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Offline NinjaKitty

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Character Development?
« on: December 13, 2012, 06:11:32 PM »
Lately, I've been wanting to get back into the writing groove with my ATLA FF. But the only problem is that my OC character has a super confusing backstory. Character development is not my strong point and sometimes I'm so obsessed with not making my character sound like a Mary-sue, she ends up like a Mary-sue (I wish i never discovered the Mary-sueness of OCs.) Anyway... My main character Taea was born into the Fire Nation elite, her father an Army general, her mother a Lady from a long line of Nobility. Life is all fun and games until her father is sentenced to execution for crimes against the Fire lord himself and two years later, her home is ransacked by the Army, killing her mother. Taking what money is left hidden in her destroyed home, Taea travels to the southern Earth Kingdom city of Gaoling. In a stroke of luck, she finds work as a servant for the Bei Fong Family.

Like it? Hate it? Want to take it and smash it to the ground until it no longer exists?
Give me your criticism!

Offline Light-Eco-Sage

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2012, 06:57:22 PM »
Making OCs non-Mary Sues is probably the hardest thing about writing fanfiction, and is part of the reason why I tend to avoid writing OCs in my fanfiction.

There is one tip that I can offer.

Make sure that your OC has character flaws. All of the best characters of all time have character flaws, because that's what makes them real. The best advice I ever heard was to take your character's best quality and give them an overabundance of that quality. Like they say: even a good thing in large enough quantities can be bad for you. Ex: Azula is a perfectionist. That's a good thing. But when things start to get out of her control, she will utterly destroy it before allowing it to get out of her control; or she'll go mad when it is out of her control.


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Offline wherewulf

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2012, 07:50:29 PM »
Making OCs non-Mary Sues is probably the hardest thing about writing fanfiction, and is part of the reason why I tend to avoid writing OCs in my fanfiction.

There is one tip that I can offer.

Make sure that your OC has character flaws. All of the best characters of all time have character flaws, because that's what makes them real. The best advice I ever heard was to take your character's best quality and give them an overabundance of that quality. Like they say: even a good thing in large enough quantities can be bad for you. Ex: Azula is a perfectionist. That's a good thing. But when things start to get out of her control, she will utterly destroy it before allowing it to get out of her control; or she'll go mad when it is out of her control.

Definitely agree with this.  :D  I also like the idea of installing some headpalm moments, myself.

You know those times that if everybody did everything they were supposed to, everything their wise elders/etc. told them to do, their lives would be a lot smoother?  Yet somehow there's always something to distract you, something to procrastinate about, you'll get to it later, and inevitably... problem.  And sometimes in trying to fix the problem, or worse, cover it up... more problems.  Or somehow you forget the cake out cooling and the dog gets into it, or you forget to latch the fence gate and out goes the herd...

A little human cluelessness with a consequence now and then goes a long way.  Might teach the OC a thing or two, too.

Offline Huzzahfortimelines

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2012, 07:53:58 PM »
Something I read on another forum, about the Mary Sue thing, and maybe a trap you'll fall into:

Persona Invasion.

This one is a bit tougher to explain. Sometimes a writer wants to put a piece of him/herself in the story they are plugging away at. This is not a bad idea in the slightest if you do it right.

One way to do this wrong is to put too much of yourself into the main character of the story you are writing. Doing this causes you to become self-aware and thus change elements of the story (sometimes in completely unexplainable ways) to suit your character. This is not a good way to go about it and leads to you randomly giving your character 1 billion credits or somehow having him promoted to Fleet Admiral of the Alliance Navy. Not to mention the fact that he will most likely be invincible and crush any foes in his path.


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Offline A6

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2012, 10:19:54 PM »
Dittoes to what wulf and Sage and Huzzah say.  In addition to flaws in the character it is good to have story line in which the OC fails or makes mistakes initially that have to be learned from and overcome before solving or surviving a much larger problem they are faced with. Makes them more human.

My Equalist Anthology original character 'Fujimi' started out with everything going right fo him, then in the world changing adversity of losing his fire bending, he made numerous nearly fatal mistakes, including have his pregnant wife leave him.

But  he learned and survived to be a hurt but better man.

So not only what's inside a character and their flaws makes a character less Mary Sue, but the situation they face, how it defeats them at first then recovers.

My two cents.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2012, 10:23:59 PM by A6 »
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Offline Av

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2012, 05:03:13 PM »
My advice?

Mary Sues are born when they're treated like the only real character even though they're obviously fake.

