A one-shot or one-off character is a character who appears in only one episode of a series, after which they are never seen again. Very common in Walking the Earth and various Of The Week shows. Long-Lost Uncle Aesop from a Very Special Episode is one example, as is the Girl of the Week for any hero who suffers the Cartwright Curse. In a movie, the one-shot can be anything from a Spear Carrier to a One-Scene Wonder.
Line numbers and importance to the story don't matter: A one-shot character can be the focus of an entire episode, or just be a Bit Character. The defining trait is that they show up once and disappear afterward.
Sometimes a one-shot becomes so popular they get The Cameo later in the series, or they become a recurring extra, or even a full-blown cast member. Infrequently, what seems like a one-shot may actually be a Chekhov's Gunman.
The opposite would be Regular Character. See also Recurring Character. The video game equivalent is the Unique Enemy, which is an enemy that only appears once in a game. Not to be confused with One Hitpoint Wonder.
Types of character that are frequently one-shots:
- Arc Hero: A prominent co-lead for an episode or series installment, then dropped afterwards.
- The Cameo: A character's only role is making a brief appearance.
- Cameo Cluster: A whole bunch of one-shot characters in a particular segment or episode of a work.
- Celebrity Cameo
- Continuity Cameo
- Crossover Cameo
- Dropped After the Pilot: Characters introduced in a show's pilot who are forgotten about, phased out, or even killed off for the rest of the series.
- Ensemble Dark Horse: Minor characters that are beloved by the audience.
- Girl of the Week: One of the main characters gets a one-shot love interest.
- Long-Lost Uncle Aesop: A one-shot character appears solely to provide the episode's moral.
- Monster of the Week: The series frequently or exclusively uses antagonists who only appear in one episode.
- One-Scene Wonder: The character only has one brief scene, but becomes one of the most memorable aspects of the work.
- Red Shirt: A character is killed shortly after being introduced, solely to highlight the danger to the main characters. Very rarely missed.
- Spear Carrier: A character shows up only to say a line and then disappear.
- Tragic One-Shot Character: The one-shot character gets killed off in their single appearance and their demise affects the protagonist.
- Victim of the Week: Every episode deals with a different person being killed or suffering a misfortune
- Villain-Possessed Bystander: The person suffering also becomes the antagonist for the episode.
- Woobie of the Week: Each episode has the main characters help a new person into turning their luck around.