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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!Harry.

Common tags include:

  • Angry: The character is more prone to anger and rage than in canon. This is a common attribute for Harry Potter in fics set after The Order of the Phoenix.
  • 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: (Sometimes "Female".) A fairly rare tag, used to indicate that a character of uncertain or variable gender is female or predominantly so in the fic. Especially common in anime fanfiction. It can also be used with a canonically male character (or group of characters) to indicate a Gender Flip.
    • For Ranma of Ranma ½, it usually indicates a story where he accepts and embraces his girl-side, often to the extent of abandoning being male altogether.
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    • In Harry Potter fanfiction, usually in stories written after the release of The Half-Blood Prince, this is typically used to indicate a female Blaise Zabini.
    • Multiple Unsettling Gender Reveals happened to Mobile Suit Gundam 00 fandom when the beautiful Tieria was revealed to have a masculine voice. Even now, people call for 'female!Tieria' or the more explicit 'Tiera-with-girl-parts'.
    • This happens frequently with the ambiguous character Haku from Naruto, but this tag also gets used all the time on Naruto himself. Partially Justified in the fact that Naruto has been seen changing into a female form as part of a Henge (or disguise), based on himself if he were a well endowed female instead of a guy.
    • Seen in video game fanfics in which a main character's gender can be chosen by the player, such as Knights of the Old Republic (female!player-character, female!Exile) and Mass Effect (female!Shepardnote ) — a corresponding "male" tag also exists.
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    • Seen in Stargate Universe fanfiction where a female version of Eli has become quite popular. Well, Girl Eli.
    • Fem! versions of the nations in Hetalia: Axis Powers denotes that they have been gender bent.
  • 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 (for example, Not!Misato to describe Haruka from RahXephon). The tag might also be used to describe someone disguised as the tagged character.
  • OOC: Out of Character. Generic warning that the character is likely to be nothing like you expect from watching the show/reading the book/seeing the movie.
    • It can sometimes refer to everybody acting differently (sometimes with justified reasons, like mind control).
    • Unfortunately some authors use this for "out of continuity", which causes some people to shun out-of-continuity fics unnecessarily.
  • Past/Present/Future: In time-traveling stories, Past!, Present!, and Future! may help with the Which Me? problem. More specific time periods may be used, for example, 1955!Doc and 1985!Doc.
  • Psycho: The character is insane, or acts like it. Specifically, he may behave like a psychopath or sociopath.
  • Rational: (Also Rationalist). The character has a buff to common sense that would completely derail the canon of the series if it were brought into canon. Expect multiple characters to come along for the ride. Popularized (and possibly invented) by Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.
  • Sick: A character is ill.
  • Sue: 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. Stu may also be used as for Gary Stu. Sometimes this is reversed, as in Harry!Stu or Hermione!Sue.
  • Uber: (Sometimes Super). The character is far more personally formidable than in canon, sometimes to the point of having actual super powers.
    • Once again, Harry Potter, as authors explored the full range of possibilities for the "power the Dark Lord knows not" prior to the release of The Deathly Hallows.
    • Elevating Xander Harris from his nominal Butt-Monkey status all the way to Superman and beyond is practically a cottage industry in Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic.
    • A subclass of this is the YAHF, or Yet Another Halloween Fic, from the fact that it uses the gimmick of the second season episode "Halloween" to achieve the Uber effect.

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

The title of a given Fan Verse, or an abbreviation thereof, can also be used to indicate the version of a character from that setting, particularly when there have been major changes to them: 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 (like, for example, thanks to a "Freaky Friday" Flip), such as Cyborg!Xander or Amberite!Xena.

The practice is starting to seep out from fanfiction, though, and can also be used when talking about similar things in the source material, such as, for example, Future!Hiro, Vamp!Willow, or Brainwashed!Undead!Starscream (Energon!Starscream for short). 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 (Manga!Pride, Anime!Greed, Leroux!Erik, or Movie!Phantom)

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


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