If there's something we know about real life it is that people die, and sometimes these people happen to be related in some way to a creator or a work. It's not uncommon to see works being dedicated to a dead person in the form of an In Memoriam, but sometimes creators might go an extra mile.
A Memorial Character has the purpose of honoring a dead person, be they someone close to the creator or just a simple fan, by immortalizing them in the work. In its most basic form, this is done by giving an already existing character the name of the person they are honoring (or at least part of it), making these characters a subtle way to commemorate them.
Other times, a whole new character might be created in their honor. Also sharing their name, these are usually minor characters that show up at some point in the story, acting as another part of the world without any particularly obvious hint to the true meaning behind their presence to those viewers not in the know.
Particularly strong cases might have a whole new important character being created in the person's memory, or a whole new work being made with them as the centerpiece, but these are obviously restricted to the creator's family or the closest of friends.
- As detailed in the documentary Into The Unknown: Making Frozen II, the character Ryder in Frozen II is named after co-director Chris Buck's son, who passed away shortly before the first film premiered.
- Natalie McDonald from the Harry Potter books. Her namesake was a fan who died of leukemia, and J. K. Rowling memorialised her briefly in Goblet Of Fire - getting sorted into Gryffindor, the House of Bravery.
- In the Warrior Cats series, the characters Brightspirit, Braveheart, and Shiningheart were created in honor of ten-year-old Warriors fan Emmy Cherry and her parents, Jimmy and Dana, who lost their lives in a tornado in 2008. The fandom had given them warrior names to honor them, and Vicky Holmes decided to put them in the next book, Long Shadows, where they helped save the Clan from an outbreak of sickness.
- Many of Anne McCaffrey's works feature a character named Johnny Green, in memory of her real life close friend of the same name who was tragically murdered.
- Bridge to Terabithia has Leslie who is based partially on a friend that the author's son had as a child. She also died young, but from a lightning strike rather than drowning.
- The badger warrior Lonna Bowstripe in the Redwall novel Loamhedge was named after Nolan Wallace, a fan who died in 2001 from cancer.
- CSI: NY: While in talks with franchise creator Anthony E. Zuiker about taking on the role of the lead character, Gary Sinise asked that the man's name be changed from Rick Carlucci to Mac Taylor in memory of his brother-in-law, McCanna ("Mac") Harris, a decorated Vietnam vet who had died of cancer in the '80s. (The "Taylor" is a nod to his most iconic character, Lt. Dan.)
- Elisabeth Clara Sladen was one of the longest serving and most beloved Doctor Who actresses, having played Sarah Jane Smith in both Doctor Who and in her own spin-offs K-9 and Company and The Sarah Jane Adventures for just under four decades. After she passed away in 2011, the next companion was named Clara, after her middle name.
- Geordi LaForge in Star Trek: The Next Generation is named after George LaForge, a disabled Star Trek: The Original Series fan who died in 1975.note
- Agent Leyla Harrison in The X-Files was named after a popular Fan Fiction author who died.
- Borderlands 2 has Michael Mamaril, a Vault Hunter that sometimes appears in Sanctuary, and who gifts the player with a piece of rare loot when the player finds him. He was created in the memory of Michael John Mamaril, a Borderlands fan that passed away at the age of 22, and whose friend asked Gearbox Software for a short eulogy by Claptrap, Michael's favorite character.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has a retroactive case of this: Erik the Slayer is an inhabitant of Rorikstead who was based on Erik West (internet alias Immok the Slayer), a visitor to Bethesda's headquarters that surprised the creators for his knowledge of Oblivion. He passed away from cancer in May of 2011, before he had the chance to see his character in-game, making his presence in the game all the more meaningful.
- Game of Thrones: Ascent has this for a well-known player, Countessa of the Reach (Sue Hankla). A quest lets characters visit her funeral in-game and gives a permanent item in her memory.
- Middle-earth: Shadow of War has Forgoth Orc-Slayer, a Free DLC ally who will randomly rescue Talion if he's about to be executed. He's based the game's executive producer Mike Forgey, who passed away during production.
- Izchak Miller, a principal developer of NetHack, was memorialized as Izchak, the keeper of the lighting store in Mine Town, from version 3.2 onwards after he died of complications due to cancer. Many players avoid harming the in-game Izchak out of respect, even if their usual tactic is to kill everything in sight.
- Divekick: The last character to be released with the initial version of the game was Kenny, who was based on the deceased brother of a backer during the Kickstarter campaign. Kenny was made a Ditto Fighter because of how the backer's brother loved to always use random select in fighting games.
- Fallout: New Vegas has the background-only characters Sprtel and Wood, inventors of the Sprtel-Wood 9700 Gatling Laser. They were named after Scott Sprtel and Brian Wood, two victims of traffic accidents.
- Fallout 4: In the Nuka-World add-on, traveling south of Nuka-Town, USA brings one to the home of Evan, a kind man who lives a blissful life. He serves as an homage to the brother of Reddit user NoohjXLVII, Evan who passed away before a care package of Fallout merchandise from Bethesda could arrive to show their support after their father's passing. Bethesda opted to make a character of Evan in the add-on as a consolation.
- World of Warcraft: As a tribute to the late Robin Williams, an avid player, Robin the Entertainer, a permanent NPC based on his role as the Genie was added.
- Yandere Simulator: During Gameplay, if Debug Commands are enabled, typing "Rainey" will cause a girl to show up in the Martial Arts Club, though she lacks an AI and thus cannot be interacted with. YandereDev later confirmed on a Reddit post that Rainey was the name (or at least alias) of a fan of the game who was terminally ill and would unfortunately not live long enough to see the final product, so he agreed to include a tribute character in her memory.
- The Order of the Stick has Wrecan, named for a fan who tallied up characters' appearances on the forums.
- Arthur: Mrs. MacGrady was turned into this for "The Great MacGrady" episode, which was written by staff writer Leah Ryan, who eventually succumbed to cancer, which Mrs. MacGrady was diagnosed with. In fact, Mrs. MacGrady's first name (which has always been Sarah) was changed to Leah for this episode.
- Futurama: Fry's first name, Phillip, is a tribute to Phil Hartman, who was set to play Zapp Brannigan before his murder.
- Mako from The Legend of Korra was named for the late voice actor Mako Iwamatsu, who voiced Iroh in the first two seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender.