An original character, or OC, is a character created by a fanfic author or roleplayer for an established canon storyline. For instance, if someone were to write a story set in Tolkien's Middle-earth, but focused on a person who was not in the original novels, the new character would be an OC.
Alternatively, this term can be applied to a character created for an original universe.
Subspecies of OC include:
- OFCs, original female characters,
- OMCs, original male characters,
- OW, Original weapons
- OST, Original Stages and Towns etc.
- Mary Sues/Gary Stus, which are original characters who outshine the canon characters (the characters that appear in the original work). Many Mary Sues or Gary Stus are thinly disguised characterizations of the author. The term is not considered complimentary.
Popular types of OCs include:
- Long-lost family members. This is a point of contention between some fanfiction writers, particularly in fandoms like The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, where it is believed that important family members- especially siblings [often twin]- would have been introduced in the canon series. Thus, any stories including them must be labeled as an alternate universe (AU), because there is no mention of them in the book/movie/game/etc. Children can be included in this section, provided that the canon character was not aware of, or did not mention, any offspring they might have had. OC children are often introduced in order to spark a romance between two of the main characters, or to interfere with them on their quest/mission. Also included are children who are illegitimate, and 'discovered' later by their half-siblings.
- Lovers from the past. These are usually only given to characters who are adults in the canon series, either to give the adult a child they never knew about, or to introduce an entirely new character for the canon character to romance. Alternatively, they sometimes appear to stir up trouble.
- Exchange students. In the Harry Potter fandom, it's not unusual for a student from another school [oftentimes Beauxbatons, a school mentioned in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where the character Fleur Delacour attended] or a school in America, to need to transfer to Hogwarts. Popular reasoning includes a parent being transferred to the British Ministry of Magic, or the character [generally female] being moved for safety reasons.
Additionally, OC is used in some fandoms as Other Character, a person/being who has been introduced or mentioned in the series, but is not a major player in canon. Sometimes these characters have one or two speaking lines and occasionally interact with the major characters such as Blaise Zabini and Susan Bones in Harry Potter, or Jobal Naberrie from Star Wars. Other times, they're merely people mentioned in passing, like a relative or co-worker, someone we never see but who we know exists. It can also mean a family member we know exists, such as a grandparent, but who has no name.
Original characters are common in sprite comics, webcomics created using sprites, and are sometimes used in fan games. "Recolor" is the general term for a simply modified version of sprites and other images. Recolors are usually created using default bitmap programs such as Microsoft Paint when colors of a certain character's palette are replaced with different colors.
In other fandoms, most of them Video Games, the OC is not so much original as a character as the character the player controls and therefore rarely says anything, leaving the author free to extrapolate any personality- and sometimes appearance- he or she pleases. This kind of OC is particularly popular in the Harvest Moon fandom, where almost every fic written includes a different version of the farmer, ie, the player. (See Harvest Moon Fandom for further details.)