Tips To Create Better OC Relatives of Canon Characters

Being related to a canon character is common among bad OCs. That said, it doesn't make a character a bad OC. 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's some tips to help you make these OCs more fun and interesting to read about and roleplay with!

Remember that your OC's relatives are just people. You might see your favorite characters as really super cool, but it's important to remember that within the context of the story they're still just people. People aren't always at their best when they're tired, stressed, scared, or frustrated, and they generally have complicated lives with responsibilities they can't just duck out of, even if they'd really want to. People sometimes misunderstand each other, or say things they don't really mean. This doesn't mean they're bad or not trying; it's just part of life. If you want, I'd suggest taking a look at Character Infatuation & Over-Identification - Do You Have These Problems? and Canon Character Analysis Questions to cultivate a more balanced mental picture of the canon characters.

Try to take the established lives of your OC's canon relatives into account. Some canon characters' histories might not able to accommodate certain kinds of relatives in certain ways without raising some massive questions. For example, if you give a canon character a sister and claim they've always been super close and tell each other absolutely everything, then it can raise the question of why the canon character never called or messaged her about anything during the plot of the source material. It can also feel jarringly unlikely, such as if the characters you intend to be your characters' parents were nowhere near each other at the time your character would've been conceived.

As much as possible, try to fit them into canon as it is. Now just to make it clear, I'm not saying that you shouldn't ever create and explore an AU situation that modifies canon a lot. And to be fair, by definition every OC fic is technically set in an alternate universe. But the fewer alterations you have to make to the setting, the less forced your OC's presence will generally feel. So rather than trying to write them into a canon character's exciting backstory, give them an exciting backstory of their own. Rather than trying to rewrite canon events to include your character, consider coming up with things they did at other times and/or with other people. The world is much bigger than what you see on the screen or on the page, so there's probably a lot of possibilities.

Try to avoid making them clones of their canon relatives. Let's be real, kids never really look identical to one parent or the other. They have features from both parents, and oftentimes have features in common with their grandparents and even their aunts and uncles. They might have very similar personalities to some of their relatives, but they'll still be their own people. Sure, people might sometimes say that someone looks or acts exactly like a relative, but when this happens they're usually exaggerating or ignoring the ways they aren't like the people they're being compared to.

Remember that most real kids don't want to be exactly like their parents - and that's a good thing! A lot of people write OC children who want to emulate their parents in pretty much everything they do, including wearing the same kinds of clothing, cultivating the same skills, performing the same jobs, taking on the same social roles, and so on. Now sure, very young children often have a very idealized view of their parents, and will imitate them because it's what they know. But as they grow up, they'll develop interests of their own and will discover that they and their parents don't always see eye-to-eye. Once kids hit adolescence, they really start wanting to develop a life and identity outside of their parents, which is of course a natural and healthy part of growing up. They also come to recognize their parents' flaws and shortcomings, and realize that they they're basically just imperfect people.

In fact, it's very normal for adolescents and young adults to glom onto someone who isn't their parents, often because they see this person as really cool. This person often has skill, hobby, or personality they find exciting, and they're quite often too inexperienced with people to fully grasp that they're definitely not perfect, either.

Give them an existence apart from their canon relatives. Think of it this way - your life doesn't completely revolve around your family all the time. You have your own friends, hobbies, interests, pursuits, etc. that don't involve your family. Try and fill out your OC's life with things that don't really pertain to the rest of their family. This will give you a much better-rounded character who feels far more authentic.

Try not to contrive their origins and backstories. Aim to make their origins and backstories make sense in context. Depending on the worldbuilding and internal logic of the setting, there might be a lot of weird or unusual stuff you can get away with, but it should feel natural within your narrative. For example, creating a sibling OC and justifying their absence in canon by making it so they were whisked away to Elsewhere for Special Reasons can potentially feel pretty forced.

For example, let's say your OC is supposed to be the family's oldest sibling, but when they were young their parents decided to send them away someplace safer. Then, they had a second child (the canon character) while things were dangerous. This can raise the question of why they didn't try to protect the second child in the same way. And of course, depending on the story there are potentially good answers to this - you just need to think it through.

You might also find How To Avoid Making Your Story And Characters Feel Contrived useful, so I suggest checking that out, too.

If you're considering having your character adopted, you might want to look into local adoption laws. Adoption agencies typically don't just let anyone adopt kids, and the adoption process can be extremely difficult. Reasons a Child Adoption May Be Denied and Reasons for a Home Study Adoption Denial have examples of why someone in the US might not be allowed to adopt a child.

Put yourself in the shoes of everyone your characters grew up with for awhile. Depending on your story, your character was probably around a bunch of different people growing up - other relatives, classmates, teachers, online friends, etc. Ask yourself how they might have interacted with your character, and what kind of an impact this might have had. Make this part of your character's history.

No, a canon character's child does not have to take on their mantle someday. This whole thing of basically trying to make a royal lineage out of characters and their children is peak bougie nonsense. It's not necessarily bad to write a character who genuinely does want to take over a parent's job or role, but the idea that only someone's own child can take over their job, and that their child is obligated to take over their job, is absurd and unfair. And yes, this goes for children with superpowers or extraordinary gifts, too - sure, these things might be cool and helpful, but generally speaking there are usually alternatives (even if the original writer didn't think of them).

If your character's birth or infancy is going to be in the story at all, you might want to check out Things Writers Need To Know About Birth & Babies.

Consider your OC from their canon relatives' perspectives. Ask yourself how you might feel and react if this was your child/ward/sibling/cousin/whatever doing whatever it is your OC is currently doing. Ask yourself how they might react, in particular, based on what you know from their depictions in the source material. This will help you write them in ways that feel more authentic and natural around your OC.

See also:

Tips To Create & Write Better Parents & Parental Figures
Building Better Backstories - Tips & Ideas
Basic Tips To Improve Your OCs & Fan Characters
Tips For Writing & Roleplaying Canon Characters Better
Common Problems In Roleplaying Characters
Common, Yet Terrible Character Descriptors - And How To Fix Them (And Write Better Descriptions In General)
Tips To Write & Create Better & More Believable Futures
Tips 'N Stuff For Better Character Design
Telling Story Canon From Personal Bias, Erroneous Memories, & Fanwank
Describing Your Character: Tips & Advice
Tips For Writing Fanfiction With An OC Protagonist
Tips To Write & Create Better & More Believable Futures

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