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15 November 2006 @ 11:34 am
Of Original Characters and Fanfic  
As some of you know, I'm very fond of original characters in fanfic. Both reading and writing. As a writer, I enjoy the challenge of creating a new character, getting to know them. Their quirks, hopes, fears. I love getting to know each and every one of them, and recognizing their 'voice'.

Now some fandoms seem to lend themselves more to original characters. If I were writing in Firefly, I probably would be less likely to feel the need to add a character since it has such a large cast. But Highlander -- which is a fandom I do write in -- seems to draw new characters out of me by the boat load. Part of that is Methos not having much offered in the way of a past. Alexa died, the few friends/comrades we've seen, other than Joe and Duncan, were killed off in short order. And since he's the character I'm most interested in writing, he needs a framework. There's so much we don't know about the character, and probably never will. Plus, I think Highlander lends itself to OCs just from the way it was structured. Every week we had new characters, some in the present, some in the past, some in both. It was a revolving door of new characters.

Yes, somewhere in here is a question :) So for those of you who create original characters, do you find you have more of them floating around in your brain than you could possibly ever use? For example, last night, I came up with a whole new story, separate from the two series I'm currently writing in, complete with a new character. It's almost frustrating! And it happens frequently. And another question: what draws you into creating original characters for your fic? Especially since OCs are the redheaded step children of fanfic :)

And for those that actually like reading fic with OCs, you get a question too! Why do you like fic with original characters? Especially since such fic is generally not terribly popular?

For me, it's along the same lines of why I write them. In some fandoms, my favourite characters just need a life of their own. It probably doesn't help that my faves are usually the 'sidekick' and not the star [g] If say, Duncan was my favourite character in Highlander, I'd have a treasure trove of people and events already created by the series. He already has a 'life' for lack of a better term.

Over to you guys!

(Deleted comment)
Ith: Shy Girlithildyn on November 15th, 2006 08:13 pm (UTC)
You're one of my favourite OC writers :) As I've told you before (I think) I even enjoy reading fic you write in fandoms I have no clue about.
Killa: macleod pants on fire - silvercobwebskillabeez on November 15th, 2006 08:04 pm (UTC)
Interesting questions. :-) I don't create original characters very often, and if I do, they don't usually get fleshed out very much. They're usually there for some plot point for which I can't easily use a canon character. I sometimes like reading stories with original characters... though I think I get more out of stories where someone takes a character from the show that had little or no development and fleshes them out. (For example, MacGeorge's version of Jillian in "Holy Ground," or nutmeg9cat's version of Amy Thomas.) But I don't avoid reading original characters. Sometimes they illuminate the canon characters in very interesting ways. Taselby's stories about some of Methos' wives come to mind.

For me, it's along the same lines of why I write them. In some fandoms, my favourite characters just need a life of their own. It probably doesn't help that my faves are usually the 'sidekick' and not the star

That's probably why I don't really find myself reading or writing OCs that often. I never get fannish about anything if I don't love the main character. I find it too frustrating, and if my primary interest in a show is the sidekick (as happened to me with The Sentinel and Magnificent 7) I just quickly move on to another fandom, usually. Being fannish about one character isn't enough to keep me. If it was, I'd probably find myself drawn to OCs more often.
Ith: Ithildinithildyn on November 15th, 2006 08:10 pm (UTC)
Even in books I'm a sidekick lover. Sometimes, not even that. Lord of the Rings for example -- Elrond and Galadriel. And I always wanted to know more about Glorfindel [g] Yeah, I have a whole Elf thing going.
(Anonymous) on November 15th, 2006 08:35 pm (UTC)
for me I love OC's (to read them), but there is a danger of falling into that Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu, category, and that I simply loathe, if the character is interesting, multi layered, even if he is a bad guy, I just love to read that.

Ith: From Hellithildyn on November 15th, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC)
A good original bad guy can be a real treat. Two of my favourite OCs are Jim and Bryan from Jen Allen's Highlander fic series. They're both Immortal, a couple that's been together for centuries, and friends of Methos' from way back. They're as real to me in those stories as the canon characters are.
Full Circlesteelvictory on November 16th, 2006 02:32 pm (UTC)
Me too!

