Fanfic tropes list

Fanfic tropes list DEFAULT

Five Tropes Fanfic Readers Love (And One They Hate)

More than 7,500 fanfiction readers filled out the Fansplaining Fic Preferences Survey. What can we learn from the results?

by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel

The AO3’s wordcloud of popular tags.

People say a lot of things about fanfiction readers. Three common ideas: they’re just interested in happily ever afters; they’re just interested in gay porn; they’re just interested in radical queer reinterpretation of the Western canon and won’t take no for an answer. All of these things probably have some kernel of truth to them. And naturally, we can see what individual stories people like most: which ones have the most views, the most comments, and the most kudos. But that doesn’t tell us what elements of those stories they like. Not every story engages with fandom’s popular tropes, but many do: tropes can serve as shorthands for themes and plot points across fandom at large. So what do fanfic readers get excited about? Conversely, what makes them click the back button?

Over the past month or so, Fansplaining has run a survey of fanfiction readers, asking them what tropes and themes they particularly like and dislike. We received 7,610 responses—a pretty good turnout, we think. Our most recent episode covered the top line results, and our next one will delve more deeply into the survey itself, including its limitations and ways to think critically about what we’ll do if we ever run another one. In the meantime, let’s take a look both the questions we asked and our results…

Where do our respondents find their fanfic?

A bar graph showing that respondents mostly read fanfiction from AO3 (about 7500 of them), then Tumblr (about 5750 of them), (about 3000 of them), LiveJournal (about 2000 of them), Dreamwidth (about 900 of them), Wattpad (about 400 of…

Respondents could select as many options as they wanted from checkboxes.

Almost all our respondents read fanfiction on the Archive Of Our Own (or “AO3”), a non-profit, fan-run, open-source archive with a commitment to free speech. There were notably few respondents who read stories on Wattpad, a site that is thought to have a younger userbase than the Archive Of Our Own. (Conclusive stats aren’t publicly accessible.) Wattpad is commercially run and focuses on mobile reading. Its viewership data isn’t calculated in the same way as the AO3’s, so it’s hard to compare their popularity, but it’s certainly a very well-trafficked site, and its community isn’t fully represented here.

Like romance novels, most fanfic archives organize stories based on the genders of characters that are romantically involved. Fandom takes this further by organizing along ship lines—and if you don’t know what a ship is, go read this explainer and then come back!—but it was way too much to track the myriad of ships fans enjoy in this survey! So…

What types of ships do our respondents read?

A bar chart of the types of ships respondents read. In order from most frequently to least frequently reported, they were M/M, M/F, Gen, F/F, Poly ships, and Ships with nonbinary characters.

Respondents could select as many options as they wanted from checkboxes.

Most respondents checked more than one box: they don’t just read slash (male/male), femslash (female/female) or het (male/female) stories; they read across types. Surprisingly, 35% of our respondents didn’t check off “gen”—meaning that 35% of the respondents never read stories that don’t feature ships!

After they responded to these questions, survey-takers told us how they felt about different elements of fanfic: whether loved, hated, didn’t care about, or didn’t know about each of 144 tropes and themes. The questions were about everything from tone (how do you feel about angst, fluff, parody?) to format (epistolary ficmulti-media ficimagines?) to relationship to canon (missing scenespoint of view shiftcrossovers or fusions?) to situations (temporary animal transformationtelepathy,road trips?) to relationships(secret siblings, orgiesmale pregnancy?). For their surveys to be counted, respondents had to give an opinion on every single question.

So what did we find out?

What tropes & themes are most widely beloved?

A bar graph showing that the most-”yay”ed tropes were (in descending order): Friends to lovers, canon-divergent AU, slow burn, rescue missions, bed sharing, teamwork, fluff, hurt/comfort, huddling for warmth, and mutual pining.

It’s no surprise that many fans love friends-to-lovers, a trope so common it can hardly even be called a trope. (By contrast, enemies-to-lovers was #20 on the most-loved list.) Slow burn and mutual pining are complementary: stories where characters long for each other without consummating their love are uniquely delicious, and echo the will-they-or-won’t-they thrill of many popular TV shows (looking at you, X-Files).

In most fanfics, though, this unresolved sexual tension (#16 most loved trope/theme) has to eventually be resolved. And what better way to do it than through bed sharing—a trope also known as “one hotel room left,” because that’s so often the reason why two characters are forced to share a bed? Or perhaps characters are trapped in a snowstorm. The only logical thing to do is get naked and hop in a sleeping bag to ward off hypothermia: huddling for warmth. (If you’re really ambitious, you might make them isolated/trapped[#13 most loved], for instance, in a Canadian shack.)

In a less shipping-focused mode, canon-divergent AUs are stories where one small change alters the course of events. Sometimes these changes alter things from before the start of the source material’s action; sometimes the what-if twist alters canon directly. What if Harry Potter was sorted into Slytherin? What if Luke was raised as a prince of Alderaan and Leia as a lowly farmgirl?

Finally, if you aren’t a fanfic reader, you might not be familiar with the “tone” designations. Both fluff and hurt/comfort made the top 10. The former is a story that’s focused on cheerful, happy topics; the latter involves one of the characters in your favorite ship being hurt, and the other comforting them. This situation sometimes, but not always, leads to sex.

What tropes and themes are most widely reviled?

A bar chart showing the themes people most frequently responded “nay” to: (very) underage, noncon, incest, eating disorders, major character death, mpreg, slavery, bullying, self/self, and centaurification.

