So, guess what I found out over the weekend while the Germanics and I lounged around outdoors? That it freaking sucks to fall asleep in the sun after forgetting to put on sunscreen. I look like a well-done lobster, damn it, and movement is the enemy right now. At least it'll transition to a nice tan in a week or so, so it's not all bad. Still hurts, though, and I'm definitely taking advantage of the aloe moisturizer until I can touch my skin without swearing up a storm.

My personal problems aside, I'm ecstatic from the reaction to last chapter, and I'm starting to get a really good grip on just how long this guide will be and just how much information I should be shoving into it. I'm learning along the way as I write this, and it's a bundle of fun to help you guys out as well. A spoonful of funny helps the knowledge go down, right?

During today's installation, I'll be covering the effects your characters have on their environment and vice versa, including their degree of importance; constructing dialogue that's realistic and natural, as well as appropriate for the characters and their personalities; and analyzing the plot and setting of the story to determine which point-of-view and narrator should be used.

PART 4.1 – I WANT IT THAT WAY

Everyone thinks that they're more important than the next person, but that's simply human nature—the same goes for original characters. Their creators think they're the coolest thing since sprayable cheese, and others may think the same of their own characters, leading to some secondary characters usurping the canon characters of their importance. Don't undermine your character's importance to the story and the plot, but don't over-exalt it to the point where it's tediously irritating.

You all know who my editor(s) is/are, so you know the drill by now. SECTIONED SUBSECTIONS, I CHOOSE YOU!

part 4.1.1 – front and center

Original characters have three levels of importance: primary, secondary, and tertiary. The first, primary, denotes the characters that are the most fleshed-out, the "main" characters of the story and therefore the most likely to be Sue-judged on their personality and the like. These are the characters that are the "newcomers," or the ones that meet up with the canon characters and thereby progress the plot further.

Mary-Sue likes to be the primary original character, because then it's easier for her to get all the important canon characters to like her and care about her, despite the fact that she's usually annoying as hell and adds nothing to the story. She's the "new girl" at school, the new addition to the squad, and sometimes even randomly added as the unexplained girlfriend of a canon character that may have either had a significant other beforehand, been of a differing sexual orientation, or just had no interest in a relationship. But because Mary-Sue is perfect, she can bend the wills and sexual preferences of the canon characters to her liking.

Lucky bitch, huh?

When you create a primary original character, the most crucial thing to remember is depth, depth, depth—you don't want to have a flat and lifeless character as one of your leads, because then they fall short and readers are just sitting there saying, "So, why should I care about this character again? I mean, there's no real reason for them to be there."

Here's an example:

Group of canon characters are on an adventure and need a guide. They come across a man/woman that is willing to help them for no apparent reason. But as they go along, they realize that their guide may not have entirely virtuous intentions.

If you just stick your character in as the guide/helper without giving them some type of motive for doing so, it makes them come off as unnecessary and useless, as well as being a near beacon to Sue-hunters for seemingly knowing a lot without any explanation as to why. Give them a reason for being there, but don't come out and say it; instead, have your character subconsciously drop little hints that the canon characters pick up on, eventually either coming to the conclusion themselves, or having something epic happen that gives your character away.

(Unless your character is Mother Teresa, there's always a reason for helping someone else. I helped Japan re-shingle his roof a while back, and like hell I did it out of kindness—I got ten free doujinshis out of it.)

part 4.1.2 – second fiddle

Secondary characters, while not being as important as the primary characters, should still have a noticeable amount of character development, even if they're the type of character to die three-quarters of the way through the story. Unless we get to know them as a character, we won't care if they die for no apparent reason.

But if you really want to kill 'em, we won't stop you.

Think of your characters as pastries—the primary character is the cupcake that has frosting, chocolate chips, sprinkles, and all the other goodie toppings you can squeeze on there, while the secondary characters are the cupcakes with frosting and maybe sprinkles if you choose, but not as many bells and whistles as the primaries. The tertiary characters are more like… muffins. Bran muffins. With fruit and… nuts. And other healthy stuff that nobody likes.

I guess.

And now I'm hungry (Hungary. Trololololol. Somebody stop me soon).

For those of you who lost me at the cupcake metaphor, your secondary characters play back-up to the primaries, but they're not just tossed in for the sake of having a character; rather, they're developed enough to be a Character, but not enough to be a CHARACTER. So they're major, but not major-major or imperative—

Scratch that. They're imperative, just not too imperative.

