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O.C. Stand-in

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A Sister Trope of Original Character, and the fanfic equivalent of Ascended Extra. An OC Stand-in is a canon Flat Character that gets little screentime or few (if any) lines, and therefore can be molded into whoever the fan wants. Often, they may not even have canonical names. Thus, an OC Stand-in is like an OC, but the fact that these characters usually have some personality (or at the very least a preset design and/or place on the setting) already means the author has some general direction to go in.

Sometimes, these characters are just used to insult the heroes and make life hard for them, giving the character little point. Does Harry Potter really need another teacher who's out to get him? Hasn't Naruto dealt with enough crap already? In these cases, the character is simply used to replace the canon obstacles for The Hero with smaller and (sometimes) more realistic ones. An OC Stand-in is sometimes used to save a main character from being bashed... The OC Stand-in is then bashed instead.

However, there are cases, even when the OC Stand-in is "high school evil", that these characters turn out likeable. Or, at least, the Fanfic does.

In video games, the canon protagonist is sometimes an OC Stand-in, due to being a Featureless Protagonist, a Heroic Mime, and/or a highly customizable RPG player character.

A particularly successful interpretation of one of these is likely to ascend into Fanon when other fans want to play with that version. At that point, if the canon work decides to flesh out this character, then you've got an example of Ascended Fanon (if it matches) or Outdated by Canon (if it doesn't).

Also known as an "Original Canon Character" or OCC. This term isn't to be confused with Out of Character, unless the stand-in's character goes against what little characterization the canon character has. Also contrast with Recurring Fanon Character, an Original Character who never appeared in the original work at all, but became so popular as to appear in many fanworks not by their original creator.

Related to Memetic Bystander.

Example subpages (by medium of the source material):

Other examples:

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    Canon Examples 
  • Aeneas has a very minor role in The Iliad, but Virgil made him the protagonist of The Aeneid, partly because he was such a blank slate and partly because he was one of the few Trojans to survive the sack of Troy (and since the Trojans were supposed to be the ancestors of the Romans, they were obviously the good guys). This makes this trope, you guessed it...
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy, a crossover that featured characters from the first 12 Final Fantasy games, had to pretty much create personalities for the Warrior of Light and the Onion Knight from the wholecloth as both of them were featureless protagonists. It should also be noted that the latter could have possibly been avoided if the game used Luneth or one of the other three orphans from the DS remake instead of the OK kids from the NES version, but that wouldn't quite fit what the game was going for.
  • Zagreus, the main character of Hades, is this trope by necessity. The game revolves around Greek mythology, and the original Zagreus from Greek myth is a very minor and obscure deity with hardly any surviving records about him, typically being part of Dionysus' Multiple-Choice Past whenever he's mentioned at all. As a result, the game's interpretation of Zagreus (mainly inspired by the Greek playwright Aeschylus' mention of him as the son of Hades) is an entirely new character who's separate from Dionysus.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Media relating to the books likes to do this with the Nazgûl, since they're clearly important figures, but the only ones to be even slightly fleshed out are the Witch-King, whose life prior to becoming a wraith is still a complete mystery, and Khamûl the Easterling, whose character consists of his name and ethnicity. Any media not wanting to simply name them "Nazgûl three through nine" (which, funnily, was the solution one of the card games went with) will usually give them backstories or personalities of some kind.
    • Gothmog is the second-in-command of Minas Morgul who took over the army at Pelennor after the Witch-King died. This is the entire extent of what we know about him, with even his species being indeterminate, as he's mentioned once in the entire series, not even being filled out in the appendices. However, given that there are relatively few named villains in the books, especially high-ranking ones, quite a few derivative works have ended up filling him out more. The Peter Jackson films made him into a severely disfigured orc general, Lord of the Rings Online turned him into the lost king Eärnur, having been transformed into a wraith, and the War of the Ring tabletop game depicted him as a humanoid warrior in heavy concealing armor.
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern — very minor characters in Hamlet — become the protagonists of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
  • Many Transformers series have done this, as the backlog of canon is laden with characters who have previously received little to no characterization.
    • The More Than Meets the Eye profile series put out by Dreamwave had to do this to a lot of late-G1 characters who had little to nothing in the way of bios. Micromaster team bios referred to the team as a whole, which meant any new information had to come from the writers.
    • The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers largely focused on a team of Autobots who had previously made almost no fictional appearances, and whose bios rarely elaborated on them much more than "good pilot" or "weapons specialist." Its cowriter, James Roberts, would go on to be heavily involved in Transformers: More than Meets the Eye (no relation), which gave heavy development to characters like Swerve, Rewind, Tailgate, and Krok, whose previous characterization was reserved to bios and could generally be summed up as a single gimmick ("bad driver", for instance).
    • The Ask Vector Prime Fourth-Wall Mail Slot Character Blog provided additional background to a lot of characters who had previously had little to go on. A particular case was Spacewarp, based on a toy that was never even released at retail and therefore had no bio whatsoever, whom the blog depicted as a daring explorer and Anti-Villain Protagonist with an arrogant streak, as well as confirming her gender to be female. Not only did she end up holding down the blog for a while, she even got her first actual new toy out of it.

