Writing

Fan Fiction and Original Characters

Let me air some of my grievance, and bring up a few pointers that people might find useful.

Part 1: Introduction

More often than not, I bump into comments around how awful fics featuring original characters are, in particular if the original cast is part of the leading roles. Considering that every story I write is done with an original lead sharing screentime with the fan favourites, that stings a little.

I’m proud of Sadja and I’m absolutely in love with Zofia, and writing them has taught me a great deal. And I like how their influence has rubbed off on both Redfield and Crane, growing them beyond what canon restricted them to. Which is one of the reasons why I prefer OC centric stories (or AUs): Introducing an outside element and shaking up the status quo.

Original Characters aren’t for everyone, and that’s fine. But they aren’t inherently bad.

A lot of people come to Fanfiction to read exclusively about their favourites. Some go in search of the smutty oneshots, others chase the high school AUs and whatnot, but they all have something in common: it’s the execution that matters. The same applies to pieces featuring original characters, whether we’re talking about a straightforward self insert, or an outsider added to the equation.

To be fair, in my experience stories with badly written original characters don’t fall solely because of the OC. If the OC’s characterisation is shoddy, then the canon cast isn’t off any better. The difference is that we’re more likely to give those a pass because we’re projecting our own expectations on them, and glossing over flaws in the narrative from the author. We’re aware of the character’s weaknesses from the source material. Know about their pitfalls and their highlights. So if a fic doesn’t play on any of those details, that’s not a big deal. It doesn’t need to. But if the OC doesn’t display any, and comes across as unnecessarily flawless or otherwise flat, then oh boy here are the pitchforks.

So, how do we work on that? I’ve got a few ideas.

Part 2: Defining your OC (and the canon cast)

Or really:

Characterization is characterization, is characterization.

It doesn’t matter if you’re designing your OC, or using an established character. You still need to get to know them, and that can be a challenge if there isn’t a lot of background to use as a template. Or none whatsoever. But it doesn’t stop at figuring them out. Consistency is equally important, and how displaying character development is made possible. How else will a shift in behaviour be meaningful unless there’s a previous pattern established that can be broken?

So, here are a few tricks I use, interchangeably for my original characters and the canon cast leads. And I’m sure Redfield won’t mind being the subject to this exercise.

chris-mug02

Character Interviews.

The easiest, and most methodical step to get to know your characters is one of the many different questionnaires available out there. They tend to start with the basics (physical description, age, how they’ve grown up, family, etc…) and depending on which one you pick, they go all the way down to the last detail of What socks do they wear, and what do they carry in their pockets? [Example]

But the questions in there that are the most important to me, are ones like:

Would he run for the bus if he’s close to missing it? No, no I don’t think so. Rather I’d expect a mellow smile and a fumble for a pack of cigarettes, because there’ll be another bus, no need to rush.

What birthday present would you get them? Or even better: What would they get for someone else? Are they practical about it? Sentimental? Do they even bother?

How is he on the phone with Piers? Or how does his demeanor change with his sister, Claire, on the other end of the line? Mildly enthusiastic ranging to very attentive and patient being the short answer.  

While none of these are particularly important weighed against battling B.O.Ws, there’s still a purposes to them. It’s the sum of these details that define him. The character, the person, can be found somewhere between whether or not he turns the cups upside down when he’s done washing them, and what influences his decisions in a firefight.

Shit they say.

I have a few pages each dedicated to the leads in my stories, original or otherwise. For established characters, this is a matter of picking up their speech patterns from the source material and documenting phrases and words that they often use. Do they Uhm a lot before a sentence? Are they a potty mouth (Hi, Crane.) or will dropping a curse word actually mean something?

For an OC, this will give them a unique voice. For the canon cast, this will help you get them ‘right’.

A character soundtrack

My absolute favourite, hands down. I’ve got a playlist dedicated to each, with two or three general theme tracks that help me connect before writing. Considering I’m alternating between writing Chris Redfield and Kyle Crane every other week, this really helps. Wouldn’t want to get those two gents too mixed up.

I also use these soundtracks to document their character development. There’s an obvious tonal shift in Chris’ list as he works through the immediate aftermath of Edonia in the first half of Valiant Remedy. Almost uplifting, really.

But most importantly: What song has he put on there? Admittedly, this isn’t much more than a guilty pleasure of mine, and I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of picking tunes that the characters would enjoy. Or which one would make them turn the dial on the radio.

So what if there’s no music wherever you’ve taken the character from. There’s none like ours where Sadja is from either, but that didn’t stop me from letting her discover all things rock and adding to Chris’ headache in the process.

