Sue-Be-Gone and Ree's Guide to Original Characters

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Sue-Be-Gone and Ree's Guide to Original Characters

Post  Jessyka on Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:06 pm

Credits to Rachel for writing this a while ago. Made some edits to it myself though. With her permission, of course.

Got any suggestions to add onto this? Leave them in the commens



One thing that we all struggle with from time to time is wondering if our characters are original and if they are, if other people will enjoy role-playing/reading them. This guide will provide you with a fool-proof way of creating an original, enjoyable character that is anything BUT a Mary Sue or a Gary Stu.

But first, you might be wondering, what IS a Mary Sue?
A Mary Sue (sometimes just Sue), in literary criticism and particularly in fanfiction (or, in this case, role-play) , is a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the author or reader. It is generally accepted as a character whose positive aspects overwhelm their other traits until they become one-dimensional. While the label "Mary Sue" itself originates from a parody of this type of character, most characters labelled "Mary Sues" by readers are not intended by authors as such

Let's get specific. What are TYPICAL qualities a Mary Sue has? (Not ALL of these mean you have a Mary Sue, however, if you have three or more of these, it might be a red-flag that you're headed to Sue Ville.

1.Your character is strikingly beautiful, but he/she may claim to be a "plain Jane". He/She herself/himself thinks she/he is boring, however, when you rp as her, your descriptions reflect beauty and everyone tends to drool over her/him. HOWEVER, this can also be regular insecurity which is, in fact, a flaw. If this is the case, then this is OKAY.

2. Multiple abilities or skills, most of which are "useless" (in the sense that they won't be used often) or have come to the character naturally, without training.

3. The character is heroic but does not have any motivation behind him/her that gives him/her a reason to behave in such a way.

4. One or more characters immediately falls in love with him/her. Usually someone of equal "perfections" (However, because this is role-play this doesn't apply as much)

5. Completely kind and virtuous and at least one of the following labels can describe him/her: "Sweet angel", "mystery man or woman", "rebellious prince or princess".

6. There is a prophecy or legend behind him her. Again, though, this can ADD originality to your character if you are careful with it.

7. He/she often has a dark, mysterious past that he/she does not like to talk about, but secretly wants someone to come along and "heal" him/her. He/she ALWAYS has SOMETHING to angst about. But again, because this is role-play, it can be done right and pulled off very well if you get CREATIVE with this past.



Let's go point by point with things that "make up" a character in a role-play setting.

1. NAMING (A name is something that should uniquely identify your character)

When naming your character, you should be thinking about the following things:
-The time period your character was born in and the popularity of certain names during that time.
-The meaning of the name (ALWAYS look this up. You might also be able to incorporate some symbolism with the name meaning and your character's personality, background, or appearance)
-Any notable historical figures (authors, artists, leaders, etc. You wouldn't name a character Hitler, would you?) that the name might be associated with.
-Is the name appropriate for this genre? (In this case, concentrated urban-mythical. There are elements of fantasy and while we are secluded in a different part of the world, we are still surrounded by today's culture and naming customs of that, which are bound to influence us.

2. APPEARANCE

Yes, we all know nobody wants to play an unattractive character. And that's perfectly fine -- however, EVERYONE has some sort of physical flaw. There is no such thing as perfection, even in role-play or fantasy worlds. Just like personality, a perfect appearance might seem wonderful at first sight, however people can easily find themselves bored by it. So how do you make sure your character is still attractive, but not perfect, you might be wondering. The trick to this is to avoid one thing, and lean toward the other.

-AVOID: Making your character look how YOU wish you could look. We all want to look our best at all times. Think about how, ideally, you would like to look. Do not put that into your character. Just like how middle-aged women often live through their beauty pageant children, it isn't okay to live your appearance-fantasies out through your characters.

-LEAN TOWARD: Choosing a SPECIFIC PART of your character's appearance to be "perfect". The most common area chosen for this is the eyes or the character's body type, but whichever you think you can role-play best will do. In contrast to that, pick an area where your character as imperfect as possible. Maybe your character is gap-toothed but has gorgeous red hair. Maybe your character has matted, blah colored hair, but has a brilliant, pearly white smile.

