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Self-Inserts

Discussion in 'FanFic Discussion' started by Halt, Dec 15, 2014.

  1. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros.

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    So a friend of mine decided to write some SI Naruto fanfic and it got me thinking. Personally, I've always seen SI fanfics as one of the warning signs of bad fanfiction. Much like harems, slash and Mary-sues.

    But it got me thinking if it could be written decently.

    So, what are the common problems/reasons why SI fanfics fail? Do you think they can be done right? How?
     
  2. Skykes

    Skykes Minister of Magic DLP Supporter

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    Hermonie was a self insert of J.K Rowling.
     
  3. Ferdiad

    Ferdiad Auror

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    There's a few decent ones and one good one in the Naruto section. Personally I've never read them as I only read stories with Naruto as the MC.
     
  4. Newcomb

    Newcomb Headmaster

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    I think if we're going to have this discussion, we should preface it by noting the distinction between an Author Avatar and a Self-Insert.
     
  5. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign Prestige

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    SIs in HP fail because of course the author will make themselves a wizard. With godlike HP magic at your fingertips and a "fixer" mindset, it's easy to plummet the story into shit. ME SI authors seem to approach it with a more realistic attitude. Also, HP doesn't give hard limits on what a character can do, you have to work carefully within the worldlore. When you write a SI, the important thing is to know what kinds of limitations on the character will make sense.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2014
  6. Download

    Download Chief Warlock DLP Supporter

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    Self inserts I think exist everywhere in fiction. I'm pretty sure for example than many people write Harry as how they themselves would (think) act if they were Harry. They key really is making sure your character isn't an all knowing Mary Sue and can't solve every problem.
     
  7. NuitTombee

    NuitTombee Supreme Mugwump

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    Would this be the Author Avatar, or is there more to it?
     
  8. fire

    fire High Inquisitor

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    AH MY FAVOURITE TOPIC

    I think the reason why Self-Inserts (in the original sense of a canon character or an OC that is basically the author, with his her motivations/beliefs/personality) almost always fail:

    1) The author is unable to write characters and relationships properly, precisely because they're too partial to their SI. One example - characters become compelling partly due to the trials and tribulations they face - but an author won't make his or her SI face real tragedy or suffer the consequences of his/her actions.

    2) The author can't write a genuinely interesting plot because the nature of a SI is such that the author will always ensure that the SI triumps. No tension, no excitement. Mary Sues are the logical consequence and most extreme example of plot gone wrong.

    3) The author can't portray any serious theme like morality or love with any accuracy or maturity; because again the very nature of an SI militates against the author having the necessary objectivity. For example, the author may not realize that the One True Love relationship he/she is writing isn't as awesome-fuck as it might appear to the author, but is rather childish and unrealistic - without objectivity, any portrayal of love and relationships is going to end in a vale of tears.

    TLDR: SELF INSERTS MEAN THE AUTHOR IS UNWILLING TO INFLICT TRAGEDY ON HIS CHARACTER, AND WITHOUT BAD STUFF HAPPENING THERE IS NO INTERESTING CONFLICT.
     
  9. DerHesse

    DerHesse High Inquisitor

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    I think you have to keep self inserts away from any canon plotlines and special circumstances, otherwise it might drift into a fix it/Gary Stu-story.

    For example:
    Dumbledore's apprentice = boring and hard to swallow

    The son or daughter of one of Grindelwald's top supporters after his downfall having to attend Durmstrang (Santi's Durmstrang is my Head-canon) = interesting and the butterfly effect is controlled.

    Edit: Imagine Göring's children in sowjet controlled Germany
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2014
  10. Andrela

    Andrela Plot Bunny DLP Supporter

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    I'd like to read the reverse of a self-insert.

    That is, instead of the author appearing in the HP world, someone from the Potterverse appears in the real world.

    However, I think it would only work as a thriller/horror or something similar. The character brought into reality would face an identity crisis, fearing that he has no free will and/or does not actually exist.

    Furthermore, while he would have magic, it would be somewhat weaker as he'd be the only magic user in the world. His arrival would not mean that muggleborns start being born, there would be no magical plants or animals to create potions or make wands of.

    He'd be alone, without a real identity, without friends and without a place to stay. He would basically be an alien in this world. An alien who is told how the rest of his life would have went in his fictional world.

    Dark, bleak, sad? Of course, not every story is constructed from rainbows and puppies. We have to remember that he (or she) is brought to the real world and in the real world happy endings are rare.
     
