yarroway: (NW1)
yarroway ([personal profile] yarroway) wrote2016-08-14 03:11 pm
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Original Characters

The What If interviews have been reminding me of old fics, and between that and some re-reading I've been doing I've focussed in on my conflicted feelings about original characters.



I often shy away from stories with OCs because they tend to take over the stories they appear in, and I'm here to read fanfiction not original fiction. OCs also tend to slither their way into an uncanny resemblance to the author, even if that was never the intent. I have a tendency to steer clear of any story with a summary about anyone's OC child or romantic partner.

Yet--there's always exceptions. OCs that capture the imagination without taking over the story. OCs who do not intrude, who do not resemble idealized versions of the writer, who read like actual people who come into the story with history and motivations of their own. Imperfect, human, characters who do not demand that the story be all about them. Some of them are just present as local color, people who appear briefly and then exit the stage. Some become compelling secondary characters.

The other version of not-really-but-sort-of OC is one I generally like--the exploration of characters barely seen or mentioned. House's parents, the Chen-Lupino couple, Grace, the man Kutner used to bully--these are examples of canon characters who aren't given much attention and I am interested in reading about them. I like to see how they fit into the canon universe. I like to see how understanding them changes (or doesn't) my understanding of canon.

All this brought me to wonder what all of you think of original characters in fanfiction. Are there some you like and some you don't? What differentiates the two? How do you handle them in your writing? Do you steer far clear of any hint of OC in your writing and reading?

[identity profile] menolly-au.livejournal.com 2016-08-14 10:14 pm (UTC)(link)
I've read quite a few House/OFC and House/OMC (which is rarer) stories. Like most genres of fanfic I found some of the stories very enjoyable, some okay, and some which had my eyes rolling around in my head:) I'm sure some of these OCs are writer inserts but unless its really obvious I don't mind.

I do find it interesting to see House interacting with someone other than the usual suspects - as long as the usual suspects aren't then painted as the villains who don't appreciate poor woobie House in the way that they should :)

I do think there is a tendency to make OCs perfect and multi-talented, this has crept into a few longer series that I've read and it does get tiresome in the end - the best ones avoid this trap. But, it's amateur fanfiction and I can read and take and leave the bits I like and don't like for the most part.

I do enjoy stories like you say that expand on minor characters, and I like outsider POV stories.

I don't have a lot of OCs in my fics - other than generic police officer etc, but I was fairly pleased with the couple I wrote from the OC's point of view.

Oh - I tell you what I can't get on with - this Character/Reader stuff that has started to show up. They use (Y/N) as a stand-in for the name of the reader, and my mind just goes ???###???
ext_25882: (Roman Brooch)

[identity profile] nightdog-barks.livejournal.com 2016-08-15 04:26 am (UTC)(link)
I do find it interesting to see House interacting with someone other than the usual suspects - as long as the usual suspects aren't then painted as the villains who don't appreciate poor woobie House in the way that they should :)

Agree with this 100%.

Edited because I wrote a bunch of other words trying to say something and it wasn't coming out right. Oy.
Edited 2016-08-15 04:39 (UTC)

[identity profile] yarroway.livejournal.com 2016-08-15 06:57 am (UTC)(link)
They use (Y/N) as a stand-in for the name of the reader, and my mind just goes ???###???

Yes so much to this! I think it's an easy way for the youngest writers to begin writing, and anything that results in kids writing can't be all bad. I still don't want to read it, though.

I do love outsider POV stories. I like seeing the craziness of canon through new eyes.

I've seen some OC stories that were great but they aren't the rule. At this point I don't click in unless I know and trust the writer. I probably miss out on some good fics that way, but I know the odds are good that I won't like the story.

I do find it interesting to see House interacting with someone other than the usual suspects - as long as the usual suspects aren't then painted as the villains who don't appreciate poor woobie House in the way that they should :)

That gets to me. When the OC isn't a character but a hammer to pound the other characters with. I think that's where my avoidance of OCs began. Can't House or Wilson or whoever just start a new relationship without slamming everyone else?
Edited 2016-08-15 07:02 (UTC)

[identity profile] srsly-yes.livejournal.com 2016-08-15 07:13 pm (UTC)(link)
...as long as the usual suspects aren't then painted as the villains who don't appreciate poor woobie House in the way that they should :)
-Soooo in agreement with you on this. It's a subcategory of "Are We Watching The Same Show?"

