|Synonyms:||OC, OFC, OMC|
|See also:||Self-insertion, Reader-Insert, Mary Sue, Original Character Do Not Steal|
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Original characters (or OCs) are characters created by an author or artist who are not taken from a larger canon, particularly characters who have been created in an amateur or fannish context. In fanworks, OCs are characters that are not in the source media, but have been created by a fanwork author.
Original characters can appear in fanfiction in a variety of ways. Some stories follow an OC as they interact with the canon cast, while others might have an entire cast of OCs, and explore the canon material's worldbuilding elements. Additionally, both self-insert and reader-insert fics are often considered a type of OC fic, although a distinction is also often drawn between these types of stories and stories that used named OCs instead, especially among fans who are looking for certain types of stories. In some communities, the term can be used for characters who are only mentioned in passing in the source but are later developed by fan authors, such as names from the Family Trees in the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings.
In stories that feature an original character as the protagonist, the gender of the character can be an important consideration for readers. An OFC is an original female character, while an OMC is an original male character. Often, mention of an OFC in the header will be enough to raise suspicions that she is a Mary Sue, with no further evidence. An OMC is less likely to have to deal with this allegation.
In some fandoms, an OC may be shared by several authors, and re-used by other works inspired by the one that introduced the OC, as with Clan Mitchell in Stargate SG-1 fandom. This is particularly common in Shared Universes, and can also lead to debates about plagiarism of fanfic if later authors don't get permission from the first author. See also Elyza Lex, Vas & Dex, and Tris/Alex.
In drawing communities like DeviantArt, artist-created characters are often referred to as original characters. The Sonic the Hedgehog fandom in particular is known for its original characters; however, the term is used even if the character is not tied to any particular fandom. Although the character may eventually appear in a webcomic or some other type of narrative, character designs are also created and shared by artists who may not intend to develop a story around them.
On Fiction Alley, devoted to Harry Potter stories, the acronyms are expanded to distinguish not just gender but between wizards and muggles, so that "OMC_W" means "original male character wizard", "OFC_M" means "original female character muggle", and so on.
Although fics featuring OCs are generally not as popular among readers as fics about canon characters, video game fandoms are often an exception:
I often see people discouraged that fanfic about or containing OCs isn't very popular or sentiments that they're embarrassed for liking it because it's "cringey". As someone who is almost exclusively into video game fandoms this surprised me because role-playing games (RPGs) are basically just everyone creating their player character (essentially an OC) and sharing them.People come up with elaborate backstories for their player character, they create other OCs to help fill in these backstories, they write fanfiction about it, and commission fan art based on them. Lots of RPGs also include the option to romance non-player characters so shipping is incredibly popular too. This also helps with avoiding shipping discourse because everyone gets their "canon" ship (however, I won't pretend the discourse is non-existent).
- The Other Observer by Kelly Boyd. "I firmly believe that there are many female characters who are neither plot devices nor Mary Sues. I like an interesting, solidly developed original character, either male or female. I really like Kelly Boyd's The Other Observer. Her character Mavis... isn't perfect, and she doesn't think the guys are, either. In fact, she thinks Jim is—well, old. She's only interested in Blair as long as he can keep up with her free-spirited ways. She's such the embodiment of young women today, all shockingly red hair and piercings and a cool self-possession I'll never really understand. Mavis has certainly stuck with me. Not to mention that Jim and Blair get together in this story in such a sweet, sweet, tender way that it's worth reading even if you're not that crazy about OFCs." 
- The Vulcan opera singer Salene, in the Jeu-Parti series by Macedon. Astridv writes: "Salene, the Vulcan, is so three-dimensional and fascinating a character that he can carry his share of the story, easily." 
- Dorian the Archivist appears in several Forever Knight stories by Susan M. Garrett, starting with False Heart. He proved so popular that his fans created their own faction, the Archivist's Assistants.