 

/r/Fan Fiction Reviews, Tafferlicous Reviews

[Z Nation] Small Mercies

Z Nation70k words, complete  @Ao3 by 
Genre/What to expect: Two scared and broken people in a horrible, cold world. Neither of them trust easily, but they both need it. Slow burn. Horror. Side of blood. Zombie Polar Bears!
Rating: M
Pairings: Citizen Z/Female Original Character (my new Simon OTP)

The man formerly known as Simon Cruller is on the verge of losing his mind from solitude and the burden of being the self-appointed narrator of the end of the world.

When he meets Faye Keneally, a conservationist stranded in the Arctic, who’s as lonely and messed up as he is, he starts to think there might be hope for him after all.

But winter is coming, which means two months in total darkness, and in the long Polar night some of the shadows have teeth.

Suitable for fandom blind readers? Yes, though some of the references to what is happening in the rest of the world may confuse.

Who should read this? Anyone who likes post apocalyptic/zombie stories, with a well crafted romance plot. Expect some foul language, a bit of smut, and plenty of action in the later arc.

Reviewed by: Tafferling


Slap on some extra layers of clothing, because this’ll be equal measures wild and oh so very cold.

StopTalkingAtMe has an incredible gift. She marries believable characterisation with beautiful scene setting, and draws you in real close. Right from the start you’ll be dragging your feet through the icy tundra alongside Faye, and share in her desperate solitude in a world trying to buck the living off its shoulders. Soon after, you’ll be yanked about by the emotional roller coaster that’s Simon’s and Faye’s slow dance around each other, and it’ll be both heart warming and heart wrenching.

Faye starts out alone, her sanity brittle with how lonely she’s been, and oh so vulnerable. It’s human and close to perfection, and she grew on me right quick. Though I might be biased, because she’s just my type of girl:

That long weekend in Reykjavik with the dick who worked in the city. What was his fucking name? For the life of her she can’t remember, but she can picture the way he stubbed out cigarettes as though he’d been mortally offended by the ashtray. The two of them on the balcony of their hotel room, staring up at the sky, their faces illuminated by the shimmering lights. Just for a little while the differences between them were swept away by something that was older than humanity and–

No. She’s remembering it wrong. Because they hadn’t seen a thing.

And once she follows Citizen Z’s call across all theCitizen Z white on white an
d then some more white, you might end up wanting to shake your screen, because listen up people, not everyone (except their dog) is out to hurt you. It’s okay to trust and heal, even if your demons stalk you day and night, and whisper harshly in your ear.

They work it out though. Eventually. Only for StopTalkingAtMe to dial up the heat (entirely figuratively), and even Zombie Polar Bears start to look a lot like a comfortable alternative for what’s up ahead.

So, in summary: Faye is a wonderfully written original character. Simon is on point, and true to his canon characterisation. The writing is superb. The pacing just right. And you’ll even get a villain to hate on, and oh god yes, will you hate him. (I’m still seething.)

Review examples from Ao3:

Why did I ever stop checking out Z Nation fics? This is so good! A shame I didn’t read it sooner. I love it. I love the additional background he gets and I love her and I love how real and feral she is, how slowly she opens up and how patient yet broken he is. I love it!

This chapter– this chapter 28 has me wonder just how the fuck you managed to do this. How did you drag me from chapter one, all the way to here, with a constant undercurrent of tension? Even in the quiet moments it still sat right at the edge of the words. Never went very far.

And now I’m about ready to snap, because I need to know how this ends, and… I somehow doubt it will end well.

/r/Fan Fiction Reviews, Tafferlicous Reviews

[Fire Emblem Fates] Earthborne

Fire Emblem

 Here’s part two of Taffer reviews Self-Inserts, and this one couldn’t be any different from the one before.

84k words, complete @FF.net by Mixed Valence
Genre/What to expect: Adventure, a little science in the face of magic, and a very important wallet.
Rating: T
Pairings: none as of yet

Driving in the rain is dangerous – your car could hydroplane, or, if it’s really not your day, plane into another universe entirely. The second was what happened to me.

Suitable for fandom blind readers? Not specifically, having knowledge of the fandom would help with identifying critical plot points.

Reviewed by: Tafferling


Having your car aquaplane into another dimension is one hell of a thing, and it’s what ends one Harrison in the unknown, with nothing but an electric torch and a wallet to his name. And then he almost gets himself picked to pieces by a pack of Faceless.

Before I read Earthborne, I knew nothing about Fire Emblem, but Harrison is a great guide, and gave me a decent insight in what to expect from the characters and the settings. He’s also rather resourceful, and he has to be, as there’s natural mistrust surrounding him that puts him on the spot frequently and has him struggle to prove that he doesn’t mean any harm.

What stands out most to me? How Harrison makes friends with the cast, but how he isn’t unconditionally liked. There’s still mistrust, and sometimes showing off your otherworldly wallet contents simply isn’t enough to quell that.

Ontop of that we’ve got his analytical mind, and an affection for science, which shows just how different he is to the fantastic setting he’s been thrown into. And since Harrison comes pre-equipped with knowledge of the Fates story line, and ends up right in the middle of it, we see him carefully attempting to steer things. With… well… you should read to find out what sort of results it has.

This is where my fandom blind reading doesn’t help the review much, as I’m not familiar with the consequences of either possible paths, but I trust that Harrison has reasons for what he’s doing. Which, at the end of the day, echoes his good heart as he’s torn between two groups of people that have both shown him kindness.

Mixed Valence is very invested in this piece, and you can tell. He updated regularly, stays engaged with his readers, and you can visible see how his writing is shaped with each passing chapter. There’s humour, quite often at poor Harrison’s expense, and there’s emotion, and a good amount of combat and action that’s well written and easily followed.

Give it a go!

Review examples from FF.net:

I love how you aim to expand on the story, and add so many things new to it. Most retellings, let alone self inserts, just follow the main story with the same number of chapters as chapters in the game, more or less. However, you’re on chapter 26 and only at the in-game chapter 6. The amount of detail and love you’ve given this is spectacular.

I also like how your character is not generic, or over the top, or bland. There’s enough emotion and personality, with several hindrances that make him interesting. I understand your fear of making Harrison a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. I’m glad you’re keeping that in check. I also find it pretty funny how your character curses so much around people who tend not to.

 

Your story is really a fine piece i bloody love every bit of it.
Harrison is not a OP Gary sue of darkness and light but more of your average guy with luck.
The world building is strong! I can imagine the world you are in a lot better with every chapter.

/r/Fan Fiction Reviews, Tafferlicous Reviews

[Mass Effect] Loss Effect

Omega

Self Inserts come with a stigma attached to them, which I’ve personally never quite understood. Much like any other form of fiction, there isn’t anything inherently wrong, or even right about them. The execution is what matters.

Me? I adore them. So I’ll be sharing some of the ones I’ve found that I think are certainly worth a read. This is number one in this review series.


70k words, complete  @FF.net  by Iyriiea 
Genre/What to expectAdventure. The scary soft of “what am I doing here?” adventure, and a clever character that gets to decide whether or not she’s okay with drowning on the lawless Omega station.
Rating: T
Pairings: none as of yet

One minute I was home. Safe, secure, happy. The next, I was in another dimension where my life is perpetually at risk and everything could be riding on what I know. I am very, very lost.

Suitable for fandom blind readers? Somewhat, since the main character has to learn along with the reader. Background knowledge of Mass Effect and their alien races would certainly help though.

Reviewed by: Tafferling


There are a lot of things to be said about Shawna, the unlucky soul that finds herself plucked from her comfortable room back in our somewhat bland reality, and wakes on Omega to find her life turned all manners of around. Of all the places in Mass Effect’s Milky Way, the lawless Omega station may not be the worst, but it gets pretty damn close.

And Shawna doesn’t get the luxury to dwell on that for long. She’s lost. She’s alone. She’s hungry and thirsty- but she’s also clever. Really clever.

Choosing life, rather than starving in an alley, Shawna finds a new best friend in a recently re-purposed Omni tool, and sets her mind to one thing: survival. Sometimes that doesn’t come easy, and Omega doesn’t spare her the harsh reality of the costs involved, and that’s when Iyriiea reminds us of just how human the girl is.

Loss Effect comes with a cast made up entirely of Original Characters up to this point, and takes place three years prior to the events of Mass Effect. But does that take anything away from it? Hell, no. Iyriiea spends time building Shawna’s life on Omega instead, and gives us a wonderful look into how an alien human like her interacts with Batarians, Turians, Salarians, etc… without having any real social cues to go with at first.

In fact, the cast of original characters is what has me hooked on this one, since I can’t wait to see how they continue to interact, and how their relationships will pan out as the months roll by.

Ontop of that, the piece is well written, with an easy flow to the prose, excellent pacing, and a clear direction.