    Comic Books 
  • In the (admittedly small) fandom for the Johnny the Homicidal Maniac comics and related spin-offs, One-Scene Wonder Edgar Vargas was commonly used this way during the mid/late 2000s. Mostly that's because Vargas was popularized as a potential shipping partner for Johnny, since Guy on Guy Is Hot and the only other "main" characters in the actual comic are women, children, or imaginary disembodied voices (probably for exactly this reason). Funnily enough, the original fanfic to use the character, while it did establish the ship, focused mostly on Character Development and his characterization stayed fairly consistent afterward, with the original fanfic being used as the Fanon basis for everything that followed. Vargas was eventually popular enough to merit his own character filter on
  • Project Superpowers could be considered this on a company-wide scale, adapting Public Domain heroes from The Golden Age of Comic Books and giving them personalities and characterisation not seen before.
  • This X-Men fic is one of the rare Possession Sue cases. It takes a very obscure character (Magneto's canonically-dead wife Magda) and turns her from a meek woman whose only real moment of characterization was fleeing her husband after he accidentally killed a bunch of people into a de-aged (since, as a Holocaust survivor, she should be fairly old, even with Comic-Book Time) genius roboticist mutant with a power that's supposedly completely unique and desirable enough that people would kidnap her for it (despite there already being a canon character with the same power whom no one makes much of a fuss over).

    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts:
    • The Little Red-Haired Girl from Peanuts is an unseen character (though she made a few tantalizing non-canon appearances in television specials), and we know nothing about her personality since Charlie Brown doesn't have the guts to talk to her and, hence, really knows nothing about her himself. Any time she appears in a fanfic, she is this trope by necessity.
    • Peanuts is actually full of minor characters who get used as OC stand-ins. Of particular note are Franklin, Violet (usually Alpha Bitch, especially in stories that require Lucy to be slightly nicer and need a replacement villain), and Shermy (whose character trait in most fanfics is having no character traits at all, unless he's The Ace to Charlie Brown as he was in several early strips).

