Expanding our universe.. Writing OC's and not Mary Sue: giving life *crackling lightning*

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by DarthBreezy, Oct 14, 2003.

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  1. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 4, 2002
    I know we have a support 'club' for writing OC's (the 'Put your OC character profile here') which is very nice but I think we could use a thread to talk about developing them. When we delve into writing Ani/Obi/Padme/Han/Solo kids/ect, we are usually dealing with a set of characters that have already been 'drawn' for us... We may tinker with their personalities a bit, depending on our pereption of them, but all in all we still try to be 'true' to them.

    Oc's are an entirely new breed... we find them out of where ever, and as they are new faces to our readers, we must find ways to breath life into them, from the very basics of appearance to personality to 'walk and talk.'

    Please don't use this thread just to promote your OC story, but tell us how and where they came from (as a writer.. not their 'origins')

    I have two OC's that are primary characters. I wanted to give Anakin some companions that were outside of the realm of the small circle of the 'cannon characters'. I honestly don't know exactly where they came from but I find that as I write, each seems to step more and more out of the shadows and assert themselves more. They are exihiting traits and attributes that expand far eyond the quick notes I have for them... how often this happen to you?
  2. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Oct 31, 1999
    IMO, the most important part of developing an original character is to find the character's flaws as opposed to the virtues.

    Sure it's great when your character is the smartest (and best looking) person in any particular scene, but it's boring for someone else to read. Giving your character the ability to solve any problem isn't a sign that you've really nailed character development, but rather that you've failed.

    It's important to map out a character's idiocynchracies early on. One good tip is to insert a negative to balance every positive.

    So maybe your character is a great pilot, but at the same time he's an alcoholic. Or perhaps your character is someone the women (or men) find attractive, but his/her possessive nature causes every relationship to fail.

    What makes for good reading is to see a person overcome obstacles before succeeding or perhaps even failing in the effort. But simple solutions, no matter how clever, are always less satisfying.
  3. Daughter_of_Yubyub

    Daughter_of_Yubyub Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Jul 8, 2002
    That's basically it. You have to remember that your OCs have to be human. Because of the Mary Sue issue, they fall under very close scrutiny.

    I actually don't have much experience writing OCs in fanfic, but they can't be that different than creating characters for a completely original story. You just have to remember to make them well rounded.

    One of my friends gave me the advice I use most: "Make sure you give every character at least one trait that you absolutely hate."

    [hl=pink]YubYub and TG- Protecting fangirls from hormonally gifted fanboys since 2002 [/hl]
  4. JadeSolo

    JadeSolo Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 20, 2002
    Perhaps the OC also has a strange quirk or habit. It doesn't sound like much, but to say that someone pulls on his his earlobe whenever he's deep in thought gives at least a little more depth to a character, rather than just describing his pensive look.

    The one thing that always worries me is physical appearance, especially for humans and especially when they're redheads with green eyes. Does anyone ever automatically assume that they're about to read a Mary Sue story just based on that?
  5. obi_ew

    obi_ew Jedi Master star 5

    Apr 14, 2002
    I'm fairly new to writing OC's. In the past they were always minor secondary characters that had no backstory, they were simply a plot device for my main character's. My first exploration into an OC in a main role was a very scarey thing. It's hard to keep from making them too perfect.

    I now enjoy creating flaws and events in their pasts that have shaped who they are and how they act. You have to give them some short comings, even if it's something as simple as a bad temper or fears that are remnants from their past. Personality clashes with the canon characters are fun to write and I know my readers enjoy reading about them! :D
  6. Lilith Demodae

    Lilith Demodae Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Oct 1, 1999
    I have to say I come up with my best OCs when I'm getting ready to play an RPG of some sort. Yeah, it takes a long time to set your character up, but when you're done (provided you've done it right) they have skill sets, a background, strengths and weaknesses, physical and mental attributes. I find that I am already making up stories for these characters to explain why they are this way.