- Anita Blake, Buffy: Kiss of Death by glinda4thegood. A fishkeeping weredragon, Death, Giles, Anita Blake, try to stop a vampire orgy to bring back She Who Must Be Worshipped .
- Arrow (TV): Legacy series, a Next Gen fic. It's 2039, and Jonathan Queen cannot stop looking for trouble. Then trouble finds him and his family, and Jonny discovers that there is more to his parents than he ever suspected. He must learn to bear the weight of his parents' past, and he must learn fast, because time is running out for his mother.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chosen series by snowpuppies. In every generation, a Slayer is Chosen. Every Slayer needs a Watcher.
- 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.
- Harry Potter: Alexandra Quick Series by Inverarity. Five-book series set in an AU version of Wizarding North America.
- Harry Potter: This Is An Essay by Dee_Laundry. Margaret would rather write the same thing a hundred times. Words: 2542
- Harry Potter: Twisted Loyalty by Ayla Pascal. I am a Hufflepuff. I am hardworking. I am loyal. I am also awaiting trial for the murder of eight Aurors, five students and one Albus Dumbledore
- The Lord of the Rings: Valiant by EverleighBain. The children of the Rangers of the North learn early the duty that so often keeps their fathers away, and their own roles as part of a scattered, diminishing people. But for one wilful daughter, it will take trial and devastation before she finds her place among the Dúnedain, and comes to understand the fealty that binds her father to an uncertain fate. Words: 73,533. Gen.
- Merlin: To Protect by anyssah. This is how Camelot protects Merlin.
- Sky High: Sol by tigriswolf. The day she entered the world is not recorded. It is not in any history book anywhere. She was not celebrated; there was no rejoicing because of her birth. Words: 2374. Gen.
- Stargate Atlantis: Legend by avampyre. The scientists returning from Atlantis have made McKay a legend on Earth.
- Supernatural: 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.
- Supernatural: The Brothers Winchester by ZanneS. Most people aren’t sure if the Winchester story is a tragedy, or a horrific fable shared to teach some moral lesson.
- Supernatural: Their Type by miss aprosexia. Ethyl knows their type, alright.
- Teen Wolf: 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. Gen.
- Teen Wolf: The Sum of Its Parts series introduces a lot of original characters in each of the series' installments.
- Ugly Betty: The Overnight Sensation by Samantha. With a personality like Betty’s, she’s not only going to make friends… she’s going to gain fans.
- X-Men Movieverse: Gypsy by QueenieMeanie. Carolina Castro’s a shy, weary girl who’s just looking for a place to call home. Unfortunately, when she finally thinks she’s found a place to belong, things don’t turn out so well for her.
- Batfamily: Cor Et Cerebrum by audreycritter. Neurosurgeon Kiran "Dev" Devabhaktuni features in this sprawling series following the Wayne family as they deal with illness, changes to the family, and growing up. Several other writers have written shorts about Dev, and he has his own canonical AO3 character tag.
- Who's Afraid of the Mary-Sue? In Defence of OCs, by Firerose (2002) -- Rehearses arguments for & against writing OCs and gives some examples of successful ones
- Cry OC, and let slip the sues of fic; archive link by elf (May 2011)
- Episode 160: The Original Character - Fansplaining. 20 Oct 2021. Accessed 31 Oct 2021.
- Elanor Gardener requests LotR OC recs, April 24, 2005. Accessed Oct. 26, 2008.
- Trading/Adopt/General Art/Word Guide compiled by Azrael on Toyhouse, 7 Mar 2021. Accessed 15 Aug 2021.
- saareadaar, If you like OC fanfics, I recommend getting into video game fandoms. 8 Oct 2021. Accessed 31 Oct 2021.
- tafferling, OCtober 2021. Posted 1 Oct 2021. Accessed 31 Oct 2021.
- Anna Bleigh's Recommendations, accessed 3.29.2011
- fic rec: DS9 (Jake Sisko) (accessed 28 August 2012)