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Original Characters

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by The Wasp, May 16, 2016.

  1. The Wasp

    The Wasp First Year

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    What's the standard on those?

    I think it goes without saying you don't want them to become gary-stus, but is it possible to incorporate an original character into that world without making it seem ridiculous? Especially if it's AU?

    I've read a few that were moderately good but most seem like the author is just trying to insert themselves into the HP universe/timeline and it doesn't mix very well.
     
  2. Averis

    Averis Don of Delivery ~ Prestige ~

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    I mean, if you're writing an AU (especially outside of Hogwarts) then you are pretty much forcing yourself to create some original characters. In that case, I would start first with the setting, and concoct figures that are going to fit properly within that setting -- for example, if you're going to write about Harry as an auror, you'd have to vastly expand the auror corps as we know it, as well as some of the assisting departments to boot. Since they work in the Ministry building, you could expect some of them to be bureaucrats, paper pushers and brownnosers, and you'd have a fair few who are thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. You'd also have a divide between rookies and higher ups, young and old, and then any type of social epithets involved with the particular characters and how they'd react to each other.

    On top of that, you want to have some plot that causes the characters to interact, where personal strife gets in the way of professional goals or vice-versa.

    I guess we need more information to go on to give a proper response, but one should always write characters that are going to fit the story. Say you're writing pre-Hogwarts Voldemort. A simple-minded, well-meaning social worker dresses up as Saint Nick at orphanages every Christmas and meets young Tom Riddle, who coerces him (with magic) to adopt him. The perversion of a well-meaning Muggle by a child who is already on the path to evil would make for a very interesting character in that case. Dumbledore visiting the orphanage, finding out what's wrong and putting a stop to it would breed conflict between the two characters that would carry on to Hogwarts.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2016
  3. FloreatCastellum

    FloreatCastellum First Year

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    People don't like OCs in fanfic, and it's easy to see why. They are usually terrible.

    I use fanfic to practice my writing skills, so creating an OC was important for me to develop my character creation. I wanted there to be a reason though, so I paired her as a trainee Auror under Harry to show him having to work with someone outside of the D.A/Order, and adjusting to the fact that he has to get along with people that think the sun shines out of his arse, and as a chance to explore the issues of a half-Muggle, half-magical family.

    To make sure it wasn't a self-insert, I chose my own flaws, then chose the other end of the scale so that she was different, but still a flawed person. I am very shy and often don't speak up when I should, she babbles and is unaware of how much she fawns over Harry. I am too cynical and doubtful about men who show an interest in me, she is too trusing and willing to be flattered. Then, for strengths, I thought about her role in the plot and made sure that she would actually be a useful element to it- stealth, observation, willingness to persevere with boring research. There should also be a "save the cat" moment that endears the character to the reader. Readers of HP fanfic already love the canon characters, your OC is already at a severe disadvantage next to them. Why should they care? Why should they like them?

    As for background, well, I think this is where people tend to fail and create Mary-Sues or just ridiculous characters. Overly tragic or unusual backgrounds never quite sit right, because it's hard for most people to emphasise and it's just cliche at this point. That's not to say they can't be troubled, but do we really need another pale, wide-eyed Slytherin girl who grew up in an orphanage? No. I don't know a lot about AU, but I can imagine this sort of thing is a problem. You may already have a very exciting, drastically different plot. You need to throw an average-joe into that for a reader to be able to empathise. Too much and it starts to feel a bit silly.

    I made my OC the child of a divorce between a Muggle and a wizard, so that there was enough of an interesting pull between the two worlds and a clear root cause of certain prejudices and conflicts she has. So, nothing too dramatic, but something a little more interesting. I think a lot of character creation is coming up with something interesting and then scaling it back a little. If you layer lots of mildly interesting things, it usually creates a more rounded, more realistic human being.
     
  4. The Wasp

    The Wasp First Year

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    Thank you both for the advice.

    One of my main problems borderline breaks a Potter law- American Exchange Students.

    Yes I will admit, the lack of information on magical America has bothered me over the years. As a kid, I always felt a sense of disappointment in this. I think it was partly a childhood dream of being "friends" with Harry and co. but it was also genuine curiosity of what my magical world beneath my feet and invisible to my eyes was like. Also I suppose that sometimes we as Americans are a bit self centered and have an unconscious habit of thinking the world revolves around us.

    My OC would go something like this. It's still in the beginning concept stages but I would like to know what people think.

    So my character would be male and 19 years old and grow up in a wizarding community in Queens, New York. Here are the traits I'm trying to decide on:

    A) He's either pure blood or half blood
    B) He comes from either a wealthy privileged upbringing or an ignorant middle class one, in which he has a gruff father and a caring mother.
    C) His temperament: should he be intelligent but lazy? Laid back or easily provoked to anger? Ignorant but hard working? How talented should be be?

    I already know one of his flaws. He's a racist. Not a blood purity racist but an ethnic one. He doesn't like blacks or most non-whites. But it would be due to upbringing and ignorance and not malice. This ties in with my vision of a wizarding America that focuses very little on blood purity but is very divided race wise due to the melting pot of cultures living there. He's going to be the wizarding equivalent of a white anglo saxon Protestant. But does this fit more with a middle class background or a wealthy one?

