May 12th, 2005

Adam Greenfield

Beyond Mary Sue - Writing Credible Original Characters

When Dorothy Sayers fell in love with Peter Wimsey and wrote herself into her novels so she could marry him, her fiction went downhill fast. Ever since then, Mary Sues have been problematic. In fanfic, self-insertion has happened so often and been done so badly, that the Mary Sue phenomenon has given all original characters a bad name. A lot of readers are immediately turned off by the idea of a non-canonical character and a lot of writers are scared to write them.

Yet sometimes... an author needs something to happen and there's no canonical character available that works. Sometimes an author wants to expand on the character set to introduce new elements, new complexity, new relationships to the story. Sometimes an author just needs an original character and plunges ahead, braving the potential cries of "Mary Sue!"

When do you write OCs and how do you use them? How are they introduced? What, if anything, do you do to avoid Mary Sueism? How do you ensure that your OC is credible as a character and credible within your fandom? What are your OC taboos? Would you ever have an OC have sex with a canonical character? Fall in love with one? Would you ever make an OC the center of the story? Do you worry about losing readership over OCs? How have your readers responded to your OCs?

I'd love to hear answers and opinions on the above. I'll go first :-). Collapse )

Authors always use our experience and our feelings to inform our work. With time and perspective, I think we can avoid the self-indulgence and transparency of mindless self-insertion. What do you all think?

[I kind of thought this should be posted to a community, because I'd like to hear the views of people I don't know, but couldn't think of a suitable one. It's too much about craft for fanthropology, I think. It's not about sex per se, so it doesn't fit in writing_sex. It's not X-Men-specific or slash-specific, so I don't think it works for x-slash. Anyway, maybe there are enough authors on my f-list to get some discussion going. If anyone has ideas of somewhere else to post this, let me know].