We seem to have a pretty regular number of story-ID questions specifically focused on finding half-remembered stories.

Our top tag is with over 10,000 questions and we already have an excellent guide to help people answer them in "How to ask a good story-ID question?" that users can direct querents towards.

What additional advice can we offer on writing a good story-identification question aimed at locating a fanfic story?

3 Answers 3


On top of Valorum's list, it is also helpful to describe the relationship between the fic and the original:

  • Tone and narrative voice - Is the fic written in the same overall style? For example, A Song of Ice and Fire is known for killing off characters, while Wall-E is not. Does the fic observe similar practices to the original in this and other ways?
  • Genre - Did Harry Potter get abducted by aliens with ray guns? Did the Enterprise land on a planet of wizards with pointy hats?
  • Setting - Is the fic set in a high school or some other environment that doesn't look like the original?
  • Characters - Is a good character evil, or vice-versa? Did someone get aged up or down dramatically? Were any new characters introduced?
  • Multiple canonicity - Some stories ("crossovers") mix two or more different fictional universes. There are actually multiple ways of doing that:
    • Integrate the universes together, forming a new whole (e.g. Captain Han Solo of the USS Enterprise helps Jedi Padawan Wesley Crusher defeat the evil Romulan empire after the latter destroys Betazed with their Death Star).
    • Keep the universes initially separate, but put them in the same physical space (e.g. the Enterprise, with no human crewmembers and no knowledge of Earth, lands on a planet which SG-1 is exploring).
    • Have characters from one universe explicitly cross over to the other (e.g. the TARDIS lands in the middle of any non-Doctor Who universe, with the Doctor giving some technobabble about how far away they've traveled or similar).
  • Plot - Did events happen differently? Did Greedo shoot and kill Han in Mos Eisley, and derail the entire story?
  • Any other striking differences or similarities between the fic and the original.

Obviously, it is also important to mention the original which it was based on. While this may seem trivial, a story about Romulans may look very different if it is based on the Rihannsu novels than if it is based on regular Star Trek canon (i.e. the TV shows and movies), so if the former are in play, you should mention them explicitly.


In addition to the elements we've already discussed in How to ask a good story-ID question?, fanfic-specific elements that the poster could identify include:

  • The site that you viewed it on, specifically whether it was fanfiction.net, Archive of Our Own (Ao3) or something else.

  • Whether the story had any adult or pornographic content.

  • Any part or portion of the author's name

  • Whether you've seen it discussed anywhere as a "fic you have to read"

  • What tags the story had (MPreg, Dramione, etc) when it was posted.

  • Who the characters were in the story and what their ages were at the time of telling.

  • What pairings occurred in the story along with an explanation of any special jargon used (e.g "Dramione" = "Draco/Hermione pairing")

  • Any specific words or unusual/unique phrases that were used in the story.

Bear in mind that a single line description will probably fit multiple stories ("fanfic where Hermione fell in love with the troll in the bathroom" = hundreds of matches). Remember that the more detail you can give us, the more likely it is that we can narrow it down to a single story.

  • 8
    "fanfic where Hermione fell in love with the troll" = hundreds Ewwww.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 23:13
  • 2
    @Randal'Thor - Hundreds of times of ewwww
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 23:13
  • 4
    @Randal'Thor Ron is a bit of a troll...
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 15:03
  • @Randal'Thor shouldn't this be tagged faq?
    – SQB
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 10:34

An additional one, which is oft overlooked, is narrative voice/format. Is it written in first person? Third person? Third person omniscient? Is it written in script format (a more common choice a decade or two ago)? Because identifying fanfic is often highly dependent on personal experience, this becomes more important.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .