Tips To Create Better OC Relatives of Canon Characters
Being related to a canon character is one of the hallmarks of a Mary Sue. That said, it doesn't make a character a Mary Sue. It's only reasonable that most characters should have family somewhere, and that many of them will have children eventually, and next-gen stories and roleplays are perfectly legitimate.
So, here is a list of tips to create tolerable and even likeable OC relatives who will be less likely to shatter a fanfiction or roleplay than otherwise.
- First, make sure you don't have character infatuation (which isn't always romantic) and/or over-identification for either one of your character's parents.
- If your character isn't a child born during the course of the story or roleplay, ask yourself: Could your character's story/backstory play out almost exactly the same with only a few minor changes if your character wasn't closely related to a canon character at all? If so, consider making your character a non-relative instead, or at the very least extended family rather than immediate family.
- Avoid wonderbabies like the plague. They're hated even when the original authors write them.
- If your character's birth or infancy is going to be in the story at all, check out Things Writers Need To Know About Birth & Babies.
- Get at least a basic grasp of what types of traits are dominant and recessive, and how dominant/recessive genes work. If Mommy has red hair and Daddy's a blond, baby isn't going to grow up with raven locks without a dye job.
- Don't create characters who are the spitting image of the canon relatives, or look like genderswapped versions of their canon relatives. If they're children, give their appearance features from both sides of the family - and not just the best features from each. If they're siblings, try to go with a similar, yet definitely distinct look.
- Give your characters lives that don't revolve around or completely relate to the canon relatives. Give them friends, hobbies, interests, likes, life goals etc. that the canon relatives do not share nor have any interest in.
- Avoid having your characters become bestest buds/teammates FOREVARZ with their canon relatives. Nothing wrong with a friendly relationship, but remember - your characters' lives should not revolve around or always relate to the canon characters. Do you always hang out with your parents and your parents' friends and/or co-workers? Probably not.
- Remember: while people might complain about things their relatives do that annoy and bother them, they're usually fairly hesitant to highlight or talk about their perceived flaws for any other reason. What's more, if the tables turn and an outsider starts complaining about the relative, a person can be pretty quick to jump to that relative's defense.
- Don't create characters who have more or less the exact same skillset, abilities, or personalities as their canon relatives. Give your characters their own unique strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits. A good way to go is to try and think of at least three things that make your OC different from (but not better than or the polar opposite of) xir canon relatives. If you're having trouble thinking of anything, try the Character Detail Generators.
- Research the backgrounds of the canon characters. Don't be the next doofus to give Captain America a sister living in the early 21st century who (barring time-travel shenanigans) isn't well into her sixties at the very least. Remember, if you're not clear on the details surrounding a character, you can usually find information via fan-made wikis. They're not always completely accurate, but they're much better than nothing.
- If one of your character's parents is also an OC, put some thought into the OC parent. What kind of person is the OC parent? How and why did your character's parents come together? How come did they do the do together? Don't just cheap out by making the other parent nothing more than some unknown who died in childbirth or something. (Also, check out Basic Tips To Write Healthy Relationships and Tips To Create & Write Better Parents & Parental Figures for some relevant tips!)
- Don't rewrite what has already been established in canon. Your character was not in the van with Jane Foster when Thor crashed to Earth. Your character was not on the raft with Will Turner. Your character did not tag along and help Sherlock Holmes solve his mysteries. Your character was not hiding behind the sofa when Voldemort tried to kill Harry Potter.
- Avoid creating characters who require convoluted and/or extraordinary explanations 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.
- If you're considering having your character be adopted by a canon character and your character is from the US, remember: US adoption agencies don't just let anyone adopt kids, and it doesn't matter how rich they are. Read Reasons a Child Adoption May Be Denied and Reasons for a Home Study Adoption Denial.
- Avoid creating long-estranged relatives, especially ones who just happen to show up when your story starts and insert themselves into the daily lives of their canon relatives.
- If you are going to have an OC who is the unknown child of a canon character, try to make it plausible. Don't make the other parent someone that the canon parent is unlikely to have sex with, or the kind of person unlikely to be found among the type of people or places xe typically associates with. It's easy enough to believe that someone like, say, Dean Winchester might have fathered a child in some podunk little town in the middle of nowhere. But it's not so easy to believe that someone like Bruce Wayne, who doesn't exactly make a habit of visiting podunk little towns, would have done the same.
- During and after creating your character's past, put yourself into the shoes of characters your character would have grown up around and ask yourself how they would have interacted with your character throughout xir life. This doesn't just go for the characters you want your character to be friends or enemies with - this goes for everyone your character would have interacted with up until the point the story/roleplay begins. Ask yourself how these people would have impacted your character's life and decisions, and what's more, ask yourself how your character would have impacted their lives and decisions. Factor this into your character's history.
- Put yourself into the shoes of your character's canon relatives, especially any canon parents/caretakers. Ask yourself how you'd feel and react if this was your child/ward/whatever doing whatever it is your OC is currently doing. Adjust and write your character and your character's story accordingly.
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