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Lorendiac

Corinne Tate said:

Transplanted southerner here! I think the internet breeds a certain amount of rudeness with anonymity, facelessness, and the lack of voice inflections and body language. There's much more risk in offending someone face to face, than someone you can't see, especially when you don't have to take responsibility for your actions. I do try to be nice -- doesn't always work -- but I try! I think there are several on here who are battle hardened from dealing with trolls.

I think a fair number of verbal conflicts on the Internet begin as careless "misunderstandings" rather than people deliberately being highly confrontational and obnoxious -- i.e. "trolls" -- from the very beginning of an online discussion. Part of it, as you suggested, is that we can't literally hear the "tone" in which someone has just "said" something. Part of it is that some people often make exaggerated (but SINCERE) assumptions about what someone else "really meant," which can go far, far beyond the literal meaning of what the other person had actually said. And of course there are plenty of other ways for things to escalate . . .

There was a time (not on this site) when I posted something in a discussion thread and I said at the start, in what I THOUGHT was plain English, that the remainder of my quick post would be "tongue in cheek."

I got a very critical response from someone who vigorously disagreed with my "extravagant" statements on the topic of the thread (whatever it was -- the details escape me now).

It turned out that the root of the problem was very simple.

That particular reader DIDN'T have a clue what the phrase "tongue in cheek" meant, so he completely missed the fact that I was working hard to establish an IRONIC tone in my opening line! That caused him to "misread" everything else in my post . . . by taking it completely at face value!

(On the brighter side, I seem to recall that before I ever came back online and read his response, someone else in the thread had already correctly analyzed the problem, and had posted a response of his own in which he gave my critic a quick explanation of just what the heck the phrase "tongue in cheek" is supposed to mean!)

And I've also had inadvertent "clashes" with people who, as I discovered a bit too late, go ballistic as soon as you politely disagree with them on any simple statement of "fact" they have made on a topic near and dear to their hearts -- even if a little Googling would tell them that the true facts are a matter of public record, and that they are the ones who got it wrong! (We're not even talking about "sincere differences of opinion on very complicated issues" here -- just "well-documented facts and figures which are easily verified!")

5/4/2012 . Edited 5/4/2012 #61
cathrl

I think a fair number of verbal conflicts on the Internet begin as careless "misunderstandings" rather than people deliberately being highly confrontational and obnoxious -- i.e. "trolls" -- from the very beginning of an online discussion. Part of it, as you suggested, is that we can't literally hear the "tone" in which someone has just "said" something. Part of it is that some people often make exaggerated (but SINCERE) assumptions about what someone else "really meant," which can go far, far beyond the literal meaning of what the other person had actually said. And of course there are plenty of other ways for things to escalate . . .

That's especially true in this forum. A number of posters here speak sufficiently good English that you'd never guess it wasn't their first language...but they're going to miss the odd nuance, and they're going to write things which have nuances they're not aware of.

And a whole load more speak English as their first language, but they're not American. Words have different emphasis to them (make that "us", since I'm not American myself). Sometimes completely different meanings.

We've had at least one poster who is blind and uses special technology/software to read what's written here. Goodness knows what emphasis that puts on wording.

Provided we all assume no malice was intended when something sounds a bit snippy it all works fine. Actually it all works fine the vast majority of the time. Which is great.

5/4/2012 #62
quwelli

Do you read fanfic with original characters?

Yes, most fan fiction I read has at least some original characters.

What's your preferred role for an original character - as the main character in a fic, in a supporting role?

I don't mind if the OC is "one of" the main characters, but in a fan fiction I don't particularly want it to be "the" main character. I read fan fiction to find more of the canon characters I already like. If the original characters make believable additions, it's a plus. If they're annoying replacements, it's a minus--like a TV show with nothing but guest stars. There are exceptions to my rule, though. Sometimes the guest stars are intriguing enough to watch, and I'll get hooked on a spin-off. ^^

Is it ok to pair a canon character with an original character?

Yes, most of the time I don't mind that at all. Others have mentioned making the canon romantic lead "evil" to gain more sympathy for the new original character, and I don't care for that.

