Archive FAQ > Wrangling Guidelines - Characters

This page contains the guidelines for Character Tags. For more general information, please see the Wrangling Intro page.

Character tags refer to tags Users may input into the Character field during story creation. The base rules should always be applied first, except for Characters with a single name only (see Characters with a single name) and characters from sources not originally in English (see Non-English Canons).

Note: A Character usually refers to a specific individual or specifically-named group of individuals. Wranglers, at their discretion, may canonize inanimate objects as Characters if the object is a recurrent participant in fanworks - this is rare.

Base Rules

Standard Format: GIVENNAME FAMILYNAME

Initials, titles and suffixes should only be used if they are the standard in the source canon, to disambiguate otherwise similar names, or if they are part of a stage name. Characters with only a title and family name (no given name) should be treated like a single-name character and may require disambiguation.

Names using initials rather than full names should generally be formatted according to the source canon. However, when using a period/full stop, always follow with a space (due to issues in the formatting of tags, which may glitch otherwise).

Abbreviated titles, such as Mr., Mrs., Dr. etc, should be formatted as they are in the original source canon (for most North American sources, with a period and a space after the abbreviation; for many British sources, no full stop, etc.) If the canon's formatting is unclear or variable, and with ambiguous No Fandom tags not associated with specific fandoms, default to the American formatting of a period/full stop and a space after the abbreviation: "Dr. Smith".

Spelling and capitalisation should match the source material - e.g. Keladry of Mindelan, not Keladry Of Mindelan. If there are conflicting canonical sources, or no clear canonical sources, try to canonize what is in most common use in the fandom. In some cases a disambiguated single name may be preferable to a contended full name for a character.

Examples:
CANONICAL: Dean Winchester
SYNONYM: Dean (Supernatural)
CANONICAL: Reginald Barclay
SYNONYM: Reginald Endicott Barclay III
CANONICAL: Lisa Cuddy
CANONICAL: J. F. Sebastian
CANONICAL: Harry Connick Jr.
CANONICAL: George III
CANONICAL: Harriet Roberts
SYNONYM: Harriet Simms
CANONICAL: Mr. Book (Dark City)

Guideline updated 12 June 2013

Characters with a single name

Standard Format: NAME (FANDOM)

Characters with a single name may need an appropriate fandom qualifier to make them unambiguous. Characters with unique single names (such as original fantasy names) do not generally need a qualifier. Common names need to be disambiguated if users create fandom-specific tags.

When disambiguating, use only the title of the fandom without qualifiers such as year or author, and use the most general/metafandom form, unless disambiguating between distinctly different characters within the same metafandom.

CANONICAL: Spock (Star Trek)
SYNONYMS: Spock (Star Trek (2009)), Spock (Star Trek: The Original Series)
CANONICAL: Fawkes (Harry Potter)
SYNONYMS: Fawkes (Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling), Fawkes (Chamber of Secrets)

When disambiguating characters from translated fandoms, use only the original fandom name

CANONICAL: Nanako (Tennis no Oujisama)
SYNONYM: Nanako (Tennis no Oujisama | Prince of Tennis))

Single-name characters with different original and translated names do not usually need disambiguation; the different translation is enough, unless another character on the archive shares the same original and translated name.

CANONICAL: Kasumi | Misty
SYNONYM: Misty (Pokemon)

With Metatags, ambiguous single name tags are made into metatags, with disambiguated subtags. See Tag Wrangler Guidelines - Metatags for more detailed information. Multiple-fandom spanning characters may not need a qualifier.

CANONICAL METATAG: Jack
CANONICAL SUBTAG: Jack (Legend)
CANONICAL SUBTAG: Jack (Pitch Black)
CANONICAL METATAG: The Doctor
CANONICAL SUBTAG: The Doctor (Doctor Who), SYNONYMs: The Doctor (Who)
CANONICAL SUBTAG: The Doctor (Star Trek)
CANONICAL SUBTAG: The Doctor (The Authority)
CANONICAL METATAG: Q
CANONICAL SUBTAG: Q (Star Trek)
CANONICAL SUBTAG: Q (James Bond)

Nicknames

This refers to alternative terms used to identify the same character, as used either within the source material or by the fandom.