I heart Jim and Bryan a lot. JL was one of my heroes for awhile.
Ithithildyn on November 16th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
I'll be sure ant tell Jen that when I'm at her house next weekend. Or will be if Nin gets the day off she asked for!
Unovisunovis on November 15th, 2006 08:39 pm (UTC)
I can see Firefly for lots of OCs. The universe is only partially depicted, and it's such a rich playground. I don't care for any of the main slash pairings, though I certainly can see Mal and Jayne with other men (Simon is gay as a goose, but the actor never appealed to me). I love stories like Ana's that invent male partners for them.

I like writing OCs who interact with Methos and Duncan and Amanda and Darius, but I don't often enjoy reading them. I love Jay's. I get bored very quickly with fanfic stories that are primarily plot, so OCs introduced just to keep the plot going don't interest me much. So much for the only valid, true writing involving the creation of originals. That's not what I'm reading fanfic for.

I love stories that, as Killa says, flesh out minor characters, particularly when they give a new view of the universe or one of the main guys. I especially like it when the writer can give one of the minor characters a twist, through backstory or development, making him or her behave differently from the small slice we saw in canon but still be recognizable.

Writing is more interesting than reading; that's the root of all Mary Sues, in a non-condemning view.
Ith: Lilac Bridgeithildyn on November 15th, 2006 08:59 pm (UTC)
I've read some Firefly (not that I've read a lot of fanfic in that fandom, as much as I love it) with OCs, and enjoyed them. But if I was writing in that universe, probably not so much with the original characters. Though I've had the yen to read a good Firefly/Highlander xover. Totally a different subject, but it reminded me :)

So much for the only valid, true writing involving the creation of originals.

No kidding! Heh.

(if anyone has a link to a Firefly fic with Methos in it, pass it along!)
macgeorge1macgeorge1 on November 15th, 2006 10:13 pm (UTC)
I kind of fall halfway in between the "rarely use" and "love them". I use them occassionally, but their creation tends to be plot-driven and situational in service to a story built around a canon character. For instance, I had a plot idea about what the whole Watcher/Immortals relationship would look like from an outsider's viewpoint, so I had to create a character to become that outsider, and thus was born the central character of "Who Watches the Watchers?" - an over-the-hill, pauncy divorced, past-his-prime FBI agent. That story was really built around that character (of whom I became very fond), but the events were very much inside the Highlander universe and involving canon characters.

Once I have created that character, though, it's important to me that he/she be 'real', with a known backstory, foibles and strengths that make them interesting and complex.

I'm afraid I approach stories which are focused entirely (or almost entirely) around OC's with caution. All too often, the so-called OC is merely a stand-in for the author, who perceives him/herself as either a downtrodden victim whose value nobody truly appreciates (we see a lot of 'projection' in portraying Methos that way, also), or a Marysue'ish amalgam of characteristics that don't seem particularly interesting or real.

I will rarely even open a story that has absolutely no canon characters in it, or features canon characters that I don't have a real affinity for, such as Nick Wolfe or most of The Raven characters. I don't trust fanfic authors enough to assume it's worth reading, when (in my experience) it's usually NOT.
Unovisunovis on November 15th, 2006 10:48 pm (UTC)
I should have qualified what I said about characters who serve a purpose. It's possible for them to come to life. As usual, it's all in the skill of the writer to make you care. I've mentioned before Sonia's African guide in Kiss of Steel. He was certainly there to move the plot along.

I've had a bad taste in my mouth since the last Westlake novel I read -- he's an author I adore, I love, but in this book the new characters he introduced for this specific caper were annoyingly written. Each of them was introduced with an awkward physical description, one hard to keep in mind, and an array of odd tics. It didn't make them interesting, it made them indigestible and hard to picture.

Ith: Pink!ithildyn on November 15th, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC)
I don't trust fanfic authors enough to assume it's worth reading, when (in my experience) it's usually NOT.