What do you feel makes an original character a Mary Sue?

The other characters can't eat breakfast or tie their shoes without thinking of Mary Sue. She is the true center of the universe, in a way no one else ever would be. The canon heroes lose their common sense and life skills around her. She is all competence while they bumble. All good people come to love her, and only the meanies hate her.

5/6/2012 #63
KittyCabaret

Do you read fanfic with original characters?

Well Usually if its an OMC I can deal with it, I find that female ocs tend to go into the Mary Sue direction more than males.

What's your preferred role for an original character - as the main character in a fic, in a supporting role?

I think there needs to be a balance, because if the OC takes over the fic, I feel like that pushes them into Mary sue territory and if the cannon characters arent involved as much as they should be then why not just write an original story?

Is it ok to pair a canon character with an original character?

Well I did it, so I don't see why not. Like I've previously stated, as long as their romance doesnt become disgusting and full of Mary Sue Goo then Its not a huge deal

What do you feel makes an original character a Mary Sue?

When they're perfect and the whole story becomes about them.

5/6/2012 #64
Kanarah J

Just thought I'd offer my two cents since it's long past time for me to go to bed, and for some reason I can't force myself into sleep-mode:

Do you read fanfic with original characters?

Yes. I've encountered many fanfics with OCs in them. Do I look for fanfiction where the OC is the main focus of the story? NO WAY. To be honest, I come here to read stories about characters in the category that I enjoy, not the characters invented by the author. If I wanted to read work about original people, I would go to Fiction press. I don't mind a story that uses an OC to enhance the story or character interaction. I generally don't mind an OC if they're a villain, a parent, a teacher, or have another nominal role, especially if the personality type of those characters doesn't fit those that are already in canon. The key here is recognizing when it is appropriate to invent someone, and when using a canon character makes more sense. I remember reading a story once where the author created an OC brother of the canon character. This OC had two lines through the entire fanfic, and basically did nothing. The HILARIOUS (and by hilarious, I mean tragic) thing about all of this is that the character already has a brother in canon!

What's your preferred role for an original character - as the main character in a fic, in a supporting role?

I think I mentioned my preference above in my mini-rant. Supporting roles are best. NEVER as a main character.

Actually, I take that 'never' back. Once I read a fanfic in which the OC was reflecting on their opinions of the canon characters, and she actually told a story through her thoughts. It actually worked really, really well. This has been the only example I've seen though.

Is it ok to pair a canon character with an original character?

Eh, here is where my personal opinion comes into play. In the categories that I like? No. Then again, I already have a set preference for character parings that I like, and hesitate to deviate from them on purpose if I'm already on the hunt for a good romance fic. If the OC has a completely limited role and is only mentioned a couple of times as being in a relationship with a canon character that rarely makes an appearance, then I suppose that would be alright, but then, I would argue why they're even in the story in the first place.

What do you feel makes an original character a Mary Sue

This horse has been killed, resurrected, killed again, and is now a part of the zombie apocalypse it seems. Basically any exaggerated qualities of greatness, greatness disguised as weakness, or idealized/fantastic wishes of the author qualifies the character as a Mary Sue to me. This is the main reason I avoid reading stories with OCs as main characters in them. Nine times out of ten they're Marys or Garys, and the other tenth of the time, their role could just as easily have been satisfied by a canon character.

In the categories I stick to, OCs are rampant and dime a dozen, so perhaps I'm a bit jaded when it comes to the reality of things. I'm not sure how OCs are received in smaller, or even...better pruned categories, than the ones I read for. Perhaps it's different elsewhere, but from what I've read in this thread, I'm not completely way out of the way when it comes to opinions on the subject.

Although I get the feeling that this is exactly what some people *are* looking for. ;)

GUILTY!

5/8/2012 #65
Yuli Ban

Here's a question- what if the character isn't a Gary/Mary at all but is a main character of a fanfic in a story that their role just can't possibly be filled by someone else already in the main series (because the other eligible characters, for one, already have appointed roles)?