Standard Format: Nicknames can be made canonical if the character is primarily called by the nickname in the source material and/or fandom.

CANONICAL: Sam Carter
SYNONYM: Samantha Carter
CANONICAL: Xander Harris
SYNONYM: Alexander Harris, Alexander "Xander" Harris
CANONICAL: Reginald Barclay
SYNONYM: Reg Barclay, Reginald "Broccoli" Barclay

The form GIVENNAME "NICKNAME" FAMILYNAME may be used as appropriate, at wrangler discretion, if the nickname is important for recognition or disambiguation. The nickname should be surrounded by double quotes. (NOTE: Only use the nickname form if the fandom uses the nickname and full name roughly equally. If the nickname is far more commonly used than the character's real name, then canonize as NICKNAME FAMILYNAME.)

CANONICAL: James "Bucky" Barnes
SYNONYM: Bucky (Marvel)

Guideline updated 19 Aug 2014

Unnamed Canonical Characters (characters with no canonical name)

This refers to characters who are not named in the source material. There are two approaches to unnamed characters: to go with fandom names ("Bob the Haitian") (only recommended in cases where the fanon name is widespread and already in use on the Archive) or go with a descriptor, such as in movie credits ("Second man with unicycle").

For characters with generic names ("a bartender", "king"), see the Original Character guidelines. If the generic terms are actually used as names in the fandoms, they may be made into disambiguated subtags. As a general rule of thumb, such names don't need to be disambiguated unless a user already has done so, but a wrangler can make a disambigged subtag if in their opinion it would reflect the particular fandom's usage to do so.

CANONICAL METATAG: Mom
CANONICAL SUBTAGS: Mom (Homestuck), Mom (Earthbound), Scout's Mom

Canonical Name Changes

For a character who changes their name over the course of canon (due to adoption, divorce, gender presentation change, marriage, or other plot reason), choose the canonical based on a) the character's in-canon stated preference, b) which name they went by at the start of canon, c) how long they went by a name (i.e. were they known as one for longer than the other in the canon) and d) which name the fans most often use/is most common on the Archive. If multiple names are commonly used in the fandom, the canonical can incorporate them both; e.g. "Lily Evans Potter". If the names are sufficiently distinct, canonicals can be constructed with a "|", similar to translated names.

"In cases with an identity reveal, an alter ego, or a pseudonym, it may be clearer and more appropriate to pipe the names as per the guidelines in Characters > Alter Egos.

Guideline updated 05 August 2013

Alter Egos & Secret Identities, Pen Names & Pseudonyms

This refers to characters, actors and performers who have a public and private identity, as well as instances of a character acting OOC for whatever reason, where the character is still, fundamentally, the same character.

Standard Format: One name is chosen and made CANONICAL. This name should be:
*Easily recognizable as referring to all identities OR
*The most commonly used name in the source material OR
*The name with the greatest recognition in popular culture.

CANONICAL: Dean Winchester
SYNONYM: Evil!Dean Winchester
CANONICAL: Himura Kenshin
SYNONYM: Battousai
CANONICAL: Raven (DCU)
SYNONYMs: Rachael Roth, EvilLesbian!Raven
CANONICAL: Nora Roberts
SYNONYMs: J D Robb, Sarah Hardesty, Jill March

If a character's real name and alter ego/pseudonym are both about as well-known/well-used in the fandom, canonicals can be constructed with a "|", similar to translated names:

CANONICAL: Karina Lyle | Blue Rose
SYNONYMS: Blue Rose, Karina Lyle
CANONICAL: Snow White | Mary Margaret Blanchard
SYNONYMS: Mary Margaret Blanchard, Snow White (Once Upon a Time)

In cases involving an identity reveal, it may be clearer and more appropriate to pipe the names; e.g. "Amanda Clarke | Emily Thorne". In these cases, list them in the order in which they appear in canon for that character.