Oh - I tell you what I can't get on with - this Character/Reader stuff that has started to show up. They use (Y/N) as a stand-in for the name of the reader, and my mind just goes ???###???
Exactly! I haven't had the guts to click into a story. What does Y/N stand for? Yes/No?

[identity profile] menolly-au.livejournal.com 2016-08-15 08:30 pm (UTC)(link)
What does Y/N stand for? Yes/No?

That's what I thought when I first encountered one of these,and I was terribly confused! But no, it's 'your name'. I guess what you're supposed to do is download the fic and do a find and replace on the Y/N with your own name :)

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[identity profile] readingrat.livejournal.com 2016-08-16 06:48 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm sure some of these OCs are writer inserts
Then there are House/canon character fics, where the canon character (or House or both) doesn't resemble their screen manifestation in anything but name and appearance. S/he is either a writer insert or the kind of person the author wants that character to be. (Another sub-category of 'Are We Watching The Same Show?')

[identity profile] yarroway.livejournal.com 2016-08-16 07:58 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh gosh, yes!

What's fun is that those people probably think everyone else has it wrong. So maybe none of us is watching the same show.

[identity profile] sassyjumper.livejournal.com 2016-08-15 12:57 am (UTC)(link)
I generally like OCs when they're limited to giving an outsider's perspective, or to give a sense of place when the story is set outside of the usual surroundings.

I do usually avoid stories that list House/OC as a pairing. I'm sure some of those stories are well done. But in my early days of reading fanfic, I saw too many House/OC stories in which the author seemed to be self-inserting by providing a character that "gets" House soooo much better than Wilson/Cuddy/Cameron et al.

And even when that's not the case, I'm just not terribly interested in stories where an OC is a main character.

[identity profile] yarroway.livejournal.com 2016-08-15 12:43 pm (UTC)(link)
ITA, OCs are wonderful for providing a sense of place and for a little world building. They can add so much flavor to a story and anchor readers in a way exposition doesn't.

There have been fics I've read where a character is so well drawn that s/he fleshes out the sense of place in a way that exposition really can't.

I'm less interested in romantic pairings with OCs in general, because one half of the pairing is a character I don't know and don't care about.

The exception to that is if there's an open or poly relationship, and then I can have H/W with OCs involved who don't threaten the relationship I care most about.

[identity profile] readingrat.livejournal.com 2016-08-16 03:19 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm just not terribly interested in stories where an OC is a main character.
Ditto. I read fan fiction because of the canon characters. If I wanted OCs, I'd read original fiction.

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[identity profile] nightdog-barks.livejournal.com 2016-08-15 03:27 am (UTC)(link)
I love OCs and I love writing them. :D

Seriously, OCs, to me, can give me so much more leverage in situations involving canon characters. They can say and do things the canon characters would never do or say. The trick is, as you say, to keep them from taking over the story. For me, OCs encourage a freedom in writing that sometimes threatens to overshadow the original fic. There's that delicate balance to maintain between their story and the canon characters'.

[identity profile] yarroway.livejournal.com 2016-08-15 02:33 pm (UTC)(link)
I think you've expressed the crux of the issue right there. When a writer can maintain that balance the story benefits tremendously. OCs can bring so much to a story. There've been some that stay in my memory for years after I read a fic.

I have a few questions--feel free to answer or not. I'm just curious. Are there techniques you use to keep that balance? Are there any of your OCs who were harder to do that with?

The third House fic I ever wrote was taken over by a cliched OC who started out her life as a plot device to get the story rolling. Eventually half the fic turned into her story, and I had to scrap the whole thing and start over without her. It was a much better story for the change. In her case, though, she was a bad idea from the beginning. She was a product of my lack of experience and skill, not a character intrinsic to the story or one who added anything to it. On the other hand, the mistakes I made taught me a great deal about what to do and not do in future, so I'm kind of glad it happened the way it did.

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[identity profile] flywoman.livejournal.com 2016-08-15 01:43 pm (UTC)(link)
I basically never introduce OCs except when vital to the plot of a longer story, but I ascribe that to my own lack of imagination rather than actual antipathy. After all, I read loads of novels about all kinds of other characters, many of them highly enjoyable! On the other hand, I don't usually read fics starring non-canonical OCs, especially in a pairing with one of my main faves... but like just about anything else (adultery, incest, dubcon, oy), I'd be willing if it were done really well.