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): The author confirmed that characters Tejada, Sergeant Travis and Kauffman are O.C. Stand-ins of notable nameless Mooks in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). Travis is also based on a named minor character in the movie's novelization.
  • Three background ponies from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic - Lightning Bolt, Cloud Kicker and Medley - had little screen time and almost no lines in the show. In Ace Combat: The Equestrian War, they are a part of a heroic squadron and become a Communications Officer, Plucky Girl and Little Miss Badass respectively.
  • Frozen Hearts (Red Witch): Thanks to the fic being made before we had any idea of what she was like, Betty is this.
  • BlazBlue Alternative: Remnant: Tortuga was only ever mentioned in passing in RWBY, with the only thing known about him being that he was the member of the Ace Ops before Marrow. In this story, he fully appears and has some dynamics with Harriet, is given the last name of Chartreuse, and his death is shown.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Kelvin the labradoodle is a New York street stray mentioned briefly in the movie by his pigeon friends, but is not seen. He appears in “The Protection Payment” and “The Seer” in this series, characterized as a prognosticator with a highly-developed moral streak who vociferously disapproves of the way Mittens treats his avian pals. The cat mistakes him for a hot-headed Cloud Cuckoolander.
  • Cinders and Ashes: the Chronicles of Kamen Rider Dante does this to quite a few characters from Re:CREATORS, namely Melt and Shimashima, who were a minor background character seen only in the opening and an off-hand namedrop in a flashback respectively. Here, they become major, recurring characters, with Melt being the Dark Magical Girl counterpart to Mamika and Shimashima being a Reasonable Authority Figure.
  • Animorphs:
    • Dæmorphing fleshes out a couple of alien races that were only mentioned in passing in canon. The Ssstram (briefly mentioned by Temrash 114 in The Capture) were one of the first species the Yeerks conquered, but they're not seen on Earth because its gravity is too strong for them. The Kelbrid, a warrior race that went to war with the Andalites so long ago that neither can remember what the other looks like, are colonies of psychically-linked, aquatic worms who travel outside of their ships in water bubbles.
    • In Eleutherophobia, the girl who Tom followed into a Sharing meeting, who was only mentioned in passing in The Capture, is fleshed out into a character named Bonnie Park.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail has Chloe Cerise from Pokémon Journeys: The Series. When the author began writing, the canon Chloe had little in the way of characterization beyond "dislikes Pokémon" and "hates being seen as 'the Professor's daughter'", so she was made into a Nightmare Fetishist and aspiring horror writer. While both versions of Chloe would slowly become more accepting of Pokémon in their lives, the fic's relationship with the creatures ends there, while the canon Chloe becomes a trainer.
  • Infinity Train: Boiling Point:
    • Boscha is a downplayed example. While her personality as a cruel, arrogant bully is kept intact, several layers are added to make her a more complex character, now coming across as The Social Darwinist that functions on Blue-and-Orange Morality.
    • Skara is a more straightforward example. In canon, she's the Innocent Beta Bitch to Boscha's Alpha Bitch... and that's it. In here, she's turned into a quirky Magical Flutist who's a Stepford Smiler Beneath the Mask.
    • On the Infinity Train side of things, outside of Lucy, none of the named Apex children showed much personality. The most they did was when Simon and Grace fought, but that's more as a group rather than as individuals. In here, they're given more concrete personalities: Lucy's a Nice Girl, Lindsay's an Alpha Bitch, Todd's a gamer, and Alex is Genre Savvy.
  • Inkopolis Chaos: Many major characters' appearances are inspired by nigh-nameless characters:
    • Samuel, Sylvia, Luke, and Melody are based on the default Inklings found in Splatoon and Splatoon 2's promotional material.
    • Natalie and her brother Dylan are based on the default player Octolings.
    • Ruby and Obsidian are based on enemy Octolings, with the latter having black hair like the elite variant.
  • Janna vs. the Forces of Evil: Janna, though the canon character from the show would go on to become an Ascended Extra. While she shares a few personality traits with the show's Janna, this Janna differs in everything from surname, to ethnicity, to home situation, to even her relationship with Marco (which is now a more balanced Friendly Enemy dynamic as opposed to prankster and victim).
  • Rei from Mob Psycho 100 is often used as an O.C. stand-in when a female love interest is needed (as in Shigeko Kageyama AKA Mob), or a female friend is needed (as in Master and Student).
  • In Resident Evil: Revelations 2, a throwaway line in the ending cutscene says that Adam Benford's Vice President was sworn in after Benford's death in Resident Evil 6. That's the entire extent of what canon says about this person. The Progenitor Chronicles introduces her as Robin Margaret Kaldwin, who features heavily in Volume III.
  • Sonic the Comic – Online!: The Distant Finale Exit: Sonic reveals that Tekno and Amy have a son named Johnny Junior. All that's known is that he's still teething, he's Sonic's godson, and he could become a Freedom Fighter one day. This leaves everything, including his species and design, up to interpretation.
  • The Young Stag: Edric Storm, who had a very minor role in one of the books of the TV series is based on, is made into one of the primary POV characters for the Stormlands.
  • Steven Universe: Alternate Future does this with many characters listed below in Steven Universe's section, particularly with many Gems like Citrine and Morganite.
  • The Winx Club fanfic Amaranthine Shadows by Lila Gaela has a rather particular and more fleshed-out version of Galatea, a very, very minor character in the series. In canon, she's a plot device whose only purpose was to be rescued by Musa so the latter can gain her Enchantix and use her Fairy Dust to heal the former's ripped-off wings. One might think that any fairy would suffer severe trauma after losing her wings by a witch's hands, even if said fairy later regained them. Winx Club's creators shoved aside all of this after that episode so this fanwork occupies itself on correcting the loose ends. Galatea indeed gets PTSD afterward and a real personality. She's a perfectionist, she's haughty, and since her wings don't immediately grow again after being healed by Musa, she thrives for power in order to regain control.

