Original Characters

Blue Kat

Member
I figured I'd start a thread on OCs because I've seen a couple of people talking about them elsewhere on the forum and I thought it could be fun to have a more involved discussion and share some recommendations. Most of what I read/write is OC centric and it's always bummed me out when people write them off because OCs can be really great when done well.

Anyway, one of my favorite fics on HPFF is Periphery by my_voice_rising. It opens with the main character, Chloe, receiving a note from Sirius Black: Marlene McKinnon, her best friend, is dead. They haven't spoken in over a month. The story then takes you back to Chloe's time at Hogwarts where you learn the tragic event that resulted in her friendship with Marlene and the Marauders, including a complicated relationship with Sirius that is equal parts slow burn and unrequited-but-maybe-requited love (it's hard to say). All the while, the plot moves toward answering the question that begins the story: what caused the falling out between Marlene and Chloe? The author writes beautifully well-developed and well-rounded characters; the quality of the writing is superb and the fic is full of beautiful, highly evocative prose.

What other OC-centric fics have you read and loved?
 

DobbyMinerva

New member
Thank you for starting this thread! I definitely agree that OC-fic can be a lot of fun to read (write) when done well. As a writer, I actually find it really hard to come up with stories without them! OCs are great because they give you a lot flexibility, as well as a chance to write about canon characters from a fresh perspective.

Some recent ones I've liked:
Wide Awake by OldNumberSeven (an impressively detailed Marauders/OC)
Strangers At Drakeshaugh by Northumbrian (an interesting next-gen where the OCs are muggles)

Out of curiosity: what about OCs who are based on canon, such as a very minor character from the series that's been fleshed out to the point where they're pretty much a new character. Do people consider them OCs?
 

Blue Kat

Member
I think I'd put those kinds of characters in their own category. They're not exactly OCs, but they've got a lot of original content. They're sort of a hybrid, maybe? The fic that I mentioned above, Periphery, does a really good job of that with Marlene McKinnon...and I think I read one that did that with Eloise Midgen, but it was a super long time ago.
 

darsynia

Moderator
Staff member
I am writing an OC and I am having a blast with her. She's what some people consider the worst kind of OC--she falls into the category of 'self insert' even though she's not really like me at all. She wakes up in the Harry Potter universe and discovers that she has swapped places with her own magical self. For the actual reader this means they can imagine that they exist in the Harry Potter universe too! Are they magical there, too? Here's hoping!

One of the fun parts for her is the way that people end up appreciating when a person picks up special things about them and remember them right away. Because Elodie knows all of the characters so well, she's able to use that knowledge to help people feel more comfortable with her. She doesn't fawn all over Harry Potter. She asks Hermione if her name is from A Winter's Tale. She encourages Ron Weasley to talk about Quidditch. She asks Tonks if she's a Metamorphmagus after seeing her hair change color in conversation.

Another thing I realized about halfway through my story (and I'm going to keep it, because while I'm not writing her as my own personal self insert, I want the reader to feel like they could pretend they're Elodie if they want to) is--I didn't describe her! I described her height, and her hair length, but nothing about what color her hair or eyes are. I think it works because we can all imagine what Elodie looks like, but it does mean I can't commission any fanart of it, hehe.
 

Blue Kat

Member
I am writing an OC and I am having a blast with her. She's what some people consider the worst kind of OC--she falls into the category of 'self insert' even though she's not really like me at all. She wakes up in the Harry Potter universe and discovers that she has swapped places with her own magical self. For the actual reader this means they can imagine that they exist in the Harry Potter universe too! Are they magical there, too? Here's hoping!

One of the fun parts for her is the way that people end up appreciating when a person picks up special things about them and remember them right away. Because Elodie knows all of the characters so well, she's able to use that knowledge to help people feel more comfortable with her. She doesn't fawn all over Harry Potter. She asks Hermione if her name is from A Winter's Tale. She encourages Ron Weasley to talk about Quidditch. She asks Tonks if she's a Metamorphmagus after seeing her hair change color in conversation.

