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Fan Fiction Week


Imagine This:


Miko Uchiha. Like Sasuke without his emotional drama? And Sakura without being so cold to Naruto? And Hinata if she was brave? And on Team 7 with the main three? And as Naruto's Future girlfriend/wife? And if Orochimaru wanted her instead of Sasuke? This is an Original Character in the works!

Yeah... She's "Original" alright... She's not very compelling... or dynamic... or necessary
But she's "Original" and that's all that matters, right?


Hello, everyone; Jakers here with my second guide to making your own character for fan fiction. With this, I aim to give you the tools and the insight into making a new character for a pre-existing property.
In case you're re-reading or just looking for a certain kind of advice, here's a little outline you. I'll will put a large header at the start of each section, and each section will be in this order.
  • The Golden Rule

  • Consider if you Will

  • The Rest of the Cast

  • The Iron Man Approach

  • TV Tropes

  • The Dreaded "Mary Sue"

  • The "Creator's Pet"

  • Playing with Fire

  • After the Credits

So, without any further ado, let's begin!

The Golden Rule

You are not making an Original Character. You are making an Additional Character!
Personally, I hate how new characters are called Original Character... namely because it makes how original they are the deciding factor if they're good. No. What makes a good character is if they add something, not how original they are. Hence forth, I say it's making an Additional Character!

And as you may have caught on, this is why I've averted using the term "Original Character" throughout this article when at all possible...

Just to get my Point across, allow me to bring up one of fictions most popular and beloved characters as reference: Darth Vader! By all accounts, Vader is pretty unoriginal. A character whom is related closely to our main character as a plot twist (No Luke - I am your father!), was a hero before a villain (The ENTIRE point of the Prequels more or less), was shown to be what our hero would become (Episode 5) and turns his back on the dark side to become a hero for a heroic sacrifice (Episode 6 - in a more literal sense on the first half). So why would anyone like this boring character? Nothing about him is remotely original!

Well, being original doesn't make you interesting. But you know what does make a character interesting? Adding something. You know what Darth Vader adds? A lot to the films he appears in. He's The only villain whom actively travels to different locations across the original trilogy, the only villain whom has a direct connection to the main cast, the only character whom harbors a hatred for his master, and the only villain who betrays his master (twice if you count the Prequels).
And that's ignoring the special additions or the expanded universe.

To further prove my point, allow me to bring Miko Uchiha up again. She could theoretically change almost everything about the series (from Naruto and Sasuke's perspective at least). Without spoiling the series for those who haven't read it, Sasuke's entire story across the series is how he can't get over his grief on top of being manipulated by a few people. Would having a sister - a family member still alive - affect that? Since his interaction from Naruto and Sakura come from him bonding with only them, would having someone to bond with actually change that? If so, how much would it change? That's not even getting into Naruto, Sakura, and Kakashi's story lines - all of which she could have an affect on. So what do most authors do with this character? Ship her with Naruto... we already have Sakura and Hinata for that and Miko isn't often given any reason to "deserve" Naruto more than those two.

So, if you take anything away from this, it's not how original your new character is, but rather what they add.

Consider if you will...

You don't have to do these, but you should think about it.
Pre-planning will help a lot!
Simply put: one thing that kills characters made by the original author is when he/she doesn't think through and just makes the character up at the last minute without thinking how they may affect things down the road. So it stands to reason that a fan fiction author doing the same to one of their characters will utterly kill the character at least. Now, I'm not saying you need to have every single part planned out (Although that's certainly a good thing to do), but at least think a few chapters ahead. For example - which canon characters you plan to have them interact? Where will the character be going over the course of the story? Even if any of these plans change, going in with an idea is usually better than just jumping in blind.
And personally, I think Google Docs and Spreadsheets are fantastic for writing and pre-planning. I use Spreadsheets to plan my stories out, and Docs for drafts (plus I often work with others on Fan Fiction). By the way, if you want to bring something from Google Docs over to DA, save the Document as a PDF.

Don't feel you need your character to be a main one!
It may sound strange, but I'm starting to think some people believe that if they make a character, it has to be a main one or else they're pointless. That's like saying characters who aren't main characters in canon don't matter. I Guarantee that readers will appreciate a character who sticks around for the arc they're useful in then leaves, compared to a character who is introduced and then is sort of stuck in the background after their arc is over.