    Films — Animation 
  • Frozen:
    • King Agnarr and Queen Iduna aren't given much character in the film compared to their daughters (this is especially true for Iduna who shows very little personality compared to her husband and has exactly one line before her death). Due to the fact they're such extraordinarily important characters, fanfic writers have many interpretations of them from well-meaning parents to secretly afraid of Elsa.
    • The twelve older brothers of Prince Hans are mentioned but never seen in film, though they played a part in his actions during the film. As such, fanfiction that depicts Hans' family usually brings up one or more of his brothers, even giving them names and personalities. Since the release of the semi-canon novel, A Frozen Heart, which names four of his brothers (Caleb, the oldest and the king's favorite son; Lars, the third-oldest and the only brother nice to Hans; and Rudi and Runo, the twins who were the most abusive to him) as well acknowledging his parents, fanfiction has also fleshed their characters out more.
    • Honeymaren's only role in Frozen II is to serve as Ms. Exposition without any hint of a personality. Yet since she interacts with Elsa in a potentially meaningful Les Yay, many fan fic writers love to expand her personality since she is seen as a potential Love Interest for Elsa, particularly those who support the "#Give Elsa a girlfriend" campaign.
  • Absolutely epidemic in The Lion King fandom due to a large number of background characters and semi-canon characters (characters from books and comics). Unused or non-canon characters are especially apparent in fanon works. The most common are Mheetu (Nala's brother), Kopa/Fluffy (Simba's son from The Lion King: Six New Adventures), Tesma (a meerkat friend of Simba), Naanda (Sarabi's sister), and Bhati (a bat-earred fox friend of Simba). Given that most of them don't have much of a personality this leads fan-artists to create their own versions. Sarafina, Sarabi, and Vitani are popular choices for canon characters with little screentime, while characters like Tama from comics and books also frequently appear in fan-works. The topic of whether Sarafina is even alive in the sequel is a common Fandom-Specific Plot.
  • Ariel's many older sisters in The Little Mermaid are this with fans. They don't have much to go by besides comics and the third movie (along with the occasional picture book), which have little consistency even with the details of their designs. Attina is especially popular thanks to the prequel movie making her the oldest and having her indirectly causing her mother's death. Aquata is also fairly popular as well as she was the oldest in older material, and comics go more in-depth into her grooming to be queen.
  • Turning Red has the five members of 4*Town: Robaire, Jesse, Tae Young, Aaron Z. and Aaron T.. They only appear in person during the third act and get minimal characterizationnote , but their popularity among the fanbase led to several fanfics expanding upon them and their dynamics with each other.
  • Zootopia:
    • Many of Judy's fellow officers in the ZPD such as Francine, Fangmeyer, Wolfard, McHorn, and others often recieve this treatment, due to being Judy's coworkers but having almost no characterization in the movie besides name and species.
    • Another common target for this treatment is Jack Savage, a rabbit superspynote  from an early concept of the movie. Likewise, his girlfriend/spy partner Skye, a female foxnote . Unsurprisingly, being another rabbit/fox couple, they're often used to create love triangles or at least a parallel between Nick and Judy's relationship.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Fans of the MCU version of Loki frequently import Sigyn from the comics and/or mythology to have someone with a seemingly legitimate romantic stake on Loki. Because Sigyn has never actually appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans are pretty free to make her anything they want her to be. Results range from genuinely good characters to shallow satellite love interests.
    • Almost nothing is known in canon about Riley, Sam's former fellow soldier who was killed in action, but for this same reason he's very popular with the fandom for being a character who's never spoken or appeared in person. Some fans headcanon him as Sam's former lover or a brother-in-law, and some fics will depict Sam as naming his pet drone Redwing in his honor.
    • Darcy Lewis — a minor character in the first two Thor films who never made an appearance outside of them until WandaVision — became this for a significant chunk of the fandom when it came to shipping, becoming a Launcher of a Thousand Ships in record time. Part of this may have to do with what characterization we got for her in the films; as an ordinary-yet-intelligent human and Audience Surrogate, she was the closest your stereotypical MCU fic writer/reader could get to having herself represented in the films.
  • Uhura's Orion roommate Gaila from Star Trek (2009) had only a couple of minutes of screentime and a Word of God backstory as having escaped the Orion slave trade on an "underground railroad" of sorts. Fandom took her and turned her into a sex-positive, feminist symbol through which authors often explore cultural taboos regarding sex as well as culture shock and culture clashes.
  • The Transformers Film Series is full of characters that hardly get any development that many fanfic writers expand on, some noticeable examples include Annabelle Lennox (and occasionally her parents) and Autobots who are not named Optimus Prime and Bumblebee.
  • Star Wars's Boba Fett is by far one of the oldest examples of this phenomenon. In the films, he only had five lines, had next to no personality, and was killed off relatively early in Return of the Jedi. However, because he was a cool looking blank slate for fans to project their fantasies of badassery onto, he became explosively popular.
  • The Hobbit: Dis, Fili and Kili's mother, is mentioned only briefly in canon but gets a bigger role in many fics that flesh out the Durin family. The most common fanon characterization of her is a tough, takes-no-shit Lady of War who looks similar to her brother Thorin and is twice as stubborn as him.

