Just thought I'd like to start a thread and talk about what people think makes a great OC...
for me the list is pretty simple... but here are the guide lines I've come up with that I try and follow.
1. It is always easier to make a bad guy feel like a good character. Everyone knows how much they hate a bastard in real life, so it is easy to make readers hate them in the story.
2. OC's, unless badguys, should not be the major point of the plot or you risk no one caring.
3. Cute is like-able, but could also be annoying. lampshade this by having the characters in the story also see the OC as annoying.
4. Flaws make a character... write about the flaws.
5. Put food in them... nothing brings a character to life more than watching them eat. Are they sloopy, neat, reserved, drunk? all of these things are worth noting and make them seem like fleshed out character.
Welp those are my giudelines... what are your's
1. OCs should have a purpose. This goes for all characters in your story, canon or not. If they have a role, it should be for a reason.
2. OCs are not replacements. If the story already has an invisible blue woman that's pulling strings like crazy, you don't need another one. This ties in with OCs having a purpose.
3. OCs should fit within the universe, but still be relatively unique. Too many times I see OCs that are either horribly outlandish or horribly bland; both are bad. The former is unbelievably stupid and the latter is incredibly dull. No one wants to read about Average Joe, unless the character is a background character and only in for a few scenes. At the same time, an inter-dimensional cat girl goddess is going to take a lot of work to be convincing and not unbelievably stupid. It's possible to pull all these off, but very, very difficult, so don't push your luck. Find a balance.
4. OCs are subject to reality. For every action there is a consequence. Don't hand-wave them off of your OC. There are some exceptions, but know that making your OC exempt from any consequences will make readers hate them. This can be used to your advantage if you want readers to hate the character, but use it sparingly and remember: LOGIC LOGIC LOGIC.
5. OCs are people. They have flaws, they have upsides, they have motivations, they have issues. Never write a one-dimensional character. It's boring and you will hate writing them and we will hate reading them.
These all apply to canon characters as well. Some of these don't apply to one-scene characters, like I don't really care what happened to the barmaid when she was seven if we're not going to see her after this scene. But OCs are like any other characters and should be handled like them.
I like the discussions! Here are my thoughts:
I think what makes a great OC is the "aura." I'm getting over a cold at the moment, my mind's a little fuzzy. When I say "aura," I mean the intention behind creating the OC in the first place. When I make an OC for a League of Legends fanfiction, I want to give the Riot-made characters something to play with, if that makes sense.
Also, I think creating OCs without the intention of making them a great force to be reckoned with also makes for a great OC. That way, even if the OC is powerful enough to stand against a Riot-made character in your story, it's still a modest OC.
I guess what I'm really trying to say is making a modest OC - not the OC's personality, but the style in which the OC is made by the writer - is what makes a great OC. I try to start with a modest design first, and let the OC think for him/herself.
I also try to go back to what C.S. Lewis once said:
I'd say most of the rules being given should be applied to any character, OC or in-universe canon. That's just how you make sure a character has proper depth and portrayal, to create a compelling story. If a character comes off as stupid or boring or ridiculous, whoever it is, then the story is weakened, possibly to the breaking point.
For the unique aspect of an OC, I'd say that main question is 'why?' What I mean by 'why' is most succinctly summarized with 'why not another, established character?'
If you have a concrete, solid answer to that question, then I'd say you're in a good place.
To give an example from myself. In 'Champion and Summoner' Sylus Cole was added to the cast among established characters like Shyvana, Riven, and Ashe. Why not another canon League character?
--an opportunity to show how these champions interact with a noncombatant, but a person they respect for other reasons (or DON'T respect for those reasons)
Most directly for the true purpose of that story, he offered an opening for Shyvana to show her gentler side that she usually hides, even from herself, with her power, rage, and discipline. She met this OC on terms she respects (a Summoner who values her skills and talents, and treats her with respect from their first meeting), and it is that respect that intrigued her enough to wish to speak with him directly.
It's that kernel of uniqueness, that believable compliment, yet still out-of-canon element that makes him, in my opinion, a 'good OC.'
Obviously, others may not agree.
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