A Mary Sue exists because something about them seems contrived. It's like when you have more than one Avatar, or a person who can learn more than one element as a normal bender. Mary Sues and Stus exist because they're made to be better than the other characters. They're inherently more skilled, have a lot of talent, are very attractive, do all the right things, and can defeat or manipulate people who no one should be able to without it even being treated as a huge deal. There's no tension, there's no suspense, they're just that good just because. They didn't work hard, they didn't train long, they didn't make sacrifices, they didn't have consequences to deal with.

You can make a great, strong, likable character. You just have to make sure that if they had a tragic past, they had to work hard to overcome it. If they have great skill, they trained hard to acquire it. But even if not-! If things just come naturally to them, they have a determination and drive that keeps them going and has them longing to do things, eager to learn as much as they can, (rather than just being able to do something difficult with ease and not giving a damn). If they're an unusually attractive character and they end up stealing someone else's crush, make sure that they don't know, are shocked when they find out, and genuinely feel bad for their own ignorance and the pain it's caused the other person, while at the same time not giving up on the person they've just got into a relationship with. They don't know they're doing something bad or being hurtful, but they don't just shrug it off when they find out (or wallow in self-misery about how they can never do anything right), they genuinely care and try to learn from their mistakes. If they are wise, make them human. If they are unusually smart, make them arrogant without trying to be, or empathetic to a fault. If they are great, counteract it with something that would naturally be in their way. When writing characters, make sure there's Equivalent Exchange.

Basically, make them human. If they have a talent or a skill, make sure that it's actually there and not just informed. It has to have an effect on the story. You can't just have a trait and not have it affect anything. Don't tell me they're smart, show me they're smart. Don't tell me they're quick-witted and athletic, show me they are. Don't make them have an ability or a trait and then not use it or have there be no effect on the story or their character. Or even on other characters; especially on other characters. People with advantages naturally have other disadvantages. If someone is very good at something, chances are not everybody is going to like them.

And that's just it, really. If dealing with a character who's above it all and has people who don't like them, the people who don't like them don't have to be villains. They're people with insecurities who should be treated as such. Make them future allies, teach the above-it-all character some humility, make some even ground.

Mary Sues are polarizing. They take a rule of a specific type of storytelling to its extreme and do it incorrectly. "Make the characters move the plot." This is meant to mean that the characters' actions and motivations are what make the events of the story occur. Mary Sues are the one character who the plot revolves entirely around, who feel no real effects or difficulties nor face any consequences because of it. They're the center of the universe and that doesn't faze them. That is a huge problem. Because if you actually were the center of the universe, that pressure would be enough to break a person's back. If you are stronger than the average person, which you would have to be, that doesn't mean you can't feel it. You can lift a car over your head, but it will still drain the energy out of your entire body and the strain on your muscles would hurt like nothing you've ever felt.

The Mary Sue is supposed to be a character, but the problem is that they're more like a part of the scenery. Everything is happening around them, because of them, and they don't have to deal with any real struggle. They're the object. They are the living McGuffin. The story revolves around them, they are powerful and great and perfect in nearly every way, and they don't change or learn; they simply exist.
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Offline Glitch

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2012, 05:40:03 PM »
Av said it really well. Best thing I've read in a good while when it comes to character development.

The most boring, bland character is the one that is perfect and flawless, and that's what a Mary Sue is is basically just a character in invincible god-mode. Make your character screw up. Make them make mistakes. Put them through pain and torture. Make their emotions go on a rollercoaster. Kill her brother! Cut off her hand! Take her bending, give her amnesia (careful with that one though LOL), let her get captured, put her through a breakup, have someone stab her in the back... make sure that something goes very wrong and that your character handles it like any human would handle it. If someone betrays your trust, you normally wouldn't get over it right away. That's what a Mary Sue would do, but not a real, deep character... they would struggle with it, whether they show it outwardly or it's an inward and mental struggle with it.

People don't walk through a fire without getting burned. Mary Sues do. Make sure to let your character get a few burns.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2012, 05:41:40 PM by Glitch »

Offline Av

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2012, 08:49:50 PM »
Glitch's comment got me thinking of a fantastic point.

Don't be afraid to hurt your character. If it fits with the story you want to tell, do it.

