written by Gileswench
So you've joined your first fanfic list, and you'd like to participate. Good. Unfortunately, there's a problem: you don't speak the language. Flames, RPS, slash, plotbunnies...these and other terms used daily on your list don't make sense to you. That does make things difficult.
Luckily for you, most BtVS fic lists use the same terminology. All you need to do is learn what they mean. That's what this article is here to help you with. Read through this list of terms, and you'll be speaking fic like a native in no time.
ABH: Acronym for 'Anywhere But Here'. Not only is this the game Buffy and Willow played in an early scene of The Dark Age, it's also a form of fanfic. In the fic version, YOU (a murky, mythological everyperson, usually female since the majority of fanfic authors are also female, as opposed to you, specifically) seduces or is seduced by the character of choice. Usually short, simple, and smutty, ABH's are often popular with the masses, but not welcome on all lists. If you're unsure, check with your listmommy.
Angst: Fanfic category where the main requirement is that Bad Things Happen. If you kill off three main characters and leave the rest sitting dazed in a pile of rubble miserably awaiting the inevitable end, you've written angstfic. See also: AtS series finale.
AR: Alternate reality. What this usually means is that most of Joss' canon is being observed...with one or two significant changes. For example, a story set after I Was Made To Love You in which Joyce is still alive, but the canon is otherwise unchanged, or a story in which the key was sent to Buffy, did arrive at the end of Buffy vs. Dracula, but appeared in the form of a spatula rather than a person. Other popular examples include things like Jenny surviving Angelus' attack, Spike never receiving his chip, and Oz remaining in town post-Veruca.
AtS: Acronym for Angel: the Series.
AU: Alternate Universe. Sometimes used interchangeably with AR, it can also mean something more drastic, such as a version of the Buffyverse in which there are no vampires or demons.
Badfic: A fic deliberately written so poorly that it's meant to be funny, I suppose. Personally, I find well-written stories with ridiculous concepts much funnier. Also, there are enough writers out there with no actual concept of spelling, grammar, punctuation, or characterization that this can be a form difficult to identify unless one is familiar with other, better-written work by the same author.
BDSM: A form of consensual sex that may include such elements as: deliberate infliction of pain, immobilization of one or more limbs, ritual humiliation of one partner by another. If you wish to write this sort of relationship, but have not taken part in this sort of sex, be sure to do some research. And remember: tied up in silk scarves is still bondage. If your list requires BDSM warnings, please use them even for mild instances of the practice.
Beta Reader: The fanfic writers' best friend and worst enemy. Your beta's job is to help you edit your stories so they are ready for posting. They will fix your spelling, grammar, and continuity mistakes, help you make sure the audience can follow your line of reasoning, and let you know if anyone will get your jokes. Also, since BtVS takes place in California, but has a lot of English characters, it's a good idea to get someone from the place you're less familiar with to give your story the once-over for idioms and slang.
Otherwise, English authors end up with Scoobies talking about 'ringing' each other rather than 'calling', and American authors have Giles and Spike saying 'asshole' rather than 'arsehole'. Beta readers make sure you get it right.
Beverage Warning: Also known as coffee warning, Pepsi warning, etc. Put down that bagel and tea before the humorous or surprising story you are about to read forces you to spray them across your monitor. These are best heeded. Have you ever tried to get soda out of your keyboard?
BtVS: Acronym for Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.
Buffyverse: An inclusive term that covers everything in BtVS and AtS.
Canon: The Word as passed down to us from Joss and Co. This is everything that actually happened on Buffy or Angel. If you can point to it in a script or a screencap, it's canon. If you can't, it doesn't matter how often a writer said in interviews what they 'really meant'. For instance, it's canon that Anya is terrified of bunnies. There is, however, no explanation of why this is so in the scripts. Even if Joss gave an interview explaining the reason now, you would be free to ignore it as canon, since we didn't see it on the show.
Canon Ship: A romantic/sexual pairing that actually happened on one of the shows.
Challenge: A set of requirements for a fic offered up to one or more writers for the amusement of the challenger. These can be as simple as one word, or as elaborate as the challenger likes.
Character Bashing: Mistreating a character in fic because you dislike him/her rather than basing negative behavior of the character on anything seen in canon.
Comedy: A form of fic that makes the audience laugh a lot. See also: Sillyfic. This is also an element used in generous amounts on both BtVS and AtS. Don't be afraid of it in your fic.
Constructive criticism: Just what it sounds like. A comment or review of your work that points out the flaws in an attempt to help you write better. All too often confused with Flames, but genuinely meant to be helpful rather than hurtful. (Example: I thought Giles seemed a little overemotional in x scene, and you used 'their' in a spot where it should have been 'they're'. Overall, though, I think your work shows great promise.)
