F/F Romance Novel Glossary

f/f romance

If you’ve been part of a community for a while, it’s easy to forget that you’re using special terms, abbreviations, and acronyms that not everyone is familiar with. I’ve recently been reminded of that when a reader asked me what a “toaster oven” romance is, and another wanted to know what WLW stands for.

So I put together this handy glossary of f/f romance terms that you might find helpful.

 

  • Ace: Short for asexual (or on the asexual spectrum). A person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction.
  • Ace-spec: Asexual spectrum. The person might be asexual, demisexual, or graysexual.
  • Altfic: A story that features a romantic and/or sexual relationship between women. Mostly used in Xena fanfiction.
  • Angst: In an angsty book, the main characters are put through the wringer emotionally. They might be dealing with painful issues, and if it’s a romance, it might be a tumultuous relationship with a lot of back-and-forth and heartache, but still have a happy end.
  • AO3: Archive of Our Own. The largest fanfiction archive on the Internet.
  • AOC: Author of color.
  • ARC: Advanced review copy (also: advanced reader copy). A copy of a book that is given to reviewers before publication so they can post the review as soon as the book is out.
  • Aro: short for aromantic, a person who doesn’t experience romantic attraction.
  • Aroace (or aro/ace): A person who’s asexual and aromantic (or on the aromantic and asexual spectrums).
  • Aro-spec: Aromantic spectrum. The person might be aromantic, demiromantic, or grayromantic.
  • AU: Alternative universe. Mostly a fanfiction term for stories that are set in a different setting than the original work.
  • Auto-buy: An author whose book you buy without reading the reviews or an excerpt because you know it’ll be good.
  • Backlist: All of an author’s books that were published before the current year.
  • Backstory: A character’s life before the opening scene of the book, including their childhood and relationship history.
  • BBW: Big beautiful woman. The story features a plus-sized female protagonist in a positive way.
  • BDSM: Bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism.
  • Beta; beta reader: A test reader who reads an early draft of a manuscript and provides feedback to help the author revise it before publication.
  • Big mis: The big misunderstanding. A cliché in romance novels that is based on a big misunderstanding that could have been resolved if only the characters didn’t refuse to talk to each other (“Oh, the woman I saw you kiss is your sister!”).
  • Binge-read: Reading all the books in a series or books by one author in a row.
  • BIPOC: Black, indigenous, and people of color.
  • Blurb: The description of a book that you’ll find on the back of the paperback or on a retailer’s book page.
  • B&N: Barnes and Noble.
  • Book birthday: The release/publication day of a book.
  • Book hangover: What you feel after finishing a book that was so great that you find it hard to move on to the next.
  • Bookstagram: The community of book bloggers, reviewers, and readers on Instagram who post book-related pictures.
  • BookTube: The YouTube community of vloggers, reviewers, and readers who create book-related videos such as book reviews, recommendations, book hauls, etc.
  • Book Twitter: The community of vloggers, reviewers, readers, authors, and other bookish people on Twitter.
  • Buddy read: Two (or more) people read the same book at the same time so they can talk about it.
  • Cliffhanger: The book ends at a dramatic moment, and you are left hanging until you read the next book in the series.
  • COC: Character of color.
  • Con: Gathering of readers and (often) authors.
  • Contemporary romance: Romance novel that is set in the present or not further back than 25 years. There are no fantastical elements.
  • CP: Critique partner. A fellow writer who exchange critiques of each other’s manuscript to help each other revise their work before publication.
  • CR: Currently reading.
  • CW: Content warning. Warns people that the story contains something that might elicit a strong—and potentially harmful—emotional response, e.g., sexual assault, cruelty to animals, suicide. Usually, “content warning” means that the story discusses sensitive content, while “trigger warning” means that there are graphic descriptions of it.
  • DNF: Did not finish.
  • D/s: Stands for Dominant/submissive or dominance/submission.
  • Enemies to lovers: A romance trope that describes a novel in which two enemies or rivals fall in love with each other.
  • Epilogue: A section at the end of a novel. It’s set off from the rest of the book, usually by taking place some time after the previous chapter, so it gives us a glimpse into the characters’ future.
  • Fade-to-black: A story in which the characters have sex, but the writer chooses not to show it on the page.
  • Fandom: A community of fans of a certain book, TV show, video game, or movie.
  • Fauxmance: A fake relationship romance. Book in which the two main characters pretend to be a couple…and then actually fall in love. Here’s a list of 17 f/f fauxmances.
  • FB: Facebook.
  • Femslash (or femmeslash): The female version of slash. Stories about a romantic and/or sexual relationship between two (or more) women. Mostly used for fanfiction.
  • f/f: Female/female. A story that contains a romantic and/or sexual relationship between women.
  • FF = fanfic = fanfiction: Stories written by fans of an existing TV show, movie, video game, or book. Fanfic authors base their stories on another author’s characters, so there are legal issues surrounding fanfiction. Some authors allow and even encourage fanfiction based on their work (provided they aren’t published for profit), while others don’t tolerate it.
