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What Does 'AU' Mean In Fanfiction?

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Frances Bott Profile
Frances Bott answered
Fan fiction is a broadly defined term for fan work regarding stories about characters (or simply fictional characters) or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator. Works of fan fiction are rarely commissioned or authorized by the original work's owner, creator, or publisher. They are almost never professionally published. Most fan fiction writers assume that their work is read primarily by other fans, and therefore tend to presume that their readers have knowledge of the canon universe (created by a professional writer) in which their works are based.

An alternative universe fan fiction (also known as alternate universe or alternate reality), commonly abbreviated as AU, is a type or form of fan fiction in which canonical facts of setting or characterization in the universe being explored or written about are deliberately changed.

Stories that fall into this definition are usually what-ifs, where possibilities arising from different circumstances or character decisions are explored. Unlike regular fan fiction, which generally remains within the boundaries of the canon set out by the author, alternative universe fiction writers like to explore the possibilities of pivotal changes made to characters' history, motivations or environment.

The author gets an established audience for their story: The fans of the original, and then subsequently altered, universe, which they would not get if they wrote it as an original story instead of fan fiction. Some of the best fan fiction writers, who aspire to be published authors, can take advantage of this inversely by developing a loyal audience, the readers of their fan fiction, for books with original story lines that they might publish at a later date.
Louise Gorman Profile
Louise Gorman answered
In fanfiction, 'AU' stands for alternate universe. This is where characters are placed in situations opposite to actual events in the book. For example, if someone was to create an 'AU' story for the Harry Potter series, then they could write about what would have happened to Harry if his parents hadn't have died, like they did in the actual series.

Alternate universe stories are often 'what if' scenarios, and may or may not go down well with other fanfiction readers. Readers may not like to read stories with an alternate universe, as it completely contradicts everything that has happened in the original series.

Alternate universe stories may involve characters that may act OOC (out of character).

As well as 'what if' storylines, stories with an alternate universe may include appearances from actors who play the characters in the films.
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Joe Joe
Joe Joe commented
Thanks for shedding some light on the subject. Seriously, I've always wondered what AU meant. It felt like everyone was speaking a language I didn't know how to speak. Good answer, and thank you for putting in an example. = )
Calla Profile
Calla answered
AU means alternate universe, meaning that the story is on the basis of 'what if' this had happened instead of what really happened in the book. The characters in AU fics are often out of character.

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