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Tropes and genres
Synonym(s)Light Angst, Heavy Angst, Angst with a Happy Ending, Angst and Tragedy
Related tropes/genresDarkfic, Emoporn, Feels, Hurt/Comfort, Pining, Tissue Warning, Woobie
Related articles on Fanlore.

Angst is often used in fandom to characterize things which are intended to provoke the feeling of unrest and uncertainty in readers. It generally signifies that the story will be primarily dramatic in nature, rather than comedic or light-hearted, and that characters may suffer mental or physical anguish during the course of the story. These works can be very dark, but not all angsty fanworks are darkfic.

The poorly executed angstfic may be overly melodramatic, and feature a character who spends a great deal of time wallowing in self-pity while reflecting on the difficulties they experience. When this happens in canon, it is sometimes referred to as manpain.

Angst writers on fanfiction website Ao3 use a variety of tags to specify subgenres of angstfics and to ensure readers are fully aware of the tone of the story. Additional tags are also use to warning for particular content, particularly in darker angst works.

There also exist subgenres such as flangst (fluffy angst) and wangst (whiny angst).

Also see feels.


Angst is often described as the opposite of fluff:

Fluff is the type of content that is light, happy, and supposed tp give you warm fuzzy feelings. Angst is the opposite of fluff. The content is dark, dramatic, depressive, characters suffer. (Edit: basically 90% of canon-compliant fanfiction about the Winter Soldier.)[1]

On fanfiction website Ao3, the tags Light Angst and Heavy Angst are often used by writers to indicate the amount of angst in a story. However the line between light angst and heavy angst can sometimes be difficult to judge. Further discussion of the definition of angst, and specifically the difference between light and heavy angst:

[...] My understanding of angst, though, is a focus on feelings of uncertainty, unhappiness, anxiety etc. It very often provokes readers to tears and can also be a source of cathartic release if that angst is resolved in the story. Light angst would mean there are moments of angst in the story, but that’s not the primary focus. Heavy angst would mean a deep dive into those kinds of feelings. Light and heavy could also refer to the subject matter as well. Lighter angst being misunderstandings and heavier angst being something related to grief or trauma. My impression of heavy angst is also that there might not necessarily be a happy ending - but I might be wrong on that one.[2]

I agree with everything that ao3cotd said, but will add to the definition: angst implies bad things happen. The “bad things” could be something as simple as miscommunication that leaves one character feeling anxious and hurt, but it also could be something very traumatic for the characters in much more visceral ways, like non con.
[...] Ao3cotd nailed light vs heavy (at least, how I see it when I’m looking for those tags) in that it is largely up for interpretation based on the person, and heavy could mean dark subject matter, or it could just mean in depth focus on the angsty emotions (anxiety, insecurity, etc). That’s something that the additional tags usually help inform you as a reader. I will say that just because something is “heavy angst,” doesn’t mean it won’t have a happy ending. I’ve posted a few fics that qualify for “heavy angst” (although I usually just tag it as “angst”), and they’ve all ended happily in one way or another. This is something I’d also look at the additional tags and author’s notes for. I tag my fics with “happy ending,” and I’ve seen other authors tag “unhappy ending” or say so in the author’s notes.[2]

There’s also “angst with a happy ending” as a tag for fics that hurt but also don’t end tragically

Example Fanworks





Archives & Fannish Links




  1. ^ What is Angst? a post at /r/fanfiction, and comment by u/Agamar13, 2020
  2. ^ a b How do you define Angst?, ao3commentoftheday responds to an anon ask; "How do you define angst, and the difference between light and heavy angst? I've never found a clear consensus on it." Reblogs by bionerd2point0 and actualaster (2021)