  • First person: The story is told using “I” pronouns.
  • Forced proximity: A romance trope with a plot that forced the main characters to spend time together, e.g., the characters are snowed in or have to work on a project together.
  • FWB: Friends with benefits.
  • F2L: Friends to lovers. A romance trope in which the characters start out as friends before falling in love and becoming a couple. In my opinion, it’s only a real friends-to-lovers romance if the characters are already friends when the novel starts. If they meet, become friends, and then fall in love, it might be better classified as a slow-burn romance.
  • GCLS: Golden Crown Literary Society. A nonprofit literary organization that aims to increase the visibility and quality of WLW fiction.
  • Gq: Genderqueer. An umbrella term for people whose gender identity is outside of male/female.
  • GR: Goodreads.
  • H/C = hurt/comfort: One character is sick, hurt, or going through emotional pain, and the other character is there to comfort them.
  • HEA: Happily ever after. An ending in which the main characters are a couple and happy together, without any major trouble on the horizon.
  • Head hopping: The point of view bounces from one character to another within a scene. It’s considered a craft problem that can confuse readers.
  • HFN: Happy For Now. The romance ends with the main characters as a couple, but not all issues are resolved.
  • Hybrid author: Author who self-publishes some books while publishing others with a publishing house.
  • Ice queen: A romance trope that is popular in f/f romance. It features a main character who is prickly, cold, and standoffish, at least on the outside. She might thaw as the story progresses and the characters fall in love.
  • Indie: Independent or self-published author. Sometimes also refers to indie publishers, small, independent publishing houses.
  • Insta-love: Romance in which the two main characters fall in love at first sight or very fast.
  • IR: Interracial romance.
  • KU: Kindle Unlimited. Amazon’s ebook subscription service.
  • Lesfic: Short for lesbian fiction. Despite the name, the protagonist can be any women-loving woman, including, of course, a lesbian. Not all lesfic are romances (though many are), but if there is a relationship, it’s between women.
  • LI: Love interest.
  • Mary Sue: A female character who is too perfect. She has no flaws, and everyone loves her. Often results when the writer writes herself into the story.
  • May/December: A romance with a large age gap between the characters, with one character being in the “spring” of her life and the other in the “winter” of hers.
  • MC: Main character.
  • Meet-cute: The two main characters of a romance novel meet in a way that is humorous or “cute.”
  • m/f: male/female. A story that contains a romantic and/or sexual relationship between a man and a woman.
  • m/m: Male/male. A story that contains a romantic and/or sexual relationship between men.
  • MS: Manuscript.
  • NA: New adult. A category of books in which the protagonist is between 18 and 24. It often revolves around going to college, starting their first job, or the first relationship.
  • NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. An annual event in November, in which participating authors try to write a 50,000-word novel in one month.
  • NB: Nonbinary. Sometimes also shortened to enby. A person who’s gender identity is between male/female or outside of the gender binary.
  • Novella: A story with a word count of 20,000-50,000 words—so longer than a short story, but not quite novel length.
  • NSFW: Not safe for work. Story contains elements—often explicit sex—that makes it not safe to read at work.
  • Omegaverse: A fictional universe in which society is divided into a hierarchy of alphas, betas, and omegas. Alphas can impregnate their partners and omegas can get pregnant, no matter their sex or gender. Most Omegaverse stories are sexually explicit m/m, but there are also f/f Omegaverse stories.
  • OOC: Out of character. A character behaves in a way that’s not consistent with their personality and backstory.
  • OTP: One true pairing. The couple you are rooting for.
  • Own voices: The author belongs to the marginalized group as the book’s main character, so they are writing from their own experience.
  • Pantser: A writer who writes by the seat of their pants, without outlining the story beforehand.
  • PB: Paperback.
  • Plotter: Writer who outlines the story before writing the first draft.
  • PNR: Paranormal romance. Similar to urban fantasy (à UF), but with a stronger focus on the romance.
  • POC: Person of color.
  • Poly; polyam: Stands for polyamory or polyamorous. Being in or being open to relationships with multiple people at the same time.
  • POV: Point of view. The perspective from which a story (or a section of the story) is told. It’s like a lens through which readers view the events.
  • Prequel: A story that is set before a previously published story. It usually shows us scenes from a character’s life before the events of the original book.
  • Purple prose: A description that uses an over-the-top, flowery language, e.g., using “crimson droplets” instead of “blood.”
  • PWP: Plot? What Plot? An erotic story without much of a plot.
  • Q&A: Questions and answers. An author event in which either a host or readers ask questions, and the author answers them.
  • Reading slump: When you just can’t read, even though you want to—maybe you’re just too stressed, unfocused, or getting over a book hangover. It’s the reader’s equivalent of writer’s block.
  • Rec: Recommendation.
