How to Tell If You Are In an Online Fanfiction

In homage to the dearly departed The Toast, which said good-bye to the Internet and stopped producing delightful written oddities this month, I offer a parody of my favorite toasty feature series, “How to Tell If You’re In a Novel.” 

You are searching for your soulmate, who you will recognize when you find someone who matches your soulmate birthmark. You discover your soulmate at the peak of your loneliness and despair when they are introduced to your immediate social circle or when extraordinary circumstances reveal your beloved best friend or attractive rival had the matching quote, thematic symbol, or the first words you ever said to them hidden on their skin all along.

The mob you run with may be dark, violent, greedy, and brutally sassy as a general rule, and you know what you do isn’t exactly right, but you treat each other like family and uphold certain principles of honor and progressive ideas on gender and sexuality, so a flashy, dashing life of murderin’, stealin’, and bootleggin’ is better than anything else you could do in Roaring 20s America.

You and everyone you know attend high school together. The student body at large seems heavily invested in your preferred extracurricular activity. Clique-based henpecking and interschool rivalries consume more of your time and energy than a High School Musical movie. The teachers at school are either off-screen Peanuts sound bites or are unusually familiar with each other’s personal situations and personally invested in improving or ruining students’ lives.

After finding a mysterious exhibit at the aquarium or wandering around the beach after a storm, you have a merperson in your bathtub.

Sometimes your dreams and nightmares feel so real, as though they really happened to you in another life or time. But it’s probably just the stress from telling your parents you want to be an art major.

Life or your romantic relationship seems to skip by as a series of short events and pivotal moments that you could define by a single emotion or general theme. Everything between that day your life epitomized “ocean” and the evening you spent “starting a journey together” is kind of a blur, but you still feel you have a good sense of personal character and the nature of your relationship with the S.O.

You or someone important to you did not have wings before. You or someone important to you now has wings. You fall in love.

You meet a beautiful but mysterious stranger in the dark of night and can’t get them out of your head. Suddenly you find yourself meeting them everywhere, as though they can’t get you out of their head, either—which they can’t, because they are a vampire, and you are either the tastiest or most interesting mortal they have ever found, possibly both. At least once in your relationship with this person, you have felt that in another universe they would have either been the most likely or the least likely of your acquaintances you would expect to be a successful vampire. You fall in love.

You are a man caught in a will-they, won’t-they firestorm of homoerotic sexual tension, mutual obsession, and/or competing passions with your bitter rival or villainous archnemesis. You fall in love.

You are a man caught in a will-they, won’t-they slow meteoric fall of sexual desire, poetically earned and tested trust, and pain-ridden compassion with the perfect man shoved into your life by coincidental circumstance or your best bro forever. You fall in love.

_____ is the most astounding person you have ever met. Before you met _____, everything about this war/quest/mission/life seemed hopeless and pointless, but now you feel you can succeed with _____ at your side. _____ is the only one you have ever met to match your strength/intelligence/courage/humor/dedication to the cause and calm your dark side, and with _____ you feel happier than you have ever been. You fall in love with _____.

There were five times you thought you might be in an online fanfiction and one time when you knew you were.

Mistletoe and spiked eggnog at a Christmas party once sparked anxiety-inducing shenanigans with your secret crush, and your best friends and worst enemies may all be responsible.

In fact, Christmas is the most important holiday of the year.

No matter where you go or what you do, you always seem to get slapped with the same embarrassing nickname.

It seems your commonsense reactions to your companion’s confounding cultural customs and odd behaviors have accidentally promised them your eternal love and engaged you in marriage.

You have traveled to the starting point of this story and lived it through to the end many times before.

Someone revealed to you that they were your real father, and the ensuing identity crisis caused you to make significant life decisions that none of your friends or assumed family could have predicted and possibly do not agree with. People whom you considered your enemies, however, now support you in your new principles and will show you who your real friends are.

Though you specifically booked a room with two beds, there is only one for you and your attractive companion whom you are not dating. You cannot find a cot, an inflatable mattress, or a couch, and anyway you will both freeze to death if you don’t share body heat. This happens to you more often than you feel comfortable admitting in polite company.

You met your significant other from across the barista counter of a coffee shop. One of you was the barista, and the other was the favorite customer. Your love blossomed from the entirely unique and imaginative foundation of messed-up drink orders, funny doodles and pet names on disposable latte cups, perfect memorization of favorite menu items and personal details, getting back at rude customers, messing with the shop music, staying way late or arriving way early, and showing your true feelings by being extra nice to each other or by not being as horrible to each other as you were to everyone else in the café.

You attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with your best friends Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley. Draco Malfoy is more than a little bit in love with you, but you refuse to date him until he puts on his leather pants and betrays the Dark Lord.

The name of your band could double as the name of an elite group of warriors.

Now that your veteran consciousness and sense of self has traveled back in time, replaced your younger self’s consciousness, and repossessed your younger body in the past, you’re using use all the skills, wisdom, and secret plot knowledge you obtained during your first try at being a hero to fix/avoid/manipulate all the things that went horribly wrong! Since you’re a total badass child prodigy now, only ageism from your once-and-future companions can stop you from saving everything.

Despite a tragic past so ridden with pain and mystery that it could choke sympathy tears from an onion, you are the most exceptional individual in the world. Even your physical appearance and species is markedly special compared to all the available options you could have been in the world. Based on natural talent alone, you are the best at the most important and desirable skill there is to do in the world and could be the most powerful and benevolent person in the world if not for the dark powers plaguing you beyond your control and making you both the strongest defender and most deathly enemy of everyone you love. While many seek your affections, your heart belongs to one who would gladly die for you if it would keep your precious person out of the hands of the most powerful evil, which only you can destroy and which may also be in love with you. This is all a terrible burden to bear, and you can’t understand or appreciate why you are so special, but you carry the weight nobly for your friends.


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