Late Introductions are just fine.
Don't think your need you Additional Character to be in Chapter 1. If the story doesn't call of them being introduced yet, don't introduce them. In my Reboot of Strike Witches, the main character I added didn't have a speaking role for the first 5 parts. I elaborate more on this in the next section.

Keep Track of your characters.
And I have the perfect tool for that!
Character ID Cards - 
Name:
Age:
Affiliations:
Powers:
Weapons:
Hobbies:
Likes:
Dislikes:
Backstory:
Notes:

This here is a slight edit of the Character ID Cards I use for Strike Witches Assault (The Reboot's name). I personally like this little setup I've made: Makes keeping track of character traits easy, it's easy to edit should you need to and you can use it with any series or story with minimum tweaks.
Now I personally think that if you're writing a Fan Fiction, you should use this for all of the characters you plan to use, Not just Additional ones. Speaking of which...


The Rest of the Cast

This may be hard to hear... But no one's there for your character.
I love Additional Character. I really do. But one important thing to keep in mind is that in fan fiction, people are coming for the property you're adding them to, and as such you should be able to comprehend the property before you write for it.

Think about it like this: in a long running series, how often are new characters given a warm welcome? Don't Audiences in general resist change? Do you hate it when the main cast is shoved off to make room for a new character? Again, if it damages the series in canon, it certainly can damn your take on canon. On top of that, it's all-too-common to have the newbie takes up WAY too screen time (or script time, if you will). Luckily, there's actually a fairly easy solution to this: make sure to have entire scenes with only the main characters and no mention of your character every now and then. That alone reminds the audience that you find the main cast just as important as any character(s) you add.

Now let's bring Strike Witches Assault back into this: Shone Hosho is my Additional Character, and a main character at that. However, he doesn't even appear until the end of Chapter 4, and it's not until Chapter 6 that he get introduced properly and even then he's introduced along with the rest of the cast. I'd say Chapter 8 is when he gets really involved with things. The first few chapters were setting up Yoshika Miyafuji and Mio Sakamoto - two canon characters who are also main ones. Interestingly enough, a good deal of people did seem to like Shone once he finally came into the picture.

The big point to take away is to remember that your Additional character isn't what people come for, no matter how well you built it. How should you build it?

The Iron Man Approach

I don't blame you if you don't get what I mean with this one right away...
A little bit of an explanation is in order. First, I'm talking about the Marvel Comics Iron Man. In most interpretations (at least the ones I've seen), Iron Man builds multiple versions of his suit. But they way it works is that he builds the model to the point where he's happy with it, but he almost never stops there. Instead, he will store it in his closet for the moment, and pull it out periodically to just tinker with it. Maybe he'll add better things to it, maybe he'll take off things that he doesn't want anymore, maybe he'll adjust what's already there. But he'd do it from time to time over the course of... well, a long time.

So, what if I told you that this approach works fairly well for building an Additional Character? Building the character, saving the design away and messing with it from time to time to slowly improve it? Well, it's true. It is for me, and I'd bet for you.

Here's how the Iron Man Approach works: You build the basic outline of the character first. You get all the basic ideas you want down, and fit them into the character. Then you slowly start editing it down. Add traits that would suit them, remove the traits they don't need, and edit some to fit in better.



TVTropes

Your New Best Friend!
In case you've never heard of this website, TVTropes is a wikia that collects tropes (basically, archetypes and ideas) that reoccur often in any form of media. It's also my personal favorite website. As a writer, you can learn a lot of things from this place. You can learn the tools, how they've been implemented, and how a lot of people have responded to it. (Many of the tropes/series have Your Mileage May Very (YMMV) which has most peoples reactions to certain tropes, among other things). However, rather than just go on and on, allow me to bring up some tropes that might make your character suffer, and I'll link you to the article for many examples of said trope.

Aesop Amnesia: When a Character continuously fail to learn lessons from their actions. Yes, characters who never fail to learn can be seen as annoying, but no one wants to support an outright moron.

Character Shilling: When a character gets praise without earning it. People tend to hate this trope in particular. If your character is getting praise from pre-existing without doing something that would impress them, readers will get aggravated. And if you haven't already guessed, switching those roles aren't any better. 

