Designing an OC

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Ark Angel HFB

Senior Member

03-18-2014

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


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Worgenflorgen

Senior Member

03-18-2014

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.


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Ark Angel HFB

Senior Member

03-18-2014

Quote:
Originally Posted by Worgenflorgen View Post
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.
But what about that one day all that blue magic berry ale spilled on her and she found out she would become invisible!?!?!

^^^ fyi the worst possible backstory for eve that has ever been wirtten.


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The Blue Jelly

Senior Member

03-20-2014

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ark Angel HFB View Post
But what about that one day all that blue magic berry ale spilled on her and she found out she would become invisible!?!?!

^^^ fyi the worst possible backstory for eve that has ever been wirtten.
You're stating that like it's a challenge.

She was friends with some alchemists, originally in a school for it. They were laughing and drinking a few days before the finals, and got into a sudden brewing contest. Of course, they were also completely hammered, Mistakes Were Made, and she ended up getting a vat of mana-infused blueberry ale dumped on her. It was all fine and funny... but then on the day of their finals, something strange happened. She kept vanishing and re-appearing. The college saw this as an attempt at cheating, so they kicked her out.

With nowhere to go, she asked a friend for help. And that's how she ended up here as a barmaid at The Last One Inn.


It's not the *best*, but it works, and took me like 5 minutes to come up with. Also gives the girl a reason for resenting academia (a potential motivation) and having high-grade alchemical knowledge (a potential skill).

The trick, I find, is to treat things like they're a video game. If you give a character more than just a couple of lines, there's gotta be a reason for it, and not just because they're the exposition fairy. There's a reason for your characters to interact with this "NPC" (so to speak)... what is it, and how will they get what they need from said "NPC"?




I disagree with your rule #2, Ark. OCs as Good Guy MCs are perfectly fine, you're writing something that is hopefully an original work anyways. Canon characters are nice, but who supports them in their struggles? The world is populated by a lot more than just the Champions, and the champions themselves are a bit of a vulnerability of this world (when my fic gets there to demonstrate, anyway). Obviously a Canon x Canon fic is not going to need too much for OCs. But a fic that is hoping to define itself by more than just the flagship needs a broader cast.



Anyways, an addition or three of mine...

1) Don't make a self-insert OC one of the main characters. It is INCREDIBLY hard to not make a selfie into a Mary Sue version of yourself. If you relegate them to a side/background character, and ENFORCE that decision, any Sue-like traits they have will be mitigated, potentially entirely. This isn't to say you can't set your selfie up with a wife/husband, two kids, and a trophy. This is to say that they should be the hero of a different story, and not the one you're currently writing.

2) Write a backstory! Even if it's just bullet points, how did they get to where they are now? This solves a LOT of issues you might have later, as it gives you practice with the character's personality and potential motivation hooks. This goes for canon characters, too. Riot only gives you a little blerb to go by, and with the recent nuking of the JoJ, that's literally *all* they give us (at this moment, anyways). Give some extended substance to the character's background, it'll greatly help you write them.

3) Don't be afraid of romance! Just don't play pornomancer or have contrived reasons for them getting together. This one's hard, especially with a fic like the one I'm working on which has a *lot* of stuff going on in the background, hidden from the reader. But so long as you have your characters act believably, a bit of a love story between two- even OC x Canon- isn't a bad thing. It helps give characters motivation, and if you do it right (IE: they're not perfect soulmates (heheheheh), they aren't never going to disagree/argue/fight, etc) it has a humanizing effect. You don't need to write smut, either. I mean, you can, but fade-to-blacks are perfectly fine, and even the buildup to it can be done off-screen and ignored. And you also don't need to write smut simply for smut's sake. It's very possible to do character development in an intimate scene.



EDIT: Apparently I *really* like cannons.


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AbiwonKenabi

Senior Member

03-20-2014

I like the discussions! Here are my thoughts:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ark Angel HFB View Post

1. It is always easier to make a bad guy feel like a good character. Ever one knows how to act like a bastard. and you can make readers hate them easy.

2. OC's, unless badguys, should not be the major point of the plot or you risk no one caring.
I'm iffy on these, as limiting your OCs to badguys really limits the creativity of your "hero" cast. Also, limiting your OCs to "good guy bad guy" standards is not good for any character. I think this rule should be "When in doubt, make canon characters your main characters and OCs your antagonists, as it's easier to write."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ark Angel HFB View Post

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 less like shallow nothings.
Couldn't agree more about the flaws! Also, a nice point about the food...something I never thought about.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Worgenflorgen View Post
1. OCs should have a purpose.
2. OCs are not replacements.