    Lilith Demodae was such an OC. I envisioned her as a female Han Solo. Granted, this isn't terribly original, but it gave me a starting place. Sure, I built a few of my own personality traits into her (I don't know anyone who can create a character that has absolutely nothing in common with their own selves), but I didn't let who I was limit who she could be. The biggest trick is indeed letting OCs be real, instead of superheros. Lilith's biggest hang up is that she feels she must be strong and independent at all times, even when there are friends who would help her out. She's survived in a rough galaxy and is more than a bit paranoid because of it, not that it hasn't saved her life, but it also gets in the way at times.

    Crash, a slicer of incredible skill, is moody, tempermental, impulsive, and definitely not a morning person. For every great skill or attribute, there should be a big (or several little ones) vice to offset it, balancing them in the midrange between hero and villain, where mere mortals usually dwell.

    Perfection is boring, and perfect people ... they are obnoxious, as well as boring.
  7. spiritgurl

    spiritgurl Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jul 6, 2003
    ahhh... a subject close to my heart. Original to make them up.

    I agree with all said so far, there should definitely be flaws present even in your "hero" OC. Although, I think with the hero you should avoid giving them so many flaws that a main character/OC isn't likeable enough for a reader to want to continue reading about them.

    Another thing, with Jedi OC's, to me it somehow seems tough to keep them away Mary Sueland. Am I the only one? I mean, you have a society of people who are supposed to be wise and powerful and without (or *supposed* to be without) many of the flaws that most people have.

    When I first thought about writing a SW fan fic, I was thinking female Jedi for an OC, and I started thinking of these cool things she could do and snappy lines and then I was like... uh-oh... I think I have a Mary Sue here. :\ So I decided to drop the idea. It also seemed to me that there were probably a lot of SW fics out there with Jedi OC's and I wanted to do something a bit different. Instead for my OC, I went with just a normal girl, a Coruscant waitress in fact. In order to avoid "Mary Sue" I decided to make her not at all force sensitive, very petite and definitely not much good in a fight, a little temperamental, a little clumsy, short brown hair instead of the usual "long and flowing" red or blonde hair people tend to give female OC's, and a healthy dose of inner torment.

  8. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Oct 31, 1999
    Mary Sue/Gary Stu is a bit more difficult when writing a Jedi original character.

    In my first ever story the Jedi OC never really had much of a chance to "show off" to the reader because there wasn't much action. Basically he was just a padawan who was a bit unsure of himself and in that story, awed at the company he was in.

    However, in the sequel he was a Jedi Knight and just seemed to want to have the knack to do everything. I admit that in the original version of the sequel he was definitely Gary Stu-ish and later when I re-wrote some of the story I made sure to take him down a few notches. He still managed to escape a couple of sticky situations, but he was definitely less successful at them and earned a few more scratches and bruises.
  9. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 9, 2000
    Oh, Jedi OCs who aren't perfect! That's always my primary goal when I'm writing about Trett. The main thing I find is to remember that the Force ISN'T instantaneous solution. If the hero is badly hurt or really tired, it might give him an edge, but my hero still gets his butt kicked, from time to time. Also, remember that the mind trick only works on "weak minded individuals." Alas for Trett, there are a lot of STRONG minded folks in the world; so I'll have that work for him about half the time.

    And while he can use a lightsaber, he always remembers that he is supposed to be preserving life, so too often he is using it defensively, which doesn't always help him win battles.

    I have also decided that 90% of the Jedi in my stories aren't telepathic (George said they weren't!) so there is no instant communication between himself and his apprentice to help him of sticky situations.

    Just try to think of your Jedi as trying to use the Force and NOT always succeeding... make them a bit more vulnerable.

    I love OCs, can you tell? :)
  10. poor yorick

    poor yorick Ex-Mod star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Host

    Jun 25, 2002
    I have a one-question Mary Sue litmus test. If someone walked up to me and said, "I hate that character. She's boring and awful and stupid and should be strangled," would I feel personally attacked? If the answer is "yes," there's more of me in the character than there should be, and I probably don't have the necessary emotional distance from her to make her really good.