Guideline updated 05 August 2013

Superhero Names ("Cape Names")

Canonical superhero names (e.g. "Batman", "Robin (DCU)" "Hawkeye") should now be made into subtags of their alter identity/identities (e.g. "Bruce Wayne", "Dick Grayson". "Clint Barton"):

Metatag: Barbara Gordon
Subtags: Batgirl, Oracle
Metatag: Jason Todd
Subtags: Robin (DCU), Red Hood

This is an interim solution that only applies to superhero names that are currently canonical on the archive; you do not need to canonize names that are currently synonyms but can leave them be. (We're looking into improved ways of handling superhero/alter ego tags, but we are hoping to get a new coding feature and are waiting until we have more information on that.)

Note: If you feel that subtagging would be inappropriate for a particular case, you can alternately make the superhero name a completely separate canonical, unlinked to any alter ego.

Guideline updated 18 October 2012, published 05 June 2014

Multiple Personalities, Different Incarnations

This refers to characters who have been re-incarnated or otherwise had previous existences, or who have multiple personalities where each personality is treated as a unique individual. The guidelines for Alter Egos & Secret Identities should be applied before using the following.

Standard Format: Both or all names are CANONICAL.

CANONICALs: Henry Jekyll, Edward Hyde
CANONICALs: Mutou Yuugi, Yami Yuugi

Alter egos/previous incarnations may also be meta-tagged, if appropriate for the characters:

METATAG: The Doctor (Doctor Who)
SUBTAGS: First Doctor, Second Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor

Alternate Versions: AU, Robots, Gender-swapped Characters, etc.

If the alternate character is canonical in the fandom (i.e. found in the original source), make the character name a unique canonical.

CANONICAL: Rod McKay

If the name is the same as the original, disambig in whatever way makes sense in the fandom (subtag under the main character if appropriate for the fandom).

CANONICALS: Olivia Dunham, Alternate Olivia Dunham
CANONICAL METATAG: Sam Carter
CANONICAL SUBTAGS: Robot Sam Carter, Clone Sam Carter, Replicator Sam Carter

If the alternate character is a fan-created version, not from the source fandom and the name is the same as the original character, syn to the canonical character. Do not canonize fan-created character variants. (Note: such variants can be canonized in the Freeform tags, if they get enough uses.):

CANONICAL: Dean Winchester
SYNONYMS: girl!Dean Winchester, Vampire!Dean Winchester

If a fan-created-alternate character has a different name from the original, treat it as a fanon Original Character - leave it unfilterable in the fandom unless the name has been used by more than 3 users; then canonize that name and subtag it under the canonical character.

Non-English Language Canons

"Non-English Canons" are any sources that were not originally in English. Follow the guidelines below regardless of the size of the English-speaking fandom or the English-speaking fandom's familiarity with the original language names.

For anything not covered in this section, follow the English-language fandom guidelines.

Original Name Matches English Translation Name

Standard Format: Use the naming order used in the original (untranslated) canon.

Note:East Asian characters from East Asian-language canons will often use the order: FAMILY_NAME GIVEN_NAME. However, characters in Asian-language canon who are Western, Asian-American, from outer space, etc. might or might not use standard name order. Check the canon! Other canons may have alternate name ordering - when in doubt, follow the order given in the untranslated canon material.

Note: Honorifics, Initials, titles and suffixes should be avoided. Only use if they are commonly used in the source material, to separate otherwise similar names, or if they are part of a stage name.

CANONICAL: Kinomoto Sakura
Sakura is a Japanese character from a Japanese-language series. "Kinomoto" is her family name.
CANONICAL: Heero Yuy
Heero is a character of Japanese descent from a Japanese-language series. "Yuy" is his family name, and his last name in the original Japanese canon.

Original Name is Different from English Translation Name

When the original name does not match the name used in the English translation, use the following format:

Standard Format: ORIGINAL LANGUAGE NAME | ENGLISH TRANSLATION NAME

CANONICAL: Naruhodou Ryuuichi | Phoenix Wright
SYNONYM: Phoenix Wright

The original language name should be in the appropriate name order for that language. The English name should be the character's name as it appears in the English translation of the canon.