3. OCs should fit within the universe, but still be relatively unique.
4. OCs are subject to reality.

5. OCs are people.

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.
Good guidelines about any character really! I particularly agree with 3, as I also see too often people don't follow the rules of the universe they've created their characters in...My advice: pick something based on other champions. Ex: A Noxian noble with political power due to his service in the war--this is a common thing and would fit in a LoL fic--however, he's decided to betray Noxus over the guilt of his dead son and give info to Demacia--the parts that make him unique.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Blue Jelly View Post
The world is populated by a lot more than just the Champions, and the champions themselves are a bit of a vulnerability of this world (when my fic gets there to demonstrate, anyway). Obviously a Canon x Canon fic is not going to need too much for OCs. But a fic that is hoping to define itself by more than just the flagship needs a broader cast.
The world can easily be more fleshed out by use of OCs (We only get a handful of representatives of each culture...it would be boring if the Piltover police department consisted of only Caitlyn and Vi) but I think Ark was more referring to the trap of making your main cast ALL OCs. This can work, but most people that go to read a fanfic are expecting to indulge in ONE or SOME of the League champs. It's better to feature one champion and then go from there. Ex: Leona's time before she was granted with the sun's power, she probably had childhood friends while training.

Here's my own guidelines (some of them already mentioned, just adding my own thoughts):

1. Is there already a character that can fulfill my needs? Need a powerful little girl character? Use Annie. Does your party of adventurers need to be captured by a Freljord leader? Use Sejuani or Lissandra. If it makes more sense to just use an already existing character, then just use them. It's great for the readers because they get to see one more champion and it's good for you because you get to explore another character in the League. We already have 100-odd champions, chances are there's somebody That might fulfill your needs. And beyond the champions, there are many side characters to fill in some blanks too (Lucian's wife, the monks that helped Udyr, to name some)

2. Is this character necessary? If a character is just there because you wanted to write an OC, they probably aren't needed. This can even apply to canon characters as well: did my group of adventurers really need to talk to the leader in Freljord, or could they just escape quietly before they speak to them? If there's a meeting of Demacian leaders, does Poppy or Quinn or Lucian need to be there?

3. Does my character need to be fleshed out? If so, can I make a workable list of strengths and flaws? This is a biggie, especially if your OC is the main character. You should be able to say "My character is *blank*. Strengths: blahblah Flaws: [about as many or more as strengths] He's important because: *blank*" Ex: Dr. Mundo has an assistant named Carl. Strengths: He cleans up after Mundo, is kind to his subjects, very smart and good at science. Flaws: he's a push-over that let's Mundo experiment on innocent people and Mundo pushes him around; he's a wimp. He's important because: he ends up helping our hero escape and escapes with them.


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The Blue Jelly

Senior Member

03-20-2014

Quote:
Originally Posted by AbiwonKenabi View Post
The world can easily be more fleshed out by use of OCs (We only get a handful of representatives of each culture...it would be boring if the Piltover police department consisted of only Caitlyn and Vi) but I think Ark was more referring to the trap of making your main cast ALL OCs. This can work, but most people that go to read a fanfic are expecting to indulge in ONE or SOME of the League champs. It's better to feature one champion and then go from there. Ex: Leona's time before she was granted with the sun's power, she probably had childhood friends while training.
EDIT: I didn't mean for this to be a wall, it just sorta became one. The bold at the bottom is effectively a TLDR if you don't wanna try.


Well, if you're using an exclusive OC cast, the question you have to ask yourself instead is "Why am I not writing fiction in my own world?" ... to which the answer is often "Worldbuilding is hard, bollucks to that." However, at that point you're approaching the realm where all you have to do is rename characters and tweak a few things here and there (usually by means of enforcing how you'd prefer the world was designed instead of how it is designed), and then it's all but completely uniquely your own.

Part of my defense of OCs is because of my own fanfic.... As is, Ahri is the only canon MC at the current moment, and the only other real appearance of a canon character was Soraka right when the true MC (an OC named Sera Solryk) woke from a coma. Thinking about it, odds are high that the number of serious canon character MCs in my fic is going to be small in general, but that's directly because of what my fic is about. Unfortunately I can't really go into too much detail because I don't want to spoil anything in case someone reading this is also reading my fic (unlikely since my reader count isn't that high, but you never know)... The comment I made about the Champions being a vulnerability of Valoran is a massive hint already.