  • The Starlings from The 39 Clues served as this in many fanfics, having been Put on a Bus early on in the first book. That book revealed little more than the fact that they were rich triplets and not very nice, and Word of God later claimed that they were part of the Ekaterina branch of Cahill family, but other than that, fans were free to fit them with whatever characteristics they wanted. Then The Bus Came Back.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld has dozens and dozens of spear carriers, cameo roles, and placeholders. Named Assassins such as Alice Band, Miss Smith-Rhodes, Madame Deux-Epees, for instance, or the hero and adventurer Howondaland Smith. Characters like this are fertile turf for the fanfic writer. Howondaland Smith gets a tale of his own in The Black Sheep, which also features Miss Smith-Rhodes and Madame Deux-Epees in their fuller forms.
  • Harry Potter is probably one of the most prolific work of fiction when it comes to OC Stand-ins, due to its large cast which contains a lot of Bit Characters, and named characters who are mentioned only once or twice in passing:
    • Blaise Zabini gets special mention here, since from his name appearing in book one until he got a physical description in Half-Blood Prince, half the fanfic writers assumed he was a girl, since "Blaise" is more commonly a girl's name in some places. (They've since taken to writing about Daphne Greengrass or Tracey Davis when they need a generic Slytherin girl.)
    • Daphne Greengrass also gets a lot of attention when authors need a sympathetic Slytherin girl, as she's mentioned just once in the books and therefore escapes the inevitable Slytherin fate of being described as ugly and/or mean (and probably because later material revealed that Draco Malfoy hooks up with her sister Astoria after his Heel–Face Turn). Typically she's said to come from a neutral wizarding family or otherwise isn't connected with the rest of her house, possessing the same traits that Slytherins are known for but without invoking Ambition Is Evil. Tracey Davis (who's not even mentioned in the books, appearing only in an early draft list of students in Harry's year) also gets this to a lesser extent, often appearing as Daphne's best friend.
    • Theodore Nott is almost as popular as Blaise. He is usually portrayed as a somewhat good version of Draco Malfoy, or a bookworm loner. It was also once somewhat popular to make Nott a worse version of Draco Malfoy, almost a Tom Riddle 2.0.
    • At the time of this writing, Marlene McKinnon has 1,500+ stories on Who is Marlene McKinnon? An Order member who died in the First War, along with her family; Lily mentions having cried all night when she heard about her death. That's basically all we know about her, but fans have (somewhat reasonably) extrapolated that Marlene and Lily may have been friends, and (less reasonably) concluded that Marlene was Sirius Black's girlfriend/wife/etc., which is where most of her popularity comes from.
    • Similarly to Marlene is Mary MacDonald. All we know is that she was a Hogwarts student during the Marauder Era, apparently a Gryffindor, and on speaking terms with Lily, so she works as another friend of hers.
    • Severus Snape's Hogwarts friends often get this treatment in Marauders or young Snape fanfics. It helps that we are given names for them: Evan Rosier, Avery, Mulciber, Wilkes, Rabastan and Rodolphus Lestrange. Regulus Black may also count, though in the final book he gets a fair bit of fleshing out despite being dead.
    • Tom Riddle's "friends" also get this to a lesser extent. Fans especially like to play with the fact that their surnames are the same as many of Snape's friends: Avery, Lestrange, Mulciber, and Rosier.
    • Chris Columbus giving his daughter Eleanor The Cameo by casting her as Susan Bones in the first two movies might almost count as an "official" version of this. After all, Susan was a background role with no lines, so what better place would there be for the American director to slip his daughter in without affecting the all-British cast requirement? Well, true to form, Susan ended up getting developed into more than just a throwaway name in the books written after the first two movies came out. The latter films handled this by simply not including her plotline, which they likely would have done anyway considering the length of the later books.
    • Back before Ginny Weasley had much of a canonically defined personality, she was a frequent target of this.
    • Fanfic writers are also fond of writing about the main characters' kids' school days, when they don't just ignore the epilogue entirely.