[identity profile] yarroway.livejournal.com 2016-08-16 08:06 pm (UTC)(link)
...like just about anything else... I'd be willing if it were done really well.

I'm learning that most of what I like and don't like in fics has exceptions, however unusual (for instance I don't like death fics, but I've recently discovered a love of apocalyptic stories--I guess it's okay to kill off characters if everyone else is being killed off too?).

Another example of my weird likes and dislikes--I don't like House or Wilson paired up with an OC. Except I did in Cuddycothes' TP&TP. Maybe because it was so wonderfully cracky, or because it was in a whole different world, or because she did it all so well, I don't know. But while I will always prefer House with Wilson, I liked House with Johanna.
Edited 2016-08-16 20:56 (UTC)

[identity profile] srsly-yes.livejournal.com 2016-08-15 07:47 pm (UTC)(link)
As a reader and writer I like OCs sprinkled into a story as supporting players. It adds texture and scope to the House-Wilson saga. One of my favorite outsider POV stories was hwshipper's Memoirs of an Oncology Department Secretary (http://hwshipper.livejournal.com/5427.html). Which reminds me, I also loved Shipper's Up Close and Personal: Five Times Wilson's Nieces Saw Him with House (http://hwshipper.livejournal.com/21506.html).

All my life I've always gravitated toward seniors. They often have a wealth of untapped knowledge. I also admire how less inhibited they are about speaking their mind. House and Wilson have had to put up with many fictionalized versions in my stories. In a way, even the skeletal typewriter in "The Snitch" was an ancient character from my childhood. It was based on an old Underwood I won in a typing competition as a kid. Lest you think I'm that old, the teacher's husband had a used typewriter business.

[identity profile] yarroway.livejournal.com 2016-08-16 08:21 pm (UTC)(link)
It's nice to have seniors as OCs and I'm glad the fandom has a writer who includes them. I try to use a variety of ethnicities for mine--though in this case I'm referring as much to characters mentioned in passing as I am to fully fledged OCs. It hit me when I first came to the fandom how Anglo many of the fan-created character names were, in spite of the stories being centered in a hospital in modern day urban New Jersey. So I decided to make sure I didn't do that myself.

I definitely saw the Snitch as more of a character than a device, and now I know why. :)

Just thinking our loud here--I wonder if for me one of the many issues isn't that OC-heavy fics tend to change the characterization of canon characters, even if the OC isn't paired romantically with the main character (but especially if they are). For instance, it's canon that House has moments of sweetness and incredible generosity towards those he loves, in whatever sense. It's also canon that he can be a real bastard to them. A fic in which he is sweet most of the time is not a fic about House no matter how in love he's supposed to be. Early on I tried a few H/OC fics and found House uninteresting and unrecognizable. I think that sort of thing could be done well, and maybe it has--I stopped reading them at that point.
Edited 2016-08-16 21:07 (UTC)

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[identity profile] yarroway.livejournal.com 2016-08-17 10:38 pm (UTC)(link)
I've been deciding whether to ask you this or not, and I think I will but if it's personal or anything please feel free to just ignore the questions.

If The Snitch was based on a real typewriter (one hopes it had considerably less attitude), then are your other OCs based in part on real people? Or how do you come up with them?

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[identity profile] taiga13.livejournal.com 2016-08-16 04:08 am (UTC)(link)
I like OCs that fill out the world for the canon characters, or provide an outside perspective. Nightdog and Blackmare are brilliant with OCs but I expect you know that already.
Like others have written I dislike OCs who are author stand-ins, particularly when they're paired with a canon character.

[identity profile] yarroway.livejournal.com 2016-08-16 08:26 pm (UTC)(link)
Nightdog and Blackmare are brilliant, period. OCs are just one example.

I really enjoy outsider POVs. I think that's the one sort of OC that I reliably enjoy.

It's ridiculous, but I get jealous on behalf of my ship when a new character comes in and makes away with one of them. That's not about the writing or anything, just about my stubborness.