  11. Perspicacity

    Perspicacity High Score: 3,994 Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Even the good ones (e.g., Dreaming of Sunshine) have a tendency to turn into fix-fics, which gets boring fast.

    To pull off a successful SI, you have to keep foreknowledge from breaking the world, either through introducing a few strategic Butterflies of Doom or Nerfing the SI character in some fashion to avoid their simply forging ahead and changing everything for the better. A variant I've seen work is to give the SI character only a superficial knowledge of the series so they don't come in with überknowledge.

    The biggest problem with SI fanfiction is much the same as with writing Indy!Harry fanfiction after around 2007: those most drawn to it tend also to be the least equipped to turn out a decent story. They seem to forget that just because a story happens to be an SI doesn't mean that one can simply neglect the basic requirements of storytelling (character development, setting, plot progression, essential conflicts) in favor of playing in one's sandbox.
     
  12. South of Hell

    South of Hell Third Year

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    Teenagers with subpar writing wanting to feel like the ultimate badass, and not having the technical skill / understanding of believeable characterization. And because of the stigma surrounding the 'genre', no one with actual ability to write properly wants to touch the subject.

    But now with fics like Sunshine and that one in the HP section with the Malfoy sister being actually decent, there are a bunch of teenagers following the leader, believing that it's the in thing to write about; further saturating the genre with at best mediocre, thus there cycle begins anew.

    Here is a bunch of SI's other than the above mentioned (if we are using the definition of SI as in the character has knowledge that the series was once a piece of fiction) that I can read to the end; nothing to write home about but you might not want to gouge your eyes out.

    Keep in mind that I don't have anymore time to flesh these out other than the brief overview

    What Doesn't Kill You
    Naruto 'reborn' type SI
    https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10264082/1/What-Doesn-t-Kill-You

    Security
    Worm Fix-it type SI
    https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10377231/1/Security

    Survive the Red Sky
    Naruto 'reborn' SI with the stat mechanics of The Gamer
    https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9471268/1/Survive-the-Red-Sky
     
  13. Joe's Nemesis

    Joe's Nemesis High Score: 2,058 Prestige

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    I think SI is at an extreme end of a continuum that begins with 3rd person narratives and have 1st person narrators in the middle. Every story should have at least a minute amount of SI in it or the author isn't going to feel the characters, and that'll come across in the writing.


    [Edit: what I mean by the above is that if I couldn't see myself acting in a certain way, giving a certain set of parameters, my characters won't act that way either. So, I have inserted myself into the character at least to some degree, which is what I mean by all of them being SI to some degree].


    As far as straight out SI's, I tend to skip them, or punch out the minute I come across one, unless the SI is being used as comic relief and is a side character.

    On a side note, I've pondered, in my next (and last) Harry/Fleur fic (A fourth year story only because I think it would be a fun write) doing a SI where Scrubb is the town idiot [insert snarky comment here]. I'll probably end up not doing it, but those kinds of SIs are okay in my book, if only to remind the reader not to take the fic so seriously (and I do think there's a place for fics that aren't to be taken seriously without being Crackfics).
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2014
  14. Averis

    Averis Don of Delivery Prestige

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    Please don't do this to a Harry/Fleur fic that might have a chance at being good. I like your writing, but unless its a crackfic, don't name the dude "Scrubb".

    As for self inserts in general, it might be interesting to read someone who hates Harry Potter (and thus, has never actually read it) being dropped into the wizarding world. The only knowledge they would have is something broad like "Snape kills Dumbledore" (but he doesn't know when or how). They might know the titles of each of the books but have never read them or seen the movies. For example, he or she is a first year during Harry's first year and knows that the first book was called "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" but he doesn't know Flamel, Fluffy, Voldemort sucking unicorn blood or anything about the traps. They would know some of the teachers (Hagrid, McGonagall) though not enough to already know their personalities.

    A few other difficulties:

    The SI takes the place of another little used character. Fortunately, they look relatively the same with only minimal differences - same color hair, eyes, etc. The "switch" takes place during the first train ride, and when he/she wakes up, they are bewildered and disoriented (thinking wtf am I on this train for) until they reach Hogwarts (when it clicks in their mind, oh shit I'm in the HP stories), thus negating the SI's opportunity to meet Harry and Ron on the train.

    Harry, Ron and Hermione do not trust the person because the SI is sorted into Slytherin. (I'm thinking Nott or Davis here, but it could be any rarely used character).

    Their upbringing plays a part in their character traits. Whether that means that were always sneaky when dealing with classmates/parents, they've seen far too much, they weren't allowed to see anything (personally, I feel this would mesh nicely with their lack of knowledge about HP) is entirely up to the author.