  • Rep: Representation. The book features a character of a certain identity.
  • Romantic suspense: A novel with a romance subplot and a mystery/thriller subplot that are equally important.
  • Rom-com: Romantic comedy.
  • RTC: Review to come.
  • SA: Standalone. A book that isn’t part of a series or that can at least be read and enjoyed on its own, without having to have read the other books in the series.
  • Saffic: A portmanteau of “sapphic” and “fiction.”
  • Sapphic: The main character is a woman who’s attracted to women. Doesn’t necessarily mean the book is a romance novel.
  • Second chance romance: The main characters were together in the past but broke up for some reason, and now they are getting a second chance at a relationship with each other.
  • Sequel: A continuation of a previously published book, usually with the same main characters.
  • SF: Science fiction.
  • SF/F or SFF: Science fiction & fantasy.
  • Shelfie: A photo of your bookcase.
  • Ship (verb): Rooting for two people to get together.
  • Slash: Fan fiction portraying a romantic and/or sexual relationship between same-sex characters. Often used only for m/m fan fiction. The name originated from the slash between the names of a couple, e.g., Spock/Kirk.
  • Slow burn: A romance in which the characters get to know each other before ending up in bed.
  • Smut: Stories that are sexually explicit without much of a plot. Synonym with PWP.
  • Spec fic: Speculative fiction. An umbrella term for literature with fantastical or futuristic elements. It includes genres such as science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, superhero stories, dystopian, horror, and alternate history.
  • Spin-off: A story that is connected to a previously published book but has different main characters. Usually, the protagonist of the spin-off was a supporting character in the previous book.
  • Spoiler: Information that reveals crucial elements of a book, e.g., a plot twist, and might “spoil” the reading experience.
  • Street team: Readers who review a book and help the author promote it.
  • Swag: Fun book-related goodies, e.g., bookmarks, book postcards, tote bags, etc.
  • TBB: To be bought. The list of books you intend to buy.
  • TBC: To be continued…
  • TBR: To be read. The pile of books waiting on your bedside table or reading device that you haven’t gotten around to reading.
  • Third person: A story told using “she” (or “he”) pronouns.
  • TL;DR: Too long, didn’t read. A section of a lengthy blog post in which the author summarizes it for readers who don’t have the time or patience to read the entire text.
  • TLR: The Lesbian Review. The most extensive site for WLW fiction reviews and recommendations.
  • Toaster oven romance: A romance in which one of the main characters discovers she’s not as straight as she previously thought. The toaster oven is a reference to an Ellen episode in which a character is jokingly awarded a toaster oven by Lesbian HQ for “converting” a certain quota of straight women. Note: A toaster oven romance isn’t actually about converting anyone since that’s not how sexual orientation works!
  • Trope: A scenario or basic plot that is common in romance novels, e.g., fake relationship.
  • TSTL: Too stupid to live. A character behaves in an immature way that makes no sense throughout the entire book.
  • TW: Trigger warning. Warns people that the story contains something that might elicit a strong—and potentially harmful—emotional response, e.g., sexual assault, cruelty to animals, suicide. Usually, “content warning” means that the story discusses sensitive content, while “trigger warning” means that there are graphic descriptions of it.
  • Uber: A term from Xena fanfiction that refers to stories transferring the characters to another setting and/or time period. Tropical Storm by Melissa Good was one of the first commercially published Uber fanfics. However, not all romance novels with a tall, dark, and brooding and a blonde, shorter, and upbeat character are Uber.
  • UF: Urban fantasy. Books that are set in our modern world, but with a magical or fantastical element or non-human races such as vampires or shape-shifters.
  • UST: Unresolved sexual tension. The characters haven’t acted on their sizzling sexual attraction yet.
  • WIP: Work in progress. The story a writer is currently working on.
  • WLW: Women-loving woman or women-loving women. Unlike f/f, the term doesn’t necessarily mean the book is a romance novel, just that it features a female main character who’s attracted to women.
  • YA: Young adult. A category of books in which the protagonist is a teenager, usually 15-18 years old.
  • Yuri: Anime, manga, or other Japanese literature that involves romantic and/or sexual relationships between women.

 

There are also individual terms and abbreviations. For example, many authors use acronyms to refer to their books, e.g., BTO for Backwards to Oregon.

 

Am I missing any romance/book-related terms? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add them to the list.

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20 thoughts on “F/F Romance Novel Glossary”

  1. There were many abbreviations I’ve never heard of (living a sheltered life here in the Bible belt). All I could think is that you are such a nerd 🤓

    Reply
  2. Excellent list. Google usually has the meaning of the abbreviation. Backwards to Oregon left me with a book hangover but then most of your do the same.

    Reply
  3. G!P for Girl Penis? It’s featured in Lexa Luthor’s f/f omegaverse, which seem quite popular among lesfic readers, but it has the CW for obvious reasons. I only mention it because it took me forever to figure out what G!P meant 😂

    Reply

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