Your Guide to the Archive: a Tutorial in Fanfic Culture

With quarantine promoting media consumption and media leaving consumers dissatisfied, fanfiction is here to fill the cracks that it leaves behind.

The logo of Archive of Our Own, also known as Ao3. It’s a free online host for fanfiction from around the world.

The logo of Archive of Our Own, also known as Ao3. It’s a free online host for fanfiction from around the world.

Jaiden Radoczy, Bear Hub Staff

Every person has watched a show they couldn’t get enough of, or where they loved the characters but wished that the plot did something else, or had an idea for a scene that could have been so funny. That’s where fanfiction comes in, giving both creators and readers more content, alternate endings, and missing scenes for the media they love. However, finding good fanfiction can be hard, so here’s a bit of a tutorial to Archive of Our Own (, the current most popular platform.
1. The search bar is your friend. It can help you find tags, specific stories, known as fics, authors, anything of the sort.
2. Have an idea of what you’re looking for. If you want romance, look for “Character A/Character B,” but if you’re looking for friendship, you need “Character A & Character B.” There is a difference and it is important.
3. Certain tags are just for fun, like “I Wrote This When I Should Have Been Sleeping,” or all the variations of “no beta we die like men,” (simply meaning no other person edited the fic) like Good Omen’s “no beta we Saunter Vaguely Downwards like crowley,” Hades’ “no beta we die like zagreus,” and all the other variations.
4. Feel free to exclude tags. In the “Filter” tab on the website, there’s a section exclusively for removing works. If you don’t want any character to die, you can go to Exclude and Warnings and remove “Major Character Death.” By the same process, you can remove certain relationships, certain characters, or even just certain tags and tropes.

An image of a filtered search for works shipping Katara and Zuko from Avatar on Archive of Our Own. Explicit and Mature works are filtered out, as well as works shipping Zuko and Aang, using the filtering system.

5. Also, feel free to look exclusively for certain tags. Right above the Exclude section, there’s an Include section, for when you’re looking for the character death or fics centered around your favorite character.
Now go, young padawan, and read some self-indulgent found family AU (alternate universe, or the same characters in a different setting), or find the missing scene you’ve always wanted to see written. And remember, your fanfiction experience is yours alone, so go read what you want to read.