Crossover: A fic melding two or more different fictional worlds. For instance, BtVS/Manchild, or AtS/Star Trek DS9. Characters and concepts from both shows are used in the story.
Disclaimer: A very important part of your story header. This is the line that covers our collective butts legally where you say specifically that you don't own the copyrights to the base material, are making no profit from your writing, and intend no copyright infringement. Don't panic. You don't have to write fluent legalese to do this. In fact, many ficcers use one or two humorous lines to deal with this aspect. Just make sure you manage to say specifically that you don't own BtVS - Joss does.
Epistillatory: Fic written in a series of written pieces, such as letters or diary entries. Please keep in mind that when your characters are writing, they will not stutter, say 'um', or use a great many ellipses. If I read one more story where Giles stutters in his diary and Willow fills in awkward silences in her letters by writing 'um...uh...', I'm going to hunt the authors down and slap them. Incidentally, for an excellent example of how the form should read, try Dracula, by Bram Stoker.
Fanon: Concepts that do not appear directly in canon, but are widely accepted and used among the writers of fanfic. For example: Buffy's 'real' name is Elizabeth, Xander's parents are physically abusive to him.
Feedback: Or FB for short. Reviews sent in by readers on our stories. This is the closest we get to pay as ficcers. If you read a story and you like it, send some feedback to the author!
Fic: Short for fanfiction. Fanfic is also generally used. A story written based on the concepts and characters created by another author in either a book, movie, comic, or television series. Some creators like fanfic, some dislike it but tolerate it, others choose to exercise the full power of their copyright to stop ficcers from using their universes (Anne Rice is particularly emphatic about this). Most don't bother us so long as we're not making any money off the hobby, and we use our disclaimers regularly.
Flame: A negative AND abusive review of a fic or an author's body of work in general. Goes well beyond 'I'm not certain I can see Cordelia getting extra money by working in the porn industry'. Flames are all about getting nasty. Example: 'How can you possibly write Giles/Xander having sex? That's sick and disgusting. Neither of them is gay at all and you make me vomit when you pretend they are'. Usually poorly spelt and showing a sad lack of understanding of basic rules of grammar, punctuation, and use of capital letters, Flames are still, to some, a badge of honor. Best either ignored or passed among one's friends for chortling purposes, these are the work of people more to be pitied than anything else. After all, nothing would piss them off more.
Fluff: A fic form in which Bad Things Never Happen. Nobody argues, nobody is ever hurt more seriously than a slight bruise, and everyone is happy with everyone else's choices. Best kept short, these happy, sappy stories make a nice occasional respite from angstfic and high drama.
Genfic: Fic that follows canon rules and pairings absolutely. You could see this as an episode, story arc, or scene on the show itself.
Header: Think of this as opening credits for your fic. Virtually every list or site that accepts fic will want at least the following information in your header: Author's name or handle, Title, Part Number (if the story is broken down into two or more parts), Pairing, Rating, Disclaimer. Some will ask for more, and more is almost always allowed.
Het: Heterosexual pairings. That's men with women and women with men, for those who need further definition.
Hurt/Comfort: a form of fic in which one or more characters are severely injured physically, emotionally, or both, for the sole purpose of then making them better. Can be differentiated from Angstfic by the happy - or at least hopeful - ending.
List: The places where most of us send out our stories. Yahoogroups has literally hundreds of lists that accept BtVS and AtS fic. There are a number of LiveJournal communities that also accept Buffyverse fic, and quite a few fic sites that accept unsolicited fics.
Listmommy: The person who runs a list. Listmommies rule absolutely in their little domains.
Mary-Sue: AKA Scourge of the Ficverse. Mary-Sue is an original character (usually female, though her male counterpart, Marty-Stu, is sometimes encountered) who is so utterly perfect as to be impossible, and almost invariably stands in as an avatar for the author. Her name is usually wildly romantic, her history tragic in the extreme, and her powers overwhelming in scope and intensity. If you meet a character in fanfic who is named Raevynne, is Giles' long-lost daughter/Spike's one-time paramour/Angel's Tai-chi teacher, kills vampires more efficiently than Buffy, casts spells faster and more accurately than Willow, knows more demons off the top of her head than Giles and Wesley put together, dresses all in leather, has a fiery temper that leads her to act a little recklessly once in a while, and is universally beloved by everybody she comes in contact with, walk up and say hello to Mary-Sue. (Note: canon characters have also been reduced to Mary-Sue by some fanfic authors. Sadly, this seems to happen most often with Willow and Wesley, two characters who are both interesting and enjoyable in their own right without trying to whitewash them or otherwise make them shinier and more perfect than they already are.)