If there are multiple official translations with multiple versions of the names, use whatever will be clearest while still following the rule above:

  • ORIGINAL LANGUAGE NAME AS ROMANIZED IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION 1 | ENGLISH TRANSLATION 2 NAME
  • ORIGINAL LANGUAGE NAME | ENGLISH TRANSLATION 1 NAME | ENGLISH TRANSLATION 2 NAME

No English Translation

If there is no official English translation and no common fan translation:

  • Languages written in the Latin alphabet and its derivatives: Use the names from the original canon (including diacritics or other special characters not normally found in English).
  • Languages written in other writing systems: Use either a standard romanization or the romanization most common in fandom.

Nicknames in Non-English Language Canons

These should follow the other guidelines for names from non-English canons as well as the general nickname guidelines except for the one on name order. Nicknames should follow whatever order makes the most sense given the name orders in the canon in the original language. The following are the most common:

  • GIVENNAME "Nickname" FAMILYNAME
  • FAMILYNAME "Nickname" GIVENNAME
  • FAMILYNAME GIVENNAME | Nickname

Multi-Language Canons

In some cases it will be desirable or necessary to use versions of names from multiple languages.

Standard Format: FIRST ORIGINAL LANGUAGE NAME | SECOND ORIGINAL LANGUAGE NAME

CANONICAL: Jupiter Jones | Justus Jonas
SYNONYMS: Jupiter Jones, Justus Jonas
(The Three Investigators series was originally published in English. It then became popular in German translation and the series was continued with original material in German.)

Original and Generic Characters

This section covers policies on characters tags that are not canonical character names. These refer to Character tags; syn Relationships with OCs to the appropriate Canonical Character/Original Male/Female Character tags, as per the Relationship guidelines.

Generic characters

Characters like 'a bartender' or 'Dad' go in the "No Fandom" fandom. They may be made canonicals or syns if they are commonly used for a specific individual. Disambiguated, fandom-specific subtags may be made if users tag for such.

Unnamed Original Characters

Tags like 'OC' and 'Original Tentacular Character' go in "No Fandom". They may be made canonicals or syns if they are commonly used.

Named Original Characters

Characters with full names ("Joe Smith", "Suzuki Sakura") that are not canon characters should be left unfilterable and put in the fandom "Original Work".

Characters specifically labeled as OCs, like "David (OC)" or "Original Char (Tarou)", should also be unfilterable and in "Original Work".

Common Fanon Original Characters

Fanon names for canon characters (e.g. common fanon genderswapped names) and semi-original characters like "Ken Hutchinson's dad" or "Eleventh Doctor (fan created)" go in the applicable fandom. Some of them should remain unfilterable. Some should be syns or even canonical depending on the exact tag and fandom.

Original Character names with a clear connection to a particular fandom (e.g. "Hamish Watson-Holmes") should be kept in that fandom.

Popular and frequently recurring fanon OCs may in some special cases be canonized, if they are used by multiple creators (at least 3, generally 5 or more, dependent on the size of the fandom).

No Fandom Canonicals

Canonical tags in No Fandom that refer to original characters and undisclosed characters include:

  • Ensemble
  • Original Characters - please see the full lists of subtags for specific variants
  • Original Character
  • Original Female Character(s)
  • Original Male Character(s)
  • Other(s)
  • Undisclosed

Please do not syn every otherwise unwranglable tag to 'Other(s)'. Any tag syn'd to any of the tags in this list should be in No Fandom and in no other fandoms.

Examples updated 17 Apr 2013

Characters shared by Fandoms

This refers to characters with the same name who appear in the canons of more than one fandom.

Characters who have the same name and are exactly or essentially the same character across multiple related fandoms: one canonical tag for all versions of the character.