ANYWHO. BACK ON TRACK, HUNGARY. Not only does Mary-Sue like to be the primary character, but she occasionally lurks in the background, waiting for the opportune moment to pounce and leave you knocked on your ass, wondering what the hell just happened to the hey-these-original-characters-aren't-that-bad vibe you had going on.

Well, what just happened was little Mary-Sue got too big for her britches and staged a coup, also known as a usurpation.

usurp (yoo-sirp)
vb.
1. to seize, take over, or appropriate (land, a throne, etc) without authority

2. to get a big head about yourself and decide to overthrow the king/queen and rule the whole fucking kingdom because it sounded like a good idea when you mulled it over as you ate your morning Lucky Charms

I may have paraphrased that last one. Quite possibly could've made it up. The world may never know.

("The world may never know." Now I want Tootsie Pops. I'm hungry again… Hungary… for some Turkey. *le shot*)

So, to recap, secondary characters are slightly less important than the primaries, but still deserve the same amount of attention to detail (though just a smidgen less) that the primaries get. Mary-Sue comes in all shapes and sizes; she's a master at Hide-and-Seek, too, so beware and be aware.

part 4.1.3 – the one in the polka dot dress

The tertiary characters are, as I said before, the bran muffins of the dozen cupcakes that are your original characters. For the most part, tertiary characters can be used as victims of tragedies that affect your main-er characters by the Six Degrees of Knowing Someone theory, someone they just bump into, or as just a side character to the side characters. Like the guys who make the gadgets but are never mentioned by name or are only shown briefly.

Yep. Those guys.

Examples(!):

—those creepy guys in the alley in Twishite—pardon, Twilight
—most of the Death Eaters in This Series is Ten Times the Series Twilight is and Has a Fucking Theme Park So it's Astronomically Better So Suck it Smeyer—pardon, Harry Potter
—99.9% of the Isvalans in Fullmetal Alchemist
—99.9% of the criminals killed in Death Note

And so on and so forth.

MY POINT. IT IS GOTTEN, YES?

GUT. DAS IST GUT.

PART 4.2 – TALK NERDY TO ME

"But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid since she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off!
It is my lady. Oh, it is my love.
Oh, that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing. What of that?
Her eye discourses. I will answer it.—
I am too bold. 'Tis not to me she speaks.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars
As daylight doth a lamp. Her eye in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.
Oh, that I were a glove upon that hand
That I might touch that cheek!"

Oh, Romeo. You poor, misguided, longwinded, walking hormone.

A Hungary Translation™:

"Fuck, she's hot. I wanna do her."

Because that's what dialogue has evolved/devolved to. What once took pages to get across can now be said with a wolf-whistle, an eyebrow waggle, and an, "Oh, yeah."

Dialogue is, in a story, the vocal interaction between characters and is written with "quotes," like that. The way someone talks can tell a lot about the kind of person they are, and the rules are the same going the other way: the kind of person someone is usually determines how they speak. For example, it's unlikely that you'd come across a mobster with grammatically perfect English, and it's also unlikely that an English professor would say, "Don't sweat it, yo," or, "My bad."

Things to consider:

—Your character's background: Are they upper-class? Middle? Lower? Where did they grow up? What sort of language or speech patterns were they subjected to during the impressionable years?
—Your character's age: Are they young? A teenager? An adult? Elderly? What kinds of speech do others their age use? Is that the norm?
—The time period: Is it modern? Victorian? Does the story take place in the future? What speech conventions are used in that time period that might be different from the one we live in? How are they different?

And, if all else fails, Do The Fucking Research (DTFR).

Can't figure out how people spoke in Victorian England? DTFR.

Want to know if a certain technology existed in the 1930s? DTFR.

Don't know if it was normal for a person in a certain country in a certain time period to do a certain something? DTFR.

Don't believe what I'm telling you and doubt my knowledge? DTFR.

DTFR is your friend, not your enemy, and you'll find that it's much easier to remember things when you DTFR because you want to get all the facts straight, not because you have to get all the facts straight (we'd appreciate it if you did, though).

(If your story takes place in, say, an alternate dimension or something, you can disregard most of what I just said. I suppose. It's up to you.)

Most importantly, though, dialogue has to flow. It can't feel unnatural or forced, or your entire story will sound a bit wonky. Don't be afraid of contractions if your characters are modern-day commoners, and don't be afraid to get fancy if they're the upper-class of the 1900s British society.