IMO- I'd read the story, especially if said character was interesting enough to keep me reading. If a Main-Character Non-Mary Sue OC is some sort of prerequisite for "then you shouldn't write the fanfic", I'd say FFN has officially spiralled off course from it's main motto, now hasn't it? Yes, I'm against Mary Sues and whatnot, but I believe that, if you think you can create a decent OC, then more power to you. If you think the OC should be a main character but not a focal one, then more power to you. It's just when you can't get a grip on when to stop- when the OC just starts morphing into an all-powerful Mary Sue with no weaknesses or lack of partners and the co-main that's part of official fandom is relegated to second place or even totally outshined by the sheer awesomeness of your Sue- that things get a bit out of hand. Now, say you build up a character to this point over the whole of the story- they start off a background character then, after a long while, fight with/against the main- that would make for a decent story without being overly Suish. At least you could create a reason for their awesomeness (of course, those I've seen that do try this "Gradual Sue" trick oft fail miserably because their OC just magically obtains their greatness all at once or in large sums).

5/8/2012 . Edited 5/8/2012 #66
Lorendiac

September Tea asked (in the original post):

Is it ok to pair a canon character with an original character?

Kanarah J said:

Eh, here is where my personal opinion comes into play. In the categories that I like? No. Then again, I already have a set preference for character parings that I like, and hesitate to deviate from them on purpose if I'm already on the hunt for a good romance fic. If the OC has a completely limited role and is only mentioned a couple of times as being in a relationship with a canon character that rarely makes an appearance, then I suppose that would be alright, but then, I would argue why they're even in the story in the first place.

It seems to me that your response rests upon an unspoken assumption along roughly the following lines: "Any interesting canonical character with a significant role in the source material already HAS a canonical pairing as part of the package deal. Ergo, pairing up him (or her) with an OC in a romantic fanfic would automatically qualify as disrespectfully deviating from canon."

(If that isn't exactly what you had in mind, I'm sure you'll let me know.)

But on the other hand -- some very high-profile canonical characters NEVER had an Official Long-Term Love Interest in the source material.

For instance . . . in the old "Dukes of Hazzard" series, which lasted 7 seasons, the two leading men were usually Bo and Luke Duke. We'd occasionally see one or the other flirt with a beautiful girl . . . maybe kiss her onstage . . . maybe even start talking about the possibility of making a lasting commitment . . . but in the long run (as in, after her appearance in a SINGLE episode was over), there'd be zero follow-up; evidently the whole thing had fizzled out when we weren't looking!

I've never paid much attention to "Dukes of Hazzard" fanfic on this site. But if I did start reading such a fanfic, and if I saw that a female OC had been created to become the long-awaited "true love" of Luke, for instance -- it wouldn't automatically rub me the wrong way. My probable reaction would be to shrug and say: "Okay, that could happen! After all, it's a canonical fact that none of his previous girlfriends ever had enough staying power to qualify as his One True Love! That means the door is wide open for that vacancy in his life to be filled by someone else!"

On the other hand! If I were reading a fanfic based on Disney's "The Little Mermaid" (another area I've never really explored on here), and if I concluded that Princess Ariel was not going to end up living happily ever after with Prince Eric in this one, but was going to leave him in favor of some OC hunk whom the author had just created out of thin air for the occasion, then I'd almost certainly lose interest in a hurry. Because the source material (the movie) repeatedly hammered us over the head with the premise that Ariel and Eric were MEANT for each other -- and that anyone who tried to interfere with that inevitable pairing was either Consciously Evil on the one hand, or at least Horribly Misguided on the other, and doomed to fail in the attempt, either way! (I'm thinking of Ursula and Triton, respectively.)

The way I see it: if you throw away the canonical romance of "The Little Mermaid," you gut the core concept of the film and there's no point in going any further with those characters. (I grant you that there's bound to be someone out there who disagrees with my viewpoint, but that's HIS problem!)

The tricky thing is that September Tea didn't just ask: "Is it ok to break up a canonical character's well-established pairing in favor of matching him or her up with an OC?" Likewise, she didn't just ask: "Is it ok to create an OC to be paired up with a CC who, in the source material, never found True Love with anyone else?" Instead, she asked a general-purpose question that applied to ANY proposed pairing of a CC and an OC under any conceivable set of circumstances! And I don't think there's a nice simple answer, such as "yes" or "no," that can qualify as a one-size-fits-all "rule" for such a broad subject!