    Second, I've worked out how he'll get to Hogwarts. He gets in trouble with the law and gets out of doing time only by court ordered conditions, one of which is finishing his education (yeah he flunked out). But I'm still working out what kind of trouble he'll get into. I'm thinking that he breaks statute of secrecy or commits assault but I'm not sure.

    Lastly, when he is at Hogwarts, would he be sorted into Gryffindor or Slytherin? I'm thinking it's one or the other. He'll have characteristics of both but I'm not sure which dynamic fits better for the story.

    He'll have redeeming qualities for sure. Bascially I've envisioned him as sort of a young wizarding version of Archie Bunker. I want him to be combative but likeable. I also want him to evolve.

    I really hope this doesn't sound like a Mary sue. I tried very hard to give him characteristics of many different people, including myself but not exclusively so.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
  5. Dicra

    Dicra Groundskeeper

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    I think it's relatively easy to avoid creating a Mary Sue. You just have to give the character some real flaws and that's it. If one really desires not to make his character a Mary Sue, he most certainly won't.
    What, however, is far more difficult is to create a character that is interesting and fun to read about, to balance where he excels and where he is weak and to give him understandable desires and views.
    I mean, Dudley Dursley is definitely no Mary Sue. Would anyone want to read about him? I severly doubt it.
    I'm completely sure that I've never published (note: I've definitely written a few pieces with some lovely Garys in them) anything that had a Mary Sue or Gary Stu in it. However, I'm still unsure if I managed to have interesting characters at any point.

    One example I invented four years ago:
    A guy from a wealthy family that was always proud of its magical achievements (and political power partly because of these achievements), but that is downright incapable to be anything but awful at anything related to wand-weaving. He thinks his family sees him as a disgrace (despite them never directly telling him that) and tries to hide him as much as they can, hence he goes to a school for magic far away from home.
    He is highly intelligent, loves riddles, excels in Potions and is courageous when he needs to, but also cynical and sometimes even self-pitying. At the same time, he has an enormous ambition to improve his magical abilities through every means necessary.

    No Gary Stu, but is this a character a majority of people'd like to read about? I think he could be potentionally interesting but it all depends on how it's carried out. Actually, imo that's even more important than having a set of character traits that don't necessarily merge into a Mary Sue.

    As for the character trait questions: Well, this is your own story and you're including your own character in it.
    First, you have a story line. If you need one character trait for a particular part of the story line, write your character so he always has that character trait and then put it to use for that part. My example character's ambition for example stems from the fact I desperately needed it for the story line.
    Second, I think it's important that he's no complete idiot. At least I really don't want to read about dumb losers that stay dumb losers (except for, maybe, comedy).
    Third, a back story is necessary. If you have that, think about possible outcomes of certain events and you have plausible character traits as a result. And, as previously said, it shouldn't be overdone.
    Fourth, if you want him to evolve, do it by putting him through something that'll change him (like The Santi did in BWL with this caretaker) or give him character traits that are prone to evolving (e. g. his racism can grow stronger or be proved wrong, or my example's ambition can grow more desperate)

    Despite written in a matter-of-fact style, I don't think the aforementioned is the epitome of wisdom or even always right, but these are simply the things I do when trying to develop an OC.

    By the way, including yourself in a HP fanfiction might work, in my opinion, but only if you 1) are a very, very good judge of your own character and actually able to acknowledge your weaknesses (to avoid Mary Sues and the likes) and 2) don't make yourself the main character because of Potter Law No. 1.

    Hope it wasn't too chaotic; I'm not very good in structuring my texts if writing in a foreign language.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
  6. The Wasp

    The Wasp First Year

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    Dicra

    You're English is very good, thank you for your comments.

    In my character his racism gets proven wrong over time and he mellows out. It's his talents that I'm trying to figure out. How intelligent should I make him? Does he have a temper? How powerful of a wizard is he? And what kind of background should he have? A wealthy one or middle class?

    The setting is going to be at the start of Harry's 5th year. I thought it would be interesting to place him at the same time as Umbridge. Would make for an interesting conflict as well as the fact that he'll be a witness to the ever ongoing debate between Dumbledore and the Ministry about Voldemort's return.
     
  7. FloreatCastellum

    FloreatCastellum First Year

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    That all sounds interesting, but make sure you include a strong 'save the cat' moment or something to make sure the character is likeable. If he's racist, there's little reason the reader will care enough to keep reading to see if he'll change. There has to be a reason they empathise with him.

    I would suggest his background should be middle class so that he doesn't feel like another Slytherin stereotype, and probably put him in Gryffindor for that same reason too.
     
  8. Dicra

    Dicra Groundskeeper

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    The Wasp I actually think you yourself should decide that. I agree with the post above, but apart from that - do what you personally need and like to write. Your character will most certainly be no Mary Sue and there are no strict guidelines as to what character traits exactly every character needs to have.
    Put differently: You need a hot-headed character? Give him a temper. You need a highly intelligent character? Give him an impressive intellect.
    If you do that and only come up with positive/negative character traits, try to balance them. An example: He's highly intelligent and very social? OK, but he also thinks himself to be above every rule because he feels he's superior due to his intellect.

