Wing’s Guide to OC Creation
Ah, well. I’m WingsOfMorphius and I’m here to offer you some tips and tricks to character creation to help you avoid the dreaded Mary/Gary Sues.
YOU MUST ASK TWO BEREAUCRAT OR THREE ADMINS BEFORE MAKING A CHARACTER!
To start, I’m gonna educate you guys on exactly what a Mary/Gary Sue is. (We all have to learn somewhere, after all…) Generally speaking, these are characters that are too ‘perfect’ to be believable. They’re the ones that are the smartest, prettiest, strongest, fastest, most charismatic person in the world and who have no flaws whatsoever. The main character usually falls in love with them on sight, and vice versa.
The terms also being used to apply to the characters in plots that have been used so many freakin’ times that it’s BEYOND overkill. An example of this is the New-Halfa-Comes-To-Town thing you see every other fanfic. I’m not trying to offend anyone who writes these kinds of stories, but you have to understand that after a while, these things get monotonous, and fanfic-readers tend to appreciate a little more creativity then that.
At any rate, these are the characters you want to avoid creating, and to help you I’m going to teach you the things I think about while I’m making my OCs. Be warned that this method is a tad bit lengthy, but so far it’s worked pretty darn well for me, everything considered.
BUILDING A CHARACTER
When I’m making an original character for a story that I know is going to play a significant roll in the progress of the plot, I always think carefully about the following things (Not necessarily in this order);
1.) Appearance 2.) Personality 3.) History 4.) Powers/Weapons 5.) Family/Ancestors 6.) Psyche
Now then, with that in mind I’m not going to tell you how to make every single character you use, but I am going to give you some finer points to think about when you’re making them. Yes, this involves quite a bit of thinking on the part of the creators (THE HORROR!) but in the end it helps to make you more familiar with the character you’ve made, and it actually does make writing the story far easier in the long run.
The big thing with appearance is that everyone wants to make their characters gorgeous. Now, there’s nothing wrong with letting a character have a pretty face, but you have to understand that no everyone out there is drop-dead beautiful. It’s okay to give a character disfigurations like scars and such, and even better to just let them look normal, since it’s easier to connect with characters like these.
Also, actually putting thought into what your character’s going to look like and how it’s going to dress will really help the readers with visualizing them. You can use the following list to help you with this;
Hair- (What color is it? Length? Is it straight or curly? How does the character wear it? Ponytail? Braid? Bandana?)
Skin- (Is your character pale? Do they have freckles, scars, tattoos or other visible differences?)
Eyes- (What color are your character’s eyes? What ethnicity are they? Do they wear glasses?)
Height- (Well this one’s kind of a given, how freakin’ tall is your character? You don’t have to get into exact measurements, though, a simple ‘medium-height’ or ‘fairly short’ should drive the point home)
Body type- (Is your character thin? Muscular? Hairy beyond all reason? Don’t be afraid to change things up from the norm every once in a while)
Clothing- (The kinds of clothes someone wears can tell you a lot about them, so be sure to get into a little more detail here. Are they a jock or tomboy, or a prep or beauty queen? Are they wearing any jewelry?)
Other- (These are the fancy little doodads we authors like to add to our characters; fangs, claws, third arms and all that fun stuff.)
Another thing to keep in mind as far as appearance goes is that you don’t have to tell us all these details as soon as you introduce the character. After all, do you notice every miniscule thing about someone the second you meet them? It’s a lot easier for the reader to take it all in if you give them the basic stuff to begin with and them build from that as the story goes on.
This is probably the most important part of the character. This is what gives them life, after all, and what separated a good OC from a Mary/Gary Sue. Just like with Appearance, I use the following checklist when I’m thinking about my character’s personality.
Likes- (This is pretty straightforward, what does your character like? It doesn’t have to be as simple as favorite foods and colors, either. What are their hobbies? Are they an artist? A musician? A car-lover? What are their secret and not-so-secret obsessions?)
Dislikes- (Once again, pretty basic. What are the things your character can’t stand. Personality traits that bug them, pet peeves like tapping or gum-blowing… the things that make them human)
Character- (How does your OC generally act? Are they a people-person or a loner? Proud or a Pushover? How will they react to certain people and ideas?)
Introverted or Extroverted- (Introverted means shy or more self-aware, while Extroverted means outgoing and a social butterfly. Usually what I do with this is make a scale of one to ten and see where the character falls on it, with one being introverted and ten being extroverted, since you rarely have someone that’s just one or the other.)
Most of this stuff probably seems pretty simple when you’re reading this, but it’s actually kinda sad how many people never think about these things as far as how they relate to a character. Personality is very important, and overlooked far too much.
Yeah, there’s a list for this, too. Get used to it, people, I’m very detail-oriented about these things. At any rate, History is just what it sounds like; your character’s past before the story and how it ties in with what’s going on. Here’s some basic things to think about to avoid having a character that just popped into Amity Park out of thin air;
School/Training- (What kinds of things does the OC know from what they’ve learned from another person? Who taught them? Do they have any weak spots as far as their schooling/training goes? (Evil, EVIL math!) These are all pretty vital, as they establish the fact that the character did indeed have a life before the story.)
Jobs- (What kind of work does your character do? It can be anything from assassination to baby-sitting, but knowing their credentials helps build more background. It’s also helpful to know what the character thinks of their line of work, and whether or not they were happy doing it)
Other information- (Where did/does the OC live? Big city or small town? Who are they living with? Do they have any friends or family in other places? Sometimes you can wheedle by without this stuff, but it’s still nice to think about it, just in case.)
