Bystander Fic

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Tropes and genres
Synonym(s)Outsider fic, POV Outsider, External POV
Related tropes/genresPoint of View
See alsoUnreliable 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. [1]

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.[2]

Example Fanworks

Recs & Thematic Lists

Archives & Links


  1. ^ VelkynKarma, Outsider POV: Fic recommendations by Lizeth, January 12th 2009.
  2. ^ Toboe-LoneWolf, Outsider POV: Fic recommendations by Lizeth, January 12th 2009.