Obviously some of these tropes and themes—underage sexual pairings, noncon (fandom’s term for non-consensual sex, i.e. rape), and incest—are both immoral and illegal. Some, like eating disorders and bullying, are unfortunate aspects of life that many people work through by writing fiction, but not so many people enjoy reading about them. But some of these are more complex: slavery in fanfic can often refer to sexual slavery of a BDSM persuasion rather than chattel slavery in a historical sense. It might be wrong—but is it wrong as a sexual fantasy? And no one can deny that some fanfic is about sexual fantasies. Respondents reported that they had a hard time deciding what to say about these:

The tendency to want to self-edit even on an anonymous survey w/r/t tropes that are on the outs for being problematic or viewed as inherently “kinky” was surprising—I didn’t expect that reluctance to “disclose.” (I mean, I was honest, but I was surprised by how much community/other people’s value judgements were in my head).

Other widely-disliked themes seem to fit into the fact that readers’ likes tended towards fluffy happiness: major character death isn’t what many people come to fanfic for. (In fact, fix-it fic, where writers explore possibilities like bringing major characters back from the dead, ended up #12 on the Yay list!) But there are some that aren’t as explicable. What’s wrong with self/self—stories in which a character has sex with another consenting version of themselves (from a different timeline, via time travel, the result of a magical duplication, or a science experiment gone wrong)? Is mpreg (male pregnancy, through any means) really worse than slavery? And what’s wrong with centaurification—stories where a character gets, well, turned into a centaur? Mysteries.

What tropes and themes are most controversial?

That is, which have a Yay:Nay ratio that’s closest to 1?

A bar chart showing that the tropes with a yay:nay ration closest to 1 are: corruption, band/pop group AU, omegaverse, love potions, interspecies, dubcon, body-sharing, Cinderella moment, group sex/orgies, and sports AU.

Some of these results were expected: for example, fans who know what omegaverse is (and if you don’t, go read—we’ll wait) either love it or hate it in about equal measure. Dubcon—dubious consent in a sexual situation—we also get, and love potions pose some of the same problems in the murky realm of consent in the fanfiction world. Since we didn’t specify whether interspecies relationships meant bestiality or pairing up two sentient and intelligent species (think Amanda and Sarek, Mr. Spock’s Human and Vulcan parents, respectively), it makes sense that people would be split on the issue—some people assumed one meaning, some the other. And some people might not want to see the corruption of their favorite character into an awful person (unless they’re into the TV show Hannibal, where at least 90% of the fanfic seems to be about Will Graham being seduced into serial killing).

But why are band AUs (stories where all the characters are in a band, just like it says on the tin) and sports AUs (same concept, but with sports) so controversial? What’s objectionable about the two halves of your ship bodysharing (through whatever mystical or scientific means) as a way of bringing them, well, as close as possible? And aren’t Cinderella moments, or unexpected makeovers, standard set-pieces in any romantic story? Who knew that so many people didn’t like them?

What tropes and themes do readers care about least?

A bar chart showing the tropes most responded to with “meh,” in descending order: parody, virginity, crack, pregnancy, Cinderella moments, aging up, transmedia, discrimination, veelas/sirens, meticulous canon compliance.

Interestingly, some of these tropes—like Cinderella moments—are also nearly equally liked and disliked by others: Cinderella moments also appear on the top ten “controversial” list. And while mpreg is widely disliked, pregnancy in general is met with a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯—a highly suggestive difference. We’ve got a lot of theories on why, but they’ll need to wait; it deserves a lot more space than we can give it here.

What types of tropes and themes are respondents unfamiliar with?

A bar chart showing the tropes most frequently responded to as “what’s that” - “I’m unfamiliar with that, in descending order: rigid format, hard gen, virtual seasons, whump, metatextuality, woobification, imagines, epistolary fic, casefic, anthropo…

Alright, let’s just explain these right here and now, since so many people are unfamiliar with them:

  • Rigid format refers to stories with strict formatting rules, something found often in poetry (eg a sonnet, 14 lines and written in iambic pentameter). We gave an example of 221Bs in the BBC Sherlock fandom, where each story must be 221 words and end with a word beginning with “B.” Some fandoms use these tight formats as games or writing prompts.

  • Hard gen is where characters’ friendships are treated as central, and as important as a romantic relationship. The term originates, we think, from Supernatural fandom.

  • Virtual seasons are fanfic series written to mimic a season of a show, perhaps a show that’s gone off the air. (You might think of Buffy Season 8, a comic book series, as the non-fanfic version of a virtual season.)

  • Whump is fic where a character is, well, whomped on: tormented for no reason other than it’s fun for an author to write them being tormented. In some fandoms, certain characters get beat up more than others (and this often goes hand-in-hand with hurt/comfort).

  • Metatextuality means stories that make reference to other stories. All fanfic is metatextual, but some stories are explicitly playing with intertextuality, embedding references or commenting on themselves or the source material in a deliberate way. BBC Sherlock is a good example of a metatextuality—rather than a simple Holmesian adaptation, much of it comments on the history of Holmesian adaptations.

  • Woobification happens when one character in a fic is characterized as a “woobie”—a helpless, weak person who everyone else must love and protect. Usually the woobified character isn’t a woobie at all in the source text, which causes frustration amongst some fans.

