Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"All memory of your existence will be wiped from reality. You will die, and no one will mourn."

A character seems to vanish off the face of the earth. Sometimes people just disappear, but this is something more. People who should know about it aren't even sure who the person was. Photos look the same, but without them in. Their loved ones either don't exist at all, or are in love with someone else. They never existed. They're not just gone, they're Ret-Gone.

Of course, it's hard to write stories about people who don't exist, so there is normally at least one person who remembers the disappeared character's life. Mostly, this will be someone close to the character, such as their friends or family (and it's often just one person) who will do their best to find evidence, while convincing themselves and others that they're not crazy.

Sometimes, without this character, the world is a notably different place, but sometimes, hardly anything has changed at all.

Occasionally, it'll be the character themselves, whose continued existence is the only evidence they've ever been alive. They may be Invisible to Normals, seeing what the world is like without them. Or they may be alive and well, just really, really annoyed. Cases like this can sometimes cause a Loss of Identity if the character fears that they will start to forget themselves.

Common methods of a Ret-Gone include killing them off at youth, shunting them into an Alternate History, and removing them from a metaphysical book of history, or rewriting the book itself in-story, although there are plenty of other Applied Phlebotinum tricks. If we actually see the character vanish and become Ret-Gone, then that character doubles as a Ripple Effect Indicator.

Named, of course, after the Retcon.

When some shadowy but non-supernatural force erases the evidence of someone's existence in a more mundane manner, they've been Un-Personed. When the writers decide to simply "forget" a character's existence, that's Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, when a Delayed Ripple Effect is used as a story device this will often be used to perform a sort of half-hearted Story Reset which may inadvertently 'remove' some characters from creation.

Keep in mind that doing this to Hitler never works.

Compare Time Crash.

As a Death Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

Examples of Ret-Gone are listed on these subpages:
Examples of Ret-Gone include:

Real Life

  • It's possible a Ret-Gone has occurred multiple times, but since they never existed, we of course don't remember.
    • Do you remember the great dictator John Frost? The one that started World War III? No? Well, there's kind of a reason for that.
    • Shh... Help meeee!
    • Richard Calverbrough from Renley's Gap, NSW. Try googling him. See?
    • A huge part of the operation to kill Osama Bin-Laden involved SEAL Team Six going back in time to prevent Barack Obama's assassination so he could order the mission in the first place.
    • Remember the war of 1933 when the city of Atlantis sent the Titan Androlecisys to destroy the east coast of Tasmania? No? Good.
    • I bet you think that 2011 was the first year of that number we've ever had. The Mayans stopped their calendar where they did for a reason.