    • By the same token we have the spouses of the characters who Hooked Up Afterwards. Draco's wife, Astoria/Asteria Greengrass, is usually either a sympathetic Slytherin or a victim of Die for Our Ship (though sometimes she's a sympathetic Ravenclaw instead). Percy's wife, Audrey, is either a sweet girl or a rebellious firebrand in contrast to her husband; she may also be a Muggle. Luna Lovegood's husband, Rolf Scamander, is implied by Word of God to be an adventurous naturalist. Since his grandfather, Newt, is the protagonist of the prequel movie series, people have a better guess at his personality than others on this list.
    • Hermione's Invisible Parents. The only thing known for sure about them is that they're Muggle dentists. As long as that requirement is fulfilled, fanfic writers can fill in whatever they want — and even that's flexible, as occasionally a fanfic will declare that "dentist" was a Lie to Wizards and they're more precisely doctors specializing in oral surgery. Even their first names are up for grabs.
    • Professor Aurora Sinistra. She teaches Astronomy, and since nothing plot-important really happens there until book 5, she didn't even have a clear gender until that time.
    • When the fourth book came out, Arabella Figg was just someone who was mentioned in passing as an old ally of Dumbledore. Fanfiction would often portray her attending Hogwarts with the Marauders, usually as the best friend of Lily. The only problem was the widespread fan expectation that Arabella Figg would ultimately be revealed to be the same person as "Mrs. Figg," who had been mentioned as a Crazy Cat Lady neighbor of the Dursleys in the first book. Moreover, that theory was confirmed by Word of God in 2001. However, some leeway was provided by the implication that she was working as Dumbledore's spy at the time. It thus became a popular trope to explain away her elderly appearance in the first book as some sort of magical disguise. Of course, her viability as an O.C. stand-in came to an end with the release of the fifth book, which revealed that she really was an old cat lady and a Squib to boot.
  • The past competitors/victors in The Hunger Games are often this, since few of them are given backstories. Fics about how they won their respective games are also common.
    • Also, many of the other tributes from Katniss's games have be used this way. Glimmer, Marvel, Thresh, Foxface, the girl from 4, the boy from 3 who dug up the mines, and the girl from 8 whom the careers killed the first night, are all distinct enough that they aren't completely anonymous, but have almost no defined characteristics or personality.
  • The Lord of the Rings
    • Erestor—the only things we really know about him is that he's the chief counselor of Elrond's household, and that, based on his very few lines of dialogue, he was in favor of trying to hide the ring rather than destroy it. Fanon ran away with the guy, since he's apparently a somewhat important elf, but everything else about him is very uncertain, meaning basically anything you could write about the guy would probably be true. Notably, this is common enough that Erestor/Glorfindel is, statistically, one of the most popular pairings on Archive of our Own.
    • Every one of the Ringwraiths, "kings, sorcerors and warriors of old" who succumbed to the evil of the rings Sauron gave them "sooner or later, according to their native strength and to the good or evil of their wills in the beginning," is probably worthy of a full-length tragedy in his own right, but we know hardly anything more than this about their personal histories, and only their leader and his lieutenant get even traces of characterization. Naturally, spinoffs and fanworks love to craft identities for them.
  • Lucky Number Thirteen has Sharon Leibowitz. She's an actual character in Fifty Shades of Grey, but is only vaguely alluded to and doesn't have a name. Here she's a main character and given a surprising amount of characterisation and backstory, considering the fic is only 10,201 words long.
  • In Peter Pan, Jane appeared in only one scene and was basically a Generation Xerox of her mother, Wendy. The Disney sequel Return To Never Land turned her into a highly pragmatic, disillusioned girl who grew up too fast as a result of living through the bombing in London. Margaret, the next descendant in the Wendy line (named, but never shown), gets this treatment in some fanfics.
    • She also made a two episode appearance in Peter Pan & the Pirates when Peter brings her to Neverland as a new Lost Boy only to find out about her being Wendy's daughter from the future.
  • The sheer extent of the A Song of Ice and Fire backstory, and sheer number of characters, both living and dead, about whom we know very little, means there's the potential for a lot of this. In particular, many characters' dead mothers (Death by Childbirth being very common in Westeros) get this treatment, such as Joanna Lannister, Rhaella Targaryen, and Minisa Whent.
  • Warrior Cats: The series has literally hundreds of characters only known through the Allegiances or through bit roles. They're prime fodder for fanfic writers. Some include Snowkit (a deaf kit who was taken by a hawk) and Nutmeg (Firestar's housepet mother).