  • Imagines are fic-like texts that ask you to imagine a situation—for example, that you’re Harry Styles’ cousin and he introduces you to Liam Payne backstage at One Direction’s final show. It’s arguable whether or not these are fics, but they’re extremely popular, especially on Wattpad and Tumblr.

  • Epistolary fic takes the form of letters between characters, and isn’t a fandom-specific term (see: your high school English class).

  • Casefic features the characters solving a mystery or criminal case. It’s especially in use in fandoms like NCIS, CSI, Supernatural, Elementary, Sherlock, and The X-Files, where characters are police, detectives, or FBI agents.

  • Anthropomorfic anthropomorphizes an inanimate object—for instance, Hagrid’s umbrella—and tells the story from its perspective.

What types of alternate universe are most loved?

A bar chart showing, in descending order, the most-loved types of AUs: canon-divergent AU, present-day AU, fairytale/folklore/mythology AU, magical AU, college AU, spy/secret agent/assassin/hitman AU, historical AU, non-coffeeshop retail & servi…

Canon-divergent alternate universes, closely based on the original story, are pretty much universally beloved. But lots of other types of AU make out well, too. After all, who doesn’t want to imagine what it would be like if the Supernatural boys went to Hogwarts, or if the crew of the USS Enterprise were in college together? (OK, a lot of people. But a lot of people do!)

Certain critics (ahem, Devin Faraci) believe that coffeeshop AUs are the hallmark of fanfic. The truth is, they come in #10 most loved among alternate universe—and #53 most loved among all the tropes and themes we asked about. That means they’re not even in the top third of fanfic tropes and themes!

What types of alternate universe are most hated?

A bar chart showing the most disliked AUs, in descending order: zombies, omegaverse, band/pop group, rentboy/prostitute/escort, sports, hollywood/pornstar/reality TV/modeling, Pacific Rim fusion, high school, AU hopping, apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic.

The omegaverse has its strong proponents (after all, it did make the “most controversial” list), but the only type of AU that readers dislike more is the sort where everyone’s living in a Walking Dead-style zombie wasteland. (To give some context for this bar graph, out of the 144 tropes and themes we asked about, zombie AU is #14 most disliked; omegaverse is #17; apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic AU is #51, escaping the bottom third.)

What do readers think of different fanfic tones?

A bar chart showing that fans say “Yay” to different fanfic tones in descending order: fluff, angst, PWP, crack, darkfic.

Fans prefer fluff to other types of fic. But angst (dramatic stories where characters have a wide range of emotions, including…angsty ones) comes in a close second. PWP stands for “plot, what plot?” or “porn without plot,” and only comes in third, belying the idea that fans are only interested in porn. (Note that both fluff and angst often contain sex scenes: fandom prefers the term “smut,” and it’s very popular across fandom. PWP is specifically porn: we don’t spend much time getting to the action.)

There’s a big drop-off between PWP and the final two fic tones. Crack is wilfully silly fanfic, stories that are intentionally ridiculous. (Parody and crack, similar types of story, both received many “Meh” votes.) But the least liked tone by far was darkfic—stories where everyone is miserable and there’s nothing redeeming in the world. Not too surprising when you think about how many fanfiction readers say they enjoy fic as an escape from their everyday lives.

Is there anything broader to learn from this data?

Well, if you want to write a fanfic that will appeal to the broadest possible swath of readers, sure. (To fully maximize readership, it should probably be Destiel—Dean and Castiel from Supernatural—by the way.) But the patterns that emerge are also striking.

Fanfiction readers are enthusiastic.

More than half of the 1,095,188 votes cast were “yay”:

A pie chart showing that 52% of votes were “Yay,” 25% “Meh,” 18% “Nay” and 4% “IDK.”

This chart includes all votes cast for every trope.

Respondents figured this out even as they were taking the survey! A lot of people commented about the fact that they voted “yay” very frequently. For example, one respondent wrote:

There were a lot of times where i was like “i don’t usually like this but there was that ONE FIC” so i mostly just assumed they were amazing written…and then put yay for everything.

Many others responded in the same vein—but added that they’d read absolutely any trope or theme if and only if it were about their favorite ship. For these respondents, the familiarity of the beloved pairing makes it easier to try new, unusual, or controversial things.

Even though fandom loves happy endings, that doesn’t make fanfic conflict-free.

In some circles, it’s received wisdom that fanfic is all about happy endings—that fanfic readers and writers don’t want to read about anything too heavy or dramatic, preferring happiness and light. To some extent, that’s true: one of the most-hated themes in fanfic is major character death, which usually prevents a happily-ever-after, and stories about negative events and situations (like rape, incest, eating disorders, and bullying) are also widely noped-out-of. By comparison, fluff is the most-liked tone for fanfic, and everyone loves a good friends-to-lovers story.

Cherry-picking those numbers doesn’t tell the whole story, though. Remember, there’s four basic types of narrative conflict: person against person, person against society, person against nature, or person against self. With that in mind, let’s take another look at the top 10 most liked tropes and themes—because while a few of them don’t require conflict, most of them absolutely do:

The same bar chart as earlier, showing the most “Yay”ed tropes, with ones not requiring conflict greyed out: friends-to-lovers, canon-divergence, fluff. This leaves slow burn, rescue missions, bed sharing, teamwork, hurt/comfort, huddling for warmth…

You can’t have slow burn or mutual pining without some conflict keeping the lovers apart—usually it’s either the constraints of society and/or circumstances or their own stubbornness that prevents them from readily admitting their love.

