shivver13 (shivver13) wrote,
shivver13
shivver13

To OC or not to OC

I'm not really sure what to think of this, and would love any ideas from anyone who cares to comment.



As a rather new writer, and one not so confident in my abilities (it occurs to me that a lot of the character of David in the current AU is based on myself), I like to search out and read advice from other writers. There's a fanfic writer on dA who puts out writing tutorials, and for the most part she has a lot of interesting and helpful things to say. I found one article she wrote called "10 No-Fail Tips for a Great Fan Fic", which she says is "how you can idiot-proof a good piece of literature". I read through them, and a lot of the tips aren't useful to me ("Say no to weird formatting" - not something I do since I'm pretty obsessive about presentation already) and others I already do ("Read your own stories" - I probably read, and then edit, my stories a good thirty times before posting them).

The one that I'm having a difficult time with is "Say no to the OCs." Here's the text of her explanation (I've been discussing this with her, which you can see at the original link):

When you think about bad fan fiction, there are a few things that throw up red flags within the first few sentences. Among those things are Mary Sues, original characters in general, and severely unexpected story content (like a dragon randomly showing up in the middle of Seoul dressed in a pink tutu.), all of which we fan fiction readers expect to see from young and severely inexperienced authors.

As an author, you will probably never need original characters. I just said something important: need. You're pretty smart, and you're a writer, so you probably already know the number one rule for writers: never have anything in your story that doesn't have a purpose. Within your fandom, you can probably find a character to fill whatever roles you might have need of. There are extremely few instances in which you won't be able to do so. As a fan author writing for fifteen years, I've only found one instance where an original character was necessary. If I can do that, so can you.

By using canon characters to fill roles, you'll dodge the deadly bullet of the OC (and also Mary Sue), and you'll also achieve a few other major plusses. Your readers will be delighted to see the creative use of a canon character. If the character is minor, many people will probably enjoy seeing them developed in your story. In addition to character development, you will find that you won't have to worry about a character inconsistency if you use facts provided by the canon. Making use of what your fandom provides is a great habit to have as a fan author.

In short:
Useless original characters make you seem like a crappy author.

Fix it:
Use canon characters to fill roles. Expand on minor characters if necessary.


Maybe I'm taking umbrage at this because I like creating OCs. Actually, I don't see how you can write for DW without creating OCs: the Doctor never stays in the same place for very long, so if you're using a known place, you have to create OCs or stick to the ten or so characters appeared in the episode. Also, almost everything I've written for the past few months (all of these AU stories for The Actor) have had tons of OCs, and in fact, in the last two long fics, Neighbours and Repercussions, the only canon character is David, and his status as canon is arguable, too. In no way can I consider these stories original fiction, as they're set in a copyrighted universe, and so all of these characters must be considered original, as they don't exist in the DW world.

However, I find this "tip" to be simplistic. There's something to be said about being too eager to create to the Doctor's next, most awesome companion, and certainly there are tons of terrible stories out there along those lines, but writing this new companion doesn't necessarily make the story bad. And on the flip side, sticking with a canon companion doesn't make the story good. In a more general sense, shoehorning a canon character into a role simply because "you can probably find a character to fill whatever roles you might have need of" is just as bad as creating an OC to replace a canon character because you want to write this cool character you thought of in the shower this morning. (I had a little giggle as I thought of an OC I created for "Out of Ashes" that I tried to replace with a canon character as a mental exercise. In Rome, months after Pompeii, Evelina gets accosted by a drunk youth who tries to take advantage of her and turns out to have been Quintus' friend who had moved from Pompeii to Rome six months before "The Fires of Pompeii" took place. How in the world would I have found a canon character to fit that? I suppose I'd have to go watch "The Romans" and choose some schmuck in the background. Were they even set at the same time? ^_^ )

Thus, I'm conflicted. I'm trying to keep an open mind, and supposedly this person has been a well-respected fan author in her community for fifteen years now so she knows what she's talking about, so what am I missing? In what way does a rule like this make a fanfic better than it might have been otherwise?

After thinking about all of this and looking at the article a bit more, I'm starting to think that the author really doesn't know what she's talking about. She got into an argument with another deviant, pretty much about the same tip, and here's an excerpt of something she wrote. (The "smarter approach" she refers to is the other deviant saying that she wrote her fanfic about the OCs themselves, rather than add them to the cast of main characters.)

That "smarter approach" is actually what I find most offensive. That's not fan fiction. That's original fiction, and it needs to be kept separate from fandom as a whole. Fan fiction is fan fiction. Literally fiction for fans who enjoy something. They don't enjoy your (or anyone else's) original characters and have never gone, "My god, you know what I need to read today? I need to go see if SpecificPerson has a story about their original character I've never seen before!" It defeats the purpose of fan fiction. Fics shouldn't be about original characters. If people wanted original characters, they'd go read a book.

It seems to me that she defines "fan fiction" completely differently from how everyone else does, and if she's doing that, then her "tips" for writing good fan fiction have no bearing on reality. And she's rather toxic. Someone asked "Is there a name for stories where fan oc's live their lives in the same place that is familiar to a fandom?" and she replied "Yes. Bad fan fiction." It does bug me that she's listed as a "professional writer", and thus these tips of hers have more perceived weight. It's terrible because you know some fledgeling writer is coming across her stuff and is being told she's doing everything wrong because she's writing what she wants and not what this woman thinks is "no-fail".

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