Fanfic Terms for the Newbie
(With much thanks to Nemi for knowing a few meanings that I was lost on)
I've been asked by a couple of people in the last few weeks what certain fanfiction terms writers take for granted mean. I have also been called the unofficial welcome wagon for Angel/Spike lovin' (this essay was originally posted at CP&D), but since I was sent neither crown nor scepter I will remain for now one of the humble masses looking for answers. We all know what things like WIP, AU, Beta, etc. mean, but surprisingly enough infants are not yet born with this knowledge ingrained in their synapses, who knew. So until evolution catches up with fanfic writers (which may indeed be de-evolution) I present some of the most common fanfic terms...
AU - This means alternate universe. This can be literal Alternate Universes shown in Canon, as in the world shown in Buffy's "Dopplegangland" and "The Wish" and Angel's "Birthday" and the Pylea Trilogy, or it can mean AU in the sense that a writer is taking a canon episode and tweaking it. So basically AU doesn't always mean far from canon, but it can mean way outside of canon too. Confused yet? Just remember that sometimes you have to suspend belief and let your backbone slip, it can lead to fun if you're willing to give it a try.
Archive - An Archive is a website that hosts (publishes) many stories or essays, usually by multiple authors. Archives are a collection of works used by permission from the original author, which means stories can not be used on other sites without permission from the author, not the archivist, it's all very important netiquette.
Beta - A Beta reader is a writer's best friend, and sometimes their biggest foil. The Beta of the fanfic world is like the editor in the real world. They check grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc., but also they check canon, plot flow, characterization, and many other aspects that distinguish great fiction from so-so fiction. The beauty of the fanfiction world is that most writers are feedback whores and anyone can take on the role of Beta. If you notice a lot of errors when reading fiction maybe you should consider offering to be a beta at one of your favorite sites, the writers will thank you for a fresh voice and you, the reader, can play an active role in your obsession.
Buffyverse - (AKA Angelverse, Jossverse, Whedonverse) The many names the BtVS (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and AtS (Angel the Series) worlds are known under. Named after the lead characters as well as their creator Joss Whedon (AKA the great all knowing head).
Canon - Canon is a term used to describe things that have actually happened on the shows (BtVS & AtS in this case) or been specifically referred to as having happened in the past. This means that Buffy and Angel consummating their relationship exactly one time (in this universe, not the I will remember you-verse, put down that flame-thrower) is canon. Angel having been in Rome is canon as well, as it was shown in flashbacks, Angel being in the Tower of London at some point is also canon even though it was never shown, just mentioned in the Pylean Trilogy. There is some debate about events that take place in the BtVS and AtS novels being canon as Joss Whedon has told many a soul he pays no attention to those whatsoever, meaning Angel could have a butt-baby in the novels and it would have no relevance to the show. I will be compiling an Angel novel Timeline over the summer and I will leave it to the masses to decide if it shall serve as canon or not.
Conventional Relationship - Relationships that have occurred within canon, i.e. Spike/Harmony, Angel/Buffy, Angelus/Darla, etc.
Fanfiction - This is why you are here. The inherent need for fans to correct the show writers, elaborate, look into further, seek out subtext, etc. The Buffyverse is unique in that Joss Whedon, the mastermind behind the shows, encourages writers of fanfiction. Even in mass-media interviews he has told people to go write fiction if they don't agree with the way a show went.
Feedback - Many authors ask for feedback on their stories, and even if they don't ask for it most authors do appreciate it. So what is feedback? It's just a way of saying 'Hey, liked you're story.' Pure and simple. If you love the imagery, characterization, plot, wit, humor, sex, etc. Tell the writer. Fanfic writers make no money from the hours they while away trying to think up a lube and position no other writer has used yet, so they thrive on the knowledge that some one out there in cyber space is giving their spouse a happy after reading their fic. So be sure to send a quick email as thanks. (See Flames for what not to do in your feedback)
Filk - A song with altered lyrics, to make it Buffy-related.
Flames - Flames are the opposite of helpful feedback. It means sending an email to an author to tell them you disliked the story you just read. Common examples are people who can't stand slash, yet read a slash story in its entirety then email the author to tell them they hate slash. Well, here's a thought, if you know you won't like it, don't read it. Remember there is a difference between saying 'you may not know it but you spelled bestiality wrong.' and saying 'if you can't spell it you shouldn't be doing it, dumb ass'. While I realize the latter is more tempting be polite, authors have memories like really well superglued traps, they won't forget your flame and will probably even send back a snarky response if you send them one.