Bed sharing and huddling for warmth usually occur in this context, too: characters can’t admit their love for each other, but the physical closeness resulting from the situation creates delicious tension. Even if the characters are in an established relationship, the tropes imply that there’s scarcity—if you’re huddling for warmth, it’s because you’re stuck somewhere really cold in the middle of winter. That sounds like a person vs. nature conflict to me, and indeed that’s how it plays out in many fics, whether Mulder and Scully are stranded in Antarctica or whether Captain America and Bucky Barnes are caught in a Brooklyn blizzard-of-the-decade.

Teamwork can’t happen if the team doesn’t have a goal, whether that’s to defeat a supervillain or to catch a burglar or to raise a barn. The stakes might be different in each of these cases, but they’re all clear conflicts, where character have to struggle together to overcome an obstacle. And of course, hurt/comfort as a trope requires conflict at some stage, even if it happens off screen. While some stories feature innocuous hurts (Yamaguchi breaks his leg falling off a ladder, and it’s nobody’s fault), most of them are much more complex: Zayn loses his voice while One Direction are on tour, and in addition to needing comfort, they have to deal with canceling tour dates and the anger of their label; Remus gets seriously hurt in werewolf form and must be nursed back to health by Sirius, while dealing with his feelings about lycanthropy. Often these conflicts are directly drawn from the original stories, which leads us to the next observation…

Fanfic is interesting because it’s intertextual.

Reading this list of tropes, one might be tempted to think of fanfic as just another form of genre fiction. Romance novels with proportionally more queer people, maybe. In this formulation, works of fanfic are discrete works of art, easy to separate from their context, massage a little, and release into the world as Fifty Shades of Grey or After.

But this idea doesn’t tell the whole story. Canon-divergent alternate universes (#2 most-liked). Fix-it fic (#12). Missing scenes (#14). Minor character focus (#32). Point of view shift (#34). What do these have in common? They all fall in the top quarter of most-liked tropes and themes—and all of them are absolutely intertextual, requiring the reader to understand the original story before they can fully appreciate the fanfic. And even when fanfic doesn’t demand a knowledge of canon to be appreciated, it can be intertextual with other works of fanfic (as pointed out by the Fanlore entry for fix-it fic).

It would be easy to say that “works like this will never break out of the fanfiction community and be seen by larger audiences,” because they can’t easily be subsumed into the for-profit world of professional fiction: they’re too connected to the fanfiction community and to the copyrighted works on which they’re based. But that’s not true, either. These stories can be widely appreciated. Think about Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, a fanfic so famous that it was reviewed in the Washington Post and its author was profiled in VICE magazine. For all its problems (and it has many, and we won’t enumerate them here—that’s another article) it’s a perfect example of a story that lives and dies on its intertextuality, not on its ability to have its serial numbers rubbed off and to be transformed into a middling work of YA romance.

But what about the total dataset? I still have so many questions!

We’ve released all our (anonymous) data! You can see the full question list, and the almost-full results (except written-in answers — we’re still thinking about how to release those). If you want to know about a specific trope or theme, you’re in luck: just sort the spreadsheet of results however you like, and you’ll be able to get your answers. Whatever you find out, please share it with us! We’d like to see what other people are thinking. And look for more on this topic in the next episode of our podcast, and on our Tumblr!


Elizabeth Minkel is one half of Fansplaining. She’s written about fan culture for the New Statesman, The Guardian, The New Yorker, The Millions, The Verge, and more. She co-curates “The Rec Center,” a weekly fandom newsletter, with fellow journalist Gavia Baker-Whitelaw.

A headshot of Flourish Klink.

Flourish Klink is one half of Fansplaining. They are Chief Research Officer at Chaotic Good Studios.

Elizabeth Minkel and Flourish Klink


© by WhatsBroadcast

Maybe the worst part about finishing a good book is that you have to say goodbye to a series of characters that you'd like to carry around in your head and heart for the rest of all time.

Thankfully there's an entire world of possibilities out there in which your OTP a) get the happy ending they deserve, b) save the entire world from alien invasion, or c) take early retirement and become first-time puppy parents. 

Let's get checking out if a bunch of grown adults pass a GCSE exam... 

Of course, we are talking about fanfiction - and while we completely respect an original plot, there's just something about the comfort of the following eight tropes that hits us in the heart each and every time.

Enemies to lovers

Is there anything better than a slowburn in which two polar opposite characters are thrown together in pursuit of a common cause, and soon discover that they have a shared sense of humour and an identical moral code? Bonus points if those characters also happen to be figureheads for feuding companies/families/countries. 

Oh yeah, Shakespeare was definitely onto something with that Romeo and Juliet thing. 


The world of fanfiction would be a dull place indeed were it not for the multiple re-imaginings of fictional characters and band members as future monarchs. Let's face it, there's just something about sticking a protagonist in the middle of a backstabbing court and watching the way they rule an empire that has us hooked.

A misunderstood character

It's probably the most popular trope on AO3, and the reasons are pretty self-explanatory. Why would you dedicate an entire month of your life reading a 400,000 word fanfic if you *don't* get a delicious serving of A+ character development along the way? 

Done properly, we'd ideally hate this bitchy character for the first 30% of the story and then spend the remainder of time insisting that they are the most honourable, sexy, and complicated person in the entire plot. Swoon. 