[P.S. If it turns out that September Tea isn't female, I'll just have to go back and edit my post.]

5/8/2012 #67
Kanarah J

It seems to me that your response rests upon an unspoken assumption along roughly the following lines: "Any interesting canonical character with a significant role in the source material already HAS a canonical pairing as part of the package deal. Ergo, pairing up him (or her) with an OC in a romantic fanfic would automatically qualify as disrespectfully deviating from canon."

Not exactly, which is why I prefaced my statement with "here is where my personal opinion comes into play." There are several cases in which canon simply does not support love interests of any kind, so it would be completely understandable to want to include an OC to create that atmosphere. In the fandoms that I read for, heck even for the stories that I have preference for, this is not the case.

When I go out to read a romance fic (in my preferred categories) there is always someone out there who I have mentally paired with a character, therefore it is those stories that I go and look for. Now, does that mean the quality of the fanfic is lowered just because the author chose to write a romance story between a character relationship that I don't agree with? Of course not! I simply bypass that story and move on until I find what I like. This is the beauty of the filtration system. The same could arguably be said about an OC character. I wouldn't go out of my way to find a story that starred an OC, but if the author felt the need to include one for romantic purposes, then they of course have every right to write about what they want. It's just not my cup of tea. Disrespect for the fandom comes in when a character already exists to satisfy the role of the person in canon. In my previous example, the author created a brother for a canon character who already has a brother, and his brother proxy served no purpose whatsoever (Read: The role could have been satisfactorily served by the character's "real" brother). Even still, I wouldn't go so far as disrespect to the fandom...perhaps, ill-advised decision making? Ignorance?

5/8/2012 #68
Lorendiac

After being offline over the weekend, I simply forgot I hadn't yet responded to a point that Ventisquear and I were discussing last week. Better late than never!

To summarize like mad:

Ventisquear indicated that F. Scott Fitzgerald had done some genuine "world-building" when he wrote the novel "The Great Gatsby" back in the Roaring Twenties.

I disagreed.

Now to quote from Ventisquear's last post in here.

I'd said:

I think he did his best to describe a real world, and some real lifestyles, as backdrops for the imaginary individuals who were central to his plot.

Ventisquear said:

He did his best, yes. He did his best to describe the real world as he saw, experienced and understood it. But it still a fictional world, fictional setting adjusted to what Fitzgerald wanted to express. The real world is much more complex. Just as a character in fiction is not 'real person', the world in the fiction is not 'real world' either. The author of 'real world' fiction may (or may not) use an existing town or village, but in any case, they must think carefully what aspects of the real world they will show in their fiction, and how they will convey it.

I still don't see it as "world-building." By that same argument, you could claim that any nonfiction book about "real-world events" has also presented a "fictional world" -- in the narrow sense that any single book's depiction of who did what, and why, and where, and so forth, does not (and cannot!) describe and explain every single detail of the complex real world in which those events took place.

But that is not what most people mean when they talk about a book being set in "an imaginary (or fictional) world."

To put it another way: To me, there's a huge difference in kind -- not just in degree -- between Fitzgerald asking himself "How many of the REAL streets of New York City should I mention by name in this novel?" on the one hand, and Tolkien asking himself "What are the names of each of the imaginary towns that will appear on a map of the imaginary 'Shire,' which is part of an imaginary continent in my imaginary world of Middle-Earth?" on the other hand.

The second example is part of a world-building process. The first example isn't!

5/10/2012 . Edited 5/10/2012 #69
Ventisquear

What about imaginative names of imaginative streets in imaginative parts of a real town? Neither East Egg nor West Egg really exist, you know. What about imaginative names of towns in a real country? What about imaginative countries in a real world? What about imaginative language of real nation? (Ok, the last thing was because of a poor research of the author xD).

