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.

Because Reasons: A phrase often used by the Librarians to explain the actions or motivations of a character in a fic when the fic fails to provide any explanation.  Alternatively written as “Because blue.”

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.

Blaring Alarm:  The Department of Redundancy Department’s redundancy monitoring alarm.  The alarm goes off and “blares” whenever a redundancy is detected calling in a strike team to assault the fic.  The alarm has displayed varying levels of sentience over the years though it’s true level of self-awareness is unknown.

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.

Celebrian Zone: Many grimdark, fetish, and troll-fics like to spam the reader with gory or offensive elements for pure shock value. When the plot grinds to a stop so that these scenes can play out over and over again often with little variation between them, they stop eliciting any emotional reaction from the reader whatsoever and instead simply become boring– the ‘fic has overshot shock value completely, and landed itself in the Celebrian Zone.
Named after the Lord of the Rings smutfic Celebrian, which is infamously difficult for riffers to get through not because its endless descriptions of elf-torture are disturbing but because they are so incredibly repetitive.

Chameleon: A character whose name or appearance changes every time the author uses or describes it, usually due to misspelling and/or lazy writing.

Character Blob: A group of two or more characters that are treated as a single entity.

Crappypasta: Slang for a really bad Creepypasta.

Creepypasta: An attempt at an original urban legend, sometimes based on fandoms (Squidward’s Suicide), sometimes based on elements of real-life history (Nazi and Lovecraft), often ripped-off of other Creepypasta (I’ll Protect You), and, on occasion, made as an original work (Jeff the Killer).  They pretty much usually all suck, regardless of their source material.

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.

Daybook Writing:  A style of writing in which the author is simply listing things that happened instead of describing and/or analyzing them in detail, similar to recording an entry in a diary or daybook. Based upon a Chinese term used by Patron/Guest Librarian SuperFeatherYoshi, “流水账”, which literally translates as “daybook”.

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.  They have installed several quasi-sentient alarms all over the Library in order to monitor redundancies and call in strike teams if any are detected.  See Blaring Alarm.

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.

Dramapology: An act of anger, usually a verbal outburst, that is followed swiftly by a request for forgiveness that negates any conflict that might arise from the exchange.

Edgeverse: A series of fics, potentially written by multiple authors, all sharing a continuity and characters. Coined by BatJamags in relation to the various Shadow Warriors-related stories scattered around ff.net.

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

FINO (Fanfic in Name Only): Essentially an AU taken to its illogical extreme, a FINO features next to nothing from the original work save, typically, for a few characters with the same names (and likely no connection to their original personalities or backgrounds). The litmus test for this sort of ‘fic is whether one can do a simple find-and-replace for the canonical terms and then get the result published as a completely original work (although probably still not a very good one). A ready example is Master of the Universe aka Fifty Shades of Gray, a purported Twilight ‘fic with no vampires, no werewolves, Bella Swan as a college-aged reporter and Edward Cullen as a Fortune 500 CEO heavily into (what he thinks is) BDSM. The syndrome was first identified by BatJamags in The Yule Tree.

Fluff: Term for cutesy romantic interactions with no actual intercourse (implied or graphic).  This is the First-Base of fanfiction romance. See also: Lemon, Lime

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.

Fragile Sue/Stu: A Mary Sue or Gary Stu who receives substantial injuries on a regular basis despite having the standard Sue/Stu traits of being awesome at everything. A very popular character in the hurt/comfort genre.

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.

Gary Stumanity: In space-based settings with multiple alien species, the human race may be portrayed as an entire civilization of Gary Stus, also referred to as “HFY” (“Humanity Fuck Yeah”) writing. Gary Stumanity typically has a massive industrial, technological, and tactical advantage over every other species with no logical explanation for how it got that way; hates all or nearly all aliens and will go to war with them at the slightest provocation; and always wins. Oftentimes human culture is portrayed with extremely militaristic or outright fascist overtones, but the humans are always claimed to be morally in the right. Some sort of major disaster or alien invasion earlier in future-history is frequently used to ‘justify’ this behavior. Commonly found in crossovers.

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.

Hurt/Comfort: A popular genre of fanfiction, the plot revolves around a protagonist who becomes injured or ill and a secondary protagonist (who may or may not be the one who injured or infected the primary protagonist) who take cares of them. The pairing usually involves some manner of Sue/Stu in one of the roles and the author’s favorite canon character in the other.

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.

Implied Romantic Reciprocation: When shared romantic feelings between two characters are never established, but the relationship is treated as a given fact. This is seen when one character falls in love with another and, even though the second character’s feelings are never explored, a romantic relationship develops.  

Lemon: A fic that contains graphic sexual content, most likely poorly-written graphic sexual content. See also: Lime, Fluff.

Lime: A fic that contains mild explicit content but characters do not engage in actual intercourse. The mid-ground between a fluff fic and a lemon. See also: Lemon, Fluff.

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.

Narcolepscene: When an author’s characters are constantly falling asleep in order to change the scene.  The character(s) seem to have an overwhelming case of narcolepsy and the author seems unable to find a better way to progress the story except for “And then they all went to bed.”

Nothing-Narrative: A plotless fic, one which meanders from scene to scene with no defined purpose and thus is extremely dull and boring.

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.