Conflict Ball: Characters shouldn't start conflicts because plot demands it. Even if you make characters as minor, one off characters to keep you plot moving, be sure they have a motivation for causing the conflict.

Designated Characters: Their actions should determine their roles in the story, not Word of God. Sub-types include (but not limited to):
  • Designated Hero: When "our hero" starts to become sarcastic. Your hero can't kick the dog at every opportunity and still expect to see them are a hero - you can't just ignore a hero's bad traits because their the hero. Anti-Hero / Villain Protagonist work better for a darker hero.
  • Designated Villain: When you rightfully justify "why is he the bad guy?" By extension, you can't just say "he/she's the villain" and then just do what you want - you gotta back it up. Want a lighter villain? Anti-Villain / Hero Antagonist.
  • Designated Love Interest: When our lovers never seem to love each other. You need to make characters display love for each other if we're to believe they're a couple - otherwise it's contrived.
  • Faux Action Girl: When the female character is supposed to be the Action Girl, but isn't strong enough to back it up. You can claim this woman is strong all you want. Until you show it, you blowing smoke.
Failure Hero: When your hero fails at everything. You know how people hate overly perfect character who can do no wrong? Well, you can go wrong in the other direction as well. Our hero should be a hero for a reason, right?

New Power as Plot Demands It: Getting powers because the plot allows/requires it for the moment. Are you writing a Super Sentai/Power Rangers fic? No? Then stay away from this one. It really breaks tension, not just for the current conflict but for all future conflicts!

Stupid Sacrifice: When a character gives up their life for something very stupid/petty. In most series, you only die once. As a writer, let them die for something good.

Okay... Here's a link to every trope I just used along with a link to the website itself:


Now, onto the trope that I hear a lot of people talk about with New Characters.


The Dreaded "Mary-Sue"

Perfection is the worst flaw.
I hate this term...

No, really - I do. It feels like this term is often thrown around without any knowledge of the weight it carries. The term "Mary-Sue" Tends to refer to overly perfect characters. And yes, that is a bad thing. Personally though, I believe that this term comes from a lack of effort more so than a lack of skill. However, taking into account that I may be missing something/underestimating how easy this mistake is, I'm going to go through some of the tropes associated with this term while showing how you could fix them. (here's my reference point)

Issue: They usually have an unusual hair style, name, or eye color.
Solution: Justify their design. If they have red eyes, have that be foreshadowing of them having a commanding personality. If they have muscles, make them work out.
Issue: They're exceptionally talented in a wide variety of areas.
Solution: Failure is always an option. It always should be an option. If it isn't, that's the sign that the new character is too talented.
Issue:  They're seen as exceptionally nice by everyone.
Solution: If every reacts to your character the exact same way, they aren't adding that much to the series, are they? You should be having characters interact with them differently anyway. You don't need someone to hate them, but they shouldn't be immediately accepted either.
Issue: The character lacks any real flaws, and the few they have are hand-waved as cute or not a big deal.
Solution: If you're character lacks flaws, they not a character.
Issue: The main cast integrates them instantly.
Solution: Pacing. Just pace their introduction out a bit. And again, they don't need to hate them but at least be indifferent to it.
Issue: They often have a traumatic backstory.
Solution: Have it tie into the character, and have it do more than make us feel bad for them - it's the second half that tends to hurt characters.

Finally, I have one key thing to making your character not a Mary-Sue by peoples definition of being perfectly boring: make them fail and don't brush it off. Your character should fail by their own choice, and they should suffer consequences for said failure. A good sign of failure is them spending time trying to reverse the failure, and only after a few attempts is someone else allowed to come in to help.

All and all, I think not making a Mary-Sue isn't too hard when you're serious about designing characters. However, there's a term far more worth fearing that this...

The Creators Pet

You Know Scrappy Doo? Imagine if someone tried to force you to like him.
I fear this term...

If there's one thing I'm nervous about, it's this. Unlike being a Mary-Sue, this term is very defined, and it's easy to fall victim to this one without realizing. Here's the conditions:
  • Hated by the Fans 
  • Loved/Worshiped by Creators 
  • Put in Big Scenes without reason
  • Only Praised (as in never criticized) by characters
If it doesn't hit all 4, it doesn't count. Now, while you can't do much about the first without mass brainwashing (that's illegal, by the way), the other three things can sneak up on you without you noticing. Now, Luckily a lot of things that this guide has brought up tends to not have the bottom three things happen to often, which in turn tends to result in fans being more accepting of the character. I think the best thing to do is to look the trope up yourself if you think you're character runs a risk of falling into this.

