Basic Tips To Improve Your OCs & Fan Characters
- Make sure you understand how the universe you're writing for works. For example, I see Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon fans create Sailor Universes, even though Sailor Cosmos is the senshi of the universe, or create gemstone senshi even though it's made explicitly clear that all senshi are associated with a celestial object of some kind. Likewise, there are scads of people creating Homestuck fantrolls without apparently ever realizing that trolls have biology and a society very different from that of humans.
- Don't create characters whose main function is to directly help the main characters in their grand epic quests. Similarly, don't create characters whose main function is to insult or beat up a character you don't like.
- Your charcter should have a life that doesn't revolve around the canon characters - eg, friends, acquaintances, interests, and long-term plans that the canon characters do not share. It's fine for your OC to know Harry Potter and the gang at Hogwarts, but Potter & Pals shouldn't be the only characters who matter in your character's life.
- Avoid creating "housebums" - IE, characters who live with the main characters for no particularly good reason (often explained in-story as the canon characters taking in the OC out of the goodness of their hearts at some point) or spend so much time at the home/homes of the canon characters that they might as well live with them.
- Put yourself in the shoes of the canon character your OC interacts with and ask yourself: How would I react in this situation if I knew everything about xir that the canon character knows? For example, if someone you barely knew started following you around everywhere declaring how they just wanted to bring you out of your shell, you'd probably be annoyed at best and severely creeped out at worst.
- Don't gank a canon character's schtick. It's one thing to create a genius character who has to work with the canon genius on a project for awhile, but it's another thing to create a character who is functionally interchangeable for the canon genius. If you're having trouble thinking of a skill to set your character apart from the canon characters, try the random skill generator.
- Avoid giving your character remarkably strange or unusual traits for the sole purpose of making your character special. Cat ears and a tail are adorable on Sailor Luna, but just annoying on your Asgardian palace servant.
- Same as with OC relatives, avoid creating characters who require convoluted and/or excessively extraordinary explanations (per what might be considered excessively extraordinary per that universe's rules) just to fit into the universe, IE, time-travel shenanigans, being kidnapped as an infant, or having a parent who is a member of an alien race that doesn't get out much or that no-one's ever heard of before in canon.
- "Alternate universes" that are alternate only in that your character exists in them (eg, was around to take part in events depicted in canon material) are generally frowned upon. Do not rewrite the universe to accommodate your character; fit your character into the universe as-is.
- Put yourself into the shoes of the canon characters your character meets and ask yourself how you'd really feel and react if you encountered this character and knew as much about xir as the canon characters do. Remember, you can't sense when a complete stranger who acts like a jerk is really a kind-hearted softie inside, and unless a canon character explicitly has some kind of mind-reading or soul-sensing powers, neither can xe.
- If your OC is created to be used in a roleplay, try not to attach a specific end goal to your OC - eg, "fall in love with (insert hawt canon character)" or "become best friends/teammates with (insert cool canon character here). Letting whatever happens to your OC come as a natural consequence of the roleplay tends to create better and more believable results. In all of my experience, the OCs that were created by players who weren't strongly attached to the idea of their OC ending up hobnobbing with the canon characters tended to become better friends with the canon characters than the ones who were - the reason being that their relationships were allowed to develop naturally and organically, rather than by force.
- There's nothing inherently wrong with making an OC the main character of a story. Where it becomes a problem is when pre-existing characters are essentially reduced to accessories, backup, or sidekicks to the OC, or when they're used as pedestals for your character to stand upon and show off xir awesomeness or moral superiority.
- Take a look at the Character Development Questions and try to answer as many of them as possible.
- Also for roleplaying OCs - take a look at Common Problems In Roleplaying Characters for a more in-depth look at frequent problematic elements in RP characters.
- Finally, when it comes to actually writing your OC's profile, take note of the tips and advice on Common, Yet Terrible Character Descriptors - And How To Fix Them (And Write Better Descriptions In General) and put them into practice.
You may also be interested in:
Building Better Backstories - Tips & Ideas
Character Creation & Development Theory (Or, How To Make Characters 101!)
Tips 'N Stuff For Better Character Design
Common Problems In Roleplaying Characters
Exercises To Improve Your Character Writing & Roleplaying Skills
So You Want To Have A Powerful Or Talented Character Who Probably Won't Be Perceived As A Mary Sue?
Tips To Create Better OC Relatives of Canon Characters
Tips For Writing & Roleplaying Canon Characters Better
The Bad OC Love Interest's Handbook