Characterization Tags are an informal, ad hoc system of shorthand for describing the changes made by an author to the characters he has "borrowed" that has spontaneously evolved over the years within the greater Fanfic community.
These tags are concatenated and prepended to a character name, separated by exclamation marks: for example, Angry!Uber!Harry.
Common tags include:
- Angry: The character is more prone to anger and rage than in Canon. This is a common attribute for Harry Potter in fics set after The Order of the Phoenix.
- Angsty: Used to indicate the character will be excessively distraught during the fic.
- Canon: Obviously used to denote that the author is trying to stick as close to the canon character as possible. (See Original Flavor.)
- Dark: A heroic character is made evil -- or at the least considerably more ruthless—for the story.
- Drunk or Drunken: Self-explanatory.
- Emo: Synonym for "Angsty".
- Fem: (Sometimes "Female".) Sometimes used to indicate that a character of uncertain or variable gender is female or predominantly so in the fic. Especially common in Anime fanfiction. It's also used with a character (or a group of characters) of non-ambiguous gender, in which case it indicates a Gender Flip.
- For Ranma of Ranma ½, it usually indicates a story where he accepts and embraces his girl-side, often to the extent of abandoning being male altogether.
- In Harry Potter fanfiction, usually in stories written after the release of The Half-Blood Prince, this is typically used to indicate a female Blaise Zabini.
- Multiple Bridgets were dropped on Mobile Suit Gundam 00 fandom when the beautiful Tieria was revealed to have a masculine voice. Even now, people call for 'female!Tieria' or the more explicit 'Tiera-with-girl-parts'.
- This happens frequently with the ambiguous character Haku from Naruto, but this tag also gets used all the time on Naruto himself. Partially Justified in the fact that Naruto has been seen changing into a female form as part of a Henge (or disguise), based on himself if he were a well endowed female instead of a guy.
- Seen in video game fanfics in which a main character's gender can be chosen by the player, such as Knights of the Old Republic (female!Revan, female!Exile) and Mass Effect (female!Shepard, AKA fem!Shep) -- a corresponding "male" tag also exists.
- Seen in Stargate Universe fanfiction where a female version of Eli has become quite popular. Well, Girl Eli.
- Fem! versions of the nations in Axis Powers Hetalia denotes that they have been gender bended.
- Gay: Self-explanatory. Sometimes used if a character is portrayed as gay without being involved in the main pairing.
- God: A character is vastly more powerful, intelligent, and occasionally morally pure than in the source material. Similar to the below Uber tag, but more frequently used in negative criticism of a story than in the author's own description, with the frequent implication that the author incorrectly believes this version is Canon.
- OOC: Out of Character. Generic warning that the character is likely to be nothing like you expect from watching the show/reading the book/seeing the movie.
- It can sometimes refer to everybody acting differently (sometimes with justified reasons, like mind control).
- Unfortunately some authors use this for "out of continuity", which causes some people to shun out-of-continuity fics unnecessarily.
- Past/Future: In time-traveling stories, Past! and Future! may help with the Which Me? problem. More specific time periods may be used, for exmaple, 1955!Doc and 1985!Doc.
- Psycho: The character is insane, or acts like it. Specifically, he may behave like a psychopath or sociopath.
- Rational: (Also Rationalist). The character has a buff to common sense that would completely derail the canon of the series if it were brought into canon. Expect multiple characters to come along for the ride.
- Sue: The character is evocative of a Mary Sue character of some kind, either by the derailment of the canon characters/inherent rules or by being overdosed with Common Mary Sue Traits. Stu may also be used as for Gary Stu. Sometimes this is reversed, as in Harry!Stu or Hermione!Sue.
- Uber: (Sometimes Super). The character is far more personally formidable than in canon, sometimes to the point of having actual super powers.
- Once again, Harry Potter, as authors explored the full range of possibilities for the "power the Dark Lord knows not" prior to the release of The Deathly Hallows.
- Elevating Xander Harris from his nominal Butt Monkey status all the way to Superman and beyond is practically a cottage industry in Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic.
- A subclass of this is the YAHF, or Yet Another Halloween Fic, from the fact that it uses the gimmick of the second season episode "Halloween" to achieve the Uber effect.
Tags can be used to denote a character's origin when a story suffers from a violation of the One Steve Limit -- KOR!Akane vs. R.5!Akane. They can also identify a specific version of a character or work when it had been done by different people and/or in different media since those can vary wildly from the original source material. Sometimes this uses the name of the specific author or simply the form of the work (Manga!Pride, Anime!Greed, Leroux!Erik, or Movie!Phantom).
Likewise, the title of a given Fanfic 'verse, or an abbreviation thereof, can also be used to indicate the version of a character from that setting, particularly when there have been major changes to them: UF!Utena, SME!Jadeite, Cat-Tales!Selena.
And when many of these conditions are in play for a given character, particularly complex combinations can start to resemble bang paths from the ancient UUCP protocol.
The practice is starting to seep out from fanfiction, though, and can also be used when talking about similar things in the source material, such as, for example, Future!Hiro, Vamp!Willow, or Brainwashed!Undead!Starscream (Energon!Starscream for short). It's also used in a more tongue-in-cheek manner to categorize examples of the Mary Sue in a quick, concise form.