Future Fic - A piece set after the end of canon episodes, this means post season-seven of Buffy, or past the current season of Angel. Stories set in the future give the author the chance to explore ideas possibly hinted at in canon as something that 'may happen' in the future. Also, when dealing with immortal characters, like Spike, Darla, Drusilla, and Angel, it releases the author from the burden of working the many characters of the Buffyverse into stories. An important rule when writing future fic is to remember that people's personalities don't generally change that much even over time, so if you have Spike ten years from now with a suit and tie on watching reruns of the Golden Girls you might want to rethink your characterization.
Getting Jossed - This is one of my favorites. Getting Jossed refers to writing a line or plot that later shows up on a show. Angel's line about smelling Wesley on Lilah in S4e2 came directly from my Ensouled series that was written two months before the show aired. I nearly fell of my couch laughing when the episode aired, which is one of the great compliments a fanfiction writer can receive. While chances are the writers have not actually read the fic getting Jossed it is nice to know our brains are sharing the same wavelines.
Netiquette - General term for online niceness. This applies to many online settings, proper netiquette involves everything from asking for permission before archiving stories or essays to writing responses/feedback to authors you enjoy and signing guestbooks at sites you visit. Netiquette's main purpose is to keep online life friendly and avoid hard feelings and misunderstandings.
Non-Canon - Is just the opposite of above. Relationships that have never been shown, spoken of, or hinted at on the shows are non-canon, as are the many great liberties taken with character histories. We know Spike was a poet, but we don't know if he had a regular job, how old he was, if he was actually born in London, if he had a last name, etc. Any of these details in fanfiction are non-canon. While some situations have been hinted at (see subtext) they cannot be considered canon.
POV - Point of View - Means the character whose perspective is being highlighted or followed in a story.
PWP - Porn without Plot. This is a small, usually short, often funny, tale of smut, with either no or very little lead in. Like Knock Knock. Hello. Wanna shag. Okay. 1-2-3-fingers. Done. Bye. See you next week. 'Kay. Finis. Satisfied? Me either.
Posting Text - The warnings and disclaimers attached to the beginning of a story when posting to a mailing list or archive. These include, Title, Name, Rating, Warnings, Spoilers, Timeline, Thanks, Pairings, or author notes.
Ratings - The ratings system on this page loosely follows American movie ratings and are as follows: G- all ages, PG- some intimacy, mild language, PG-13-fleshy touching, strong language, R- actual nudity, sex, course language, NC-17- graphic sex with excessive detail, rape, torture, etc.
Shipper - Someone who has an affinity for a specific pairing or relationship, whether conventional or non. I myself ship Spike/Angel, as you may also since you're here, but I also ship Angelus/Darla and even Spike/Anya, which is not terribly different from most fans, we all like different pairings when we're in different moods. It is okay, really, like who you like and don't flame others just because they worship a different relationship, 'kay?
Slash - Boy, where would this site if I had not discovered the word Slash? Slash means any same-sex pairing. Here it means Male-on-Male, although there is of course fem-slash out there. Slash can run the gamut from a tender kiss to full on crying-to-a-higher-power-sex. Not all stories housed here actually have 'the sex' so even if slash isn't your thing hopefully you will find stories here to love. Just pay attention to the ratings and have fun.
Songfic - A story with song lyrics woven into a story, can also include stories inspired by a particular song. The basic thing to remember when writing songfic is that if your story can not stand without the song lyrics it will most likely not be better with them. Always take a good look at the piece without the lyrics to make sure you have written a cohesive story that can be enjoyed even if the reader has never heard the song you have in mind.
Spoilers - Plot elements that refer directly to things that have happened in canon or to a specific episode and may spoil the episode or an entire season for those who have not seen it. There are many countries that do not air Buffy and Angel episodes for one to two years after their first run in the U.S. If you are writing a piece that is episode specific always put a warning in your posting text.
Subtext - Subtext on the shows refers to sexual undercurrents apparent to viewers. These are moments like in Buffy's "Beneath You" when the girl of the week asks if there is anyone there that hasn't had sex with each other and Spike and Xander look at each other then lower their eyes. This instance was a pretty blatant attempt by the writers at subtext, others may be a little harder to spot unless you are looking for them or have your gadar on high.
TBC - This means To Be Continued. Usually used in Series writing to indicate that the story has not yet ended.
Unconventional Relationship - AKA UC pairing, a non-canon relationship, i.e. Spike/Angel, Spike/Xander, Angel/Anya, etc.
WIP - Work in Progress. This is sometimes the same as TBC, but can also mean a single piece of fiction in a state of flux, possibly awaiting a beta edit or canon check.
Have another term you'd like to see defined? Email Me.
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