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Characterization Tags

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An informal, ad hoc system of tagging that has spontaneously evolved over the years within the greater fanfic community.

These tags are concatenated and prepended to a character name, separated by exclamation marks: for example, Angry!Uber!Alice or Dark!Female!Bob.

Common tags include:

  • Angry: The character is more prone to anger and rage than in Canon.
  • Angsty: Used to indicate the character will be excessively distraught during the fic.
  • Canon: Obviously used to denote that the author is trying to stick as close to the canon character as possible. (See Original Flavor.)
  • Dark: A heroic character is made evil — or at the least considerably more ruthless — for the story.
  • Drunk or Drunken: Self-explanatory.
  • Emo: Synonym for "Angsty".
  • Fem/Female: Used to indicate that a character of uncertain or variable gender is female or predominantly so in the fic. It can also be used with a canonically male character (or group of characters) to indicate a Gender Flip.
  • Gay: Self-explanatory. Sometimes used if a character is portrayed as gay without being involved in the main pairing.
  • God: A character is vastly more powerful, intelligent, and occasionally morally pure than in the source material. Similar to the below Uber tag, but more frequently used in negative criticism of a story than in the author's own description, with the frequent implication that the author incorrectly believes this version is Canon.
  • Not: Frequently used to describe Original Characters (or characters unfamiliar to the intended audience) that are (perceived as) blatant Expies, Captain Ersatzes, or otherwise have the Serial Numbers Filed Off from another franchise. The tag might also be used to describe someone disguised as the tagged character.
  • OOC: Typically used to mean "Out of Character", and is often used as a generic warning that the character is likely to be nothing like you expect from any official media. Can also be used to refer to everybody acting differently. Some authors also use this to mean "out of continuity", meaning that the continuity of their story is completely different from the works'.
  • Past/Present/Future: In time-traveling stories, Past!, Present!, and Future! may help with the Which Me? problem. If there are multiple pasts/futures travelled to, then specific time periods may also be used (for example, 1955!Doc or 1985!Doc).
  • Psycho: The character is insane and/or acts like it. In most cases, they behave like a psychopath or sociopath.
  • Rational/Rationalist: The character has a buff to common sense that would completely derail the canon of the series if it were brought into canon. Usually affects multiple characters, as opposed to just one. Popularized (and possibly invented) by Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.
  • Sick: A character is ill when they are usually healthy in canon.
  • Sue/Stu: The character is evocative of an Author Avatar of some kind, either by the derailment of the canon characters/inherent rules or by being overdosed with Common Mary Sue Traits. "Sue" is typically used for female characters, while "Stu" is typically used for male characters. Unlike other tags, this is sometimes seen after the exclamation point (i.e. [character]!Sue).
  • Uber/Super: The character is far more personally formidable than in canon, sometimes to the point of having actual super powers. While similar to the "God" tag, this tag isn't an inherently negative one.

Fanfic communities will often have fandom-specific tags that they use to describe traits that occur with some regularity (for example, Slytherin!Harry, Future!Hiro, Vamp!Willow).

If a particular Fan Verse is popular within the fandom, then its name (or an abbreviation thereof) can be used to indicate that a character is from that setting, particularly when there have been major changes to them (e.g., UF!Utena, SME!Jadeite).

Because this kind of tagging is ad hoc and in no way formalized, it's common to see unusual and/or idiosyncratic tags that indicate some truly wild variants, such as Cyborg!Xander or Amberite!Xena.

The practice is starting to seep out from fanfiction and is used when talking about different versions of a character in the source material. It's also used in a more tongue-in-cheek manner to categorize examples concisely.

It can also be used to identify a specific version of a character or work when it had been done by different people and/or in different media, since those can vary wildly from the source material. Sometimes this uses the name of the specific author or simply the form of the work (such as Manga!Pride or Leroux!Erik).

These tags are also occasionally used when dealing with customizable characters in computer games. In addition, tags like this are used in spreadsheet programs to denote what sheet the cell in question is on if it's not on the same sheet as the cell you're typing in. Bang paths were used in early e-mail to specify a UUCP route to a given user, and they're still part of the return path in Usenet.

Alternative Title(s): Character Tags, Characterisation Tags, Fanfic Header