Dictionary of the Damned
Here you will find a collection of common terminology used in fanfiction, as well as explanations of certain mechanics the critics employ. This is a good place to come if you have no idea what we’re talking about.
* * / / : : When you see something inserted between any of those symbols, it’s the writer attempting to indicate an action. Often, you will see the Snark Crew use them while critiquing stories. However, some terrible fanfiction writers will also use this method of relaying action instead of typing it out.
A/N: See “Author’s Note”
AU: Alternate Universe. This is when an author takes the characters from a specific source material, and throws them into a different setting (either from another source material or an original setting) as if they belonged there. An example of this would be if someone took the characters from Babylon 5 and wrote them into high school in Kentucky. It doesn’t have to make sense, and often doesn’t.
Author’s Note: A note made by the author of the fic, usually to either clarify something or as a “shout-out” to the readers. Although best left as a note before and/or after the chapter content, some authors – for reasons unknown besides insanity – will insert an author’s note in the middle of the chapter. Usually (but not always) enclosed in brackets or parentheses, and/or written in italics, boldface, or ALL CAPS to differentiate it from the narration of the fic. It is often abbreviated as A/N or AN.
Awesome McEvil: An over the top evil villain, generally s/he is the best ever at being evil and doing evil things. All the bad things in the world are secretly his doing, and he is behind every little plot against the protagonists. Such a villain often spends all his free time twirling his handlebar mustache. Even with his superior villain-y skills, the protagonistic Mary Sue/Gary Stu character often easily thwarts him using puerile ruses. Alternately, Awesome McEvils, despite their perfection, often make critical mistakes at just the right moment and thwart their own plans.
Beta/Beta Reader: A proof-reader, or editor, that is supposed to help a fic-writer get their story up to par before they post it. Most of the stories here either have had no Beta, or they have a very, very bad one.
Brick-O-Text: A long paragraph composed of several passages arbitrarily lumped together without any consideration for the flow of the narration. Similar in nature to the Wall-O-Text.
Canon: Anything dealing with life, the universe, and everything as far as the way the actual author intended. For instance: in Star Trek, Kirk is the captain of the ship. A fic author who does not keep to canon would have Kirk as the engineer and make someone else captain.
Catastrophization: To jump to an extreme conclusion based on unimportant or irrelevant information, or to have an overly dramatic reaction to a mundane event or situation. Fanfic authors will often ignore major plot problems in favor of catastrophizing insignificant issues.
Chameleon: A character whose name or appearance changes every time the author uses or describes it, usually due to misspelling and/or lazy writing.
Cross-Over: When a fic is written using two or more different source materials. For example, if someone took characters from Harry Potter and wrote them into Twilight, that would be a Harry Potter / Twilight Cross-Over fic. There are some pretty outrageous, and highly amusing, combinations out there due to this phenomena. Often abbreviated as x-over.
Department of Redundancy Department:A regulatory agency that regulates the use of repetative language. The Snark Crew will often discourage the DRD from interrupting a good riff by using a variety of methods to discourage them.
Disclaimer: Most fanfic authors will include a short disclaimer at the beginning of their fic – sometimes before each individual chapter – that essentially states that they do not own the canon characters, items, or settings that appear in the fic in the erroneous belief that this will protect them from any legal action should the original author(s) of the work choose to file suit against them. This often includes some variation of “I own nothing!” Occasionally they are humourous, most often they are not.
Douchebandonment: A plot device many fic authors use in an attempt to make their protagonist seem selfless and brave, when in reality it paints them as selfish and douchey. This is when the protagonist leaves everyone they know behind because they think it will protect those they love, when in reality it would really leave those people more open to attack as no one would be around that could protect them. It is an act of cowardice by the protagonist because they’re too scared to man-up.
Emo Sue/Stu: A character who has over-the-top personal damage or tragic past. For instance a character who has parents that died in an accident which said Emo feels responsible for, a brother that Emo accidentally killed when they were children, a spouse who killed themselves because the Emo Sue/Stu wasn’t attentive enough, and a collection of suppressed memories of Emo being raped by random uncles. Often these characters will spend a great portion of their free time agonizing over all the faults/damage of their past. Usually such a character is also a Mary Sue/Gary Stu (see appropriate definition below), and this personal damage was folded in after the fact as a misguided attempt to give the character more depth, but it tends to actually be a poorly veiled play at garnering pity/empathy/sympathy for the protagonist.
Fanfiction: A story using characters, worlds, ideas, etc from a pre-existing source material written by a fan of that particular work. See also: fanfic, fic
Fanfic: A shortened way of refering to fanfiction, because typing out the word fanfiction can be irratating. See also: fic
Fic: Just another shortened version of the term fanfiction. See also: fanfic
Fluff: Term for cutesy romantic interactions with no actual intercourse (implied or graphic). This is the First-Base of fanfiction romance.
