Home > Writing Tips > A bit of fanfiction writer wisdom I thought worth spreading around.
A bit of fanfiction writer wisdom I thought worth spreading around.It's so obvious, and yet so many folks forget:
"We like the characters for what they are, not for what they could be, and it is much more enjoyable to read an in-character fic than it is a thinly-veiled wish fulfillment fic."
~ Storyless, ficwad author, in a fanfic discussion posted here:
|HRT||A very good IC can be a real pleasure, but keep in mind that one of the reasons authors write fanfic is to explore the character's personality in greater depth than the originator did. A brand new aspect of a personality can sometimes be more enjoyable than the original.|
|Neptune||As long as the new aspect makes sense. ;) There are some things that are going to be very hard to make people believe a character would do. Justification is the name of the game in fanfiction.|
|sparky_lurkdragon||Heck, I think getting to the new aspect is half the fun. :)|
|helluin|| It's the wish-fulfillment fic problem that I have trouble with. Exploring the character in more depth is one thing. Making the character be yours... er... yes... it is possible to Mary Sue a canon character, if that makes any sense, and/or "use" that character in ways that betray what was best about the character.|
Consider (if I won't offend anyone) the LOTR movies making Frodo weak, cowardly, and unable to trust Sam, to the point that Frodo was trying to hand the Ring over to the Nazgûl every five seconds, tried to kill Sam, and betrayed Sam for Gollum.
A very different character from the one who loved and appreciated Sam every inch of the way, and who confronted the Nine Riders alone, wounded, and dying on the Fords of the Bruinen with "By Elbereth and Lúthien the Fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor me!"
The "new aspect" of the character, in that case, was a contradiction to the original, because...um... well... vulnerability, big puppy eyes, and angst sells, and heroes are now supposed to be grievously flawed and incompetent at key moments?
or something. Anyway, there are an awful lot of awful wish fulfillment fics out there.
|itainohime|| Very true. I'd argue with your LotR example, but alas, I cannot. Though I will say that it's not Elijah Wood's fault that he has big, pretty eyes. ^_~|
One of my big pet peeves recently has been in my brief forays into the House M.D. fandom, and my many forays into the Saiyuki fandom. House is an unforgivably cold jerk; Sanzo, one of the main characters of Saiyuki, is equally emotionally inaccessible. I am getting tired of finding fanfiction that portrays either one of them as being fuzzy, fluffy, cuddly, or cute.
The thing is, with a character like that, it is NOT an insurmountable task to make them feel AND make them still be in-character. People who do otherwise give me the impression that they're just plain being lazy about it--that they don't care enough about the series they supposedly love to try and give the appearance of ICness.
OOC funCharacters who are unabashedly OOC for no good reason irk me. But I consider myself a fanfic writer of a speculative nature--the question I ask myself is, as one of my fanfic titles indicates, "What if?"
Becuase of that, I have a high tolerance for characters acting out of character--becuase just what is out of character when we see very little of what goes on inside characters heads? In my fanfiction I very often deal with "broken" versions of popular characters, universes where those characters were pushed beyond their breaking point. An example would be the very distraught and broken Sonic in my fic "If Only You Knew," who has suffered a fate worse than death. People say it's OOC but I think most of us would snap at lesser than what the character went through.
Another issue is when the official works in a series contradict each other, as is mentioned with Frodo. My main fandom is Sonic, and inconsistent portrayls from Sonic Team are a huge problem, especially with the characters of Shadow, Tails, and Eggman.
In arguably the most prolific and beloved work of my section of the fandom, Sonic Adventure 2, Eggman is portrayed as serious, driven, genius, and heroic. In that game Eggman seems to see the big picture in a way that no other character--not even Gerald Robotnik--does. Especially when one considers the later games, Dr. Robotnik seems to have planned it all, or at least most of it, out and seems to have a good understanding of the results of his actions. In the sequel, Sonic Heroes, Eggman is shown in a more vulnerable light, but he still displays the same resourcefulness. But in Shadow the Hedgehog, Eggman seems oblivious to what surrounds him, bent only on a need for destruction and conquest that was apparently nullified, or at least dampened, in SA2. Although he expresses interest in opposing the Black Arms, in at least one of the game's plotlines he completely ignores them in favor of pursuing his agenda against GUN. Tails also shows a similar inconsistency, although with Tails it is actually in character (although most Sonic fans wouldn't say so unless they've played SA2, becuase the vindictive element of Tails personality was completely dropped in Sonic Heroes).
