You know the Animated Actors concept, that your favourite cartoon characters have a life beyond the flickering cels? The Meta Fic is that concept applied to... well, everything.
In a Meta Fic, characters know they're fictional characters. They know their fictitious motivations, fictitious friends and fictitious enemies, but see no reason to be constrained by them. Hell, they might even have gotten killed off, but it's not like they've died as an actor.
Meta Fic provides an opportunity to comment on Fan Fic itself (for instance, by having a character complain about the amount of Wangst writers saddle him or her with), or produce stories that are Just Too Silly even to be Alt Fic (for instance, the continuing saga, in the Doctor Who fanfic community, of fairy tales being read to toddler versions of the characters, and acted out, against their will, by the adult versions).
- Frequently seen in the sillier or more surreal Ranma ½ fanfic of the late 1990s, especially those written as part of, or in the orbit of, the fanfic cycle known as "The Bet", where the characters were portrayed as being "hired" by fanfic writers to recreate the roles they created for Rumiko Takahashi, and were sometimes very different when "off-camera".
- Neither silly nor surreal, Deborah Goldsmith's famous Ranma fanfic Genma's Daughter inspired its author to play with the same idea in her Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor. It's set up like a blooper reel for the most part, though we do get to see what goes on behind the scenes.
- Metroanime's Second Labor: Reluctant Bet includes numerous scenes of several of the Ranma 1/2 characters having the opportunity to watch videotapes of other universes' versions of the Ranma anime — which are all actually part of The Bet or its spinoffs, or other well-known Ranma Fan Fics from the late 1990s. (And after watching the "real" Ranma 1/2 anime, they decide to do anything possible to keep their timeline from becoming a "canon" Ranmaverse.)
- Angus MacSpon's The Replacement Ranmas goes for very silly, as the cast of Ranma 1/2 is missing on the first day of shooting for a new fic, and the "director" must scramble to replace them with characters from other anime series...
- This goes for insanely silly. Cases in point, Akane and Ranma are siblings. And lovers. And in a threesome relationship with someone who may or may not be their mother. Yeah, and did we mention Ranma's married too?
- Eyrie Productions Unlimited's Neon Exodus Evangelion has "outtakes" and "Making of" sequences at the ends of some of its chapters. These feature, among other things, a very chirpy Rei Ayanami, and an interview with Sir Alistair Warden-Penn, the classically-trained Shakespearean penguin who portrays Pen-pen.
- Nadesico Thumbnail Theater's "Nagare Akatsuki's Guided Tour of Nadesico Fanfiction". NTT and its progenitor Evangelion Thumbnail Theater sometimes lapse into this in their actual episode "summaries". As does Five Minute Voyager, their live-action counterpart (found here).
Gai: You said it! In hindsight, I'm glad they killed me off when they did.
- The Sailor Moon Expanded fanverse has a series of stories which deal with the everyday lives of the various characters. They operate with the conceit that all of the characters, original and fan created, are actors on a vast movie set, with the various authors as the directors. This would lead to a number of instances where segments of "actual" stories would be transcribed, only to veer off track when a completely unrelated character wanders "on screen" with some actor-related grievance.
- Of particular hilariousness was an instance where the author of a long-running-but-never-quite-finished story was kidnapped by his own characters and locked in a room with a supply of MREs, a chemical toilet, and a computer, there to remain until he finally finished the story. Though he was prematurely released by the impact of an asteroid soundstage belonging to a newly arriving author, the story was eventually completed.
- Played for drama in the penultimate arc of Re:CREATORS. Elimination Chamber Festival is an in-universe special event where all the characters involved are aware of being fictional. The heroes, previously established to be copies of canon characters, are willingly acting out a Crossover plot on their authors' word much like the cast in a typical Meta Fic. Altair, who is pretty much the power of fan works personified, knows how to play the field and turn the Ensemble Cast narrative into her own personal story. She also spends most of the fight showing off her different fanons and railing off at the cast for being walking cliches in her eyes, while the characters and their authors desperately try to edge out a win. The plan in general was a pretty dark spin on this trope, as the cast needed to trap her in the fic to control her or else she'd blow the universe sky-high.
- I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC has the characters referencing their own movies and writers, even after the series takes a more serious turn.
- It's apparently quite common for The Joker fans to have the Joker starring in a Meta Fic where he meets up with the many different versions of himself, often with the objective of exploring certain traits about him (why does the guy keep coming Back from the Dead?) or of simply exploring the different ways the character can be portrayed. Since the Joker regularly breaks and leans on the Fourth Wall all the time in canon, Meta Fic involving him can get rather complicated...
- BHF 5 is super guilty of this, sometimes referring to the very fourth wall they just broke (could we get a janitor in here?).
- Bring Me All Your Elderly! is all about the animated characters of Avatar: The Last Airbender going into The Movie and correcting their live-action counterparts, all fully aware that they are in a fanfic (except Zuko). At one point, the characters read and discuss the comments section.