    Despite their extra knowledge, things begin to change more and more the longer that they stay at Hogwarts. The troll attacks another student on Halloween, and the Gryffindor trio doesn't start so early. Of course, the story would focus on the daily life of our SI, but in the background, Harry and Ron spend more time with Neville, Seamus and Dean. Hermione becomes isolated and far more jaded about Hogwarts -- she loves learning, but feels socially awkward. Eventually, it is the SI who introduces himself/herself to her, though this turns everyone in Slytherin against him/her.

    The SI is fairly good at magic once experienced, but has to work just as hard as everyone else to survive. A lack of knowledge about Quidditch (isn't that the thing on the broomsticks?), History and even the names of the courses means that the SI is no better than the average first year. Ex: Falling off his/her broom, jacking up spell after spell until they finally, thankfully get it right, being completely lost in a massive castle, being scared shitless of the Bloody Baron, etc.

    If I was writing it, I'd make it so that every single useful bit of knowledge is rendered worthless by the character's decisions, presenting new headaches for everyone. Harry & co. wouldn't want to haveanything to do with the character until at least after the first year. Dumbledore is kind but uncaring, McGonagall dislikes the SI (You're late again! 15 points from Slytherin), Hagrid is wary, the SI thinks Snape is a bad guy.

    Eventual SI/LL (or SI/NL if its a female) leading to the character going along for the ride during the Department of Mysteries fiasco. You could conveniently make it so that the character has only seen this bit of the movie. The SI plays nice with Umbridge and becomes part of Malfoy's group of "Inquisitors" before releasing them. The SI tries to convince Harry not to go, and is basically told to fuck off; the SI decides instead to follow and, once the DoM is already gone (and the SI does something to save Sirius) Harry and co. let the SI become part of their group.
     
  15. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    The biggest problem with a self-insert is that the only person who perceives that character as themselves is the author. It's a story written for an audience of one. The backbone of any story is getting the reader to identify with the protagonist, to think of the protagonist as themselves... but the moment a reader perceives a character as the author's represenrative in the story, or even artificial in any sense, that identification becomes impossible.
     
  16. Andrela

    Andrela Plot Bunny DLP Supporter

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    I can understand your reasoning Taure and it is indeed very compelling, but I confess that I have never identified with any protagonist I've read about.

    I'm not seeing stories as a way to identify with the main character, but I'm simply reading them to find out what happens to that character.

    To put it in a different wording: the character exists in a fictional reality and I'm watching/reading his adventures as if it was a documentary.
     
  17. Republic

    Republic The Snow Queen Prestige DLP Supporter

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    The problem with SI is that it's a shitty, wankservice idea at its core. Good fics can be SI fics, but they are good despite the SI elements, not because of them. Good SI fics would be vastly improved had they been handled differently.
     
  18. Newcomb

    Newcomb Headmaster

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    Interesting.

    I myself strike a bit of a middle ground. I don't think I've ever actually thought of a protagonist as myself, but I don't really have an objective, "I'm just watching this to see what happens," bird's-eye perspective either.

    I guess for me, it's more like I let myself get drawn into a story (or, sometimes, am drawn in despite myself), and I kind of exist as a silent cheering section, my sympathy/empathy for certain characters eventually evolving into me rooting for specific outcomes or scenarios.

    I find this to be a really fascinating topic, one that I've never really considered before: how do you conceive of yourself, as a reader?

    It's interesting because it seems so natural and mundane that you never even think about it, like asking if, when you stand up, you take your first step with your left foot or your right foot. Hearing Taure and Xandrel's perspectives and recognizing elements of how I consume stories, while at the same time finding them strangely alien, was a pretty cool experience. Well done.
     
  19. Eilyfe

    Eilyfe Headmaster

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    I had an interesting experience a few months ago. Normally I'm not overly emotional when reading, but then I found a book where, after a passage, I had watery eyes for the first time. Since then I'm also judging books by how emotional they make me while reading.

    And a character I can emphazise with is essential for that, I believe.
     
  20. Jeram

    Jeram Elder of Zion DLP Supporter

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    I had an idea for a meta-take on the SI concept.

    A boy finds himself on the train to Hogwarts. He has no memory of anything but the essentials, not even his own name. Why then, does everything seem so familiar? Especially the name Harry Potter?

    The idea is that it's not really an SI per se, but a trick on the reader to make them think it is and pull out the rug about who it really is.