Really, the actual question is what audience are you really trying to grab. If you're looking for a standard fanfic audience, you're going for fans of specific characters anyways; so long as your prose and plot are mediocre you'll get that following with only one or two canon characters. Thus, leaning on canon characters can increase your reader base simply because people are attached to those characters- not because your writing or story are overly impressive.

To emphasize this, there is one rather amazing RWBY fanfic which was written shortly after the White trailer came out. Everyone I've forwarded it to has thought it quite impressive- and it was written before we even knew what the show itself was going to be about. In actuality, it has all but nothing to do with the series, barely even qualifying as AU. Most accurately, you could say it was inspired by the series, and that's it. (fic's named Other Side, ffdn id:9120858, warning the very *very* end contains smut, and it's not even remotely League-related). What brought this fic to /u/'s attention? It can claim White Rose (the name of the Ruby x Weiss ship).


I'm not trying to claim that you shouldn't use canon characters as much as possible; the purpose of fanfiction is to expand upon the (often skeletal) lore given by the source material. Using the canon saves you a ton of groundwork of getting people to care about (or even know about) a character, letting you get on with the actual story rather than getting bogged down in background details. OCs require a few tons of work to establish, and it's very easy to lose yourself in doing so.

I don't mean to sound like I'm saying it's a cop-out on the work it takes to write "unique" fiction, either; World Building, both the act of and the relaying to the reader, is both hard to do and hard to pull off well... in addition to oft being dry. Lord of the Rings is a very, very good example in regards to world building, as a very large amount of the three main books is just that. By the time you finish reading the actual story, you're a scholar of Tolken's world.

And that's just the setting- heaven help you if you want loads and loads of characters. Stephan King's The Stand is a great example of this. The setting is (well, was) set only a few years into its publication date's future. And its story itself is quite easy to summarize, filling perhaps two paragraphs if you don't go into too much detail about specific characters. However, by the end of the 1153 pages (assuming you have the uncut version), you have emotional ties of some sort to each of the characters- even the ones who died not even half way through the book.


This is just the difference between fanfiction and regular fiction. Fanfiction has the advantage of having the groundwork already laid, allowing you to skip much of that work and get straight to actually telling your story. Regular fiction only has the world building done at most, and that's only if you tell your story in a (then-) modern setting with minimal modifications. Each end of the spectrum has its own merits, but you should never shirk from using OCs if you feel an OC would be better suited to the task at hand- and just because there's a canon character that is similar to what you need does not mean you should use them instead. That canon character needs to be an exact match to your criteria, both in terms of who and what they are, their feasible power level and extended ability set, and in terms of status, clout, and fame.


For example, just because you need a creepy pyromaniac girl that's like 9 and has a built-in cargo ship doesn't mean Annie's your best choice. Does Annie make sense to be in the location you're introducing her? Would her being there change how the other "NPC"s have been behaving towards your "party" due to her fame? Would there be additional League security around? I mean, the League wouldn't just let their prized preteen flamethrower run rampant without some form of detail- as much for her protection as for the protection of would-be kidnappers and the town itself (most people don't like their stuff being on fire). And that's just questions involving her status and fame.

She's a clear match on the "What" (assuming you don't need her parents for anything), but is she really a match on the "Who", too? I'm not overly well-versed on Annie's personality outside of the surface impressions I get from her, but she's very clearly not scared of her own power, especially with how she giggles as she lights everyone and everything afire. If you need the character to be afraid of what she's capable of, Annie wouldn't match your "Who".

Of course, if you do make an OC for this, you need to be sure you highlight the differences between your little Ninea and Annie- especially the personality ones, but also power and control ones- and you can even score bonus points if you talk her into helping your "party" by using Annie as an example. In addition, you can kill off Ninea if you need to apply some trauma to some characters and/or the reader, and you aren't going to be yelled at for killing a canon character. That's actually the other issue with using the Canon over OCs. You can't really kill and/or maim them even if everything in the plot demands it happens. Even if you claim they'll get better, you'll still likely piss a lot more people off with it. OCs you have a different form of attachment, and they're your character to do with as you please, rather than an established one which has expectations. Killing them might cause readers to hate you, but it's a different kind of hate- one which, if used correctly, causes them to be even more attached to the story.


I'm sure you meant this in terms of the grand scheme of things, but I feel I must emphasize...

