|Tropes and genres|
|Synonym(s)||Outsider fic, POV Outsider, External POV|
|Related tropes/genres||Point of View|
|See also||Unreliable Narrator|
|Related articles on Fanlore.|
A bystander fic, usually tagged POV Outsider on Archive of Our Own, is a fanfiction told from the point of view of a third party to some situation, such as canon events or ship interactions. The removed point of view often serves to highlight how unusual the characters' lives are when compared to the life of an average bystander, or to otherwise explore how someone who doesn't know all the details would parse the information they have access to.
Original characters often serve as narrators, as they offer a relatively passive lens through which the narrative can focus on canon characters/events, a focus which mostly prevents Mary Sue accusations from being flung at the author. Sometimes the narrator will be an OC Stand-In — a very flat canon character who might not even have a name — or an outright well-developed canon character who just isn't as involved with the situation being observed as other characters. The main character of a canon could be an outside observer of two minor characters' romantic interactions, for example.
Fan comments on the trope
A 2009 discussion on an Outside POV rec list:
Some can be cool, but it depends how well the writer...writes it. Bringing in OC's for a outsider pov can be interesting, but only if to much attention isn't drawn to the OC--or you lose the feel of the fandom. 
I actually quite enjoy AUs, crossovers, and "outsider fics." They pose interesting situations and develop/reveal characters in different ways that are a lot of fun to pick out.
- Multifandom: A New POV: Bystander Stories - 2003 concept-based anthology fanzine.
- Blake's 7: Face In The Crowd by Manna. An everyman's view on the end of the series
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Four Ghosts by hollimichele. By the end of your sophomore year of high school, you're pretty sure that Sunnydale High is haunted. Words: 1237. Gen.
- I'd Be Dropping No Eaves by ionaonie. The King and his advisors on a rare night off. Pairings: Arthur/Merlin, Gwen/Lancelot/Morgana
- To Protect by anyssah. This is how Camelot protects Merlin. Words: 2293. Gen.
- Walk of Shame by magog83. “I’ve heard it said he can level a castle with a flick of his hand.” Toby said in a hushed voice. Words: 658. Pairing: Arthur/Merlin
- One Direction/Radio 1 RPF: If These Ears Could Talk by LittleMousling. Thurston prefers the quiet life. Too bad he's living in Nick Grimshaw's flat right now. (The "bystander" here is a dog.)
- Sky High: Kissing Warren by Marie Suzzette. Warren attempts to reassure himself of his heterosexuality. Words: 902
- Stargate Atlantis: Blink (link) by lavvyan. cyberpunk AU fic told in first person from an OFC's perspective, written for McShep Match 2008.
- Starsky and Hutch:
- Accidental Documentaries by Tassos. Antonia is determined to make the best high school documentary ever, but the first few weeks of school bring to light more than expected when a freshman girl goes missing, the new kid Dean takes an interest, and old traumas may be the key to the present. Words: 53,211. Gen.
- The Brothers Wincester by ZanneS. Most people aren’t sure if the Winchester story is a tragedy, or a horrific fable shared to teach some moral lesson. Gen.
- Centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare and sequel ... by a rocking cradle by britomart_is. The Apocalypse is kind of a sidenote to an unnamed OFC's quest to very pragmatically provide the Antichrist with an heir. Told in second person.
- Gods and Monsters by silverkit. A small girl and her somewhat baffled father take in an injured cat, who is shortly joined by another cat, of whom they can't figure out if it's his boyfriend or his brother.
- Teen Wolf:
- Private Eyes (They're Watching You) by prettyasadiagram. She wonders idly if Stiles is in the know about werewolves now, or if sometime when she wasn’t paying attention, Stiles suddenly got game. (Probably the former, she thinks, but the boy has always had potential.) Words: 1741. Pairing: Derek/Stiles
- You Have To Go To Them Sometimes by kellifer_fic. "Well, you're a werewolf," Stiles says. Kevin has always had a pretty good poker face, but Stiles takes him completely by surprise, enough that there's a tell-tale pause that lasts a beat too long for the, "No I'm not," to be believed. Words: 4534. Gen.
- Yuri!!! on Ice:
- Idio(ma)tic by BertholdvonMoosburg. Yuri Plisetsky has been dragged off to America to live in humble obscurity as a common undergraduate student in an everyday dorm. He even has a roommate. Maybe it'll be a while before his Angels track him down. If he's lucky, anyway. Combining the life of Russia's Ice Tiger with his new academic life isn't easy to handle on his own. Words: 16,458. Gen, background M/M.
- Icebreaker by Cesare. A post-skating-retirement college scenario based on skygemspeaks' idea about Yuuri's college classmates learning about his figure skating career... This also heavily draws on kevystel's ideas about Yuuri unknowingly breaking hearts everywhere he goes. (Funny!) Words: 6,134. Gen.
- katsuki_fc wrote by tetsurashian. Just because Yuuri isn't big on social media, doesn't mean his fans aren't. (aka a social media fic)
Recs & Thematic Lists
- Recs tagged Outsider POV at Fancake
- Thematic list of Harry Potter bystander fics complied by painless_j
- Through Another's Eyes, a list of Starsky & Hutch bystander fics at Tagging Bay City