    Actually, truth be told, my true Mary-Sue tendencies aren't directed at OCs at all, and the character in question isn't a "her." I have an Obi-Wan . . . thing. I identify with him. At times, this has gotten in the way of my effective portrayal of his character. It's the same with other characters I identify with, really. In general, I find I write best about characters I have nothing in common with--Anakin, for instance.

    So if you're determined to rid your work of anything that has the faintest whiff of Mary-Sueism, you might want to turn your attention away from the OCs and toward any canonical characters for whom you have a . . . thing. Not that all Mary-Sueism is terrible. Writing fiction is basically a form of wish-fulfillment to begin with, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just important not to get carried away.

    Personally, I think there is far too much bandwidth wasted on Mary Sue. People spend so much time making triply sure their OC isn't a Mary Sue that they sometimes forget that anything else is required. Okay, so the character can't sing and has a bad haircut and buck teeth, so we know she's unlikely to be a Mary Sue. Excellent. What about this character makes her interesting? What will make readers like her?

    Simply adding random flaws to a character is not enough. We need to see how these flaws help define her as an interesting person. Maybe she got a bad haircut as an act of defiance against her privileged and oh-so-fashion-conscious upbringing. I don't know.

    The real problem with Mary Sue is that her perfection is dull. Let's not compound the problem by creating characters who are imperfect, but still dull.
  11. Cam_Mulonus

    Cam_Mulonus Jedi Master star 4

    Jul 29, 2002
    One thing you must take into consideration is that everyone is different. What one person may see as a Mary Sue is seen by another person as a completely original character. It's all in how you look at it and what angle your looking from. But yeah, there are those that EVERYONE agree are Mary Sues.

    True, you want to make the character flawed for more depth, but don't make him George of Jungle dumb. How can someone be the Hero if he can't perform the tasks neccessary to save the day? That's why we read stories about heroes. To see people just like us do things we can't do.

    Just try not to make a generic cast AND a generic plot. There's always the Hero, the heroine, the Hero's Best friend, the Villain, the Hero's father figure because all heros have no fathers, the Villains mindless follower, the strong warrior, etc.

    BUT, you can get away with the generic cast if you make the plot good enough, and the relationships between those characters complex enough...

    Actually, don't take any of my advice. If you want readers, don't listen to me. Trust me. Because I follow my advice, and look where it got me. So just scratch this entire post...
  12. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 4, 2002
    I think we're wandering too much into the 'Mary Sue' as an idée fixe... the question is, how to give your OC's depth and writing effective OC's that are more than just window dressing...
  13. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Oct 31, 1999
    The real problem with Mary Sue is that her perfection is dull. Let's not compound the problem by creating characters who are imperfect, but still dull.

    That statement really hits the bullseye. Simply avoiding the Mary Sue qualities in writing doesn't make your character interesting. And just as importantly, interesting characters in a boring story aren't much fun to read either.

    IMO, the heart of any story is centered around conflict, whether internal or external. Can the hero overcome his/her inner demons to save the day or can he/she outsmart the baddie?

    The problem with Mary Sue is that there's never any doubt of victory, so no matter the conflict there's no tension/suspense for the reader. For the climax of the story to really work, there should be the question not only of how the hero will win but if the character can win.

    Consider the end to ESB. While Luke could be accused of having some Gary Stu qualities, there was definitely a question of how he was going to match up against Vader and whether he could even survive.
  14. NarundiJedi

    NarundiJedi Jedi Master star 6

    Oct 8, 2001
    I'm a writer of satire here on the JC, and my strategy is to take clichés and exaggerate them or put a new twist on them. The best example I have of this is taking the wise old sage role (you know, the guy who the hero goes to for advice and as a father figure, because he has no father ;) ) and turning him into some sick, warped, plotting old codger who loves to watch as chaos unfolds around him. Sometimes he even creates his own chaos, for entertainment.