Playing with Fire

Even if you know what you're doing, you might get burned.
Look, I have no problem with anything I'm about to bring up. However, I'm not everyone and there's more than a few people who dislike the ideas I'm about to bring up. (AC = Additional Character)

AC x Canon: One thing a lot of people seem to dislike is a new character getting paired with a pre-existing one. Personally, I think this is just a side-effect of the trope "Die for my ship," where a character is hated just because they might not allow the groups preferred pairing to happen - even if the actual pairing makes some level of sense. However, I could be missing something here as well. Either way, your best bet is to stick with characters who don't have canon relationships. It also helps to remember that not every single Fan Fiction needs to have shipping!

AC Killing Canon: You better have a really good reason of having the addition character kill off a main one. And no, being a villain isn't a valid reason. Like I said earlier, nobody is coming for your Additional Character, they're coming to see your take on the main cast and how your changes affect them. And if you character kills off one of the ones they came for before the reader has accepted said newcomer... don't be surprised if they don't take it well. Even if your character ends up being well received, this will likely be a point of controversy. Granted, I don't think that's always a bad thing, but again I'm not everyone.

AC saves they day: Not too different from the bit above: you character has to earn the right to do this. I'd say a good work around is to do what Fairy Tail does: have another character (a canon one in this case) help them or finish the job.

After the Credits

The end shouldn't mean the end.
This is just something I recommend considering: Once your character leaves the story, it shouldn't feel like they no longer exist in the world the story takes place in. For example, after the gang split up, your new character mentioned that she plans to set up the weapons shop that she's been meaning to for years now - this gives her something to be doing in the world after the story ends. Even if the character dies, there should be something that lives on - even if it's just "his/her death motivates the rest." This isn't something strictly necessary, but I think it helps.

*Whew*

I hope that I was able to assist you in making a new character for Fan Fiction. Before I sign off, I'd like to thank the following:

:iconsingingflames: for introducing me to Fan Fiction Week and Project Educate in general.
:iconbrennenxr: for the constant update and support thought this crazy adventure.
:iconmoonbeam13: for the CORE membership.
:iconhlwar: for providing feedback and ideas that allowed me truly improve this article.
And finally, thank you for reading this article, and I sincerely hope it was of help to you in some capacity.

~Jakers


My entry for projecteducate Fan Fiction Week!
Add a Comment:
 
:iconrubydragoncat:
RubyDragonCat Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Great article! I do have an instance of what you called AC x Canon...and I know it's frowned upon sometimes. But I've been told that I did it well. It's interesting because when I created my OC(you use a different term than the norm but no biggie) I had no intention on shipping her with anyone in canon. I wasn't even considering shipping. But as I continued the source material, I noticed one canon character was kinda like a male version of my OC in terms of personality and they just looked like they would have major chemistry. And it happened...they're soulmates, married with two kids. I keep the pair in my headcanon even though he can officially end up with another canon character depending on how things play out. It's a video game so yeah...

I'm okay with that as long as it makes sense. If you're a good enough writer you should be able to do OC x Canon right, whether it's a situation like I described or not. I have a friend who creates OCs to be love interests for canon characters sometimes. But she's also a skilled writer so they make sense.
Reply
:iconjake-jakers:
Jake-Jakers Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2016
OC/AC x Canon isn't inherently wrong. It's just been used as an excuse for an author to imagine being with their favorite characters one time too many.

But congrats on making on people like!
Reply
:iconrubydragoncat:
RubyDragonCat Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Yeah, you can tell who's serious and who's just fangasming. I'm guilty of self inserting myself into the said OC, I've started to view the canon character as the adorable dork he is...but I always make sure I'm doing more than just fantasizing about him being real and being in a relationship with me. I think a lot of people just see a character, decide they're perfect for them, and make a bad OC to act it out.
Reply
:iconjasmination:
Jasmination Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
You forgot to add Personality to the character ID. It's better to describe how they're like or they'll come off as a blank slate. Are they short-tempered? Are they timid? Are they cheerful?