There are thousands of books that seem to be set in a real world, but the places there don't really exist. The characters have jobs in imaginative companies, live in imaginative streets and builidings, meet in imaginative bars, etc.. Just because it's not a fantasy world doesn't mean the author doesn't have to think about carefully and build it.

Oh well. If you're think that writing the setting of the 'real world' is easy, writing the setting of a fantasy world is difficult and writing a fanfiction where it's not necessary to create any setting is the most difficult of all - go ahead. We're all free to have our own opionions. I don't see any point to continue to argue about it. (Besides it's terribly off topic for this thread. ^^)

5/10/2012 #70
The Lauderdale

While I agree with Lorendiac in a general way, I also know what Ventisquear is saying. I think it's fair to say that both depictions of Mundania (ie. "realistic" world depictions) and of "imaginary" worlds are ultimately derived from the Real World, since we all live in the real world and it is the basis from which we must all begin: we move "with" or "against" it in varying degrees in our fiction.

I think that Tolkien would agree with this, although he would probably phrase it more intelligently. He actually preferred terms like "sub-creator" and "sub-creation" (since by his belief God is the ultimate Creator), and technically speaking his Middle-earth is not a wholly imaginary world: it is actually meant to be our world in a long-forgotten past. Even if we did not know this, based on what Tolkien has said in letters and interviews, we can identify the elements and patinas borrowed from Real World cultures and histories: the Anglo-Saxon based culture and actual Anglo-Saxon names of the Rohirrim; the correspondence of the Shire to a bucolic Edwardian England; the parallel between drowned Numenor and the island of Atlantis; swiping names like Gandalf and various Dwarves from actual Norse mythology, etc.

Tolkien's world-building consisted of addition, subtraction, alteration and accentuation, the same techniques that a Fitzgerald or other realist author must rely on, which is where it becomes a matter of degree. We can argue about the varying degrees that either trend toward in the four categories, but depictions of Mundania and depictions of imaginary worlds are both ultimately mise-en-scène.

5/10/2012 . Edited 5/10/2012 #71
Ragnelle

There are thousands of books that seem to be set in a real world, but the places there don't really exist. The characters have jobs in imaginative companies, live in imaginative streets and builidings, meet in imaginative bars, etc.. Just because it's not a fantasy world doesn't mean the author doesn't have to think about carefully and build it.

I don't see how this is different from what a fanfiction-writer does, in may ways. Especially if they just use the world of the fandom-- Tolkien's Arda for instance-- and use all OCs. But even when using all CCs, there are quite a lot of fanfiction where the author have to re-build the world this way. We know the name of one-- one-- street in Minas Tirith. What about all the other streets you would need if you tell a story set there? As soon as you do anything else but quote the source-material, you need this type of world-building also in fanfiction. I don't see how this argumentation can be held together with the statement that fanfiction don't involve any world-building at all.

5/10/2012 . Edited 5/10/2012 #72
jason taylor

I would say it depends. Some stories, particularly speculative fiction, are chosen for their elaborate background setting, and original characters are needed. For instance, while it is possible to use characters provided by the sourcebook for Traveller, and in fact I probably will later, Traveller is to large a setting not to have original characters in it.

5/11/2012 #73
Lord Jaric

I don't have a problem with OC's as long as they are not built up to be some kind of perfect character. They should be as good and flawed as the actual characters of the series they are written in.

There is one thing that has been kind of bugging me lately. In a lot of summaries I've seen have OC's called Xavier for various stories. I got to ask if there is a reason for that. Xavier is a common name as far as i known, most commonly known from X-Men obviously. So I get the feeling that it isn't some kind of coincidence.

5/19/2012 #74
Kanarah J

I've seen that name HUNDREDS of time in fandoms I hang out in as well, and it drives me crazy. I have nothing against the name, but it just appears everywhere. Granted, in the Kingdom Hearts, one of the ways characters are named is by creating an Anagram of a name and throwing an 'X' in there, but fans fail to realize that Xavier isn't really derived from an anagram of anything. This actually brings me to another point!