Sharing a bed

Look, if you're searching for a oneshot that won't take up too much of your time, isn't packed full of smut, and is the perfect setting for some of that sexual tension to simmer innocently away - then the shared bed trope is definitely one for you. 

Batshit crazy plots 

Nobody wants to witness the tired old formula of pulling a character out of their fictional universe only to place them in the boring world of work, taxes, and making monthly rent payments.

What we really want to see is how our OTP interact with each other while spinning around in a black hole with no possible means of survival and only one oxygen cyclinder between them. 

Cross-fandom characters

Only in the world of Wattpad can Hermione Granger be plucked straight out of J.K. Rowling's brain and thrown into a romantic subplot between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in 19th century London. That's right, folks: no rules apply. 

Temporary amnesia

Oh God. We know it's an absolute cliché but is there anything better than watching two characters learn to like and trust each other again after one of them falls off a horse and conveniently forgets their entire friendship? It's a goddamned stroke of genius. 

The coffeeshop plot

Still majorly pissed off that the two people who were clearly meant to be together were never canonically acknowledged? Just flick your magic wand, cast the sassy one as a coffeeshop barista and the serious one as a regular customer and watch sparks fly. Capeesh? 

Cheers to that xoxo

  1. Pitch episode 1 soundtrack
  2. Alpaca brush
  3. Odot blue sheets

What am I doing with my life?

Megalist of Tropes and Themes to Tag Your Story With


If you’re prone to staring at your tags on AO3 wondering “what the hell do I put here?”, knowing you want to add a tag like “friends to lovers” or “found family” but not remembering all the popular tropes and themes everyone is into, this is for you. I basically spent an entire night on this so I hope it helps.


  • I tried to keep it general and avoid really obscure tags no one would ever use.
  • This is made for AO3 and thus there’s a lot of fandom or fannish stuff in here. 
  • I didn’t include any “inappropriate” tags. Feel free to make your own list.
  • Romance tropes and themes at the bottom. (Not all of them have to be romantic, but if they’re generally associated with romance and there are very few gen fics with that tag, it went there.)

Under cut because I’m probably going to edit this often and I’d like reblogs to be up to date. Please suggest any ideas you have.

  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Apocalypse/Post-Apocalypse, Contemporary, Comedy/Humor/Parody/Satire, Coming of Age, Crime, Cyberpunk/Steampunk, Drama, Dystopian/Utopia, Fairy Tale, Fantasy/High Fantasy/Low Fantasy/Urban Fantasy/Isekai, Family, Friendship, Gothic, Historical Fiction/Alternate History/Period Piece, Horror/Slasher, Mystery/Murder Mystery, Paranormal, Philosophical, Poetry, Romance, Slice of Life, Supernatural, Surreal, Suspense, Sci-Fi/Science Fiction/Space Opera, Spiritual, Thriller/Psychological Thriller, Tragedy, Urban, Western
  • Genre (Fandom): Angst/Light Angst, Case Fic, Crack Fic, Crossover/Fusion, Dark Fic, Fix Fic/Fix-It/Deconstruction, Fluff/Tooth-Rotting Fluff, Hurt/Comfort, Kid Fic, Podfic, Missing Scene/Gap Filler, Self-Insert, Shipping, Sickfic, Songfic, Whump
  • Length: Drabble, Ficlet, Flash Fiction, Short Story, Novella, Novel, Epic, One-Shot/Two-Shot/etc, Series/Duology/Trilogy/Saga/etc, Long, Short
  • Pairing: M/F - F/M - M/M - F/F - F/F/M - You get the idea. Also [Character] x [Character], Slash, Yaoi/Yuri (if people still use those…)
  • POV: POV Alternating, POV Multiple, POV First Person, POV Second Person, POV Third Person, POV Outsider
  • Ending: Happy Ending, Sad Ending, Bittersweet Ending, Ambiguous Ending
  • Diverse Characters: Gay Character/Nonbinary Character/Asian Character/Disabled Character/Autistic Character/Jewish Character/etc.
  • AU/Alternate Universe: (I do not have the time to list out Coffee Shop AU/High School AU/Canon Divergence/What-If/etc, I assume if you’re writing one then you already know to tag it lol)
  • Abuse
  • Adoption
  • Afterlife
  • Aftermath
  • Aged Up
  • Alcohol
  • Aliens
  • Amnesia
  • Androids
  • Angels
  • Animal Transformation
  • Anti-Hero
  • Awkwardness
  • Babysitting
  • Backstory/Origin Story
  • Band of Misfits
  • Best Friends
  • Betrayal
  • Blood
  • Bodyswap
  • Bodyguard
  • Bonding
  • Bounty Hunters
  • Bromance
  • Bullying
  • Canon Compliant
  • Character Development
  • Character Study
  • Childhood Friends
  • Children
  • Chosen One
  • College/University/Higher Education
  • Corruption
  • Criminals
  • Crying
  • Curses
  • Cute
  • Death
  • Delinquents
  • Demons
  • Depression
  • Destiny/Fate
  • Disability
  • Domestic/Curtainfic
  • Dragons
  • Dreams/Dreamscape
  • Drugs
  • Education
  • Ensemble Cast
  • Epilogue
  • Fanon/Headcanon
  • Father Figure/Mother Figure
  • Feelings
  • Feels
  • Fights
  • Flashbacks
  • Forgiveness
  • Found Family
  • Freedom Fighters
  • Frenemies
  • Future
  • Genderswap/Gender Change
  • Ghosts
  • Gods
  • Good Versus Evil
  • Gore
  • Grief/Mourning
  • Growing Up
  • Healing
  • Heartwarming
  • Heroes to Villains/Villains to Heroes
  • Holidays
  • Homesickness
  • Hospital
  • Hurt
  • I Wrote This Instead of Sleeping (A very legitimate tag.)
  • Imprisonment
  • Injury
  • Introspection
  • Illness/Sick Character
  • Immortality
  • Isolation
  • Jealousy
  • Kidnapping
  • LGBTQ/LGBTQ Character/LGBTQ Themes
  • Light-Hearted
  • Locked In
  • Loss
  • Love
  • Mafia
  • Magic
  • Magical Girl(s)
  • Major Character Death/Minor Character Death
  • Manipulation
  • Medieval
  • Medical
  • Melancholy
  • Mental Health Issues
  • Mentors
  • Merpeople
  • Mind Control
  • Military
  • Misunderstandings
  • Modern
  • Monsters
  • Morally Grey/Ambiguous Characters
  • Murder
  • Mythical Beings & Creatures
  • Mythology
  • Neighbors
  • Next Gen/Next Generation
  • Nightmares
  • Original Character/OC/OCs
  • Orphans/Orphanage
  • Out of Character/OOC
  • Parenthood
  • Past Lives
  • Peggy Sue
  • Pen Pals
  • Pirates
  • Platonic Relationships/No Romance
  • Platonic Soulmates
  • Plot Twists
  • Politics
  • Possession
  • Post-Canon/Pre-Canon/Mid-Canon/Bad Ending/etc.
  • Prompt Fill/Prompt Fic
  • Protectiveness
  • Rags to Riches
  • Rebels
  • Recovery
  • Redemption/Redemption Arc
  • Regret
  • Reincarnation/Resurrection/Rebirth
  • Rejection
  • Relationships
  • Religion
  • Rescue/Rescue Missions
  • Restaurants
  • Reunion
  • Revenge
  • Revolution
  • Rivalry
  • Road Trip
  • Robots
  • Roommates
  • Royalty
  • Sad
  • School
  • Secrets
  • Secret Identity
  • Self-Discovery
  • Self-Harm
  • Shapeshifting
  • Siblings
  • Single Parents
  • Slow Build
  • Soft
  • Spies
  • Spoilers
  • Substance Abuse
  • Suicide
  • Superheroes
  • Sweet
  • Sympathetic Villain
  • Teamwork
  • Team as Family
  • Team Bonding
  • Team Dynamics
  • Teenagers
  • Tension
  • Time Loop
  • Time Travel
  • Training
  • Trapped
  • Trauma
  • Travel
  • Undercover
  • Unreliable Narrator
  • Vampires
  • Villains
  • Violence
  • War
  • Weapons
  • Wedding
  • Wilderness
  • Witchcraft
  • Worldbuilding
  • xxx to Friends (Rivals to Friends/Enemies to Friends/etc.)
  • Zombies