Here's a quick dialogue exercise using the prompts skiing, snowboarder, and accidental collision:

"Brett slid his goggles back over his eyes and flexed his fingers as he stood up straight and grabbed a ski pole in each hand, more than ready to get the freak down the mountain already—though it seemed that Fate didn't want him to make it down there. Not that he was necessarily new to having the Fates against him, but he knew he had to have good karma sometimes, too.

'On your left!' someone called out as they sped past him on a snowboard, knocking him onto his back and leaving him struggling to pull himself out of the deep snow. The snowboarder skidded to a stop before jogging back up to help Brett to his feet again. 'Sorry about that,' they said as they offered him a hand.

'No prob,' Brett replied, accepting the proffered appendage and allowing himself to be pulled up. He brushed the snow off his back and sides, shaking his gloves off. 'Nice boarding, bee-tee-dubs. You've got some real skill.' It wasn't a lie; the kid could board better than Brett, and he'd lived in Cavon since birth. He was practically born on the mountainside.

He (or at least Brett thought the boarder was a boy. The jaw was rather strong and the shoulders were pretty broad, but something about the ocean blue eyes staring back at him puzzled him) smiled and said in his rough voice, 'Thanks. It's funny, considering my background. Oh, and my name's Len. It's actually short for Lenonambachika, my middle name, but I like it more than my first name.'

'Brett. I don't think I've ever seen you around here before. You new?'

Len nodded. 'Just moved here last week from Shadim. My dad got a new job.'

Pursing his lips, Brett whistled in astonishment and said, 'Shadim, huh? For a beach kid, you've got some serious snowboarding talent. Were you a surfer?'

'You could say that.' He shrugged. 'Something like surfing, I guess. So, uh, if you don't mind…' As he motioned to the slope, Brett mentally punched himself and bid Len goodbye, watching him maneuver down the mountain gracefully before grabbing his ski poles and heading down himself.

The winds stung his face as he sped down the slope and swerved side to side, enjoying the rush of the beginning of ski season."

There. Nice and… flow-y, I guess. I'm running out of adjectives.

(I guess it's because I'm… Russian to… Finnish…)

In short: Dialogue. Flow. Be natural. Also appropriate to character. Ooga booga.

(Fun fact: Finnish and Hungarian are the only two languages that are almost identical to one another. You learn something new every day.)

PART 4.3 – QUÉ Y DÓNDE

Plot and setting are vital.

Write that two hundred times on the blackboard, class, and then we'll move on.

Plot and setting are vital.

Plot and setting are vital.

Plot and setting are vital.

Plot and setting are vital.

Plot and setting are vital.

Plot and setting are vital.

Plot and setting are vital.

Plot and setting are vital.

Plot and setting are vital.

Plot and setting are vital.

Plot and setting—enough of that.

Get your notebooks out, students.

What happens and where it happens are extremely important, both in fanfiction and in original publications. If you don't have a good enough grip on your plot, you end up with gaping craters of oh-shit-something-was-supposed-to-happen-and-didn't-but-maybe-nobody-will-notice, which tends to turn respectable characters into Mary-Sues when the author tries to fix the plot holes.

(Oh, and bee-tee-dubs, we always notice plot holes. You can't get away with it. Unless it's crack, but that's a topic for another day.)

The setting is, essentially, where the shit's going down. It's always important to give a good description of where your story's taking place, but just like with character description, you don't want to word vomit it in the first paragraph or so.

And try to avoid starting a story with, "It was a…" because it's cliché. Obviously there are exceptions, such as parodies, crackfics, and style imitating for a specific purpose, but it's best to just shelve the desire completely.

The five parts of a plot are:

Exposition: The freaking beginning.

Rising Action: Shit starts making its way toward the fan, but stops to pick up more shit along the way.

Climax: Whoops, shit just hit the fan.

Falling Action: Winding down to a close, and where the main character stops sucking and gains a pair of balls.

Resolution: The freaking end.

Ah, simplicity. 'Tis a beautiful thing, no?

For the setting, it's easy to associate it with the five themes of geography—location, place, region, movement, and human-environmental interactions.

Location: Where is it? What country/state is it in? What city?

Place: What's it like there? What are the seasons like? Is the air thick or thin? Is it smoggy? Is it clear? Is it mountainous or flat?

Region: What is the area around it like? Do the people in the same region speak the same language? Like the same clothes? Have the same traditions?

Movement: How do people there travel? Do they have cars, or do they walk? Do they use a train? Do they fly in airplanes?

Human-Environmental Interactions: How do the people affect their environment? How does their environment affect them? How have they modified it over the years? How has it modified them?