    That's probably the best example I have. My other OCs are basically your normal kind of OC, without any play on a stereotype. They all have flaws, like suffocating arrogance that makes readers want to smack my male OC, or a body image crisis that makes for an insecure heroine. The most important thing to remember in a comedy is that these OCs (and the canon characters, if applicable) need to be funny. I usually make the dialogue funny, but the situations are also important. Putting characters into a situation that results in maximum discomfort is something I love doing. [face_devil] Call me a sadist, but it's fun. :p

    Also, try writing a plot that ends on a down note or peaks very near the end only to plummet down into a bit of a shocking ending . . . (no, I'm not foreshadowing at all . . . ;) ) When you do that, and you really explore your OCs and their feelings as the world crumbles around them in a realistic fashion, you're probably going to come out on top with the characterization. Happy, sugary endings are harder to make work. I think it was said in Clerks that life is a series of down notes. :p

    Make sure your OC doesn't shrug off things like rape, death, bad childhood memories, rivalries, life-changing news, etc. only to bounce back in the next scene. Life changes take some getting used to. Sometimes people never get over it, or they really need someone else's help to overcome it.

    Ok, I gotta go to bed. Hopefully that was good enough for starters.

    Jae Angel
  15. Bobbacca

    Bobbacca Jedi Youngling star 2

    Apr 25, 2003
    Most of my OCs originated in Roleplays, which is really a form of storytelling in itself. I then go on to develop their character and then write them into a fic.

    One great way to make sure your characters are interesting, especially Jedi characters, is to make them exremely unlikely candidates to become Jedi, and then to explore how they overcame this and became Jedi.

    For instance, the main character of my current fic is a relatively open-minded Yuuzhan Vong warrior who can use the Force and eventually becomes a Jedi. Yuuzhan Vong warriors are normally very anti-Jedi, don't exist in the Force as we know it, and are anything but open-minded due to their indeoctrination. Therefore, I had to come up with an explanation as to why Charat Hul could use the Force that most of his race didn't even exist in. The answer to that problem (which I won't tell you because it would be a major spoiler for the FFA fics) helped me to come up with a good reason why this dedicated and strongly religious warrior left his people and his religion to join their sworn enemies, and presto! I suddenly have a very intersting character and plot line to write about.

    Another character that I plan to write about eventually is a Jedi who used to hunt Jedi and work as an Intelligence field agent for the Empire. After the Imperial Remnant and the New Republic made peace with eachother in the HoT duology, he went back to the empire to recruit and train Jedi from Imperial worlds. Again, there is an oddity that makes this character unique and interesting. He is a post-Vader Light Side Jedi who works in the Empire. I'm still working out the details on his background and trying to discover why he became a Jedi after hunting them for years during his youth, but I expect that when I finsh it will provide me with a plot bunny and a character as equally interesting as the ones I'm working with now.

    Both Charat Hul (the Yuuzhan Vong Jedi) and Skaph Antilles (the Imperial Jedi) are Jedi characters that are exremely unique and non-stereotypical. Both also originated in Roleplays where I was trying to come up with an intriguing character and then began to wonder how they came about.
  16. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Chosen One star 9

    Mar 26, 2001
    I definitely agree about the prospect of negative aspects. I've dealt a lot with original characters, since my original intentions in fanfic were to take the SW universe from the point-of-view of the most unlikely heroes. My greatest success with this would have to be in Though Deepening Trials, where the only main characters involved were Yoda, Anakin Skywalker and Obiwan (both in passing rather than as a focal point). I had a couple of jedi as main characters, both strong-willed people, but one trusted too easily and one had too much inherent anger and little will-power to restrain it at times. I think when you develop these negative characteristics, the predicaments or problems to be solved by your characters will take on a lot more depth because you have to have that automatic struggle. It's kind of like Luke in ROTJ, where Vader plays on his unflagging compassion and it nearly destroys him.
  17. Agent_Jaid

    Agent_Jaid Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Feb 21, 2003

    Someone mentioned that you would need to have emotional distance in order to write the OC's well.