  • Battle Couple
  • Blind Date
  • Breakup
  • Confessions
  • Dating
  • Divorce
  • Dorks in Love
  • Drunken Confessions
  • Established Relationship
  • Eventual Romance
  • Falling in Love
  • Fake Relationship/Fake Dating/Pretend Relationship/Pretend Couple
  • First Kiss
  • First Love
  • Forbidden Love
  • Heartbreak
  • Idiots in Love
  • Long-Distance Relationship
  • Long-Term Relationship
  • Love/Hate
  • Love at First Sight
  • Love Confessions
  • Love Potion/Love Spell
  • Love Triangle
  • Marriage/Accidental Marriage/Arranged Marriage/Marriage of Convenience
  • Marriage Proposal
  • Mutual Pining/Pining
  • OTP
  • Pregnancy
  • Rarepair
  • Secret Relationship
  • Sharing a Bed
  • Slow Burn/Slow Romance
  • Soulmate/Soulmate AU
  • Tsundere/all of the other -deres
  • Unrequited Love/One-Sided Attraction
  • xxx to Lovers (Enemies to Lovers/Friends to Lovers/etc.)
my mom ranks fanfiction tropes😨

Fanfic Tropes


Go To

This is an index page for Tropes which are typical of Fanfics. Given that fanfiction probably was born only a few minutes after the creation of the first (really good) original story, these are likely among some of the oldest tropes in existence. In addition most of the Tropes in original fiction can also appear in fanfiction.