- A lot of bad fanfiction does this by accident, when characters will offhandedly reference their fictionality or something the author likes, for no apparent reason.
- In the crossover fic The Bank Called, Your Reality Check Bounced, the main cast of Ouran High School Host Club gets dropped into the world of Fullmetal Alchemist. Most of the characters are at least slightly distressed; however, Kyoya not only takes the whole thing in stride, he corrects some of Tamaki's mistaken notions by explaining that "We're not in an anime. We're in a fan fiction." He also comments on the concepts of a Portmanteau Couple Name and shipping.
- Clell65619's Harry Potter and the Read Through mixes this and Animated Actors, as the cast of the Harry Potter novels critique the new fanfic script they've just been handed.
- Played straight and very dark by Stephen King in The Dark Tower series. Roland and his ka-tet find themselves in a world that's realer than theirs, where time never runs backward, and which is critical to saving the multiverse—specifically, they have to make sure Stephen King lives to finish the series.
- The Thursday Next novels have something like this (in-story) called the Bookworld. It's fiction, viewed from the inside. The one caveat is that when characters die or are changed outside of their narratives, it's permanent. For example, all the main characters of Wuthering Heights are forced to attend group counseling meetings, including the ones that die in the course of the story. Yet one character is assigned a protection detail, because of all the people trying to kill him outside of the story, and if he died, the main narrative would fall apart.
- That Doctor Who example up top? That comes from This Time Round, the Doctor Who pub outside continuity, where the Who characters hang out between stories. More specifically, it comes from Look Who's Talking, the Doctor Who day care centre outside continuity...
- This Time Round was inspired by Subreality, and the Subreality Cafe, where all the comics characters - and their fanfic variants - hung out.
- The Theory of Narrative Casualty is essentially a Sherlock fic where the characters are LiveJournal users who are fans of Sherlock Holmes. John Watson is a popular writer for the fandom, and Sherlock Holmes is a (in)famous fan artist. That has to be some kind of meta right there.
- Much of the humor of the Warhammer 40,000 fanfic PRIMARCHS is derived from the characters constantly bitching about the poor job being done by the canon writers and getting into arguments with the author. Humor aside, this is metafic through and through. The most powerful weapon in the universe is the author's laptop, which can rewrite reality; the heroes must save their universe from the Plot Hole which is slowly devouring it, and guest writers of canon Warhammer material occasionally make an appearance. And are then usually killed off as punishment for the aforementioned bad writing.
- How to Write a Sprite Comic in 8 Easy Bits takes all the old Nintendo game characters that nobody ever writes into web comics and casts them as out of work actors that happen to live in the same general area as the comic's author. Included in this nonsense are the blocks from Tetris, Prince Myer from Deadly Towers, and that chick from The Guardian Legend.
- The Kingdom Hearts fanfiction Those Lacking Spines, while ostensibly self-contained, mercilessly skewers the dark side of every aspect of fanfiction, including High School Alternate Universe, yaoi fanfiction, the flanderization of all the "hot" characters (Xaldin, Vexen, and Lexaeus are the heroes of this fic because they are unaffected by The Virus that turns their comrades into shadows of their former selves), poorly done crossovers, random and overly melodramatic storylines, and Mary Sues.
- Books Don't Work Here lives and breathes this trope even though it's an original. There is No Fourth Wall and the characters are actors paid (not much mind you) to act out the plot of the comic. That's how it works in theory, at least - in practice, there is a lot of ad-libbing, backtalk, and complaining about the budget.
- The point of the Buildingverse besides being a Mega Crossover (in this category because most entries are Fan Webcomics) is that there is a world between stories where fictional characters go after (and between) stories and this is the story of the world. By the way Fourth Wall? What's that?
- To make matters more confusing. The characters there are not actors but Living Dreams and they know the verse is still a story so they have vested interest in keeping the story going and the fan wishes satisfied... if they don't want to both of those things are Sentient Cosmic Forces (in Roommates one also has an Anthropomorphic Personification) and You Can't Fight Fate, so in the darker installments cross over to Deconstruction Fic routinely.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has My Little Dashie, a decidedly non-comedic example.
- And My Little Stashie as a decidedly comedic example.
- FIM also has Human by DannyJ, which while indulging in Humans Are Cthulhu and Darker and Edgier, involves a former animator using his knowledge of the show to take over Canterlot, and Celestia working to become a main character to defeat the villain, as families explode and motives are revealed.
- The Avatar fic I Love Bad Fanfiction is about the characters being aware they are in a fanfiction and being forced to act out bad fanfiction cliches at the "director's" (read author's) "bad fanfiction party". It's implied that all other fics from other fandoms are acted out as well by each fandoms respective characters (although the Harry Potter output is so large the characters have no choice but to use body doubles).
- In the short Wild Kratts fanfic Oh Crap! There Are Fanfics Of Us, the Kratt brothers and company discover the disturbing world of fanfiction and fanart. What makes the story real interesting is that the references are to actual fan works you can find, such as the Kitty/Martin fics on Fanfiction.net and Incest Yay art of the bros.