    While that is true, most of the time when they say that, that was the effect you were hopeing to have.

    I have probably too many OC's in my fic for my readers to fully keep up with but everyone loves them and I know for a fact that they are perfectly realistic. How do I know this? Because I based them off of real people but that's not what I came here to say...

    I have found that it isn't what they're scared of, it isn't what they do, heh, you could be the best at everything and you still might not be a Mary Sue character. What matters is that your character is in character. :p Yes I know that doesn't make much sense. But for example, if you were writing the story from the Force's point of veiw as a friend of mine is doing, it wouldn't make much sense or be realistic if the Force wasn't almost absolutly perfect. It has a lousy sense of humor yeah, but no real problems.

    Oh Hell... I have to go but I AM NOT YET FINISHED.....

  18. Daughter_of_Yubyub

    Daughter_of_Yubyub Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Jul 8, 2002
    Like I've said before, I've only ver recently started OCs...

    My first batch were Galax, Kettch and Meesu in Celebrate the Power, which is an OC story, so the motivation should be obvious. :p

    Right off the bat, they have some very clear physical limitation. Namely, they're all Ewoks, so they can't do certain things like a human would.

    Galax is my only Force sensitive OC, but I feel I've counteracted that strength by giving him a complete inability to figure out what he wants to do with himself.

    Kettch's major obstacle is the fact that he wants to be... well, I'm sure you can guess from his name. :p Anyway, he has to cope with the fact that he doesn't speak Basic. (Makes him a pain to write :p)

    Meesu... well, she hasn't been in a sufficiently central role yet.

    My other batch comprise mainly of the Janson family. I created them when I started writing about Wes Janson's childhood and realized he needed, well, a family. :p

    I've tried to make his siblings distinct individuals. They range from his frequent victim with no patience for his antics (Ket), to generally too serious (Mitch), to attempting to emulate Wes in all things (Linzie). The younger children (Sacha, Cub and Beth) haven't appeared yet, but hopefully they'll find some way of making themselves unique as well.

    Finally, there's Rissy. Frankly, she just popped into my head and forced her way into the story. I needed someone for Wes to interact with, and there she was. Since she's only just formed herself, she hasn't had a chance to really develop yet.

    I think that's probably the trick to OCs. Letting them create themselves rather than forcing them to be who you want.

    [hl=pink]YubYub and TG- Protecting fangirls from hormonally gifted fanboys since 2002[/hl]
  19. obi_ew

    obi_ew Jedi Master star 5

    Apr 14, 2002
    One thing you must take into consideration is that everyone is different. What one person may see as a Mary Sue is seen by another person as a completely original character. It's all in how you look at it and what angle your looking from.

    Actually you took the words right out of my mouth CM . One man's Mary Sue/Stu may be anothers wonderfully original character. Many depend on your point of view. If you look closely at the OT films, couldn't Luke be George's Mary Stu? What flaws other than impatience does Luke have? Just a thought so don't shoot me! I love the OT!
  20. Cam_Mulonus

    Cam_Mulonus Jedi Master star 4

    Jul 29, 2002
    Thanks, obi-ew.

    That thought kinda came into my mind when i heard someone at work criticizing Anakin for being a cliche whiny kid who is also the Chosen One.

    My response was "What exactly is the difference between Anakin and Luke in the Saga?"

    The onyl difference is that Padme didn;t turn out to be Anakin;s sister, and Luke chose the right path. :D

    It's just that I;ve seen people, trying to be uber critics, call perfectly good OCs Mary Sues. So my whole point was to just make sure that YOU like the character, not to make it according to what everyne else thinks it should be.
  21. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Oct 30, 1999
    What's the matter with writing Mary-Sue's anyway :p

    Trying to steer clear of Mary-Suedom when writing OC's is one of those hard points. I don't think I can add much more to the discussion really, except to say that often people are so scared of creating a Mary-Sue that they go to the opposite extreme.

