|Trope · Genre|
|Synonyms:||Canon X Reader, Canon/Reader Y/N|
|Related:||Imagine (genre), Choose Your Own Adventure, Quiz Fic, Personal|
|See Also:||Self Insertion, Self-Shipping|
|Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Not to be confused with Self-Insertion.
Usage and Notation
Reader-Insert is a type of fanfiction, almost always written in 2nd person Point of View; the protagonist is always the reader, and is usually paired with one of the sexy canon characters. (Definition of "sexy" is left to the author.) It may or may not have a hyphen (although it usually does), and it's also known as Canon X Reader (sometimes, CanonXReader).
These fics have a strong presence on DeviantArt, but they are moving to other archives as DeviantArt is culling the smut/NSFW ones--if either the author or the characters are underage, they are assumed to violate the TOS. The Lemontalia group, a community for Lemon-rated Hetalia Reader-Insert fics, had many of them, but was shut down.
They can be hard to find on many archives, which do not have "Reader" listed as a character in their search options.
AO3 has a Reader-Insert tag, as well as both Reader and You character tags (though these also include canonical characters called "Reader" or "You"). Relationship tags involving the reader are formatted [canon character]/Reader or [canon character]/You.
Reader-Inserts have been banned on FanFiction.Net since 2005. See 2005 Ban on Choose Your Own Adventure Fic/Self-Insertion Fic/2nd Person Point of View Fic.
History and Fandoms
It probably started in Hetalia fandom, which has a large number of reader-insert fics and still gets many new ones. Other fandoms with notable amount of reader insert fics are:
- Homestuck, where it merges nicely with the 2nd-person POV of canon;
- Attack on Titan
- Ouran High School Host Club
- Several other anime fandoms
- Achievement Hunter RPF
- Assassin's Creed
Reader-Insert fic is usually F/M, with the reader assumed to be female. However, they exist across a broad range of genders and personal identities. Details about the reader-protagonist are often either kept vague, or filled in with placeholders. These are often single-letter abbreviations for words with a slash between the letters. They can include:
- Y/N for "your name," or _______ or [Name] for the reader's name
- (l/n) for "last name": more common in Japanese fandoms 
- (h/c) and (e/c) for "hair color" and "eye color"
There are no standard conventions for abbreviations; each author either makes up their own or imitates the ones used in fics they enjoyed.
They also appear as quiz results on sites like Quizilla and Quotev, in categories like Seven Minutes in Heaven (or twenty, or an hour, or seven minutes in Hell, etc.), where the "results" of the fic are a short reader-insert fic. They also appear in "what (fandom) characters think of you" quizzes, and "which character is your boyfriend" or "your (fandom) life" quizzes.
Criticism and support
Like Mary Sue and self insert fic, some fans consider reader-insert fics immature and ill-conceived, especially when they follow the plot "you meet (sexy hero) and he falls in love with you."  Even people who enjoy the genre sometimes express that they wish there were less of a focus on sex.
Yeah, stories with the conceit "You, the reader, are literally having this adventure" don't work for me. Either because the protagonist does something that I wouldn't actually do in that situation (even in Choose Your Own Adventure stories, sometimes what I want to do just isn't given as an option)—or because the author goes out of their way to avoid alienating the reader, and winds up with a super-bland character who gets yanked around by the plot rather than doing anything.
Other fans find reader-inserts "unobtrusive and less annoying than first person to read" or easier to relate to than OCs. One fan explains:
I'm usually not a big fan of OCs, especially as a main character, but it turns out that, if that OC is me, I really like it. I prefer, in Reader-insert fics, the second-person-perspective. So yeah, I like it, and, if I had the talent, I would like to write some fics in this genre.
I would like them better if more of them followed the narrative style of Choose Your Own Adventure books, referring to the protagonist as "you" without attempting a description. Nearly every reader-insert fic I've ever seen is loaded with brackets instructing the reader to fill in their own name, hair color, eye color, etc. It's awkward enough when any story, fanfic or otherwise, obsesses that hard over the main character's physical traits; the brackets make these things effectively unreadable.
I find them really stimulating, emotionally speaking—provided I can ignore the inevitable spelling and grammatical errors. I wish the reader-insert genre were more highly regarded so that better authors would want to get in on the action.
It ISN'T one-size-fits-all. It's all-squeezed-into-one-size. Nor is it wish fulfullment for anyone except the author. Forcing the reader to have the same wishes as the author doesn't work.
Reader Inserts have their audience as well, though it is a lot more limited. I've both written and read reader inserts, but they aren't my first choice. Writing it was fun, since I was writing it for a friend of mine, but I wouldn't have been able to carry it through a longer narrative. For the same reasons that you mentioned: Background and character development.
- Reader-Inserts: A Guide & Background by DarthSuki (2018)
- Works tagged "reader-insert" on AO3.
- Works tagged "reader-insert" on DeviantArt.
- Works tagged "reader-insert" on Wattpad.
- a multifandom community for reader-inserts despite them being banned on the site.
- Fuck No Reader Inserts - a critique blog
- Armin X Reader - I'd never do that part 5 by ExtraStatus at AO3
- Both Lemontalia groups are GONE? by BTT-DA-ACCT, Dec 27, 2012 at DeviantArt
- Two by timeladyofletters: Sam Winchester/Reader at AO3
- Reader x Yuki: Achluophobia by xReaderBuddyz at FF.net
- Hetalia Heaven (Red) (Reader Insert) by UraharaSteph, DeviantArt
- ThriceCharming, Reader-Insert fics: yea or nay? Posted 19 Nov 2016. (Accessed 17 July 2018.)
- Kelekona, Does anyone really like self-inserts? Posted 28 Feb 2016. (Accessed 17 July 2018.)
- tkannelid, Does anyone really like self-inserts? Posted 28 Feb 2016. (Accessed 17 July 2018.)
- PPPSSC, Reader-Insert fics: yea or nay? Posted 20 Nov 2016. (Accessed 17 July 2018.)
- MetaFour, Reader-Insert fics: yea or nay? Posted 20 Nov 2016. (Accessed 17 July 2018.)
- LadyRimouski, Does anyone really like self-inserts? Posted 28 Feb 2016. (Accessed 17 July 2018.)
- SuiGenerisUsername, Does anyone really like self-inserts? Posted 28 Feb 2016. (Accessed 17 July 2018.)
- Karalora, Reader-Insert fics: yea or nay? Posted 20 Nov 2016. (Accessed 17 July 2018.)
- willyolio, Reader-Insert fics: yea or nay? Posted 21 Nov 2016. (Accessed 17 July 2018.)
- djinnequip, Reader Insert or OC, First or Third Person - What to do! Posted 04 Feb 2017. (Accessed 17 July 2018.)