3. PERSONALITY

Flaws, flaws, flaws. A perfect character, personality-wise, has no place in role-play. If a character has a perfect personality, they do not want or need anything in life, and therefore, it is very difficult to generate a storyline with them. Choose a big flaw that you know your character will struggle through the entire time it's in the role-play. Here's a list of a few good ones that you can choose from and manipulate to your liking:

-Impatient, aggressive, aloof, big-headed, bossy, careless, clingy, compulsive, overly-conservative, cowardly, critical, detached, dishonest, finicky/picky, fussy, greedy, gullible, harsh, impolite, indecisive (cannot make decisions), interfering, intolerant, irresponsible, lazy, materialistic, moody, narrow-minded, nervous, obsessive, overemotional, patronizing, possessive, quarrelsome (likes to get into fights/arguments), resentful, selfish, tactless, touchy, thoughtless, unreliable, untidy/unorganized, vain.

In contrast to all of these, you can also take something that is a supposed GOOD trait and make extreme to the point where it becomes a flaw. Say your character likes to do things well the first time they try them -- make him/her an over-achiever. Your character likes to keep things neat and tidy -- maybe they're slightly obsessive compulsive.

Keep in mind that quirks are not flaws. Nail biting, though some might find it gross, isn't a flaw -- just a bad habit. However, bad habits can often COME with flaws. For example, a nervous character might scratch his/her nose when frightened by something. Or a greedy character might slip out his/her wallet and count through his/her's money when there is nothing else to do

4. RESEARCH

Always, always, ALWAYS research for a character. Even if you are familiar with what you are going to be role-playing as, take a second to type something unfamiliar about him/her into Google and see what comes up. Research can go a very long way in terms of creating believable, enjoyable characters. This is especially true if you are role-playing as a species that you know has a big role in history because you might miss something about them that might make your character better. This is especially true for angelic or demonic characters because there is simply so much about them out there.

5. GIVE YOUR CHARACTER A HARD TIME

The BIGGEST problem by far for role-players creating Mary Sues is making things simply too easy for them. As stated before, a good character is one that has flaws, and when a character enters the role-play with a power that they've mastered, a unique but well developed talent, and a complete knowledge about the world he/she is entering (in this case, Alabaster), it doesn't give the character anything to work on perfecting. Give your character something he/she struggles with. When a character has to suffer through something, it is both ICly and OOCly noticeable. While on the IC level, the results of this are unpredictable, on the OOC level, the person you are rp'ing with (or your audience, you might say) is more likely to feel for your character and like them.

6. THE ROLE-PLAY IS AN ENSEMBLE, NOT A SOLO-CAST SHOW.


The title should explain it all. A role-play is a community, so naturally, with every new character, he/she is going to have to work into the existing community. Keep this in mind when you go to create and then introduce your character, because you,
A. Do not want to hog the spotlight. (Nobody likes an attention getter, though we all love being one ourselves.)
B. Do not want to cause a rift between you and community upon your first or second scenes. (This is especially true if you have hopes for this char becoming someone popular ICly)


ASK YOURSELF THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS WHEN MAKING ANY CHARACTER, FOR ROLE-PLAY OR WRITING:

1. Where has this character been before this story/role-play opens? How will that effect their personality? Think about baggage.

2. What does this character WANT? [This can be as big as trying to discover the meaning of his/her's existence to as small as a quest for the perfect slice of pizza]

3. What do YOU think the character NEEDS?

4. How does this character expect to achieve that?

5. Why doesn't this character have what he/she wants and/or needs already? What is causing a problem for this character?

Give your character a psychology and motivation.

Okay, so now that you've read through all of this, here's a challenge: pick one of your characters and take the test here to see how they rank Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu-wise. Keep in mind that even the most original characters are bound to rack up a few points here, though, so these test's aren't 100 percent accurate:

http://www.springhole.net/writing/marysue.htm

Here are some more links to help you with character making:

http://www.springhole.net/writing_roleplaying_randomators/interests.htm

http://rinkworks.com/namegen/

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Jessyka
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