While I adore every aspect of character creation to the point of obsession (And it probably shows in my writing…) I know that most people find this particular part of it boring. Still, it is in fact a necessary evil with is probably overlooked far, FAR more then it should be. Giving your character a history helps to establish their life and the ways they are accustomed to living, which can be very important to the storyline.
Now THIS is the one everybody loves. As a matter of fact, most people jump right into this one without any thought or reasoning, which tends to be a no-no. You have to understand that basing the character solely on specific powers or weapons tend to make dry, boring OCs.
It’s actually best to develop the rest of the character first and then think about the weapons or powers, though in some cases people will start with the power and build off of that. Still, for newcomers to this method of character creation, it’s best to try it the first way until you get the rhythm for it before you start doing that.
Type- (What type of weapon/power is it? Try and stray beyond the realm of ‘sword’ or ‘ectoplasmic energy.’ There are many, MANY styles of swords out there, so try and narrow it down to a specific one like a katana or a broad sword, and do some research on powers to see how you can make yours different. (yes, I said the dreaded ‘R’ word. I’ve spent hours on end pulling up information on the Wild West for my upcoming story Ghost Town, so don’t start knockin’ it!))
Appearance- (I know you guys are getting tired of this, but please just bare with me. This is where you describe what the weapon/power looks like. And it is in fact possible to describe powers with something a little more complex then simply ‘blasts.’ Are they orbs? Beams? Do they have a certain color or pattern to them? Describe everything with as much detail as possible, since your powers and weapons have to be unique to your character alone.)
History- (Yeah, this again. How was the weapon/power created? How did your character come to obtain it? And none of that coincidental stuff! How many times have you gone walking through a forest and tripped over a magic sword, which you then decided to use to thwart evil, huh?)
Other- (Just the interesting facts about the power/weapon. It’s limits, what it feeds off of, how it’s used and all that other glittery stuff we authors need to put up to keep our characters from becoming all-powerful.)
Another thing to bare in mind is that while weapons and powers are fun, they aren’t everything. You can have a character that’s completely human with no weapons or powers to speak of that still manages to stay interesting and entertaining as well. Don’t think that your character absolutely HAS to have telepathy or a magic fire sword or all that fun junk to be cool.
Another piece of information that tends to be a little over-looked. (Though I think this one’s because it’s also a little over-looked in the show itself, with the barely-there exception of Danny) You have to remember that families can have a huge impact on a person’s life, and not just because they’re mortal enemies with a brother/sister/cousin, either. Think about how much your family and your home life has influenced your personality, after all.
Ancestors- (This tends to be more for if you’re getting into blood feuds and all of that oh-so-fun drama. How far back does it extend? Who started it and why? Why has it been carried on to present-day? Just more History junk that my friends abhor when it comes to doing these things. (They also hate that I can go on for five pages with it, even with my tiny handwriting))
Father- (What’s their father like? What does he do? How does he act? How is his relationship with the OC? More basic junk that people generally don’t care about enough to plan out)
Mother- (Basically just the ditto of the Father stuff, only the other end of the Parental Spectrum.)
Siblings- (Does the character have any brothers or sisters? Are they older or younger? How do they get along with the OC?)
Other- (Maybe your character does not have any or the above, and is instead being raised by a grandparent or an aunt or uncle? If so, what’s happened to their parents, and what’s their relationship with whoever’s responsible for raising them?)
There’s a lot people can do with families that they never think about. It’s actually a little depressing in a way, but hopefully bringing it into the light will get you guys to bring it into some of your stories a little more.
I’m putting this last because I really wanna drive the point home with this one. Psyche is a look into your character’s mind. The first thing you have to understand that while it is similar to personality, there are differences to it. Personality describes how your character acts, while psyche is how your character thinks.
Category- (This is where you tell us where your character falls in the Character Spectrum. Basically, the categories are as follows;
Heroes- The ‘good guys,’ which generally include the main character.
Villains- The ‘bad guys,’ usually the ones trying to thwart and/or kill the hero.
Dark-sided- My personal favorite, even though these are generally the most difficult to make. The characters that are neither heroes nor villains. Rather, they’re just doing their own thing, helping either side whenever it brings them closer to their own goal.
Sidekicks- The guys who following the hero around, helping whenever they can.
Monsters- Simply put, these are the guys that aren’t human.
Unique Characters- These are the ones that have special traits or just things that raise them above being a normal person.
You can sometimes combined two of these into one when making a character (for example, your sidekick can also be a monster), but it’s usually not smart to use more then two or them, or two that don’t go well together.)
Drive- (This is what’s keeping your character doing what they’re doing. Are they power hungry? Honor-bound? Vengeful?)
Traits- (Does your character have any habits that are unique to them?)
Disposition- (Basically, the way your character presents themselves to others in contrast to how they really are)
Psychological Profile- (This is the fun one that drives people to tears banging their heads against the table. Here’s where you tell us the way your character thinks and reacts, why they do what they do and what kind of mental state their in. It tends to get pretty in depth, since it’s so important to explaining what kind of person your character is)
Psyche tends to be the one people have the most difficulty with, but not because it’s considered useless like History. Actually, it’s hard because it’s so vital to the character, and so many people have a hard time putting these things to words. It most certainly gave me a hard time at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes one of your best friends as far as character creation goes.
So there you have it! Six pages of me blathering on about the steps I use when creating original characters. (And with these in mind and also considering the fact that I haven’t said a thing about the actually story and plot creation, is it any wonder I get highly tweaked at the thought of story theft?) I hope this handy lil guide helps you next time you’re thinking up an OC, as I’m the kind of reader that is tempted to throttle every Mary/Gary Sue I encounter.