I can give is a personal experience I had with some anti-furries. For those who don’t know, furries are people who like anthropomorphic animals. We get frequently bashed by other fandoms, largely because of a false belief that the furry fandom is overrun by perverts. Anyway, I left a positive comment on a furry music video and mentioned that I’m a dragon furry. Within a day, I was flooded with comments calling for me to get shot and telling me to kill myself. None of them had proper spelling or grammar. Youtube moderators deleted these comments since then, which is encouraging.
Another case involved an Animal AU RWBY fic I wrote. I mentioned being a furry in the Authors Notes, and the first review I got read: “Another fandom sullied by furry filth. UGH I hate your kind more than ISIS. Put warning to description so we could avoid your perversity. Seriously I’ve never been this disgusted in years.”
Okay, first of all, the fact that this was called an Animal AU in the description should have been enough “warning to description” for this moron. Also, we see another key sign of an Idiot: comparing people to terrorist groups or Hitler. Did you feel your brain melt a little reading that review? I know I did when I first got it.
Not being an Idiot is also incredibly easy. Follow the rules that apply for not becoming a Harasser. Also, CHECK YOUR FREAKING GRAMMAR AND SPELLING! Seriously, it takes a minute at most to make your post at least somewhat resemble a coherent thought written in an actual language.
-The Ship War General: Ugh… Ship wars… These are the bane of any fandom. There is no escape. One group of people thinks Character A should be romantically involved with Character B. Another group thinks that Character A should be with Character C. Cue the anarchy! There will be bodies!
A Ship War General is someone who instigates such battles. This is the person who makes forum posts that are meant to draw in angry people to yell at them, which draws in more angry people on the opposing side. Before long, the web page is rapidly filling with neatly-typed carnage in the form of one-sided interpretations of canon events, declarations that Character B is a whore and Character C is the devil incarnate, and personal attacks on anyone who dares wield an alternate viewpoint.
If you don’t want to become a Ship War General (and you’d better have no wish to become one, unless you want to be a black stain on whatever fandom you claim to be a part of), all you need to do is take a chill pill.
Remember, you’re a fan of a work of fiction written by someone who likely doesn’t give a damn what your OTP is. Canon events are going to unfold in the way the author wants them to, whether or not you waste hours of your life verbally lynching a poor, innocent Zutarra fan.
The solution? Make works featuring your favorite ships. Write fanfics. That’s what they’re for. Draw fanarts. If you’re not good at writing or drawing, come up with headcanons and commission someone to write or draw them. Or practice becoming a better writer/artist. No one starts out perfect, after all.
Most importantly, respect that other people have different opinions. Respect those opinions. Enjoy your ships while letting other people enjoy theirs. And don’t ship-bash. Ship-bashing is for jerks.
-The Ship-Basher: Coming off of that point, let’s talk about a lesser version of the Ship War General. A Ship-Basher is anyone who feels the need to make it known at every possible opportunity that they don’t like a certain ship. They comment on fan works, complaining because the ships featured were not their ships.
Here’s a fun fact: It’s possible to be a Ship-Basher without realizing it. One of my favorite RWBY artists, who temporarily had to leave the fandom due to Ship-Bashers, is constantly dealing with people saying things along the lines of “Your art is so good, but why aren’t you drawing Bumblebee?” or “Too bad you don’t draw this and that pairing.”
Yes, that counts as bashing! If you see a piece of work you like that is of a ship you don’t normally like, don’t make a big deal out of it! Tell the person how much you enjoy their piece. Instead of talking about how you don’t ship the pairing shown in their work, tell them how their piece made you like the ship in question in a way you normally wouldn’t. There are positive ways to word things.
Instead of saying “I love your art. I wish you drew this and that pairing,” say “I love your work! You drew this pairing so well. Are you planning on drawing anything for that pairing?” See the difference?
-The Flamer: If you’ve read my glossary, you know that a flame is an overly-negative review that doesn’t offer any constructive criticism, and is just there to insult the creator of a work. A Flamer is someone who relishes in leaving such comments, whether they are insults toward a person’s ship, overblown complaints about a few minor grammar errors, or an overall statement that a person’s AU is stupid.
To keep from being a Flamer, be kind when you comment on people’s works. Tell them what you like. If you have a criticism, state it in a concise way and offer suggestions on ways for them to improve. Don’t just leave a page-long review talking about how a certain plot-point ruined the entire story. I’ve gotten a few of those on my stories in the past. It sucks.
-The Bigot: This is what would happen if the Harasser and the Idiot had a lovechild who was then subjected to a Westboro Baptist Church upbringing. These toxic people love commenting on works featuring characters of different races, different sexualities, different gender identities… You get the idea.