I tend to be that way too, unless it's something from an authour who has written fic I've read and enjoyed before. Not that there aren't exceptions where I just click on a whim :) Usually I regret those whims!
dejladejla on November 15th, 2006 10:40 pm (UTC)
Oy. Well, yeah, frequently I have OCs I haven't had time to write and probably will never get to. As to why I write OCs -- they aren't self-insertions (at least I hope they aren't), but they are ways of getting my head into the universe. I like writing women. I like reading female characters. I like seeing them interact with other women and with men, and I'm not all that interested in reading about male bonding.

So -- Highlander, the two things I have going are a series starting from Horseman which involves Cassandra, Amanda, Methos, and Joan of Arc, and goes on from there into Raven, which I liked a lot better than most people did. Then there's this homeless amnesiac (probably in her forties) Watcher whom Joe picks up...

But usually what draws me in is the universe. There was a lot of universe in SWars before the second (fourth) movie. There was a lot of universe in BSG before the series took off, and it's just going in places that don't interest me. So that's part of it. If there's an interesting universe, that will make me start thinking.

I read other people's OCs because I find the story they're writing interesting. I will read almost anything for a good plot. And especially if they're writing female characters. The TV shows have gotten better (and worse, in some cases) in showing good female characters, but so often I can't figure out why they do what they do.

That's pretty rough. I don't know if it makes any sense.
Ith: Autumn Leaves Geishaithildyn on November 15th, 2006 11:16 pm (UTC)
Yes, it makes sense :)

Joan of Arc? That sounds interesting.
dejladejla on November 16th, 2006 04:37 am (UTC)
I hope it's as interesting as it sounds when I get it done. It was the thing that got me started writing again after three years of writer's block. I had several scenes, conversations between Cassandra and Methos, and another idea where Methos, after Bordeaux, ended up at the place where Jehanne lives, and then I realized, or Jehanne told me, that Amanda knew her and Amanda brought Methos to Jehanne, looking for someplace he could pull himself together (Amanda knowing nothing about Bordeaux and nothing about Cassandra), and the two ideas meshed.

So I'm finding myself having to go off and dig around about various Greek myths and the Bronze Age -- things I knew a little about but hadn't really done anything with -- and then finding out about the Proto-Elamite material has added another dimension.

Sorry. I'll stop now.
Ith: Methos - Regretithildyn on November 16th, 2006 05:15 am (UTC)
I hope you'll let me know when you post it. I'd be really interested in checking it out.
(Anonymous) on November 16th, 2006 06:03 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'll be happy to do so. I was hoping to have it done by the end of November, but it's not there yet.
dejladejla on November 16th, 2006 06:05 am (UTC)
Moron that I am, I managed to post that without logging in.

I'll be happy to let you know, and I'll be interested in what you think.
Ith: PotC - Norrington & Swanithildyn on November 16th, 2006 06:09 am (UTC)
I figured it was you :) Yes, please do!
dracschick: artdecovampiredracschick on November 16th, 2006 01:07 am (UTC)
sometimes, I write down short descriptions of my OCs in my writing NB. That way I can store 'em til I need 'em:)
Ith: Autumn Leaves Geishaithildyn on November 16th, 2006 05:15 am (UTC)
Re: Yep.......
Good idea!
holde_maidholde_maid on November 16th, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC)
So for those of you who create original characters, do you find you have more of them floating around in your brain than you could possibly ever use?

I'd say it's more stories than I can actually write sometimes, not so much that I have too many OCs in my head.

what draws you into creating original characters for your fic?

My most frequent reasons for creating an OC are plotting, character development and character interaction. For my story "Marissa" I needed someone with a fatal disease. By contrast, my OC Diana, slave to Methos in ancient Rome, exists partly because I had to populate Methos' domus, but mainly because I wanted to show the way he has changed over time. The way he reacts to her tells us a lot about who he is. She also proved a nice plot tool, but that came later.
(Those are the main OCs I've created so far.)

What draws me into each of them, as in befriending them, is usually the progression of the plot. They start to do things of their own accord, driving the plot or at least interacting and that way I learn who they are.