Moderator: Someone who backs up the listmommy on a list, and usually has the authority to act in the listmommy's absence or unavailability. This is the person to go to if your listmommy is not available to answer your questions.
Non-Consensual: A term often used in the fanfic community to describe rapefic. This assumes that at least one partner is unwilling to participate in/too incapacitated to refuse sex. If that doesn't describe rape, I don't know what does.
OC: Original character. These can be differentiated from Mary-Sue and Marty-Stu simply because they can be recognized as characters as opposed to caricatures. Some are simple creations made to fill a minor, but necessary role, while others become fully developed people (or demons) who drive a story.
OFC: Original Female Character.
OMC: Original Male Character.
Plotbunny: An idea for a fic. So called because they have a tendency to breed like rabbits and gnaw viciously at writers' legs. Wear padding and carry the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch when dealing with these little buggers. They're enough to explain why Anya has such bunnyfear.
POV: Point of view. This is fic written as the internal mental workings of the character you have chosen. Make sure you have the character's voice and thought processes down pat before you start a piece like this, because the slightest misstep will be even more jarring in this form.
PTB: The Powers That Be. Actually characters - or at least a concept - on AtS, the term has come to be used liberally in both fanfic and fandom for anyone in charge of anything, up to and including the creators of BtVS and AtS.
PWP: Porn Without Plot or Plot? What Plot? Pure smut with no significant attempt to do anything but make the characters have sex with each other.
Romance: a fic in which the main point of the story is to get your chosen couple together or move their relationship forward in some manner. May include considerable drama and mystical occurrences, may be long or short, may be happy or angsty, depending on the author's choices. This is the most popular form of writing in the Buffyverse.
RPS: Real Person Smut. A form of fanfic in which the actors, as opposed to the characters they play, are involved in romantic/sexual relationships. Many lists do not allow this form for reasons of both taste and legality, so be very sure to check with list management before posting.
Schmoop: Beyond Fluff. Where Fluff makes you go 'awww, how sweet', Schmoop makes you reach for the insulin. Think bespelled Buffy and Spike in Something Blue.
Ship: Relationship. Any pairing, het or slash, canon or UC, that you choose to write. Some canon ships would be: Buffy/Angel, Willow/Tara, Xander/Cordelia, Wesley/Virginia. (authors note: there is some difference of opinion as to whether Giles/Joyce and Spike/Anya should be treated as canon or UC ships since both only happened once while the characters involved were under the influence of mind-altering substances. If this becomes an issue for posting or nominating a story for an award, check with the PTB of the list or award before sending your story or nomination.) Some popular UC ships include: Spike/Xander, Buffy/Giles, Angel/Wesley, Willow/Faith.
Ship Bashing: Treating a pairing as bad purely because you don't like it. Flaming a writer for their choice of pairing rather than the content/style of their writing. This is a tacky, hurtful behavior that doesn't make your ship better or more right. Sail your own ship. Allow others their untroubled time in the water. If you don't like a ship, don't read the stories for it, and leave the subject alone in your own writing as much as possible.
Shipper: Someone who tends to write/read/prefer a particular relationship, whether canon or UC.
Sillyfic: A story whose primary goal is to make the audience laugh, giggle, guffaw, and chortle until they make themselves sick with mirth.
Slash: Homosexual/Lesbian pairings. Men with men, women with women.
Spoilers: Anything that might give away the plot of an episode. Now something of a moot point, since no new episodes of either show are being made, nor are there any reliably reported plans for spin-offs or movies based on either show. Still, BtVS and AtS gain new fans every day. It's still polite to let your audience know what episodes you're working from.
UC ship: Unconventional relationship. This is a pairing that never happened on the shows. For instance, Willow/Wesley would be a UC ship, as would Giles/Spike. Stories about these and other couples that never were are wildly popular in Buffy fandom.
Warnings: Most ficlists require that authors warn the audience of subjects such as: extreme violence, slash, rape (also called by the polite euphemism 'non-consensual sex'), character death, ship and/or character bashing, BDSM, drug use, etc. If you're unsure whether you should warn your audience, warn them anyway. If the thing you're supposed to warn readers of is a major plot surprise, talk to your listmommy but be prepared not to get a waiver.
WIP: Work In Progress. A piece that is unfinished, but the author is posting it anyway as the individual parts are ready to go.
back to Essays