A good example of a bigoted review came to me recently. In honor of Pride Month, I decided to put out an LGBT-related RWBY fanfic a week. The first one I wrote was a fic featuring one of the characters, Jaune, as a transman. Besides a page-long review preaching about Jesus, I got this little beauty that I have since deleted: “Wow you’re brainwashed by liberals. I honestly pity you. Trans faggots have done nothing for the world other than lawsuits and ruin lives. Besides Canada has the c-16 Bill passed, which basically confirms that gender is a social construct and you retards and it’s supporters just love genital mutilation. You disgust me because of your naive mind.”
As you can see, this carries hints of both the Harasser, through the pointless attack on me personally, and the Idiot, through the horrible grammar and nonsensical statements.
Now, let me tell you something very important: Bigots aren’t limited to cisgender, hetero, white people. Being active on Tumblr has taught me that bigotry can go in any direction. People are hated for being white, straight, cis, skinny, or male, and that is every bit as wrong as people being hated for being black, gay, trans, plus-sized, or female. Think about that before you rant about someone’s hetero ship, okay?
In conclusion, everyone should remember that, at the end of the day, it is just a fandom. No matter how all-encompassing your love for a work of fiction can seem, a work of fiction is all it is. It was made by a writer or group of writers who wanted their stories to be heard by others. It was made to inspire creativity and emotions in the minds of those who enjoy it. Try to keep that in mind, and don’t ruin it for people who simply want to have fun. On the other hand, avoid toxic people when possible, report them if you can, and don’t let them mess with your good time.
Temporary Memory Loss: So, I read an article a few years back. A guy had an operation done, and was doped out on meds when he woke up and had memory loss for a little while because of it. His wife was videotaping him, and he started flirting with her, asking if she was a model and if the doctors had sent her to make him feel better. When she told him that they were married, he was like “Holy crap, I hit the jackpot!” Now, imagine your OTP.
And here’s part 3, folks. If you have any fanfiction terms that I missed, feel free to post them in the comments. If I come up with enough, I will eventually post a part 4 to this glossary. The language of fandoms and, by extension, the internet, is truly fascinating.
-Rating: A fic’s rating is a statement of who should be reading it. A K or K+ rating is safe for any kid readers who are browsing the site. A T rating means that teens can read the fic in question with little issue. T+ is right on the edge of a Mature fic. These fics will often have Lime scenes or references to issues such as rape and suicide. An M-rated fic is for mature readers only, often because of explicit sexual content or graphic violence.
-Roleplaying: When two or more people act out characters, usually online, and imagine different scenarios by taking turns and directing their chosen characters. Some roleplays are later refined and turned into fanfictions.
-SFW: Stands for Safe For Work. Remember that scenario I mentioned where you’re browsing the web at work? SFW refers to what you should probably be looking at during this time, like kitten videos or a T-rated fanfiction, or a piece of art where everyone involved is fully-clothed. That way, if someone looks over your shoulder, you only have to worry about getting in trouble. You won’t have to endure the strange looks you’d likely get if you were found staring at a picture depicting a three-way between Spock, Kirk, and a five-eyed tentacle monster.
-Slash: Refers to a fanfiction featuring a romantic pairing of two males. Slash = gay. (see also Femslash)
-Ship: The foundation of almost every fandom war in existence.
Ahem, sorry. A ship refers to a romantic coupling that a person supports in a work of fiction. Shipping as a verb is a way of saying that you want certain people to be together romantically. For example, I want to see Ren and Nora from the RWBY series become a romantic couple. Therefore, I would say that I ship them, or that I ship Ren with Nora.
-Shot: A shorter fic meant to detail a single idea or plotline, but is longer than a drabble. Generally has up to three chapters. (see Oneshot, Twoshot, and Threeshot)
-Songfic: A fanfiction whose plot is based around the lyrics of a song.
-Soulmate AU: Another common AU used by fanfiction writers. It’s a romance-based AU where everyone has a soulmate who is discovered through varying means. The most common one I’ve seen is a setting where a person’s soulmate’s name is written on their wrist from birth. Another one is a setting where a person sees in black and white until they meet their soulmate, at which point they start seeing in color.
-Smut: It’s amazing how many sexual terms there are in fanfiction… Smut refers to a detailed, uncensored, shameless sex scene. It’s a more unapologetic way of referring to a sexual work that often contains no plot. While a Lemon might have some plot surrounding the sex scene itself, smut generally is just straight-up sex from beginning to end.
-Tag: A tag is used to give a more specific label to a fanfiction, making it easier for people searching for a certain kind of story. Common tags include Romance, Friendship, Angst, Tragedy, and Hurt/Comfort.
-Threeshot: A fanfiction with only three chapters.
-Trash: A humorous, self-deprecating term for someone who is incredibly invested in a fandom, or aspects of a fandom. For example, a person who spends a large amount of time coming up with headcanons for a certain ship might say that they are shipping trash.