I hate it when authors use names that wouldn't fit in the category. Common names like "Michael" or "Samantha" wouldn't fit in a story set in 19th century China. It also wouldn't fit in a category like Kingdom Hearts, Lord of the Rings (though I admittedly have little familiarity with this category) or Final Fantasy. Furthermore, just because a category was created in Japan (e.g. Anime, certain video games, etc.) doesn't inherently mean that the characters are Japanese, or that the canon story line is even set there! It doesn't make sense to give these characters Japanese names. I'll go back to my Kingdom Hearts example. The game is NOT set in Japan, though it was created there. In fact, one of the main purposes of the game is to explore different "worlds" which have little real-world references. Arguably, Port Royal, Agrabah, Land of the Dragons Olympus Colosseum were based off of real-ish places so I could understand wanting to create region-specific names for OCs originating from there, but most of the time, I see people creating characters out of thin air. Japanese names do not necessarily make characters more "authentic." /end rant. ;)

5/20/2012 #75
xSweetBubbleTeax

I agree with you Kanarah on the uses of Japanese names in English setting stories. I only use Japanese names, if it's set in a world like Naruto, Dragonball Z etc. I've seen names like 'Carly' and 'Jason' used in the Naruto worlds and I'm thinking...what am I reading? I don't mind if people use Japanese/Korean names, as I've used a Korean character once for a Twilight fanfic I'm working on but that's just me.

5/20/2012 #76
Kanarah J

I've used a Korean character once for a Twilight fanfic I'm working on but that's just me.

That would totally make sense. Even though Twilight doesn't take place in Korea, it would totally be fine with me to have a character with Korean nationality/heritage have a Korean name. I love that you're using multiple cultures in your story!

5/20/2012 #77
xSweetBubbleTeax

Ah phew! I thought that would equal to a mary sue or gary stu ; I like using different character nationality's in my stories; and I love writing about Korean character's in my original stories as well. A lot of author's use American character's in fanfiction's like Twilight, but what about other's like India, Japan, Korea, Ireland, Mexico etc?

5/20/2012 #78
cathrl

Japanese names do not necessarily make characters more "authentic." /end rant. ;)

I agree.

Though I write in a fandom where one of the canon characters has the Japanese surname "Asakura". He's Italian. At that point I have some sympathy for writers who give other characters Japanese names too.

5/20/2012 #79
TheByronicMan

There is one thing that has been kind of bugging me lately. In a lot of summaries I've seen have OC's called Xavier for various stories. I got to ask if there is a reason for that. Xavier is a common name as far as i known, most commonly known from X-Men obviously. So I get the feeling that it isn't some kind of coincidence.

Do all these Xaviers usually have bad things happen to them? If so, a bunch of authors may have picked him as a 'Designated Victim.'

5/20/2012 . Edited 5/20/2012 #80
Corinne Tate

At the risk of resurrecting the subject; a question on one Mary Sue test was, "is the character named Raven?" I'm not sure why they chose that specific name to ascribe points, but I'm thinking it was prolific at the time. Perhaps Xavier is one of those names that just resonates with certain writers?

While on the subject of OC names, why do writers of both fan fiction as well as original fiction seem to latch onto sexy, quirky, or unique names? Aren't we more likely to run into a man named Mike than Xavier? or Catelin instead of Calliope? It starts to feel like there's an unwritten rule against normal, mundane names. But for me, part of making that OC real and believable, starts with the name. There are a lot of ordinary or even bad names out there, and it's possible a character could wind up with one. My own fandom left us with Renesmee, one of the most horrible created names I've seen.

5/20/2012 #81
Mrsbonnieful

I'm not sure this is right place to post my question. Many of the posts talked about OCs. Does an OC automatically make the story AU. By the way what is the definition of AU. I find alot of writers don't use it probably because they don't know to use it.

I do think there are stories that are "major AU" and stories only alittle bit AU. A couple of my stories are in the later.

I write mostly Sound of Music fics.

5/24/2012 #82
cathrl

Does an OC automatically make the story AU.

Only in the same way that any fanfic is AU because it didn't happen in canon.

If you're not saying that, then it depends on what the OC does in the plot. For instance, if you add an OC to a Lord of the Rings story and have her travel with the Fellowship, that's going to be an AU. We know who was there. There were nine of them. There's no possible way you can add a tenth and still fit with canon.

