Analysis / Out of Focus

  • Sometimes, this trope is a necessary evil for the medium, as in webcomics. Sometimes, however, it's creator favoritism — they've got a brand new shiny character they want to flesh out, and everyone else is put on hold until they do so, or the comic has just changed writers and they prefer characters X, Y and Z to characters A, B and C. Occasionally though, it's just forgetfulness — the writer gets wrapped up in a Story Arc and forgets that just because they know when someone is due to reappear doesn't mean that their readers do.

  • Deciding if a character is out of focus tends to be relative to the media in which they appear. In a daily webcomic, for example, two weeks may be a long time for an absence. In a three-days-a-week webcomic, it may be over a month before it's noticed that someone's missing. In television, however, a member of the main cast who goes vanishes without explanation for a single episode had better have a damn good reason for their vacation when they get back, unless the show has Loads and Loads of Characters.

  • Likewise, audience acceptance is proportional as well. Webcomics are free, and therefore fans are generally more accepting if their favourite hero disappears for a bit. Too long, though, and the creator risks alienating a particular protagonist's fans. When someone has to hand over money to follow a story, however, as with comic books, they may get a little annoyed when fan favourite Mr Terrific doesn't even make a cameo appearance for twenty issues.

  • Another good example for when this is a necessary evil is for Strategy games, in which Anyone Can Die and usually they're gone for good depending on the game. A good way to keep special characters in focus is to more or less program and write a lot of event data into the game, in the event that the player recruited the character and then still has them. But sometimes, the player may just dismiss them or let them die and they wind up Deader Than Dead, so in order to save time, the games are programmed under the assumption that they could be dead and that the only NPCs that are still around are plot-crucial ones. A Real-Time Strategy game would often avert this by making it crucial (they die, you fail the mission and Game Over) or they die but are resurrectable. It's also possible to get around this where if they die in battle, they're merely knocked out and come back if needed.