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17 Common Fanfiction Tropes We All Know & Love (Mostly)

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  • Post last modified:July 11, 2022
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When you just can’t get enough of your favorite work of fiction (be it on the page or on the screen) you can almost always turn to fanfiction to scratch that itch for more content surrounding a set of characters.

Look ahead for the 17 most common fanfiction tropes. (I’ll try not to make it too obvious which ones are my favorites.)

Body Swap

Body swap fanfiction focuses on two characters switching bodies. That’s it. That’s the trope. Themes of consent may be explored within these fics.

There Is Only One Bed

The good ole ‘There Is Only One Bed’ trope is used in fiction and fanfiction alike. Has this ever happened in real life? Maybe. But you best believe within the realm of fiction there is a major bed shortage.

Somebody order some beds fast, we’re begging you. Or don’t, because this trope is funny and can get steamy fast. No matter how many times and pairings you experience this trope with, it’s still a fun situation to place characters in.

Mutual Unrequited Pining

The mutual unrequited pining trope focuses on a ship who are both in love with the other but doesn’t think the other loves them. There’s pining and sorrow and longing and then eventually (hopefully) it concludes with them realizing the other loves them too.

Often times longer mutual unrequited pining are also slow burn fics.

Fake Dating and Marriage of Convenience

I lumped these two together because they are fairly simple in structure with one key difference. Fake dating is when two characters agree to pretend to be a thing due to an extenuating circumstance. It places them in situations where they have to act like a couple and the reader gets to see how this affects them. Marriage of convenience level sup this trope with the characters deciding they must marry due to whatever situation they find themselves in. The fics almost always wrap up with the characters realizing they are in love with each other and they actually want to date for real or they don’t want to divorce.

Arranged Marriage

Arranged marriage place the characters in a situation where they have to get married due to some requirement. They often are enemies with hella sexual tension or friends with clear feelings for one another. The arranged marriage puts them in a variety of situations where they have to behave like a married couple might, including living together.

Fluff

Fluff fiction is just that—fluffy. These fics don’t have a ton of angst and they put the characters in situations where they are sweet to one another or in bizarre situations meant to be comedic in nature. The characters may act a bit silly in these fics.

Hurt/Comfort

Hurt/comfort fanfiction places a pairing in a situation where one is hurt and the other provides comfort.

Friends to Lovers

Just as it sounds and identical to the often-used trope in fiction, fanfiction using the friends to lovers trope follows characters as they grow from ‘just friends’ to definitely more.

Slow Burn

Slow burns hurt so good (or just plain hurt if they aren’t your thing). Slow burn fanfictions are when a pairing or ship is so very slowly falling in love. These fics tend to be on the 20+ chapters end of things and may result in being longer than a typical novel.

Babyfic, Kidfic, Next-Gen

Babyfics are here to satisfy all those who want a happy ending, baby carriage most certainly included, for their fave characters. These fics either center around the characters’ children or a child that the characters have found. It focuses on them raising the child together. Some start out as pregnancy fics and follow the entire journey.

There’s also a subset of kidfic that explores the main cast being de-aged into children.

Pregnancy

This is a fairly self-explanatory fanfiction trope. It focuses on one of the characters becoming pregnant either accidentally or on purpose during an established relationship. It then follows the process of the pregnancy as the characters have to deal with related topics around preparing the baby and handling pregnancy symptoms. These sometimes evolve into babyfics.

Rescue Missions

Rescue mission fanfictions are just as they sound—fanfictions in which the characters must go rescue one of their group, usually with a pairing being separated in the process.

Coffeeshop AU

Let’s jump into our AU fanfiction tropes with the notorious coffeeshop AU. I’m not sure what the fascination with coffeeshops and placing characters there is but this is an incredibly popular AU fanfiction trope. The characters from the fandom are placed in a coffeeshop setting, usually with one of the characters being a barista.

High School AU

For those who want to return to their high school years or are in their high school years and want to relate more closely to their favorite characters, high school AU is the right fit. It takes the main cast and shoves them into a high school alternate reality for better or for worse.

College AU

Like high school AUs, college AUs simply take the characters and place them in a college setting.

Band AU

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, band AUs seem to stick in every fandom. Perhaps it’s because of writer’s inclination to be inspired by music or perhaps it’s from an age demographic that may be especially enticed by members of bands a la One Direction or BTS. Band AUs focus on the characters being in a band and the situations that unravel due to it. The love interests may be in the band together but are often represented as a fan and a band member or something of the like.

Modern AU

Modern AUs are just as they sound, they are fanfictions that yank the characters out of their setting and time period and plop them down in our modern world. These fics will pop up pretty much anywhere but within a fandom already set in a modern setting.

Canon-Divergent AU

Canon-divergent AUs are set in the same setting as the canon one but the plot does not adhere to the canon. These can be fun reads when the author of the series goes off the rails and the fandom are unhappy with the way the characters develop. Sometimes canon-divergent AUs will also be fix-it fics.

FAQs

What is a trope in fanfiction?

A trope in fanfiction is the same idea as tropes seen in fiction. They are settings and situation setups that are repeated consistently throughout a fandom. These are devices or conventions that writers can select that will often be well-received and familiar to fanfiction readers. If you’re familiar with fanfiction, you likely know about Coffeeshop AUs which can be found in (possibly) every fandom in existence. If you like Coffeeshop AUs and you see it tagged as such then you know what to expect and you know you may like the story. If you don’t, then you can carry on to fanfiction with a trope you prefer.

What is fluff fanfiction?

Fluff fanfiction is fanfiction that doesn’t have angst in the plot. You don’t need to worry about the characters getting to upset or any serious plot going down. Fluff fanfiction is like a warm hug and a cup of your favorite warm beverage, cozy and stress free.

What does AU mean in fanfiction?

AU in fanfiction stands for alternate reality. It indicates the fanfiction takes place outside the canon of the story and is in an alternate world. For example, in a fandom that takes place within a fantasy world an AU fanfiction could be set in our world, present day.

What qualifies as a rare pair?

A rare pair in fanfiction focuses on a pairing or ship that you don’t see often represented in fanfiction. It is the smallest percentage of fanfiction and it might be the first fanfiction that introduces that pairing.

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