Author has written 5 stories for Hunger Games.
Female, early-twenties, physics/biology PhD student.
I read everything from A Song of Ice and Fire to The Devil wears Prada, including Terry Pratchett novels and historical non-fiction. I learned English as a child in Australia, and it will always remain for me the language of fairy tales and high adventure whereas French is for serious stuff and real life.
As fanfiction goes, I like active and layered characters with strong personalities, interactions rather than monologues and complex plots. The devil is in the details, show you know who and what you're writing about. Show you know where the story is going with foreshadowing and clever twists.
Don't tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass. Anton Chekhov
I am highly suspicious of mistakes in summaries because it shows you probably haven't bothered to spell and grammar check your writing at all. If the summary is 'it's better than it sounds' or some variant, I won't read. It's like someone who shows up on a date in ugly clothes and says 'give my personality a chance'. Please make an effort, it doesn't have to be perfect.
I answer all signed reviews. I lose interest in reviewing if an author doesn't reply to my reviews.
A short guide to avoiding over the top characters:
Mary Sue: name given to an overpowered character that hogs all the attention in a story. The story becomes simply in excuse to show how awesome that character is, and the plot, conflict and secondary character development is lost.
How to know if you are in danger of writing a Mary Sue (or Stu)? Because, in order to avoid Sues (or turning canon characters into Sues), most internet guides would have you make boring protagonists instead of interesting and special non-Sueish heroes. And because many people use the word Sue for OCs they dislike instead of actual Mary Sues.
Common misconception: give some flaws to Sue and she'll be a great 3D character (I'll keep saying 'she' because it's simpler, but 'he' works just as well). No. She'll just be a Sue with flaws. People with no insecurities or fears are often flat and irritating, so avoid that, but they're not automatically Sues.
Rule 0 (the most important one): People don't read fanfic for your OCs (this depends on the fandom, but it is usually true), so keep the canon characters on the front scene. And don't completely change the personality of a (major) canon character with no (solid!) explanation. Otherwise it's an OC you just slapped a canon name on.
1) Sue/Canon-character-turned-Sue is much more powerful (or wealthy, or smart) than the antagonists and therefore winning is no challenge.
I honestly have nothing against black-belt models with telekinetic abilities and CIA worthy hacker skills as long as human interactions are realistic (see 2)), the abilities are acquired through believable training/life-experience, and the powers are used intelligently in a plot-relevant way. Heroes should be special. They also should face villains that are at first glance even more powerful, otherwise winning is nothing special. If the hero is superpowered then the villain must be too. If you cringe at the thought of having your character fail at anything or being overpowered at first, you're at risk of creating a Sue.
2) People become stupid incompetents around her because otherwise they'd not need Sue's help.
If to make Sue shine you have to make the other characters weak/stupid/incompetent/evil/cliche or OOC, you're doing it wrong. If she's the only one to notice something obvious, there is a problem. In the same way, if people immediately trust her or think she's important for no reason except the fact that she's Sue, you've lost the realism and often the reader's interest.
In the same way, if everyone becomes hateful bullies around her, mistreating her for no reason, it's ridiculous.
3) She's always the right person in the right place at the right time.
Some situations require an impulsive and aggressive hero to tackle, others require patient planning and subtlety. If you make your MC aggressive, subtle, impulsive and patient you have a coherence problem. Every quality can be a flaw in the right situation, that's why having more than one character is often useful: characters balance each other out. You should have your characters tackle situations out of their comfort zone because that's where they'll grow.
4) She's special because she exists, not because she does anything truly noteworthy. Everyone important must either love or hate her, or at least talk about her. No one will simply not care.
If everyone says a character is important or awesome, you have to show them being awesome through what she actually does. Otherwise the reader will wonder what the big deal about Sue is and soon start finding her very irritating. Additionally, if it pains you to write Sue being wrong or fail at being friends with 'someone who matters', you're too emotionally involved in the character and should be careful.
If you notice that every antagonist hates (but still grudgingly respects) Sue and makes their life all about hating her, rethink it. The world shouldn't revolve around your character with other characters as mouthpieces to say how wonderful she is. If everyone who dislikes her is evil, rethink it. In the same way if the law enforcement lets Sue get away with everything without asking questions because she's just that special, there is a problem.
5) Reality doesn't apply.
I don't mean that Sue is the only mutant on the planet and she has purple hair. The mutant is okay if there is an explanation and a real plot point to it and the purple hair is cliche and probably pointless, but that's not what makes a Sue.
I mean that Sue outwits the best specialists and beats the best fighters. If you want Sue to beat the greatest swordsman of all times, have her poison his drink. Don't try to convince us that a year of swinging swords around has given her a fighting chance. Sue can be gifted of course, but the most gifted musicians or athletes still practice hours every day, so having her pick up skills without effort isn't believable.
Favorite books: The Empire Trilogy by R.E. Feist and J. Wurts, Dune (the pre-Dune trilogies) by Brian Herbert and K. J. Anderson, Dangerous Liaisons (Les Liaisons dangereuses) by C. de Laclos, the Bartimaeus Trilogy by J. Stroud. Le Pacte des Marchombres, by Pierre Bottero.
Favorite Series: Babylon Five (by a mile. I like Start Trek but B5 is a pillar of my childhood). Then comes Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, House M.D, Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey.
"The universe is driven by the complex interaction between three ingredients: matter, energy, and enlightened self-interest," G'Kar, Babylon 5.
"The avalanche has started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote," Kosh, Babylon 5.
"Besides, if you're going to die horribly, you might as well do it with style," Bartimaeus, the Ring of Salomon.
"Cigarettes are just like hamsters, quite harmless until you put them in your mouth and light them on fire," the Internet.
“We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?” The Tenth Doctor, Doctor Who.
Because having one copied and pasted paragraph that supposedly makes you look like a concerned activist is in fashion and because this one made me smile.
OBITUARY FOR THE LATE MR. COMMON SENSE
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.
He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain; why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn't always fair; and Maybe it was my fault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6 year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get Parental consent to administer Calpol, sun lotion or a band-aid to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband, churches became businesses, and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason.
He is survived by his 3 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, Someone Else Is To Blame, and I'm A Victim. Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.
And about common sense:
To all those 'free thinkers' (hear sarcasm here) who have pasted sentences like: '98% of teens would be devastated if Justin Bieber was about to jump off a building, if you belong to the 2% who would buy popcorn and cheer him on, post this in your profile.' in your profile, I will think you're a conformist. First, I can't believe you'd want a guy dead just because his songs/attitude/looks/whatever grate on your nerves and second, I'd say over 85% of people (let's say 14 years old and above) think Justin Bieber is uncool, so you're hardly being unique. Did I mention that you said without a second thought that you wanted a guy dead?
If you had enough time to read this far, I'm sure you have enough to check out one of my stories. Why, you might even like them ;D.
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