But if I write a Thunderbirds story involving an OC being rescued, that doesn't have to contradict anything. Different guest characters were rescued every week, and it's canon that there were more rescues than episodes because one of the characters says he's been on more rescues than we're shown on-screen.

There isn't an established definition of AU, but yes, some stories are more AU than others. Depends how many areas of canon you change.

I write mostly Sound of Music fics.

(Aside: my brother lives in the Austrian village where they filmed much of Sound of Music).

Going back to Corinne's post:

There are a lot of ordinary or even bad names out there, and it's possible a character could wind up with one.

That's true. I think "Raven" as a specific example is linked in with the large number of Mary Sue type characters a) being teenage rebels, generally with strong Goth tendencies, and b) having names carefully chosen to match their looks and personalities. "Raven", of course, wears nothing but black.

But I get the impression that that particular trend has died down a bit recently? I used to feel like a huge proportion of the older teen girls I saw around were into black hair, black makeup, black clothes, and now that my daughter's that age herself it doesn't seem to be nearly as common. If that look is no longer the ultimate in trendy, giving a character the perfect name to match it probably isn't going to be as common.

5/24/2012 . Edited 5/24/2012 #83
Lorendiac

I'd say that an AU is a timeline in which some of the established "canonical history" definitely DIDN'T happen after all. The fanfic writer is deliberately making noticeable changes to the "facts" for the sake of telling a story that couldn't possibly have happened "behind the scenes" in the source material.

For instance, as cathrl said, if the major events described in the Lord of the Rings are stated (in a new fanfic) to have included Ten Walkers setting out from Rivendell as "the Fellowship of the Ring," instead of just nine, then that's squarely CONTRADICTING what Tolkien told us in his books. Ergo, the fanfic is an AU because this new story can't possibly be happening "behind the scenes" in Tolkien's own version of Middle-Earth history.

Or, if there isn't a Tenth Walker in a Lord of the Rings fanfic, but Boromir (one of the Fellowship) manages to SURVIVE the big fight with Orcs that killed him at the end of the first book, then the fanfic is now becoming an AU because the author is diverging from canonical "fact" for his or her own purposes.

On the other hand . . . we know precious little of Boromir's personal life before he appeared onstage at Rivendell just in time to become part of the Fellowship of the Ring. We know who his father was (Denethor, the hereditary Steward of Gondor), and we later met his brother Faramir, but that's about it.

So if someone writes a fanfic describing a romance Boromir once had with a cute female OC, set well BEFORE the events of "The Fellowship of the Ring," then that doesn't need to be labelled "AU." For all we know, Boromir may have fallen in love with a nice girl once upon a time -- or with an evil girl -- or with a DOZEN different girls at different times in his youth! Tolkien never told us anything about it, one way or the other, so we are free to "fill in the blanks" any way we please without needing to call it an "Alternate Universe"!

As long as nothing in the fanfic was squarely contradicting anything we learned about Boromir in his "canonical" scenes, it's all fair game!

5/24/2012 #84
Mrsbonnieful

Let me give you a specific example. In one SOM fic MAria has a sister who dies leaving her 3 children which are now found and are with Maria and Georg. Definitly not part of the original story. Is that AU?

5/24/2012 #85
Lorendiac

Let me give you a specific example. In one SOM fic MAria has a sister who dies leaving her 3 children which are now found and are with Maria and Georg. Definitly not part of the original story. Is that AU?

Well, it occurs to me that SOM is complicated by the fact that it was "loosely based on real life events" -- since the Von Trapp Family Singers actually existed. (In fact, I hadn't even realized there were such things as SOM fanfics until you mentioned it!)

But of course the movie itself could be called AU -- since the sequence of events in the movie is not exactly what happened according to the historical record. (For instance! If memory serves, the movie seems to show Maria and Georg coming back from their honeymoon right around the same time that Hitler took control of Austria and the swastika flags of Nazi Germany were being flown on Austrian soil -- but I think the wedding actually occurred many years earlier, when Hitler wasn't even the Chancellor of Germany yet!)