  • Acceptable Breaks from Canon: Deviations from official continuity that fans will generally accept in fanworks.
  • Accusation Fic: A fan-fiction where an episode is rewritten so that the character the author blamed gets the worst of it.
  • After-Action Report: A type of fan-fiction for strategy games that involves a blow-by-blow description of a campaign.
  • Aliens Made Them Do It: Aliens force the characters to have sex.
  • Alternate Universe Fic: A fanfic which deviates from canon.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: A character's personality and motives are viewed differently from how they are normally seen.
  • Ascended Fan Fic: A published work that started out as a fan written story.
  • Backstory: A story that occurred before the main narrative.
  • Beige Prose: Very plain writing with little, if anything, in the way of description.
  • Betrayal Fic: A fan-fiction where the main character is betrayed by their loved ones, usually resulting in a swift change of alliances and demeanor.
  • Better Than Canon: Fans prefer Fanon to what is canon.
  • "Burly Detective" Syndrome: Overuse of epithets in place of the characters' names.
  • Canon Defilement: Fanfics tend to include whatever the author wants it to, but this is an Audience Reaction for when the artistic license goes a little too far.
  • Characterization Tags
  • Coffee Shop A.U. Fic: A fan-fiction set at a coffee shop, usually in a romantic context.
  • Common Crossover: When two works have a tendency to be crossed over in fan-fiction.
  • Completed Fic: A fic which has been completed.
  • Continuation: Continuing the story.
  • Conveniently Common Kink: Two characters (who are usually partners) share a rare fetish.
  • Costume Porn: Elaborate descriptions of what characters are wearing.
  • Crack Fic: Bizarre fan-fiction.
  • Crossover: A fanfic which includes characters from two or more different works.
  • Curtain Fic: A fan-fiction that has a domestic chore as the plot.
  • Dark Fic: A fan fiction that is much darker than the work it is based on.
  • A Day in the Limelight: A minor character is given focus for the current episode.
  • Dead Fic: A fic which has not been completed and probably never will be.
  • Death Fic: A fan fiction about a character dying.
  • Deconstruction Crossover: Works which involve crossovers from multiple fictional universes in order to deconstruct those fictional universes.
  • Deconstruction Fic: Deconstruction through fan-fiction.
  • Don't Like? Don't Read!: A warning that people who don't like certain topics, pairings and so on shouldn't read the fic.
  • Doppelgänger Crossover: Fanfiction crossing over two works featuring the same actor in different roles.
  • Drabble: A very short fic, usually said to be around 100 words.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: A villainous character is portrayed in a more sympathetic light.
  • Dramatic Reading: A recording of a written work being read dramatically.
  • Elsewhere Fic: A fanfic which focuses on Original Characters rather than the canon cast.
  • Exotic Equipment: A non-human character's sex organs have features which human sex organs don't have.
  • External Retcon: A work based on a historical or fictional event that claims to be telling the "real" story.
  • Fan-Created Offspring: An OC who is descended from one or more canon characters.
  • Fandom-Specific Plot: For some reason, fan fiction loves using those particular plots.
  • Fanfic Fuel: Unexplained details in a work that tend to inspire fan fiction.
  • Fanfic Magnet: A minor character inspires a ton of fanwork.
  • Fan Verse: A fanfiction writer does several fics for the same fandom taking place in the same continuity as each other.
  • Fan Wank: A fan theory designed to explain plot holes.
  • Fanwork Ban: A creator bans fanfiction and/or fanart based on their works.
  • Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue: Dialogue with no indication of what the characters are doing besides talking to each other. Often has few (if any) dialogue tags.
  • Film Fic: A fan fiction that retells the events of a movie with characters from a different work playing the roles of the characters in the original film.
  • Fix Fic: A fic that retells the story, but with aspects of canon that the author dislikes changed or removed.
  • "Five Things" Fic: A fan-fiction involving six (or more) similar scenarios, where the final scenario deviates from the others.
  • Flash Forward Fic: A fan-fiction that takes place a significant amount of time after the canon.
  • The Four Loves: Different forms of love that can be used in fanfiction.
  • Fuku Fic: A crossover fic between Ranma ½ and Sailor Moon.
  • Fusion Fic: A Crossover where the characters in Work A replace the characters in Work B.
  • Gender Flip: A character who is male in canon is rewritten as a female, or vice versa.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: A fic contains random bits of Japanese.
  • Groundhog Peggy Sue: A character is forced to live some past event over and over.
  • Hanahaki Disease: A terminal disease where someone vomits flowers because of unrequited love.
  • Hate Fic: The opposite of a fan fiction, where the story is written by someone who hates the original work for the purpose of making every character in the work suffer.
  • Het: Romance between characters of opposite genders.
  • Het Is Ew: Boys kissing girls? Disgusting!
  • High School A.U.: An AU fanfic in which the characters are high school students.
  • Hurt/Comfort Fic: A character who has been hurt, physically or emotionally, is comforted by another character.
  • Hypothetical Casting: Someone involved in a fictional project makes a list of actors who would best represent a cast of fictional characters.
  • I Do Not Own: Putting a disclaimer on fan works saying that you don't own the original work, characters, etc.
  • IKEA Erotica: Sex scenes written as "Insert tab A into slot B".
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: A crossover between two works that are not set in the same universe.
  • Interpretative Character: As long as they keep a few defining traits, a character can be adapted in many different ways.
  • Intimate Psychotherapy: Sex cures psychological problems.
  • Jargon Debate: The dilemma of exactly how much jargon to put into a fic.
  • Kid Fic: A fan-fiction where characters start a family.
  • Kink Meme: A fanfic featuring a pairing and a kink.
  • "Let's Watch Our Show" Plot: The characters riff and react to episodes of the source material, usually with their comments spliced into a transcript of said work.
  • Magical Girl A.U.: Rewriting the characters as Magical Girls.