Another thing I realized about halfway through my story (and I'm going to keep it, because while I'm not writing her as my own personal self insert, I want the reader to feel like they could pretend they're Elodie if they want to) is--I didn't describe her! I described her height, and her hair length, but nothing about what color her hair or eyes are. I think it works because we can all imagine what Elodie looks like, but it does mean I can't commission any fanart of it, hehe.
I've always been intrigued by the whole "person falls into story" trope--I've got a draft of one kicking around in my unposted WIPs folder. One of these days I'll post it, probably. Your fic sounds really interesting though--and I really love the name Elodie!

I definitely tend to err more on the side of minimal physical descriptions of my OCs, largely because I tend to write in the first person and I have found that it can be difficult to incorporate those details into the narrative without sounding forced and weird ("Let me describe myself. I am a tall brunette with eyes like the sea after a storm...").

I think people tend to be way too harsh about self-inserts. Self-inserts can be great when they're in the hands of a capable writer.
 

Northumbrian

New member
Personally, I love writing from the perspective of original or minor characters. It allows a degree of separation from the major characters, and it means readers can't accuse you of poor characterisation!

Jacqui Charlton, the Muggle narrator of Strangers at Drakeshaugh (thanks for the mention DobbyMinerva) sees Harry and Ginny as a young married couple with three kids, not "The Chosen One" and his former Quidditch star wife. That alone gives a lot of freedom.

However, based on the very few self-insert stories I've read, I can understand why people are harsh on self-insert characters. Personally, if I read a blurb where the self-insert character arrives in Hogwarts and Draco and Harry start fighting over her (or him), I'm not going to read it.

Some people, however, take their dislike of self-inserts too far. I've been told that Jacqui Charlton is a self-insert, and that that fact alone makes the story unreadable. I've always denied it. She's female, I'm not. She's a stay-at-home mother, I fail at both those hurdles. However, as I write this I realise that like me, she has two kids, and a love of motorbikes. Perhaps there's more of me in her than I think.

To me, most of the minor characters are pretty much the same as original characters. "My" Susan Bones is rather uptight, but I've read stories where she's a man-crazy party girl. There's nothing in the books to say one way or another. There are a lot of named characters we know nothing about. I don't think Terry Boot gets even one line of dialogue from JKR, for example.

I agree with both darsynia and Blue Kat, if I read a story where the narrator said she was "a tall brunette with eyes like the sea after a storm..." I'd stop reading.

-N-
 

Blue Kat

Member

Tsubasa Kurono

New member
OCs are definitely refreshing only if the writer knows how to handle them without taking away the spotlight from the canon (or, to put it bluntly, reads like a distasteful self-insert). In some cases, we do need to use OCs to make the magic work in certain stories. It's not about them being a non-canon character, but more about the writer's ability to handle and balance OCs with the canon cast.

For example, in the oneshots I have that features James Sirius Potter in school with his friends, they will have to be OCs because Rowling never expanded the Next Generation beyond the epilogue (and no, Cursed Child doesn't exist to me, sorry).

Or, when I have to write scenes set in other magical schools such as Mahoutokoro. It wouldn't make sense to force canon characters from Hogwarts or Ilvermorny into a different wizarding institution without a logical reason. Also, certain cultural nuances and themes cannot be explored or properly fleshed out due to cultural differences (like, you can't expect Harry to understand the complicated Japanese customs out of the blue, right?).
 

Northumbrian

New member
In some cases, we do need to use OCs to make the magic work in certain stories. It's not about them being a non-canon character, but more about the writer's ability to handle and balance OCs with the canon cast.
True
When I started planning my stories (they all take place in the same future timeline, any I started them before Cursed Child) I decided that the canon one third of Dumbledore's Army who intermarried (there are 24 DA members: H/G, R/H, Geo./Ang. & Nev./Hannah are "canon") was enough. This meant I had to create partners for the other DA members. As for the next gen, unless you want an unhealthy number of kissing cousins, OCs are the only option.
(like, you can't expect Harry to understand the complicated Japanese customs out of the blue, right?).
I don't even expect non-British writers to understand complicated British customs out of the blue! ;)
 
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