If we brush aside the supposed "link to real history," and just treat the movie with Julie Andrews as being in the same category as any other work of fiction, then my answer to your question would be that it all depends on the TIMING.

In other words:

1. If the fanfic shows three extra children being added to the household BEFORE the end of the movie -- i.e. before the family had fled from Austria -- then yes, it's AU, because in the movie it was clear that the family was no larger in the last several minutes of the film than it had been before. The fanfic writer is deliberately contradicting that "canonical fact."

2. On the other hand, if the three extra children in the fanfic were only added to the Von Trapp household in scenes set AFTER the end of the movie -- after Maria and Georg and the kids had left Austria for good -- then it's NOT automatically AU, because it is not explicitly contradicting anything we saw them doing in the movie. It's just a sort of "unauthorized sequel" describing what might have happened to those fictional characters after the final credits rolled.

5/24/2012 #86
Mrsbonnieful

Yes, I agree. SOM is different because it is based a a real family. I still think some authors are taking too many liberties. One even goes so far to say Georg's first wife was married before; like when she was 16. Another had Maria being bought, like a slave, by Georg's mother. I"m surprised there is no mention of AU in ffnet. guidelines. Maybe it's not all that important.

5/24/2012 #87
April Dawn Irene

I rarely find a fan fic that both appeals to me and has an OC as a main character. I suppose it can be hard to find that perfect balance that creates a great story.

5/27/2012 #88
thelastpen

Bit late to the party (my co-writer's been posting most of our fics lately, so I don't log in and/or check the forums much), but I thought I'd take a whipcrack at September Tea's questions.

Do you read fanfic with original characters?

Well, yes. Everyone does even if they don't realize it. Sometimes an OC is just the guy standing at the bus stop with the CCs. He's still and OC. However, I avoid OCs as main characters like the plague.

What's your preferred role for an original character - as the main character in a fic, in a supporting role?

Strictly supporting roles. I've seen too many fics where it's labeled as being about X CC and Y CC, but it's actually about the author's sparkly OCs that I do not care about in the slightest. If I want to read a story about OCs, I'll just go and read original fiction over at FictionPress or via my local library or my personal collection. I read fanfiction because I want to read about the CANON characters, not OCs.

Is it ok to pair a canon character with an original character?

Sure, it's okay. Is it often done well? Not in my opinion. There's a difference between something being acceptable in general and something being done well in specific after all. I'd still prefer for it to not be the main pairing of the story if I'm reading it though.

What do you feel makes an original character a Mary Sue?

In general, I'd say displacement. The character doesn't fit the setting. They're unusually powerful or gifted in some manner without reason. CCs who would have no reason to like them in canon are suddenly doting on them - or, on the flip side, suddenly loathing them. They don't make mistakes generally - and if they do, it's in extremes from minor to major, nothing in between. There's something unique about their appearance or in how people react to their appearance and, most important, if they look even remotely like how the author describes themselves - it's a really good sign of a self-insert imo. Also the name. It's generally weirdly unique in a it's hard to imagine anyone actually naming their kid this sort of way.

In general, I'd say that Mary Sue/Gary Stu characters are about extremes. They're generally not going to be the cashier at the mini-mart that you forget about two seconds later. They're the "incredibly beautiful person you can't take your eyes off of", or "hideously ugly" (haven't actually ran across that one yet), or the somewhat deceptive "completely average". Brown hair, brown eyes, average height, average weight. Nothing remarkable about them at all. Which in itself is fairly remarkable since most people have something about them that is not "completely average".

Note, Mary Sue/Gary Stu characters can also be the main characters in canon or in original fiction. As well, typically speaking, your main character in any canon is going to have some aspects of Mary Sue/Gary Stu-dom. It's just going to happen. Because, honestly, no one wants to read about the adventures of Plain Jane Whom Nothing Interesting Happens To.

5/28/2012 #89
Ericat15

I think that you have to bring the characters up to par with the characters already set up. And I definitely agree with #September Tea that the focus should be kept on the characters "that made me love that fandom in the first place."

5/30/2012 #90
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