  • Marriage of Convenience: The couple have been thrown together into a marriage or partnership, bringing them together and immediately into a romantic environment.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: A crossover between more than two works (often many works).
  • Mate or Die: A character needs to procreate/have sex, or they will die.
  • Meta Fic: Self-referential fanfiction with No Fourth Wall.
  • Mindlink Mates: Lovers are so close they can literally read each other's thoughts.
  • Mister Seahorse (MPreg): A male character gets pregnant.
  • Modern A.U. Fic: Fics set in a contemporary (and often mundane) setting.
  • Most Fanfic Writers Are Fans: Most of the time, if an author creates a fanfiction for a work, it's because they really, truly are fans of it. Thus, they are very knowledgeable about the original work's plot and setting.
  • Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls: If a work brings up fanfiction, it'll most likely fall into the romance genre, and the author(s) will be a girl.
  • MST: A riffing of another fic, which takes the form of snarky comments inserted into the original text.
  • Murderers Are Rapists: A criminal rapes their victim before killing them.
  • No Punctuation Period: A fanfiction with no punctuation.
  • Obligatory Swearing: A fanfiction that features profanity to be more adult.
  • Obvious Crossover Method: A story has an obvious method through which crossovers can occur.
  • O.C. Stand-in: A character who gets little to no development in canon is fleshed out in fanfiction.
  • Oh, Crap, There Are Fanfics of Us!: Characters react to the fanbase's work.
  • Old Shame: A old work which the creator has come to dislike.
  • Original Character (OC): A character created for a fanwork who does not appear in canon.
  • Original Flavour: It aims to hew as close to the style and tone of the original work as possible.
  • Original Generation: A crossover between lots of different works, with a new character as the main protagonist.
  • Outdated by Canon: Fan fiction that doesn't age well due to having ideas that are rendered obsolete by what eventually becomes canon.
  • Out of Character (OOC): A character behaves in a way which is inconsistent with how they are portrayed in canon.
  • Patchwork Fic: A fan fiction based on a specific franchise that uses elements from multiple continuities.
  • Patchwork Kids: A fic with Fan-Created Offspring that have the combined physical features of their parents.
  • Peggy Sue: Character finds themselves back in time with the chance to change history.
  • Period Fic: A fanfic in which the characters are transplanted to a different historical period from canon.
  • Plot Bunny: A story idea that gnaws at your brain until you write it.
  • Porn Without Plot: A fic which is entirely focused on sex and has little, if anything, in the way of plot.
  • Prompt Fic: Fic, or collection of fics, written in response to a list of words and/or phrases designed to act as inspiration for aspiring writers.
  • Pseudocanonical Fic: A fan fiction that is written in a way that it theoretically could be considered canon to the work it is derived from.
  • Purple Prose: The use of over-elaborate language.
  • Rage Fic: A fic that is made solely to make fun of a character and the fandom in general.
  • Rape as Backstory: The explanation for a character's current state is that they were raped in the past.
  • Rational Fic: A fan fiction that has the characters think more rationally than they did in the source material.
  • Real-Person Fic: A fanfic featuring real people.
  • Recurring Fanon Character: An Original Character becomes so popular within the fanbase as to be widely used in fanworks by people other than their creator.
  • Recursive Fanfiction: A fanfic based on a fanfic.
  • Redemption Equals Sex: A good guy redeems a bad guy (usually the good one is female and the bad one is male but sometimes not) and then sleeps with them.
  • Related Differently in the Adaptation: Some fics change up how characters are related to each other.
  • Revenge Fic: A fan fiction written solely to make a disliked character suffer.
  • Role Swap AU: A retelling of an existing work where two or more characters have swapped roles.
  • Ron the Death Eater: The fic portrays a nice character as being a worse person than they are in canon.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: A spelling mistake results in a whole different word.
  • Round Robin: A collaborative fic written by a group of authors whom take turns writing a chapter or section.
  • Rule 34: Sexually explicit fan works.
  • Rule 50: Crossovers are inevitable for every franchise.
  • Rule 63: A fic that uses Gender Flipped versions of the characters.
  • Sailor Earth: An OC that is created to fit in with the group of canon characters.
  • Self-Insert Fic: The author inserts himself or herself into the fic.
  • Series Fic: A series of fanfics.
  • Slash Fic: Two characters of the same gender are paired up romantically regardless of their sexuality in canon.
  • Soulmate A.U. Fic: A fan-fiction that involves soulmates meeting each other.
  • The Stations of the Canon: A fanfic revisits a series of iconic canon events.
  • Sudden Game Interface: Character's life is turned into a RPG-Mechanics Verse and they have become a Fourth-Wall Observer.
  • Super Fic: The characters are re-imagined as superheroes.
  • The Theorem of Narrow Interests: By narrowing your fanfiction search to certain interests, the harder it will be to find one that's good.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Two people who are not together must share a bed as there is only one available.
  • Transplanted Character Fic: Taking famous characters, altering their roles, and using them in an original story.
  • Troll Fic: Fanfiction designed to be deliberately offensive.
  • Ukefication: Taking a character that's canonically tough and weakening them to the point of a featherweight in the name of slash fic.
  • Universal-Adaptor Cast: Putting famous characters in an alternate setting while still having them play themselves.
  • Vegas Crossover: Two or more characters from different sources getting married while drunk in Las Vegas.
  • Virtual Soundtrack: Song cues embedded in a fanfic simulate a real soundtrack.
  • W.A.F.F. (Warm And Fuzzy Feeling): A fan-fiction designed to be cute.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: The misuse of punctuation marks.
  • Web Serial Novel
  • Xenafication: Taking a character that's a Non-Action Guy (often The Chick) and leveling them up.

Alternative Title(s):Fanfic Trope, Fanfiction Tropes


List fanfic tropes


popular fanfiction tropes


You will also be interested:


521 522 523 524 525