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the 30 Rock fandom, the Liz/Gretchen ship has a sizable following. Even if you're regular viewer of 30 Rock, you're probably wondering who Gretchen is. Well, she's a "brilliant plastics engineer/lesbian" whom Liz was set up on a date with as part of a Mistaken for Gay plot. Gretchen appeared in one episode back in the first season and has not been seen or mentioned since. But let's face it, it's not hard to see the appeal of pairing someone who looks like Stephanie March with someone who looks like Tina Fey. Plus, the episode contained a substantial amount of Les Yay, featured Frank and Pete becoming Shippers on Deck for Liz/Gretchen ("So you're saying I should just be a lesbian?", "I'm not saying it'll be easy. You get drunk first."), and ended with Gretchen deciding she couldn't be Just Friends with Liz because they were getting into a Stupid Sexy Friend situation.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom, there was Devon, the lead singer of the school rock band Dingos Ate My Baby, who had hardly any dialogue at all other than singing when Dingos were seen performing. He ended up with a massive fanfic presence as a major character, due to the popularity of slashing him with Oz, a much more significant character who was the band's bassist.
  • A popular Doctor Who character used in this way is the Doctor's Opposite-Sex Clone Jenny from the 2008 Tenth Doctor episode "The Doctor's Daughter". She flies off in a spaceship at the end of the episode, falsely believed to be dead by the Doctor, and wouldn't appear in any more TV or Doctor Who Expanded Universe material for about a decade, before finally playing a major role in the comics Crisis Crossover Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension and getting some Big Finish Doctor Who dramas. As a result of this, she got heavy development in fanfic during the intervening years. For example, see the fanfic series Someone You'd Admire.
  • On Glee the Warblers have little to no personality. The named members (Nick, Jeff, Trent, and Wes) are very popular with fanfic writers, and plenty have invented their own wholecloth.
    • Puck's mother and sister. Since they don't even have names in canon, but he presumably lives with them, they play at least a minor part in most fics about his life outside of school and glee.
    • Beth, the daughter of Quinn and Puck and adopted daughter of Shelby Corcoran. She only appeared on the show as an infant and later a toddler, but many a Flash Forward Fic has had her be involved in a new incarnation of New Directions, either taking after her birth-mother or step-sister Rachel (or both, in the event that it's a Faberry shipping fic).
  • In Hogan's Heroes, Wilson the medic shows up in one episode and is mentioned in another (not by name). He shows up in so many fanfictions that his name can be used as a character filter on FanFiction.Net, combining this trope with Ensemble Dark Horse.
  • iCarly: Rebecca Berkowitz, seen only once, in an extended rarely seen version of "iSaw Him First" and usually mentioned off-handedly. In any fic with her as a character, she's basically going to be an OC with a canon name, if they even bother to develop her past the implied Really Gets Around.
  • There are Lost fanfics that takes the minor survivors, including extras, and gives them the full on Lost treatment, with flashbacks and their own sideplots.
  • On Neighbours, Lisa Jeffries was a very minor character who shared a few scenes with Summer Hoyland; she appeared in about a dozen episodes over the course of two years. She has, however, inspired a substantial volume of fanfic, which has developed her in ways totally unrelated to her canonical characterization.
  • Red Dwarf has several minor characters from before the radiation accident but the most notable example is Frank Todhunter, the ship's first officer, who only appears in the first episode, for about five minutes screen time, and then dies offscreen along with everyone else. He later gets a few posthumous mentions but is never seen again, even in flashbacks (He was supposed to return but actor Robert Bathurst was unavailable). Other than his position on the ship, all that's really stated about him is that he was married but had several affairs and was utterly hated by Rimmer, mostly out of jealousy. He crops up as a fleshed-out character quite a lot in pre-series fics and it's become surprisingly popular to ship him with Lister.
  • Since Sebastian Moran (The Dragon to Moriarty in the original Doyle stories) had no canonical characterization in Sherlock until "The Empty Hearse", he effectively became one of these for the fandom. He's been depicted as everything from Affably Evil to a Domestic Abuser to a Dark Action Girl.
  • Ronnie Gardocki from The Shield qualifies as a major example of a live action version, as fans of the character have largely grafted onto him the personality of good guy nerd/geek who fell in with the wrong crowd as far as personality goes. Ironically, David Rees Snell (the actor playing Ronnie) has joked that had the writers fleshed out Ronnie and explored the character's dark side in relations to him being just like Lem, Shane, and Vic as far as being a Jerk Jock, that he probably would have lost all of his fans.
  • A juvenile character named Marissa Flores, who appeared in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Disaster" (and absolutely nowhere else in Trek canon), spawned the rather infamous Marissa Picard fanfic series, written by a chap named Stephen Ratliff. And it's not limited to just Marissa; Ratliff also included a bunch of one-off kid characters from TNG as the title character's various minions and cohorts.
  • The Vampire Diaries:
    • It's canonically stated that Stefan and Damon had a sibling (usually a girl in fanfics) that was born from a different mother. Whether or not the writers of the Salvatore sister stories actually know this, however, is unknown.
    • Katherine is shown to have had a younger sister in her origin story that was killed by Klaus. Commonly she is not actually killed but rather turned by him.