Aesop Amnesia, the Character Development Barrier. Actually, with Tony Stark in Avengers 2 it became averted as he made another creation which ended up becoming the hero who'd help stop the villain, the one he made before.

Designated Love Interest, the F.R.I (Forced Romantic Interest), coined by the Blockbuster Buster.
Reply
:iconjake-jakers:
Jake-Jakers Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2016
I normally end up putting their personality under notes - that's why I didn't give personality a slot. Might change that at some point.
Reply
:iconjasmination:
Jasmination Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
oki doki >w>
Reply
:iconmidnight21:
midnight21 Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
great article though no matter what all original characters are forms of mary sues because they are inserted into a series and alter storylines. in the end, it's really how you balance your characters and have it all make sense which is something I've been struggling to accomplish for a very long time.

Great article!
Reply
:iconshadow-risen:
Shadow-Risen Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Personally, I prefer the term "fan character." ^^ 

This is a really great, informative article, and I really appreciate the insight. I normally avoid stories that are labeled with "OC" as a main character, since they often include many of the issues you've listed. Maybe I'll have to give them a shot sometime... and maybe even come up with some characters for my own fics. 

Thanks for this! 
Reply
:iconintegermova:
IntegerMova Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2016  Student Digital Artist
There's a trope for everything!

But seriously, this article teaches more about original and additional characters than I've ever seen.
Reply
:iconsinistrosephosphate:
SinistrosePhosphate Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Hello! Thank you for the wonderfully written article! 

I love your insight into the phenomenon of "Original characters" and I fully support calling them "Additional characters". It's a much more accurate term, after all. And no one reads a fanfiction for the additional character anyway - they are here for the canon. I think this may be a difficult concept for a lot of writers because they believe inserting their own character (embodiment?) into the canon is their way to fulfill their fantasy of interacting with the canon characters. But that's not the end all and be all when it comes to fanfiction. And finally... I love TVTropes, too! It's like a long-term friend who keeps on becoming ore and more useful over time! 

If there is one thing I can say about making this article better, however, I think it would have been the layout. I really like the "table of contents" up top and I liked the links. But they are put there so prominently that they do take away from the text (especially the links. I think they would be more effective if they are smaller and linked right at the blurb where you described each trope.) The ID card is a great idea, too. But the way it is presented in the text made it look like a part of the text. Since it's so important, you want it to stand out instead of it sinking into the body of the text. There are a few ways that we might make it happen. But the easiest one is probably having it as a separate file and link to it in the body of the text. That way it will show up as a link and stand out. 

Overall, I don't think the layout takes all that much away from this very insightful and informative article. It's just something to think about for the future. Overall, I think you did a great job here. Kudos to you! 

Cheers! 
Reply
:iconnightcorecreativity:
NightcoreCreativity Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
OC is generally used to define a character you created, not because their personality, looks, colors, or actions stem from someone else's mind or your own. Though I do the idea for a Character ID card as you write. I haven't done much planning when it comes to my stories. I just get an idea and go with it.
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:iconcaptainmockingjay:
CaptainMockingjay Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Well it's time to put these tips to good use on my new Disney Fairy "OC".
I think her first story was just a test for personality actually. So I probably won't be sharing it… :(
Reply
:iconxerufury:
XeruFury Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
*Oi*

Original Characters- The most overused tropes jumbled into a single idea

Your idea of an additional character makes sense but many people won't get it because it doesn't fit everything the way you generalize it. There are very often many main characters in a story.

I do see the Creator's Pet quite often, especially with people who only really focus on one OC and do everything just on that one character (whis is generally a default character). Nova Seraphim, a friend of mine's 'OC', is a perfect example.

Erm... You're wrong on Mary Sue. The term itself basically means a character that overly obsesses over basic tropes and character concepts that tend to bring nothing new to the table; you've only addressed a couple basic tropes. Not even perfect characters, although I do agree than an OP OC tends to be ridiculously Mary Sue-esque.

Failure Hero is wrong, really. I've seen great stories arise from the concept of only one great victory after a huge string of failures crippling to that character.

I won't critique all of this, because you've done a lot, but this is... heavily flawed.
Reply
:iconjake-jakers:
Jake-Jakers Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2016
Well, either way thank you for reading and responding.
Reply
:iconxerufury:
XeruFury Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Anytime~
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