If the story calls for something specific, don't change your story to accommodate a canon character rather than tailoring an OC to the role. When using a canon character, there's a lot of required baggage that comes with them. Sometimes that's exactly what you want- rumors of the void invading? Even if the League doesn't believe those rumors, they're still likely to send Kassadin to investigate- as much because it makes it seem like they're taking the destruction of those villages seriously (he's a well-known expert on combating the void as well as a *champion* of the League of Legends) as to get Kass to stop complaining about them keeping him back from it. But other times that's not something you want, as given in my CC Annie vs OC Ninea above.


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AbiwonKenabi

Senior Member

03-21-2014

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Blue Jelly View Post
(Post omitted for space's sake)
I didn't mean to imply in any way (I don't think you meant to imply I was saying this either, just clarifying) that OCs should be avoided completely. I think they are essential to any good fanfiction, especially one such as League, where the champions don't all live nearby and the direct connections are relatively few. Say, you're making a story about Varus' backstory; it makes sense to involve a lot of OCs because otherwise your story would just be Varus and it would be boring. Is there a leader he answers to? Does the temple have special guards or monks? What are his woefully underdeveloped wife and son like? This should all be answered, and they would essentially be making OCs to support this story.

Furthermore, I think you are onto something in regards to the "skeletal" lore and character; I think the reason I mention you ought to use a champion when it makes sense is because there is so much room to work with--sure we get the gist of their backstory and the basics of their personality, but we don't really go into detail of what makes them tick. When we're playing the champion in game, we get to know them pretty well, but it still makes us think, "huh, how did/would so-and-so react during this event or this time." And there's a lot of room there without even mentioning OCs. Ex: What was Ashe's life like as a youth, before her mother died and she became the Avarosan leader? What were some of the things that made her who she is today? Did she learn anything from her mother's death? We know Ashe is willing to fight, but tends to avoid violence and revenge hunts. Why? (Again, OCs probably needed, but a lot of story questions generated without them) And could we later incorporate another canon character like Tryndamere? What are their interactions like, and what impressions do they leave?

I guess I sort of suspected my point was not entirely accurate because I sorta lampshaded it with a later point, but let me clear it up here. If you needed a stern woman Freljord leader mounted on a horse and who tends towards violence...just use Sejuani. There's no reason here to not use her. But if you need a little powerful girl that is afraid of her powers, then you're right, Annie probably isn't the best choice. The key is to make them fit, but also be unique too, and that's what I was trying to say with my last point. Ex: Ninea is a little girl with powerful natural magic Strengths:her power is useful to the group, she is innocent and charming, she cares deeply for people Flaws:She's deathly afraid of her powers, having killed her parents with it; if she gets emotional, she is a danger to people around her; people have feared her her whole life, and she's shy and slow to trust others Why she's important:an initial plot point (rescue her) the group becomes attached to her and rallies around her to ensure she can grow into a beautiful, confident lady, especially since she's so kind.

^There, in addition to making a character unique but also fit in the world of Runeterra, I made her fill a niche different from Annie (who is more of a prodigy with magic, complete control, is too innocent to get any of the weightiness of the League, just having fun with her powers). Variety in design can go a long way too (Maybe Ninea is dark-skinned, short cropped hair and uses necromancy magic instead; maybe she comes from Ionia or Zaun, etc)

To try and wrap up my point (as I too have written a wall :P) OCs are still essential to a fleshed out story; very often tailor-made characters are required. But when it makes sense, replacing an OC with a CC is probably better. I suppose there is a balance to it all, and it's up to the author's discretion whether a canon character would suffice, or if an OC needs to be created. I personally am a fan of the model of "Single(or a few) canon character is the lead, supporting cast of OCs around them." My current fic is about pretty much only TF and Graves; sure other familiar characters show up, but it's mostly just them carrying the story, and the occasional important OC.


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The Blue Jelly

Senior Member

03-21-2014

Quote:
Originally Posted by AbiwonKenabi View Post
Snip
Firstly, squee, someone who knows how to snip long quotes! How gentlemanly and scholarly of you ^_^


Yeah I didn't mean to imply that, and glad to see it wasn't just assumption when I said I was sure you meant that everything needed to fit, and that I was just going into more detail with everything you have to consider.


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Loperixie

Senior Member

03-22-2014

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:

Quote:
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.


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Cyrex Wingblade

Member

03-24-2014

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?

Sylus offers:
--summoner perspective
--noncombatant perspective
--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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