  • Vocaloid, naturally, since there is nothing canon about the singers, besides name, voice and appearance (and sometimes not even that). One story managed to bring in one of the character's creator as a separate character.

  • This trope is all over the place in Transformers. The franchise is filled with characters who only appear as toys with bio notes of varying character depth, and occasionally toys without bio notes. This means that anyone wanting to create an OC of their own can easily zero in on a random canon character.
  • The same applies to BIONICLE and its huge cast of characters, some of whom only appeared in a scene or two and barely get to be described (the author claims he is very bad at coming up with visual traits, for example). The developers of the beloved Mata Nui On-Line Game said that LEGO barely gave them the most minor of side-characters to work with, and they had to develop their personalities and culture themselves. What resulted was a game teeming with characters more memorable and charming than many of the ones that the "official guys" made up. They easily became fan favorites.
    • Fans themselves also get chances to flesh out some of the more underused characters, via official writing or art contests. In the latter, they can even design the look of the characters themselves.
  • This is pretty much the point of My Little Pony. Most ponies don't appear in adaptations and even many who do are lucky to get a single line. G1 ponies had a brief (and often bizarre) story on their backcard, whereas more modern ponies just have a sentence about them (such as "likes to write stories.") This leaves almost everyone up to interpretation.

    Tabletop Games 

    Web Animation 
  • In Homestar Runner, there's Champeen and Homeschool Winner:
    • Champeen was originally a nameless background figure in the minor Dancin' Bubs game, who later had her name revealed in a DVD-exclusive toon: "Why Come Only One Girl? She was designed as a Distaff Counterpart to Homestar, though ended up not being used. Fans often characterize her as a Passionate Sports Girl who's often portrayed as either Homestar's sister or cousin, though usually they're on good terms.
    • Homeschool Winner was originally named in an old version of the game's Characters page, though vanished when the page was updated. However, he's appeared as an in-joke in several minor site features since then. Like Champeen, he's often portrayed as a relative of Homestar, though he's often suggested to be Homestar's opposite: someone smart but cold, and occasionally a bit of a jerk, in contrast to Homestar's Kindhearted Simpleton nature.
  • RWBY:
    • Ruby and Yang's Missing Mom Summer is a major character narrative-wise, but little is known about her. It's told that she was sweet and Ruby takes a lot after her, but that's all that's known.
    • Team CVFY are a large example. Originally Velvet was only supposed to appear in one scene, but her popularity amongst fans led to more cameos and an entire team being created for her. Out of her team, only Velvet and Coco have the bare minimum characterization in Volume 2. The team would later get a book (RWBY: After the Fall) between Volumes 6 and 7 that would elaborate on all their personalities.
    • Weiss' mother was the only member of her family that doesn't appear in Volume 4. Her design was known from a painting seen that season, but until she formally debuted in Volume 7, all that was known about her character was that she's a distant Alcoholic Parent in a bad relationship with her husband.
    • Sun and Neptune have characterization, but their teammates Scarlet and Sage are bit characters.
    • Neo has only had a few scenes and she's The Speechless in all of them. She's very expressive so it's easy to tell that she's at least Silent Snarker that likes fighting, but her backstory and personality beyond that was unknown until the novel RWBY: Roman Holiday, which released after Volume 8. Her relationship with Roman was especially vague, resulting in fans depicting them as being anywhere from a Parent-Child Team (with Neo usually, but not always, being adopted), to Like Brother and Sister, to being lovers.
    • Melanie and Militia are Tag Team Twins who only appear in the "Yellow" trailer and a single episode as a cameo. The only thing clear about them is that they speak like Valley Girls. Their mother is later confirmed to be another bit character.

  • The Midnight Crew Intermission of Homestuck brought us The Felt, a 17-man mafia group, only three of whom (Snowman, Doc Scratch and Lord English) got substantial characterization to be clearly defined as characters. The remaining fourteen, all from a species known as leprechauns, ALL get this treatment, as only their powers and maybe a single moment of funny is supposed to encompass their characterization. The only exceptions are Clover, whose appearances manage to characterize him as a fusion between The Riddler and the Clock King, which is still a fairly open characterization, and Crowbar, The Smart Guy among the leprechauns who somehow makes the entire team competent and who has a Paradox Space comic of his own.
    • Until Act 6 Intermission 5, two of the Felt only appeared posthumously, and all that was known about them previously were their names and faces (of course, they still got no characterization at all when they showed up). While their appearances in fanfiction increased once they made an appearance in the story, there still were examples of people using them for as OC Stand-ins before anything was known about them.
    • The Post-Scratch Ancestors were intentionally written like this so that fanfic writers could have access to a more 'serious' Alternian setting than the setting of the modern trolls. Other than their basic appearance, most important actions, some of their Shipping proclivities and a bit of the personality of one of them (Mindfang, a sexy pirate and rather a bad writer), we know very little about what they are like. This is lampshaded in comic where Hussie refers to Doc Scratch's exposition on them as fanfiction (and, given that they are trolls, troll fanfiction).
  • Klonoa: Dream Crusaders:
    • In the games, Claire the Ancient is an unseen deity who is worshipped, but doesn't play a direct role in the story. This comic has her appear in person as a Greater-Scope Villain.
    • Although Tenebrae Hue was the main antagonist of the original comic, he seemed like a Generic Doomsday Villain due to the comic being cancelled before we could learn much about him. This comic gives him more personality and motivation.
  • Quill-Weave in Prequel. As par the course in the source material, she's given the slightest hint of a personality and features in the very first fighters' guild quest. She's much more fully fleshed out in the comic, especially through the scenes from her POV.
    • The same goes for Sigrid, who in Oblivion is a survivor of Kvatch who sells potions. Since the comic takes place before the events of Oblivion, she's made the head of the Mage's Guild in Kvatch and her unusually high Mercantile stat is explained as her being especially beautiful and charming (as well as using some artificial enhancements like Enchantments and Alchemy, mechanics that are known to be Game Breakers in the series).
  • Roommates invents characterization for the mother of James Norrington (the Pirates of the Caribbean movies gave no name, characterization or any other information), turning her into an extremely likable Irish Cool Old Lady.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: The Distant Prologue takes place ninety years before the main story, and its characters are the ancestors of the main characters. The familial relationships between prologue characters and main story characters are shown to range from parent and child to great-grandparent and great-grandchild in the official family tree. Fics that explore what happened during the Time Skip will hence frequently focus on a member of the intermediate generations who have Unknown Character status in the comic itself.

    Web Video 
  • Dominic Noble's Harry Potter-themed alter ego, "Terrence the Douchebag from Ravenclaw", is in fact Terry Boot, a seldom-seen Ravenclaw student in the books with little to no characterization. This was first implied by the establishment of Terrence's surname as Boot, and fully confirmed when he was addressed as "Terry" in his flashback to the aftermath of the Battle of Hogwarts. The canonical Terry is enough of an example of this trope that even some book fans will see the name of Terry Boot and jump to assuming it's a direct reference to Dom's character.