Plenty of Mary Sues are born when the author loves a character so much that they're afraid to see them hurting. They don't want the character to suffer, they don't want the character to feel anything painful. All they want is for the character to be happy; unfortunately, due their refusal to let anything bad happen to the character, the audience doesn't.
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Offline Noodles Aang Colbert

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2012, 01:48:03 AM »
So many good points brought up so far.  I'm not sure I can a much additional quality information.  I think what is best is to let the character flow with the story.  It might not always be how the character appears to other characters but how that character appears to the reader.  Digging into the characters private thoughts can help make them real as well.  How other charters react to them and how they treat them.  It's not always about what a character does and says but also what they think.  Think about how we meet people everyday and we only see what is projected outward.  Showing what characters are thinking can only add to them.
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Offline Glitch

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2012, 04:49:24 AM »
I think what is best is to let the character flow with the story.
This is very good as well. One thing I do when writing is start off by just going... write and don't think about it, just write. Let the thoughts flow and write sloppily and messily and don't worry about fixing it up until later. The purpose is to let your ideas flow naturally and let it come to you as your brain is on a roll. I even sometimes will be writing paragraphs and cut them off in the middle to start a new one cause I had a new idea and don't want to miss that opportunity. When you've got something half-written already and a new idea comes into your head, it's better to start on that new idea so you can remember it in the future, rather than finish your current thought before continuing on to your next one. I guarantee that when you come back to your first thought you'll pick up right where you left off, whereas if you wait until you finish your first thought before you start your second, you'll likely forget the second by the time you get to it. I know that doesn't really relate a lot to the topic of character development, but more overall and generic storytelling.

Offline Spruce

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2012, 02:03:08 AM »
All of this is good advice.

The only addition I can make: do not let the knee-jerk hatred of OC's (under the premise of witch hunting Mary-Sues) prevent you from ever putting out your OC. No character is perfectly, executed ,and no literary work is perfectly written. The fact that you are putting so much effort in ahead of time bodes well for your characters not actually being truly Mary Sue.

There will still be someone who reviews, and calls them a Mary Sue, and yadda yadda, because it's the easy way to get "Street cred" as someone who makes "serious critiques" (just rip every OC as a Mary Sue! If they can't deal with it tough, because everyone knows all Mary Sues are evil and all OCs are Mary Sues amirite!?). But for every one of those there may also be three others who think you came up with something really interesting.

So keep working at them, and use the wisdom you can cull from this thread, but don't let the fear of haters paralyze you.
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Offline Natti

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2012, 03:05:53 AM »
Pretty much everything that has been said in this topic.

I'm not much of a writer most of the time, but I do very much enjoy creating and developing OCs, both as fancharacters and as completely original characters. Not sure how much I can help you out, but here:

http://www.animationsource.org/board/natti-s-guide-to-creating-characters-t34118.html

This is the character guide I wrote almost a year ago to help the many character-crazy members of AnimationSource create decent characters. In some ways it is a little more geared towards that community specifically (the noobs whose characters are either Mary Sues, severely underdeveloped, "open 4 maets and pupz!1!", or any combination of the above...ugh) and is a bit in need of some minor revisions, but I did try to keep it relatively general and maybe it can help you out a bit.


I had more that I wanted to write here, but I had some trouble putting it into clear, non-rambly words. Perhaps I'll try again later. XDX The short version of it was: a character's history and personality go hand-in-hand. Don't forget that.

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Offline A6

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2012, 07:16:06 PM »
Great additions to the body of thought on this string.
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Offline NinjaKitty

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2012, 10:32:01 PM »
Thank you guys for all the awesome advice on this. :D Hopefully others in a similar dilemma will read all these posts.

Offline FIGJAM

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2015, 11:01:11 PM »
My advice?

Mary Sues are born when they're treated like the only real character even though they're obviously fake.

A Mary Sue exists because something about them seems contrived. It's like when you have more than one Avatar, or a person who can learn more than one element as a normal bender. Mary Sues and Stus exist because they're made to be better than the other characters. They're inherently more skilled, have a lot of talent, are very attractive, do all the right things, and can defeat or manipulate people who no one should be able to without it even being treated as a huge deal. There's no tension, there's no suspense, they're just that good just because. They didn't work hard, they didn't train long, they didn't make sacrifices, they didn't have consequences to deal with.

You can make a great, strong, likable character. You just have to make sure that if they had a tragic past, they had to work hard to overcome it. If they have great skill, they trained hard to acquire it. But even if not-! If things just come naturally to them, they have a determination and drive that keeps them going and has them longing to do things, eager to learn as much as they can, (rather than just being able to do something difficult with ease and not giving a damn). If they're an unusually attractive character and they end up stealing someone else's crush, make sure that they don't know, are shocked when they find out, and genuinely feel bad for their own ignorance and the pain it's caused the other person, while at the same time not giving up on the person they've just got into a relationship with. They don't know they're doing something bad or being hurtful, but they don't just shrug it off when they find out (or wallow in self-misery about how they can never do anything right), they genuinely care and try to learn from their mistakes. If they are wise, make them human. If they are unusually smart, make them arrogant without trying to be, or empathetic to a fault. If they are great, counteract it with something that would naturally be in their way. When writing characters, make sure there's Equivalent Exchange.