[identity profile] readingrat.livejournal.com 2016-08-16 01:15 pm (UTC)(link)
Reading:
I mostly stay away from House/OC fics for the reasons the others named already. I've read a few stories with 'non-pairing' OCs that dominate the story; sometimes it works for me, mostly it doesn't. Thing is, I read fan fiction for the sake of the canon characters — to continue the story, so to say. Reading about, say, House's long-lost sister doesn't really fulfil that need unless she fills me in on a vital part of House's childhood. OCs or expanded minor characters that are used to give an outsider's perspective on canon characters can be a great thing, though.

Writing:
In shorter stories, I've used OCs or minor characters for the 'outsider perspective' thing. In my longer works I've been forced to create any number of OCs, partly to keep the plot moving in the right direction, partly because my stories moved outside the hermetically sealed world of PPTH, which made interaction with other characters inevitable. The challenge lies in finding the right balance between a cardboard cut-out that fills empty plot spaces and a character in their own right that insists on taking up space of their own.

[identity profile] yarroway.livejournal.com 2016-08-16 08:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Thing is, I read fan fiction for the sake of the canon characters — to continue the story, so to say.

Yes, and when OCs become too prominent they take away from that. I do like original fiction, but, as you say, that's not what I come to fanfic for.

You have to create people in a story unless it's set in a closed room type of situation. I don't see how you could write the Kelpieverse without them. I mean, House is bound to know someone in Britain, Rachel is bound to have a caretaker, etc. In some small sense Rachel may be an OC. She was so young in the show that we didn't get to see much of her personality so if a writer tackles her when she's no longer a preschooler they have a lot of freedom and a lot of work.

Do you prefer the cutouts or the characters when you write? How do you keep them from taking over?

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[identity profile] blackmare.livejournal.com 2016-08-17 02:22 am (UTC)(link)
Reading about, say, House's long-lost sister doesn't really fulfil that need unless she fills me in on a vital part of House's childhood.

Yeeesss, this. I love OCs but they need to have a reason to be there. My usual reason is either to cause plot to happen, or to provide an outsider's view of canon characters, or (ideally) both.

I've learned a lot from Corgigirl, Nightdog, Perspi, and Deelaundry. They all helped me have enough confidence to try for OCs that did more than bag the groceries and then vanish.

[identity profile] jezziejay.livejournal.com 2016-08-16 11:51 pm (UTC)(link)
I enjoy writing OCs, for quite a few reasons. Firstly, you are not bound by accepted canon characteristics, so you have greater freedom in how you write them and what you have them do. And secondly, I love writing my OTP from another POV, and OCs are a useful medium to do that through.

But yes, self-insert fics are also not my thing. I mean, I get it - young girls with crushes on fictional characters or famous people, and well, what harm. But it's not what I'd choose to read.

The worst use of them, I think, is when female OCs are created just to be bashed. I sigh every time I read a fic which features a two-dimensional woman - typically the SO or ex of the desired male character - and she's a 'bitch' or a 'slut' or a 'gold-digger'. Like, I love me a good love triangle story, and I'll always ship an OTP ending, but does the girlfriend always have to be nothing more than a plot device that deserves to be cheated on or left? I wish these women were written with more depth, even if they are flawed, *especially* if they are flawed. It bothers me that women write other women like this, particularly in slash fiction.

My biggest peeve in RPF fiction is seeing RL girlfriends portrayed this way. Nothing will make me nope out of a fic quicker. Ugh.

[identity profile] blackmare.livejournal.com 2016-08-17 02:31 am (UTC)(link)
Maybe it's just that I don't get to spend as much time or range nearly as widely in fandom as I used to, but I haven't seen the demonized-ex thing in a while now, thankfully. I haaaated iiiiit.

I DID see a House/Reader ficlet thing on Tumblr a couple days ago, though, and my eyes just about popped out of my head in shock. I had no idea there was anyone that young in this fandom! It's kind of reassuring and sweet.

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[identity profile] yarroway.livejournal.com 2016-08-17 05:19 pm (UTC)(link)
ITA about the girlfriends, especially RL ones. It seems to me to be the same dynamic as those fics where House's romantic interest is sooo much better than everyone else in his life and every other canon character who might have been a love interest is dragged through the dirt to make hm/her look even better.

So you sometimes use OCs as a means to explore your pairing--that's a great idea. I don't recall many OCs in your House work. Am I revealing my aging memory, or are you talking about other fandoms?

Edited 2016-08-17 23:22 (UTC)

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