    Yes, you should balance your cha4racter out and include the good with the bad but honestly there are some times when the bad stuff can outweigh the good. You have to remember that if your are writing an OC as a main character then they are going to have to be good at something. There is nothing worse then reading about a character that can do nothing right and has so many flaws and problems that it makes them depressing.

    How do you find that balance? I don't know - I'm still trying to.

    As a mainly OC writer I've got several dozen characters who are principally mine. Most of them have mild flaws. Davin is too laid back (to the point of apathy some of the time), Tara is head strong and stands by her convictions no matter what, Caelum is shy, insecure and self-doubting and Sara...well, Sara is just grumpy :p

  22. Darth_Leia_6669

    Darth_Leia_6669 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Apr 26, 2003
    First off, I want to thank DarthBreezy for creating this wonderful thread for me to lurk in! 8-} I've seen many wonderful points in here so far.

    But I have a question. If I create a character that is basically me exaggerated, does that make her a Mary Sue? This is a character that I actually created several years ago and have used in several stories (though only one has been seen by anyone!) and has been reworked to fit the plot. When I say that it is me exaggerated, I mean flaws and all. She is a bit of a mental case (which I am) but also very athletic (which I wish I could be). I have struggled to keep her out of Mary Sue land, but I continue to worry about it. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

  23. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Oct 31, 1999
    If I create a character that is basically me exaggerated, does that make her a Mary Sue?

    Not at all. A Mary Sue character is someone who is practically flawless and annoyingly perfect. Basically if your character can simply solve any problem without smudging her perfect make-up (as if she needs any ;) ) and still makes it home to cook a gourmet meal for her perfect husband and 2.3 perfect kids before lulling them all to sleep with her perfectly pitched (untrained of course) voice, then you've got a Mary Sue on your hand.

    I wish I could find where Julie posted the original Mary Sue story. It's pretty funny.
  24. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Jun 4, 2002
    Oh Kit's brilliant, Downfall of Mary Zu.... too too funny!
  25. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Oct 31, 1999
    Found it. This is from a post Julie made a while back.

    Fan fiction author Paula Smith first revealed Mary Sue in "A Trekkie's Tale," a silly, short story she wrote to poke fun at the genre and published in 1974 in a Star Trek fanzine. Here, in its entirety, is the story that coined the notorious term "Mary Sue":

    A Trekkie's Tale
    by Paula Smith

    "Gee, golly, gosh, gloriosky," thought Mary Sue as she stepped on the
    bridge of the Enterprise. "Here I am, the youngest Lieutenant in the
    fleet-only fifteen and half years old."

    Captain Kirk came up to her. "Oh, Lieutenant, I love you madly. Will you come to bed with me?"

    "Captain! I am not that kind of girl!"

    "You're right, and I respect you for it. Here, take over the ship for
    a minute while I go for some coffee for us."

    Mr. Spock came onto the Bridge. "What are you doing in the command
    seat, Lieutenant?"

    "The Captain told me to."

    "Flawlessly logical. I admire your mind."

    Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Scott beamed down with Lt.
    Mary Sue to Rigel XXXVII. They were attacked by green androids and
    thrown into prison. In a moment of weakness Lt. Mary Sue revealed to
    Mr. Spock that she too was half Vulcan. Recovering quickly, she sprung
    the lock with her hairpin and they all got away back to the ship.

    But back on board, Dr. McCoy and Lt. Mary Sue found out that the men
    who had beamed down were seriously stricken by the jumping cold robbies.
    Mary Sue less so. While the four officers languished in Sick Bay, Lt.
    Mary Sue ran the ship, and ran it so well she received the Nobel Peace
    Prize, the Vulcan Order of Gallantry and the Tralfamadorian Order of
    Good Guyhood.

    However the disease finally got to her and she fell fatally ill. In
    the sick bay as she breathed her last, she was surrounded by Captain
    Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Scott all weeping unashamedly at the
    loss of her beautiful youth and youthful beauty, intelligence,
    capability and all around niceness. Even to this day her birthday is a
    national holiday of the Enterprise.
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