Formless Void: When the author has made no attempt to describe the space the characters occupy, assuming that the reader already knows what it looks like. May extend to the physical appearance of characters as well.
Fourth Wall: The fourth wall separates the fictional world the characters inhabit from the real world. You, the reader, are hiding behind the fourth wall. If a fic ignores this boundary between the real and fictional worlds, it is considered to be ”breaking” the fourth wall. When a character breaks the fourth wall deliberately they will attempt to interact with the narrator or the reader as though they could actually talk to them. You see this a lot in old Looney Toon cartoons when Bugs Bunny turns to the screen and says something as though talking to the audience.
Fridge Logic: When something is written into a story that seems good at the time but, in retrospect, is completely and utterly ridiculous. TVTropes does a pretty good job of describing this here.
Gary-Stu: A male character that is over-the-top exceptional. Usually brave, daring, handsome, care-free, douche-y. Most, if not all, of the other characters in the story will fall in love with him at some point. Male counterpart of the Mary Sue.
Headdesk: When a member of the Snark Crew is so unbelievably floored by the terribleness of what they’re reading that their head meets their desks with a resounding thud.
IC: In Character. When a character is actually behaving as they would in the original source material, they are staying “In Character.” Antonym of OOC.
Lemon: A fic that contains graphic sexual content. Most likely poorly-written graphic sexual content.
Mary-Sue: A female character that is over-the-top exceptional. Usually beautiful, talented, and completely gag-worthy. Most, if not all, of the other characters in the story will fall in love with her at some point. Female counterpart of the Gary Stu.
OC: Original Character. A character invented by the fic’s author and not found in the source material’s canon. Often some form of Sue/Stu.
OOC: Out of Character. When a canon character is not acting as they would within the established canon of the source material. Antonym of IC.
One-Shot: A fanfiction with only one chapter. One-shots are often a single scene, although some are longer. They typically are only a few pages long at most. Not to be confused with a fic left unfinished by the author, a one-shot is intended to be brief.
Plot Contrivance Corporation (PCC): A fictitious company that provides all the contrived equipment, locations, and scenarios that make contrived plots possible. Among their more popular inventions are the Unlimited Bag of Useful Items (UBUI), which can produce exactly what the protagonist needs in any given situation, and the Datapad of Endless Knowledge (DEK) which is a modernized version of the Tome of Endless Knowledge (TEK); both function as know-all repositories of only the most pertinent information to prevent all that pesky research characters might otherwise have to do.
Plot Regurgitation: When a fic author has decided that, instead of picking an original plot for their story, they merely use the exact timeline (and even dialogue) from the source material. This method of fic-writing is incredibly boring as it adds no originality to the fic. At this point, you might as well just read/watch the original source material. You can see this exceedingly clearly in the Library riffs for “Heading Towards the Horizon” and “Flight 815 / All My Secrets Away.”
Pretty Ugly Girl: A Mary Sue that is described as ‘not as pretty’ as everyone else, even though she’s gorgeous. This is a method often used to gain pity, such as Emo-Sue, or in a disillusioned hope that the readers will relate more to the protagonist. Typically, Pretty Ugly Girls attract every major male protagonist and antagonist in a story, all while lamenting how hideous she is and wondering why she can’t land a boyfriend.
Possessed Sue/Stu: A canon character who is “hijacked” by the author and turned into a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. Another form of self-insertion. See also: Mary Sue, Gary Stu.
POV: Point of View. This is the perspective the story is being narrated from. Usually, when the term POV is involved, it’s a first-person narrative. (Oh, goody.) POV is often indicated by a POV tag before the narration.
POV Tag: Placed in front of a section of narration and used to indicate whose perspective the narration is in rather than using the narration itself to inform the reader. It is often only the character’s name coupled with POV, but occasionally a longer Author’s Note is included as well.
Punctuation Shotgun: When an author has randomly placed punctuation marks such as periods, commas, and semicolons throughout their body of work - often incorrectly.
Sentenceograph: A body of text long enough to be a paragraph but only containing a single period at the end or no period and just a line break to the next paragraph. This can be either because the paragraph contains a single run-on sentence or because the author chose not to use appropriate punctuation.
Shark Jump: The point in the narrative of a fanfic when the original plot lines fizzle out and the author starts adding disjointed scenes in an effort to extend the story.
Ship: Abbreviation of worship. An intense devotion to a particular character or character relationship, either in-canon or out-of-canon. Many fanfic authors who ship particular relationships will write fics specifically to indulge in shipping those character pairings, often indicated in the fic summary by a portmanteau of the shipped couple’s names. (SpongeBob + Patrick = Spongerick) Most slashfics and lemons are the work of shippers.
Show, Don’t Tell: The Library’s unofficial mantra, often used when the author of a fanfic simply gives information to the audience (for example, using a POV Tag to indicate perspective) rather than revealing it to them through the narration.