-Trigger warning: A statement added in the description of a fanfiction that tells the reader that something will happen in the story that will cause an intense negative reaction in some people. Depictions, or even mentions of rape, suicide, and self-harm are some examples of subjects that warrant the inclusion of a trigger warning.
-Twoshot: A twoshot is a fanfiction with only two chapters. Usually, it’s used to give more depth to a fic than a oneshot would. It can also be a oneshot that the writer decided to expand.
And so it continues!
-Gakuen AU: Another common AU used by fanfiction writers. Gakuen is the Japanese word for school or academy. This AU involves taking characters and putting them in a high school setting, most commonly a boarding school-type setting or a setting based on academies depicted in anime.
-Gary-Stu: A male character who has no flaws, is perfect in every way and is usually a love interest for some other character. Less common than its sister term, Mary-Sue. They exist in canon works, but are most commonly created by fans in order to fulfill a personal fantasy within a story. (see OC)
-Genderbend: Despite the use of the word “gender” rather than “sex,” this label usually means that the biological sexes of one or more characters have been reversed in the fanfiction in question. The Nyotalia AU for the Axis Powers: Hetalia series is a good example of genderbend.
-Harem: A fanfiction where one character ends up in a romantic and/or sexual relationship with several other characters. Often used in M-rated pieces.
-Headcanon: An idea that is unproven in canon that a fan thinks of as canon until proven otherwise. For example, in RWBY I have the headcanon that Jaune Arc would be terrible at naming things. He’s never been seen naming any pets or places, but his character as I’ve seen him up to this point makes me think that he would be bad at it.
-Lemon: Sex. Uncensored, descriptive, detailed sex. A Lemon fic is a sex fic. A Lemon scene is a sex scene. Lemon = sex. (see also NSFW and Smut)
-Lime: A Lime is a censored Lemon. It gets into the nitty-gritty without giving the reader detailed descriptions of the parts involved. It’s essentially a really close look at the foreplay followed by a much more muted look at the actual sex. The line between a Lemon and a Lime is blurry, but you younger readers should be good as long as you aren’t seeing any detailed descriptions of anyone’s genitals.
-Mary-Sue: A female character who has no flaws, is perfect in every way, and is usually a love interest for a canon character. (see also Gary-Stu) They are generally used as self-inserts for authors and fanfiction writers who want to fulfill a certain fantasy. For example, Bella Swan from Twilight is a canon Mary-Sue. The Pokemon character I made in middle school who was Ash’s older sister, had the largest Charizard on record, and was a love interest of Gary Oak, was an OC Mary-Sue. (I was twelve. Don’t judge me.)
-Modern AU: Another common AU used by fanfiction writers. Essentially, this AU takes canon characters and puts them in a modern, first-world setting. That can mean putting people in school, giving them mundane jobs, or anything else that represents modern-day society.
-Mpreg: A fanfiction featuring a biologically male character becoming pregnant.
-Multishipper: A person who supports multiple romantic pairings for the same character.
-Neko AU: Another common AU used by fanfiction writers. Neko is the Japanese word for cat. As you would expect, this type of AU involves turning one or more characters into cats or having a cat-based equivalent to the canon world. A good example of a canon Neko AU is the Nekotalia world depicted in some episodes of the Axis Powers: Hetalia series.
-Non-con: Rape. Non-con, or non-consensual sex, is a pretty way of saying rape. If you see a fic with this in the description, you are not in for a romance fic, regardless of what the tags say. You are going to see a character getting raped. It’s a sick, sugarcoating term that needs to die.
-NSFW: Stands for Not Safe For Work. You know when you’re at work or in class and are on your computer, and end up browsing the web instead of doing what you’re supposed to be doing? NSFW is anything you probably shouldn’t be looking at during this time. Imagine a coworker or classmate looking over your shoulder and seeing a page full of gay Avatar porn. Awkward, right? (see also Lemon and Smut)
-OC: Stands for Original Character. An OC is a character made to fit into a fictional work by a fan of the fictional work in question. It could be a background character who helps things along in a fic, a main character who changes the course of certain canon events when inserted into certain scenarios, or a love interest for a canon character.
-Oneshot: A fanfiction containing only one chapter. Usually, it’s a shorter romance piece or a response to a recent installment in the canon series. Often used in collections.
-OOC: Stands for Out Of Character. If you see this in the description of a fic, it basically means that the characters will be acting in a way that does not adhere to how their characters would canonically act. A stoic character may be weirdly hyperactive. A lighthearted character could be acting like a complete emo. Sometimes, there’s a reason for the OOC-ness, like a mind ray or something similar. Sometimes, the fic writer in question is just lazy.