Plot and setting are vital.

Remember that, ducklings.

PART 4.4 – YOU'RE TELLIN' ME; NO, I'M TELLIN' YOU

There are three different basic types of narration: first person, second person, and third person. First person is written as if the author were the character; the narration says "I" did this and "I" did that. Second person is written as though giving directions; it's "you" did this and "you" did that. Third person is written as if the author were God; it's "he" or "she" did this and "he" or "she" did that. Each has their advantages, and each has their disadvantages.

Holy crap, guys, it's a freaking BOGO. Two subsections are sectioned? Woo-hoo!

Excuse me, I have to go lie down now.

part 4.4.1 – i am what i is

When writing in first person narrative, it's important to understand that you are not the character and are simply borrowing their body for your own nefarious exploits; as such, you have to be extremely careful not to mix your natural personality with the one you're trying to channel. That breeds OHSWTFHHTMFCTFITS, which, if you remember, is the technical name for OOC.

It's not difficult to write in first person, but it's difficult to do correctly.

The biggest mistake Suethors make—other than making Mary-Sues—is writing their stories in the point-of-view of their characters. Big no-no. That just screams, "SUE!" and puts people off pretty freaking quickly. Unless, of course, you're damn good and pull it off well enough.

And even then, it's something to pretty much avoid.

part 4.4.2 – thou art

Ah, second person. Something not often seen… and with good reason, too. Second person stories are hard to pull off well because the readers may not believe that they are the character, which just makes them feel awkward. And an awkward reader is not something you necessarily want, unless the point of the story was to make them feel uneasy about something.

Also, second person stories aren't allowed on here, so there's another reason to stay away from writing them.

part 4.4.3 – that ol' he said, she said

Dude.

You cannot, repeat cannot, go wrong with a third person story. It's up to you to choose whether it's limited or omnipotent (which will be covered soon), but it's your safest bet when writing, especially if you're using a lot of original characters or you like to switch between characters a lot.

Limited third person is when you focus on what the characters feel, and, in turn, they don't know what's going to happen. It can also mean an extended first person narrative, since it gets into the character's thoughts but there's still a third-party narrator. Conversely, omnipotent third person is when the narrator knows all, even if the characters are none the wiser. It's like playing The Sims: you know what the next command is, but your Sims don't until they have to do it.

(Actually, third person is a bit like playing God, which is fun. But don't take my word for it.)

part 4.4.4 – the then is gone, but the now is here

Now time for some subliminal messaging.

How badly does it hurt to cramp up while you're jogging? I sure think it sucks eggs, don't you? Nothing sucks more than cramps.

Couldn't find it? Try again.

HoW bAdly does iT hurt to Cramp up wHile You're jOgging? I sURe Think it sucks Eggs, doN't you? Nothing suckS morE than crampS.

Catch it that time?

There are three different tenses one can use: past, present, and future. It's best to NEVER EVER OH MY FUCKING GOD NEVER write in future tense, since it's just messed up, so the main ones are past and present.

Past tense is the most common tense written in. It reads as though something has already happened and someone is recounting their experience of the events and writing it down/telling a story aloud. Present tense is what's happening now; instead of being a retelling, it's a follow-me-on-my-journey-and-experience-it-firsthand story.

Past tense is "she said," and present tense is "she says."

Make sure to watch your tenses when you write, and be sure that if a story starts out in past tense, it should end in past tense. Don't just randomly switch in the middle for no damn reason, a'ight?

Fan-flipping-tastic, young ones.

PART 4.5 – IN CLOSING

Things we've covered so far:

—Definition of a Mary-Sue
—What makes Mary-Sue a Mary-Sue
—How to tactfully avoid Sue-hunters
—What to look for when reading and writing fanfiction
—Properly and believably creating names
—How to create and describe their appearance without them morphing into M. susanna
—Things to avoid when creating a good back-story
—Forming compatible and realistic relationships: friendly, romantic, familial
—Controlling rampant OOC-ness
—Things to remember when writing an AU or AC story
—Keeping the time period in mind
—Differing levels of importance of characters
—Dialogue and how to use it correctly
—Plot and setting
—Narration types
—Tenses

In the next chapter we'll be fixing some Sues, both flaming and subtle, as well as assessing Sueisms in a universe where normal things are Sueish anywhere else. We'll also cover how everything you've learned so far meshes together in story form, and we'll nitpick an original character in the special Character Breakdown section.

Later!