CANONICAL Jack Harkness
Child tag of: Doctor Who, Torchwood fandom tags

Characters who appear in several related fandoms and are understood to be the same character, even if portrayed by different actors and with different interpretations.

CANONICAL: Lex Luthor
Child tag of: DCU, Smallville, &.

Characters who appear in multiple unrelated fandoms, which may be characterised differently in each fandom but are recognisably the same character, and can be uniquely identified by users when they see or filter by the work's Fandom tag: one canonical tag for all versions of the character.

Note: This includes various depictions of historical figures across both RPF and fictional fandoms, e.g.: Nikola Tesla, Okita Souji. The character should have one tag, which can be added to as many fandoms as is appropriate.

CANONICAL: Zeus
Child tag of: Hercules the Legendary Journeys, Xena Warrior Princess, Greek and Roman Mythology, The Illiad, &c.

Note:Some character portrayals may be distinct enough that one or more fandoms request disabmiguation: see "Loki (Marvel)" vs. "Loki (Norse Mythology)" as well as the other Asgardians. When in doubt, disambiguate as per the following guideline.

Characters who have the same name but are not at all the same character should be disambiguated.

Note: If two characters share the same name except for diacritics, then the metatag should be the versions without the diacritic.

CANONICAL METATAG: Annie Walker
CANONICAL SUBTAG: Annie Walker (Covert Affairs)
CANONICAL SUBTAG: Annie Walker (Bridesmaids)
CANONICAL METATAG: Kevin Smith
CANONICAL SUBTAG: Kevin Smith (Askewniverse RPF)
CANONICAL SUBTAG: Kevin Smith (Xena RPF)

Characters who have the same name as a multi-Fandom character, but are not at all the same character should be disambiguated where the characters are different.

CANONICAL: Lucifer
CANONICAL SUBTAG: Lucifer (Modesty Blaise)
CANONICAL: Athena
CANONICAL SUBTAG: Athena (Battlestar Galactica 1978)

Different characters who have the same name and are in the same fandom should be disambiguated in a way that makes sense to the wrangers of that fandom. Follow the fandom's practice without straying too far from guidelines. You may have to use the suffixes or titles we normally eschew.

In Discworld:
CANONICAL: Unlucky Charlie
CANONICAL: Charlie (DPMC)

Characters with Category-Ambiguous Names

Single-name characters with names that could be mistaken for a freeform tag (such as a concept or an object), e.g. "Cat", "Cake", "Japan", should be disambiguated with "(Character)". This includes characters in anthropomorphic fandoms that are not specified as anthropomorphic in the character tag itself. The corresponding freeform tags should have their "- Freeform" suffix removed, if necessary. Most of these tags will belong in "No Fandom" as ambiguous metatags; see also those guidelines.

CANONICAL: Cat (Character)
SYNONYM:Cat - Character
Japan (Character)

Anthropomorphic Characters

Common anthropomorphized concepts and characters should be disambiguated with "(Anthropomorphic)" and treated like characters shared by fandoms, subtagged under the general character metatag. See Shared Character guidelines.

Note: Anthropomorphic characters should be canonized following the same guidelines as other 'Original Characters': they require at least 3 uses before they are made canonical. See Common Original Characters. Character tags with less than three uses should be left as unfilterable in the appropriate Anthropomorphic fandom.

CANONICAL METATAG: Death (Character)
CANONICAL SUBTAG: Death the Kid
CANONICAL SUBTAG: Death (Anthropomorphic)
CANONICAL SUBTAG: Death (Discworld)

Teams, Groups, Bands, etc.

Teams and other groups can be made canonicals; use whatever form makes the most sense for the canon.

Note: You may subtag the relevant characters under the group tag; this is not required, and whether it makes sense to do so depends on the fandom. If the fandom usually uses the group name to indicate all of the chars in it, then making it a metatag may not be advisable, since such a metatag would bring up works with only one of the chars. On the other hand, if the group name typically can refer to any subset of the group (any single character or more) then metatagging may make sense.

CANONICAL: Nishiura High School Baseball Team
CANONICAL: Sanzo-ikkou

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