This outstanding blog post was written for us by Audrey Akin, aged 14.
There’s a reason I’ve gained the nickname “OC Generator” among my friends. I am notorious for constantly coming up with ideas and concepts on the spot. Sometimes, I make some brand spanking new ones which causes me to drop entire characters completely. This, coupled with the fact that I’ve been in a wide array of fandoms with some vastly differing tones in story, I think I can give some useful tips on writing your own OCs. (BTW, OC means original character.)
Tip #1- Secure Your Tone
First, ask yourself, what tone are you aiming for? Do you want the character to just be some dumb fun, or do you want a character with a weighty presence? Whichever you choose, it’ll help guide you while creating your OC.
Tip #2- Tell Me More About Your Lore!
Backstory and character motivations are extremely important. You have to create these things to have a compelling character and/or story.
“What’s the trauma?” “What’s with this thing?” “Why does this character hate this or that?” “Why do they have these abilities?” You need to be able to give an answer to these questions. Not only does it help create attachment to the character (both for you and any reader), it also helps in coming up with ideas or character relationships later down the line.
Tip #3- Look Through the Eyes of a Reader
This is something I do semi-regularly with my creations. When you’re making your OC, you have to keep in mind how someone from the outside would or could read the character.
Being self-critical is healthy in the creation process. Sometimes when you look through the eyes of a reader, you can find parallels that your OC has with other characters in the Fandom you’re in, whether intentional or not. Other times you can find a perspective of your OC that you didn’t think of before. When you find these things, you can change them if you don't want that to be the case, or you can embrace it and add it to the character.
Tip #4- Embrace the Change
It’s okay to drop ideas and characters. It’s okay to start phasing out things in the character or backstory. Even if you drop a character, sometimes you can still use parts of them. You can bring them back in a new way, assimilate them into another character, and you can take the ideas behind them and cobble them together into a whole new idea!
Ask a friend to help in creation. They can help with criticisms, checking if things are too cluttered, and can challenge your perception of both your writing and your character. Overall, accept and embrace the change in your writing and the evolution of your characters. Speaking of clutter…
Tip #5- Less is More. So Keep it Simple, Sister!
Sometimes simplicity is better than complexity. When creating a story, it’s always preferred to create a simple layout of events that take place. Trying to add more details to the timeline, lore, and/or backstory is janky no matter what. It can become stressful, hard to manage and organize, and just overwhelming. Try to keep things simple. Trust me, it’ll help you out in the long run.
Tip #6- Give Your Characters Flaws!
Flaws are important, every single person on the planet has ‘em. But what constitutes a flaw? While there is no clear cut answer, I’ll do my best. For one, the limitations of a character's abilities are NOT flaws. Achille’s heel is a good example of what I mean. He’s basically indestructible, except for this one spot. That isn’t a character flaw, that’s just a place you can attack and do damage. A guy feeling immense pain after being kicked in the groin isn’t a character flaw, either.
An example of an actual character flaw is the character being too protective of his friends. It might not seem like one but hear me out. This can be exploited. It can become a character flaw in the right circumstances. Anger issues are a character flaw, but being distrusting of people at first isn’t; lacking empathy is a flaw, but being stubborn isn’t always one. Another example of a weird character ‘flaw’ is trauma. What it can bring in certain behaviors makes some consider it a flaw. This isn’t true. The behaviors themselves can be considered flaws, but the trauma is not a flaw. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
Tip #7- Maybe Some Melodies?
Music gives atmosphere for a reason. Sometimes listening to music can give you ideas. It certainly has for me. Whether it be songs from your fandom, Sea Shanties, Irish folk songs, or whatever, you can use music to help you focus on what you’re writing. For example, say you’re writing this intense emotional scene where a character is venting their problems to someone but you can’t find the right words for it to seem natural; why not find some good emotional music that fits with the scene?
And don’t limit it to just the writing itself! Hunt for character, area, boss, or fight themes, even intro themes! Treat your work like it’s a show, with animation, music, the whole nine yards! While this might not work for everyone, I do recommend to at least try it to see if it’ll help you during the creation process.
Tip #8- Play Things Out
Music can only get you so far, sometimes actions can bring you farther. When you’re writing a story or coming up with events, play the event out in your mind. Like I said in the previous tip, treat your work like it’s a show. You know what is meant to happen, play out the event and you can get a good idea for how it happened. Say this character is supposed to break out of a prison, play out the event and you’ll most likely come up with a cool break out scene that’ll be memorable. Treating your work like an anime can help add suspense and intensity to scenes, especially fight scenes.
Tip #9- To Create Attachment to Your Character(s)
This is not talking about getting your readers attached to ‘em. This is for getting yourself attached. Add pieces of yourself to the character. Add traits that you find fun and want to use. Add whatever it is that’ll be fun for you to write and help create attachment to the character(s). Just have fun, and create whatever comes to your mind, though, make sure that it won’t screw up anything with your story. But you can probably find a way to work it in, as long as it doesn’t get cluttered.
Tip #10- General Advice
Write what you know. It’s important to keep things in the realm of your knowledge. Doing otherwise is going to cause you trouble in the long run. Don't try to please everyone, it’s just gonna cause a headache. No matter what, someone out there is gonna get offended about it.
Keep notes, it’ll help you keep track of things. Not to mention sometimes you’ll start writing away and come up with something new. Create designs, both character and area. It helps a lot when you create the look of a place or character, for many reasons. Watch videos on writing, it can help you more understand aspects of writing, like world building and tropes.
Don’t keep everything set in stone. Changes in concepts and events is a natural progression in the process of creation. Add some friends to the project if possible, it can add more to the fun, and they can help in a lot of areas. That is, if they are competent. Always experiment. Sometimes you just need to write in a different way or different perspective for everything to fall in place.
Have fun with your writing. It becomes a lot easier to write and create when you’re having fun with it. Don’t take your story seriously. Listen, you aren’t going to write the next Bible, right?
And most importantly, take breaks. Branch out and do other things when you can’t think of anything. You can’t create anything good when you’re forcing yourself to do it. You’ll only make yourself hate writing and despise your creation.
That’s all for my tips! Remember, these aren’t guidelines for writing, and you don’t have to follow every single one of ‘em. Just have fun, and see if these can help you make better stories and characters.