Rich and Chunky: A writing style where the story goes on at length about one particular point for a prolonged period, typically exposition or something else we don’t actually care about, often belaboring the same basic ideas over and over again in slightly different ways. Contrast with Textwall, which is a similar trial of endurance but related to how the story is physically formatted on the page as opposed to the topic.

SC-Style Infodumps: When a riffer or commenter (perhaps even a fic author, if you’re un/lucky) takes a detail from a fic and thoroughly researches it down to its core for the sake of making a point or providing fun facts. Named for the member of the Snark Crew of the same initials, SC, who started doing this from his very first riff as a guest riffer onwards into the present.

Scoop: Some Librarians and patrons will make comments as they read a riff so they remember what they wanted to say and to avoid spoilers. This can lead to someone making a joke or observation that someone else already made. We call this scooping, like when one reporter gets a good story before another can. The one who gets scooped is usually Bats, occasionally SC or Sakai, rarely Taco, and almost never anyone else. The one doing the scooping is also usually one of that group.

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 relationship.  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

Stingy Sue/Stu: An overpowered character or characters whose abilities are readily transferable to other people — typically technology that others could be shown how to manufacture, but also technological or magical artifacts where the Sue/Stu has access to a large number of ‘spares’, or just skills that can easily be taught — but who refuses to share those powers with allies (because then the character wouldn’t be special any more). Sometimes the idea of sharing is brought up but rejected for needlessly paranoid or just plain nonsensical reasons; other times the thought just never occurs to anyone in the story. Often results in people and even entire civilizations the Sue/Stu claims to care about and want to protect being placed in unnecessary danger because they are denied abilities that would give them a decisive advantage. For situations where there are good reasons why nobody else can do what the character does, but then when they are needed most the character just leaves, see Douchebandonment.

Stu-over: A crossover where one canon’s characters and factions are portrayed as stronger, more knowledgeable, more moral, or just generally better than the other canon’s. This often overlaps with Gary Stumanity, with the author porting one sci-fi franchise’s futuristic humans into another franchise (usually Mass Effect) to prove how much “better” they are than the second franchise’s resident aliens. The trend has been observed for a while, but was named by BatJamags and AdmiralSakai in the comments to 2165: Fight For Freedom — Oneshot.

Sturgeon’s Law: Also known as Sturgeon’s Revelation, it states that “ninety percent of everything is crud.”

Sudden Scene Shift (SSS): A sudden and inexplicable change in setting, often from one paragraph to the next, with no attempt made to transition between the two.

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.

Tarzan Grammar: Bad writing style where ‘fic leave out pronouns, definite articles, or auxiliary verbs, and not conjugate verbs. Also have sentence fragments. Make author sound like raised by apes.

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. Contrast with Rich And Chunky, which is a similar trial of endurance but related to the conceptual content of the story as opposed to its physical format.

White Rabbiting: When an author uses exact measurements of time to describe the passage of time to the extent where they seem obsessed with punctuality.

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 othersSee 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

34 Comments on “Dictionary of the Damned”

  1. Astrognash says:

    It’s fourth wall, I’m pretty sure. Forth is, as far as I know, a direction in which one travels.

  2. TacoMagic says:

    I added Emo Sue/Stu. I noticed that many a Mary Sue/Gary Stu eventually degrade into a self-pitying emo phase at some point and I wanted a simple term to express this shift.

    Thus far, in just about all the stories we’re currently riffing I’ve seen this emo shift, so I’m thinking it’s a handy term to have.

  3. TacoMagic says:

    Added “Awesome McEvil” as a descriptor for the villain equivilant of the Gary Stu/Mary Sue.

    For further reference, GLADOS in IT’S MY LIFE is an Awesome McEvil as is Stephan in Blood of Ancients. Generally they’re an amped up villain put in the fic so that Mary Sue/Gary Stu has somebody that is ULTIMATE OMG! to fight and defeat. Awesome McEvils are either the author’s own creation, or an amped up version of an existing Villain.

  4. Has anyone else run into this?

    Shark Jump – the point in the narrative when the original plot fizzles out and the author starts adding disjointed scenes in an effort to pad the story.

  5. Sootopolis says:

    Great dictionary :) This is the first time I’ve seen ship = worship; I always thought the ‘ship’ in shipping came from ‘relationship.’

    Also, I was wondering if OTP (One True Pairing) is worth an entry?

  6. SuperFeatherYoshi says:

    So… Can someone add Daybook to this list? Pretty please?

  7. agigabyte says:

    Could someone add “Mareisafication: A strange phenomenon, Marrisafication is when the misspellings of a word change every few uses. Some of our top scientists are studying Marissafication right now, but are completely stumped.”

  8. SuperFeatherYoshi says:

    I’m pretty sure Shipping came from Relationship, not Worship. Wikipedia and various other sources seem to support this as well.

  9. agigabyte says:

    Is there anything for when a character’s name is spelled in different ways all the time?

  10. AdmiralSakai says:

    We should really add a Shatner Speak entry- for prose that, includes large numbers, of commas… or, other delaying… punctuation at seemingly random, positions.

  11. Maybe add “The feeling of his penis” for when people utterly fail at writing lemons?

  12. AdmiralSakai says:

    Hmm, since a fair number of other people are riffing them now (and still more are referencing them) do you think we should add a ‘creepypasta’ definition?

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