Sinus Enema: It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. This is when something you’ve read is hilarious to the point that whatever you’re drinking will come shooting out of your nose. This is often also referenced indirectly by mentioning having to clean [drink] from your keyboard or your computer screen.
Situationally-Dependent Quantum Flux (SDQF): When characters or objects are put into a state of pure entropic energy held at a point just before matter cohesion. This allows them to appear and disappear from a scene based on whether or not the plot currently needs them to exist. Generally this occurs without noted transition from a previous state, such a drawing a sword twice, or having somebody who isn’t in the room suddenly start talking to the characters. It also allows characters to be observed in two places at once or travel distances in seemingly impossibly small amounts of time. This phenomena can also be observed in D&D campaigns when characters suddenly remember that they have a familiar or pet, often several hours into a game session. It should be noted that this is related to Quantum Linear Superposition, which allows characters to teleport to other parts of the same scene when such a shift in spacial reference is convenient to the plot.
To summarize: When a character appears out of nowhere because the authors needs that character without planning ahead or disappears suddenly because the author forgot the character was in the scene and didn’t need him any more.
Situationally-Specific Superpowers: A particular skill or ability that a character will suddenly remember possessing or spontaneously develop exactly when it is needed and never use or make reference to again. May be an actual superpower (ability to fly, ability to swim in lava) or an ability the character would not normally possess (a five-year-old with knowledge of advanced quantum physics, a bear who can play the oboe)
Slash/Slashfic: Stories that contain romantic relationships between same-gendered characters. See also: Yaoi and Yuri.
Snark: Witty sarcasm, often directed toward high levels of suck.
Snarkers: People who dish out snark to those who deserve it.
Snerk: A sound made out of derision or sarcastic amusement.
Source Material: An original work of fiction - such as a book, video game, movie, or television show – that serves as the inspiration for a fanfic. See also: Word of God
Sturgeon’s Law: Also known as Sturgeon’s Revelation, it states that “ninety percent of everything is crud.”
Suddenly And From Behind (SAFB): An extremely common method of introducing characters or objects into a scene, often used in a mistaken attempt to add drama or suspense to a fic.
Super Sue/Stu: A Mary Sue or Gary Stu with superpowers, often out-of-canon from the source material. Most of a Super Sue/Stu’s superpowers will be situation-specific – they will appear suddenly, be used for a particular reason, and never be referenced again.
Thesaurus Plundering/Abuse: When the author uses such over the top, colorful words to describe what is going on while almost utterly steering clear of more simple, yet appropriate, terminology. For example, when it may seem better to merely say, “Her eyes were a stunning shade of blue,” the author instead writes, “Her cobalt orbs were a splendorous hue that sparkled like magnanimous sapphires in a pale moonlight.”
They Got Better: When a character is seriously injured, often multiple times, or dies but is restored to perfect health with little or no explanation given.
The Troll: A fic writer that has purposefully written a complete pile of decomposing detritus not even worthy of an out-house. Why anyone would do this, besides finding pleasure in horrible reviews, is beyond me. Most Troll-fics are short and, thus, not too difficult to spot. There are some fics out there so terrible, and so long, that it makes us hope it’s really the work of a dedicated Troll because, honestly, how can someone be that bad of a writer?
Timesquiggle: When an author has absolutely no clue about – or desire to stick with – the canon timeline. Although it could be something as idiotic as placing the Harry Potter in 2005, it could also be more subtle (mentioning songs / more obscure events in history that haven’t actually happened yet in the canon timeline). Another form of Timesquiggle is the age-related squiggle. This is when character ages have been altered in relation to one-another without any explanation. This is usually because the author doesn’t pay attention to these details when writing. This can be seen really well in the fic “Control” when a character that is supposed to be 5 years old has been aged to 15 in order to have a romance with another 16 year old character. Timesquiggles may also occur within a fic’s timeline, such as when a character’s age changes every time it is given or when the season changes without any indication of the passage of time.
Wall-O-Dialogue: When the author of the fic uses little to no descriptive text. Instead, they employ dialogue to move the plot along. Often, this leads to the reader having no idea who is actually talking.
Wall-O-Text: When the fanfic author has neglected to use paragraph breaks, indentations, or anything at all to suggest the written material is not one long, continuous thought.
Word of God: Information from the author(s) or developer(s) of the original source material that does not appear in the source material but is still considered canon. Word of God often fills in gaps in the fantasy world of the source material, or helps clarify things that were implied but never explictedly stated within the source material.
Yaoi: Japanese term for male-male romantic relationships. Typically used in the anime genre but it’s branched out to include many others. See also: Slash
Yuri: Japanese term for female-female romantic relationships. Typically used in the anime genre but it’s branched out to include many others. See also: Slash