So what is an author like myself to do? I like all the Post-SA2 games, at least in terms of plot. My favorite portrayl of Eggman is in SA2, becuase this Eggman was large, in charge, and more than capable of putting aside his anger and hate if it meant saving the world/himself, etc. But I also like other characters' portrayls in Shadow (Sonic, if you ask me, is more in character in Shadow than he is in Sonic Heroes). If I stick too closely to the SA2 Eggman, I risk being called OOC becuase that concept of Eggman is nowhere near as villainous as the others. But I would feel as if I were writing something OOC if I didn't honor it, because that was one of two Eggman portrayls that struck me as sincere (the other being Sonic Heroes, which included elements that I didn't like in the context of a very psychologically traumatized Eggman, and thus can be ignored).
In practice I tend to take the elements of Eggman that I like--his shamefully heroic bent, and his foresight and creativity--and focus on them, making only short and flippant references to his more childish and self-centered traits and his dream of world-conquest. Part of this is canon-suing, of course, as I identify with Eggman: I am a relatively brilliant mind from a family shrouded in dark secrets, a woman with something to prove. But just how much of it is cannon-sueing? My portrayls are completely consistent with two of the recent games (although they fly int he face of the two most recent ones). Am I simply out of date, or is this straight up OOC?
Because of issues like this, I try to keep an open mind with the OOC rating, and I avoid using it unless a character blatantly contradicts the story with no obvious explanation. For example, a flippant, unconcerned Hermione with no mention of some trauma or breakdown.
I also have a healthy respect for concepts where one character is OOC, and the rest are adjust to reflect that. For example, what if Sonic were evil? Would Tails have that same vindictive streak; would Eggman be evil as well? If the personalities of characters are consistent aside from the one designated as the target of a "what if," then I might actually enjoy it.
But, I ramble. A lot.
|Rous|| My problem with IC stories is that to be true to canon, it is just a rehash of what was originally written. If I wanted to read canon, I would read the original. I like OCs because they can be moulded to fit into the created world. I am not referring to MSs here, but truly well rounded and well written characters. They bring a new dimention to the story. However, they cannot hijack the story, they must blend in. I have written a story with an OC as the main character, yet I have tried to keep people and places in the original setting as IC as I can. It is possible, but not easy. |
As stated above, not all characteristics of a canon character will be OOC. The example of LOTR was a good one. We know what Frodo went through during his journey. We watched him go from carefree youth to a weary man. So, if one were to write about his melancholy after returing to the Shire before his journey to the West, would that be OOC in light of his attitude before the whole mess? Or would his putting it all behind him and acting carefree be more OOC? How about if he had decided to not sail West and married and settled down? That would be the normal course of his life had not the whole Ring thing come about. So, it would be listed as A/U, because he did sail West, but not OOC because he would have eventually married. (Forget about Bilbo; he was just odd.)
I prefer the IC but A/U stories. They can add so much enjoyment to the original story. But only if they are believable. (Too many are not.)
|Roaming_Fool|| I like that quote so much. I've felt a lot of frustration with the fanfiction community because of how a lot of them can butcher my favorite characters.|
I personally think there's a huge difference between good writers asking themselves "what if," and running with it, and the writers who mold their favorite character to fit a cliched storyline that's been done to death; or to insert themselves in the story.
But then again, I tend to be satisfied with the direction that the offical people take the story, for the most part. I usually prefer character studies, or stories that explore the background of the characters, post eps, scenes we never got to see, etc.
Slightly off topic here, if you Wikipedia "fanfiction" the article mentions a professor of media studies who has studied fanfiction and the people who write it. He said something interesting. People write fanfiction to replace the oral tales that were handed down generation to generation as a response to our folk heros being owned by companies rather than the public.
Maybe that could be a reason why we see so many cliched storylines/characters that could have come out of the Illiad, or Beowulf? That is, when they're not having sex...
|ffxplayer||I agree that you can develop a character to be different. Or use a fic to explore WHY they're heartless. The major culprits of OOCness are oneshots, namely "romantic oneshots". Authors seem to have a habit of having a normally cold charcter reflect warmly on the charcter the audience wants them to love. Next thing we know, they're kissing and dating and it's all perfect. I won't say I'm not a hopeless romantic(I am)but there is a way to bring charcters together without totally murdering their normal nature at the same time. I personally enjoy a long, well developed plot where the charcters slowly fall in love, not an instantaneous, totally OOC thing, but a beleiveable sweet ending that could actually happen. Part of a good fanfic is doing what could happen in the show/movie/game/etc. if the orginial writer(s) had gone in that direction. Keeping IC is important if you want your fanfic to get the so-called "classic' or (if you will) "life long fav" title.|
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