Review examples from FF.net:

I gotta say, its refreshing to see another take on merc groups. Usually all i see is them being Asshole’s, or that they’re just a gang of some sort, it’s nice to see that you didn’t make them out like that.

I also like how you show an average day when it comes to the teammates, how normal they are.

I’d like to start off by saying that you did a good job making this chapter believable. There are many fics on the site that fail to capture the stress of actually being abducted and brought into another universe, and then there are some that don’t even format their story in a coherent matter. You have achieved what many on this site fail to do: create a believable and readable story.

/r/Fan Fiction Reviews, Tafferlicous Reviews

[Power Girl] Evening Coffee

power.PNG

1.8k words, complete  @Ao3 by 
Genre/What to expect: Outsider POV, Slice of life with a side of delicious coffee.
Rating: T
Pairings: none

A superhero walks into a normal, ordinary coffee shop and does normal, ordinary things.

Suitable for fandom blind readers? Yes

Reviewed by: Tafferling


I’m smitten.

My brush with Power Girl up to this point, were image hits on Google that mostly made me question her style of outfit. But don’t judge a book by the cover, right?

Right.

Because what you might miss is the beautiful intrepetation of a lovely woman, who sometimes just wants to relax away from her duties with a nice cup of coffee in her hands.

Straumoy did well with using an outsider POV to characterize her, and oh boy do I love the writing style.

“Yes Alfred?” her tone had a stiff and forced politeness to it, “No, that wasn’t me. Uh-huh, well you can tell Mr Wayne that he can kiss my-”

She picked up the cup as her eyes asked Edward if the payment was in order and he gave her a thumbs up. Mouthing a ‘thank you’ the woman rolled with her eyes at the other half of the conversation before she retreated to a small table by the window.

It leaks character and motion, and I’d recommend people to check it out, even if they don’t know a thing about Power Girl.

/r/Fan Fiction Reviews, Tafferlicous Reviews

[Supernatural] Waiting in Samarra

spns3

21k words, complete @Ao3 by StopTalkingAtMe
Genre/What to expect: A casefic that fits itself perfectly into the source material with an incredible OC placed into the brother’s path
Rating: M
Pairings: No real pairings, this reads very Gen, though there is a hint of UST

With three months left on Dean’s contract, the Winchesters find themselves in a small town investigating a case involving the butchering of psychics. There they meet a young psychic woman, who may or may not be the next victim. But she’s terrified of something, and maybe it’s not the killer that she’s scared of…

Suitable for fandom blind readers? Yes Background might be missing, but I can see this working fandom blind

Reviewed by: Tafferling


More often than not I don’t read a fic in one go, mostly since my tendency to stop and review every single chapter is a bit taxing. This one though? Oh boy.

StopTalkingAtMe shares an incredible seven chapter case fic with us here, and she starts it off with an intriguing introduction of Emma, a psychic whose life has been unkind to her under the weight of her curse.

Emma comes well formed and layered, and with a narrative voice that easily stands apart from that of the brother’s.

While the fic stands very well on its own, we also get to see how Sam and Dean cope (or don’t) as Dean’s last few months slowly tick by.

He’s looking tired, Sam thought. Shadows under his eyes, new lines at the corners which Sam was sure hadn’t been there a couple of weeks ago. Too many nights spent in bars, and too much alcohol. Too many women whose names he could barely remember. And nowhere near enough sleep. It seemed like the closer he got to his last day on Earth, the less Dean wanted to rest. Like he didn’t want to waste a scrap of time. And still he wouldn’t admit that he wanted to fight this. That he was scared.

What sets this piece apart for me though is the visceral and vivid writing style. Emotions are very palpable throughout the whole thing, and StopTalkingAtMe made it easy for me to slip into Emma’s skin and share in the experience of being a psychic. Which, by the by, I do not recommend. Brrr. By the time I was halfway through the fic I wanted to wrap that poor thing in my arms and squeeze her real tight. Only to remember that’d make it worse for her, so I guess I’d have to pad her with pillows first.

“I’m…” She exhaled. Not okay. Not okay. Both hands now against the wall. The texture rough. Cold. Fingers numb. The cold kiss of snow on her cheeks, but she welcomed it. The smell of her vomit mingled with the stench of death on Rafe. Reapers gathering. Watching. She could hear their whispering, like an itch in the middle of her skull. If she could, she’d reach inside her head, claw at it with her fingernails to relieve the itch. Her legs crumpled. Rafe caught her.

And the ending? It made me have emotions. Bit like this?

emotions

If you would also like to have emotions, I would greatly advise reading this. And don’t forget to Kudos and Review 😉