-OT3: Stands for One True…Three-way? Trio? It is a polyamorous romantic coupling involving three people that a person supports over all other romantic couplings in a series. It’s an OTP, but with three people. (see also OTP)
-OTP: Stands for One True Pairing. Refers to the romantic pairing (see also Ship) that a person likes more than any of the others. For example, in Harry Potter, I supported Luna/Neville and Harry/Ginny, but Ron/Hermione was always my OTP.
-Poly Ship: Refers to any polyamorous romantic coupling. (see also Harem and OT3)
I still remember my early days of browsing fanfiction. It was like entering a virtual alien land where the language was only somewhat familiar. With the rise of fandoms (a term I will cover here), and the many kinds of fan works that came with them, there was a rise of new words and old words with new meanings. Read on, and I will try to demystify the strange language of fanfiction.
-!: An exclamation point is a way of shortening descriptions, usually used to say that a character is different in some way from how they are in canon. For example Trans!Bob would mean that a character named Bob is a transgender character in the fanfiction in question, but not in the canon work he comes from. In my RWBY fanfiction “Goddess of Victory,” the character Pyrrha Nikos is a literal goddess, so I add a mention at the end of the description saying simply: Goddess!Pyrrha AU. This tells the reader that this is an Alternate Universe in which Pyrrha is a goddess without wasting precious description space.
-Alternate canon: Whenever a story tweaks the canon-verse, it can be seen as an alternate canon fic. Since most fics tweak canon in some way, this term isn’t used often.
-Animal Transformation AU: A common AU used by fanfiction writers. Involves one or more characters being transformed into an animal. The most common form of this that I’ve seen is a scenario where one character turns into a kitten, and the intended love interest in the story ends up taking care of them, often unaware of the identity of the kitten until the end.
-AU: Stands for Alternate Universe. Any story taking place in a universe that is different from the canon universe can fit into this category. For example, if a writer decides to take the characters of a sci-fi series and make them into college students, you would have a College AU. Alternate canon often ends up under this umbrella term.
-Author Notes: Some writers like to engage with their readers at the beginning and/or end of a fanfiction. The Author Notes are where writers can talk to their readers, respond to questions, explain if the fic is taking place during a certain point in canon, etc. They’re often set off by being written in bold or italics.
-Canon: Canon refers to what is “real” in the fictional work that fan works are being written about. For example, a fanfiction may include a character who has died in the series in question, but is alive in the fanfiction. The character’s death is a canon event, regardless of what happens in the fanfiction. Fanfiction writers may choose to ignore canon in their works, while others may incorporate it into what happens in certain plotlines.
-Canon-verse: Just as canon refers to anything that “actually” happened in the fictional worlds upon which fanfictions are based, the canon-verse is the world in which the actual works take place. It is the universe of the series as it was written by the original author.
-Coffeehouse AU: Another common AU used by fanfiction writers. It usually depicts two characters meeting and falling in love in a coffeehouse setting. One character is usually a barista while the other is a regular customer.
-Collection: A fanfiction where its chapters are individual, not necessarily connected scenarios.
-College AU: Another common AU used by fanfiction writers. It takes some or all of the characters, and places them in a college setting.
-Commission: A commission is a fanfiction written for payment. The commissioner gives the writer specifics concerning what they want to happen in the fic and what the word count should be, and the writer complies in exchange for an agreed-upon amount of money.
-Crossover: A fanfiction that includes two or more different fictional worlds interacting. It can involve the characters of one world ending up in another world, characters from both worlds interacting in a new setting, or basically anything that prominently features characters and settings from more than one fictional universe. Ben 10/Generator Rex: Heroes United is a good example of a crossover that happened in canon.
-Drabble: A shorter fanfiction, usually 1500 words or fewer, that has little overall plot, and is meant to show a single scene or train of thought. Often used in collections.
-Fanart: The visual equivalent of fanfiction. Fanart is art based on another work of fiction. Fanartists and fanfiction writers often collaborate with each other, whether it involves a fanartist making cover art for a fanfiction, or a writer making a fic based on a scenario in a piece of fanart.
-Fandom: Refers to the fan community surrounding a work of fiction. Members of a fandom can range from fanfiction writers and fanartists, to roleplayers, to people who make forums dedicated to predicting what might happen in the next installment.
-Feels: Refers to any strong emotion that is evoked while consuming a work of fiction. Sadness is usually the emotion in question, but tearful happiness can also be used.
-Femslash: Refers to a fanfiction featuring a romantic pairing of two females. Femslash = lesbian. (see also Slash)
-Fic: A shortened term for fanfiction. Often used in conversation. Fanfic can also be used.
-Flame: A harsh, overly-negative review or comment that has no constructive criticism and was essentially written to insult the fanfiction, the writer, or both.
-Fluff: Refers to a fanfiction meant to evoke good feelings, “warm and fuzzies,” if you will. If you see fluff in the description, you are in for a feel-good fic with often sickeningly-sweet descriptions of people being happy.