Basically, make them human. If they have a talent or a skill, make sure that it's actually there and not just informed. It has to have an effect on the story. You can't just have a trait and not have it affect anything. Don't tell me they're smart, show me they're smart. Don't tell me they're quick-witted and athletic, show me they are. Don't make them have an ability or a trait and then not use it or have there be no effect on the story or their character. Or even on other characters; especially on other characters. People with advantages naturally have other disadvantages. If someone is very good at something, chances are not everybody is going to like them.

And that's just it, really. If dealing with a character who's above it all and has people who don't like them, the people who don't like them don't have to be villains. They're people with insecurities who should be treated as such. Make them future allies, teach the above-it-all character some humility, make some even ground.

Mary Sues are polarizing. They take a rule of a specific type of storytelling to its extreme and do it incorrectly. "Make the characters move the plot." This is meant to mean that the characters' actions and motivations are what make the events of the story occur. Mary Sues are the one character who the plot revolves entirely around, who feel no real effects or difficulties nor face any consequences because of it. They're the center of the universe and that doesn't faze them. That is a huge problem. Because if you actually were the center of the universe, that pressure would be enough to break a person's back. If you are stronger than the average person, which you would have to be, that doesn't mean you can't feel it. You can lift a car over your head, but it will still drain the energy out of your entire body and the strain on your muscles would hurt like nothing you've ever felt.

The Mary Sue is supposed to be a character, but the problem is that they're more like a part of the scenery. Everything is happening around them, because of them, and they don't have to deal with any real struggle. They're the object. They are the living McGuffin. The story revolves around them, they are powerful and great and perfect in nearly every way, and they don't change or learn; they simply exist.
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Offline Hukeyohi

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Re: Character Development?
« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2015, 08:53:09 PM »
Easy, follow the Law of Inverse Ninja.

When fighting in groups, Ninja have a strength = 1/n where n is the number ninja.

If you have 1 Ninja [main hero] fighting 1000 Ninja, each opposing Ninja thusly has a strength of 1/1000th the 1 ninja.

Add plot armor to the 1 Ninja and the 1 Ninja will beat all 1000 Ninja.
This happens in Atla and pretty much every fantasy game or anime.  The crowd is proportionally weaker than the individual.

How does this apply to OC's?

Let's say Aang/Korra and her 'gang' are the 1 Ninja, any other generic bender/enemy is 1/100th in strength.  Try to balance your character so that it's closer to 1/10th if they are skilled something or even less than the 1/100th if they aren't.

If your character is good at everything, they are OP.  If they are terrible at everything they are UP.  It's better to be closer to UP than OP and it's better to have Moral Conflict than Physical Conflict when adding an OC to a story.



LIKEWISE; the backstory and character development should also follow this rule.  The main character [aang/Korra] often has a very odd and different backstory that would be outside of normal.  Hence the 1 strong ninja.  Everyone else in the universe with limited exception would be the 1/1000th as they have normal upbringing for the circumstances they live.

Rate your character on this scale.  Is my character backstory very unlikely to happen [very low chance; that 1 strong ninja] or very likely to happen [very high chance; that 1/1000th strength ninja].

Child of a Firelord General - Unlikely; General's are generally not that common.  Sergeant and lower officer would be far more likely.
Father 'was a traitor' and mother was killed in a raid - Very unlikely.
Mother was nobility - Unlikely EXCEPT father being a general makes this individual case far more likely to about neutral.
As a refugee ran away to earth kingdom - Very likely; Lots of refugees end up in the earth kingdom.
As a servant to the Bei Fong family - Very unlikely, clearly.

With all these unlikely traits the character's backstory is hard to believe. It is extraordinary and challenges suspension of disbelief.  Now very unlikely does not mean impossible but impossible is not a prerequisite for being a Sue/Stu

With the backstory that's been given, I would consider your character's story to be Sue/Stu-ish and could be toned down to be far more believable without detriment to the character.
<< Post Merge: October 08, 2015, 08:56:34 PM >>


However, make the character and it's story be whatever you want or need. Just consider that suspension of disbelief, when done in excess, tends to push people away.
<< Post Merge: October 08, 2015, 08:57:19 PM >>


Damnit TKK with your necros.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2015, 08:57:19 PM by Mylil »


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