You + Me = Love

Recently, I started to play with textual analysis… And a question popped up: what about fic titles? How much information about the fic do they convey? Are there favorite title terms?

At least the last question has a pretty straightforward answer. When we take a look at our sample of 10K+ fics published in 2015 on AO3, one word was in the air : love.


Love is the most frequent noun used in titles of fics (2121 times), followed by heart (931 times), time (841 times), life (733 times) and home (625 times), in a corpus of 67794 fics of more than 10K words published in english in 2015 on AO3. It is preceded only by pronouns such as you, I and me (and some stopwords that I excluded from the analysis such as “the”, “and” or “a” and “an”, along with “in”, “to”, “what”, “that”, “on”, “it”, “is” and “be”).

Love is relatively more used in femslash stories titles, than in dudeslash, het or gen.


Note: in this wordcloud, the categories are exclusive, which means that the category “other” regroups fics that are neither exclusively tagged Gen, F/F, F/M nor M/M, but a combination of these.

“Me” is overrepresented in femslash and “you” in dudeslash, which is intriguing. Otherwise, the wordcloud hints at the fact that some fandoms are overrepresented in some genres. “Rose” and “Doctor”, or “wolf”, “winter” and “lady” are more often used in het, which indicates that a lot of het stories published in 2015 were from the Doctor Who and Game of Thrones fandoms, as well as words specific to the Harry Potter and Sherlock universes in gen, or Once Upon a Time, Frozen or The Legend of Korra in femslash.

Love is also slightly overrepresented in titles of fics rated Mature.


Why is “me” more frequent in Explicit fics titles, and “you” in Not Rated fics? I have absolutely no idea. But is it easy to see why fics about christmas or adventure(s) are more generally rated General Audiences.

Lastly, love is also more frequent in fics with an Underage warning.


It appears that some titles are pretty indicative of their content. Stories with a Major Character Death warning are more often titled with words such as end, life, time, dead, goodbye, lost, tears, shadow, legacy, last, etc. Stories with a waring of Graphic Depiction of Violence have titles with blood, darkness, fire, monsters, etc, whereas Non-Con fics have a disproportionate amount of broken, abduction and healing in their titles.

When we compare titles across the seven numerically most important fandoms on AO3 in 2015, it appears that love is more often in the titles of One Direction fics.


Harry Potter writers seem to insist on indicating to the reader that it is indeed a Harry Potter in the title itself! Otherwise, it is pretty much self explanatory but since wordclouds are fun, I did another one with seven other fandoms (and more women):


I suspect that the popularity of “love” in titles is pretty much timeless, but it would be interesting to compare with previous years to identify trends and fashions. If you know of anyone who has done this type of analysis before on fic titles – or even on published books, please tell me!

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