    Whether he's readable or not is decided by how you convey that to the reader.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
  9. The Wasp

    The Wasp First Year

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    This is my first real attempt at a HP fanfic story so I hope I do convey him in a way that will readable and forthright. It's the small details I'm trying to work out now as far as the whole story goes. I'm really trying to avoid making it seem I forcefully "inserted" a character into the story that doesn't fit. But I think I got something pretty good.
     
  10. Child of August

    Child of August Squib

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    The flaws you mentioned will hopefully ground your character. I'm not sure what sort of story you're planning on writing, but if the story is going to center around your OC as opposed to being a side plot point, making him interesting and important to the plot is key. Like others pointed out, if he's just another "Slytherin" type, readers may reject him. Also if it's not important for him to be a Slytherin try thinking of him as a racist Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, or Ravenclaw.

    I also agree with the "save the cat" concept. If you write him as intentionally unlikeable but slowly we are meant to warm up to him then it'll certainly work better than the reverse where an author forces the reader to like what is essentially an intruder to their universe.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2016
  11. The Wasp

    The Wasp First Year

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    That's exactly how I plan him to be. Not very likeable at first but slowly, as time goes on, he evolves and becomes redeemable, even likeable. Sort of like an old white guy who the viewers hate at first but come to like and even admire by the end. Like an Archie Bunker or a Walt Kowalski type. Except young and trying to get his life together.

    So this is what I have so far: Age 18 (turning 19), middle class household, intelligent but no drive to succeed, not easily angered but explodes when he does, talented at potions, history of magic, and transfiguration, sucks at Charms and Arithmancy. Excellent dueler but unpolished. Racist, but not blindingly so. Has problems connecting with people, but is fiercely loyal and protective of those he cares about. Comes from a middle class background and has had various opportunities, but his grandparents have money to help pay for Hogwarts (the price is much steeper).

    How does all that sound? Beyond that I just need to fix some plot lines.

    How does that sound?
     
  12. FloreatCastellum

    FloreatCastellum First Year

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    Hogwarts is free, fyi.
     
  13. The Wasp

    The Wasp First Year

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    Oh really? Where in the books does it mention that?
     
  14. Atram Noctem

    Atram Noctem High Inquisitor

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    Rowling said that on twitter not long ago, but it might only be free for British citizens.
     
  15. FloreatCastellum

    FloreatCastellum First Year

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    Rowling said it on Twitter, which I know not everyone counts as canon, but as there's nowhere in the books where it mentions fees either it just adds a bit more legitimacy.

    This doesn't necessarily have to be a problem though, perhaps as an international student he'd have to pay.
     
  16. The Wasp

    The Wasp First Year

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    True. I could put that in there. What do you think of the final draft of the character overall?
     
  17. Alpaca Queen

    Alpaca Queen Fourth Year

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    It seems fairly rounded (or has the potential to be), but you're going to need more than that. Like, motivation - what does your character want to accomplish? Why do they get up in the morning? Even if they're not very ambitious, why are they doing what they're doing? This ties heavily into their background - why did your character come to England instead of getting an American education? Why does he hate black people so much? Generally, it's not enough to just list their qualities - you should to be able to fit them into a narrative. For example:
    Or something entirely different; it's all up to you. But it's important that, even if you don't tell your readers his life story, you still should know it, so that you can draw on his past experiences and motivations when deciding how he'll act in various situations.

    And I guess if I had one other thing to note, it's that you can't take his likeable-ness too slowly. Racism is almost shorthand for evil in fiction, especially fanfiction, so you need to get that heart of gold visible (even if only a little bit) in the first few chapters if you want people to pay any attention at all.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2016
  18. The Wasp

    The Wasp First Year

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    This is all very sound advice. Thank you. Actually the hypothetical backstory you wrote for him was pretty good. Fortunately, I did come up with something pretty believable and substantial that explains his prejudice.

    1) Wizards of different races in the U.S. don't get along very well, sometimes even worse than their muggle counterparts. I wrote an entire history for why that it is, but the point is, the magical U.S. in 1995 looks more like muggle America in 1955. The attitude is societal.

    2) He has a complex relationship with his father. His dad is a blue collar wizard who carries the same beliefs about other races. He often verbally abuses his son due to his penchant for trouble and it strains their relationship. His mother is loving but is also fed up with his behavior.

    3) When my OC was 9 years old, he accidentally wandered into a black neighborhood and was beaten up by the local kids who lived there, including one he particularly hates named Ray Winston.

    As for his motivation, that's the problem, he has no proper direction and takes for granted his life in New York. Hogwarts is supposed to be a wake up call, however, it ends up being more than that.

    I intend to make him a complicated character. You'll see him from multiple angles. He's not Draco Malfoy but everyone remembers what a giant prick he was in books #1-5. But we see a different side in the last two. My OC is somewhat similar to that, except he's not arrogant, and he has numerous redeeming qualities that are introduced early in the story. And his evolution from a racist anti-hero to good guy doesn't take as long.
     
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