Created By: Littleloup on June 21, 2013 Last Edited By: Arivne on June 22, 2013

Document Character

A character that exists only in found documents

Name Space:
Page Type:
This is a video game exclusive trope, where a certain character is only heard in recordings you find or read about in letters. They can go through whole character arcs, and it's this that makes them not the Ghost or the Voice; if all artifacts related to them were viewed chronologically, it'd basically be a story within a story.

This certainly needs a better description and name but I think it deserves a page.


Video Games
  • Bioshock Infinite has Preston E Downs, whose life never intersects with Booker's but has an arc where he goes from racist Manhunter to protector of a native American child.
  • The Last of Us has Ish, leader of a now abandoned encampment. His letters detail the rise and fall of his band.

Community Feedback Replies: 10
  • June 21, 2013
    Title sort of mislead me. I thought this was for people that "only exist on paper" (as in having all of the official documents to prove that you're a person but are really fake) like a certain fellow from The Shawshank Redemption. your meaning was a bit more literal.

    So this is a character who only exists in the fluff material but is never actually on-screen or on-page in the flesh? I'm sure there are plenty of non-vidya examples.
  • June 21, 2013
    How about Ogilvy from 1984? This is an In-Universe example, as fictional people like him are used by Big Brother to fill the historical gaps left when people with noble pasts are Un-Personed.
  • June 21, 2013
    Split off an Examples section from the description, Namespaced and italicized the example work names.
  • June 21, 2013
    • In Marvel Avengers Alliance, so far their version of Agent Sitwell only shows up in the Marvel XP dossiers, where he frequently is the one analyzing and editorializing on the various other heroes and villains.
  • June 22, 2013
    Not sure if it qualifies but this was the Shawshank example I meant:

    • In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy reveals the "silent partner" in the Warden's money laundering scheme as Randall Stevens, a man who "only exists on paper" as the rightful owner of all the ill-gotten accounts. Subverted when Andy makes his escape and walks into a bank and collects the money. Having been the one who signed the checks in the first place, naturally his signature is a perfect match.
  • June 22, 2013
    May overlap with Posthumous Character.

    • Cave Johnson in Portal 2 is only characterized through the voice recordings he left throughout the Aperture facility.
    • Throughout the original Unreal, you keep finding datapads that imply that there is another survivor of your ship's crash, who is just a few hours ahead of you on the same path.
  • June 22, 2013
    • Shadowman is a unique variant in that the protagonist of the previous Shadowman comics, Jack Boniface, who was murdered. He gets mentioned in an autopsy document in the first game.
  • June 22, 2013
    Is this what you mean? On Live-Action Television show Silver Spoons, the family get shipwrecked on an island and find the journal of a guy who got shipwrecked earlier and went crazy.
  • June 22, 2013
    This might be covered by The Ghost or be similar. That's when in plays or shows, a character is referenced but never seen.
  • June 22, 2013
    This might be a viable subtrope of The Ghost, but it's definitely not a trope in its own right.