From the seasoned one…

Creating new and original characters in an established fandom:

What do people want when they’re reading fanfiction?  To answer that, you have to understand what fanfiction is.  Fanfiction is a story based on the characters of a book, movie, or television show, not written by the original authors.  Fanfiction is written by fans of the original material.  The stories are the fans’ way of showing appreciation for the material they fell in love with or to make something occur in the story that didn’t happen in the original material.  For example, romantic pairings of characters.

Therefore, when a fan is reading fanfiction, they are looking for the things that drew them to the original material to begin with.  A writer needs to keep these things in mind as they’re writing fanfiction and adding new, original characters.

New, original characters are great in fanfiction.  They change things up, expand plots, and allow the writer to explore aspects of the story’s universe they might not be able to explore if they just stick to using the established characters.  However, one must be careful when adding original characters.  If they don’t fit properly in that story’s universe, the writer risks turning off the readers, causing them to abandon the rest of the story.  Can you imagine a nun showing up in Star Wars?

Creating characters for an established fandom is a lot like creating characters for original works of fiction in that:

  • You don’t want to write Mary Sue’s or Marty Stu’s.  Characters that are so utterly perfect that a reader can’t relate to them.
  • In the reverse, don’t make the character so stupid or unappealing that a reader wonders how they managed to make it out of diapers.
  • If the character is a villain, don’t make them a total idiot that wouldn’t be able to find their way onto a bus.  Challenge the readers with a dubious, intelligent villain.

However, when it comes to adding new, original characters within an established fandom, keep in mind:

  • There needs to be a reason for them to be there.  Do they appear just in time to save the day?  Does the character create a love triangle between an established pairing to add drama?  What’s their purpose?  An added character without a purpose is just a waste of ink and time.
  • Don’t add so many original characters that you completely push out the established characters and the story is no longer about the established characters or their world.  This goes back to the original question of what do fanfiction readers expect when they read fanfiction?  Do you think you can hold their attention if 90% of the story is about characters who never crossed the street in the original material?

Just a couple of other random tips.  We don’t know these new characters and you have to treat them that way.  Most of the time in fanfiction, you’re dropping in established characters from a series or book.  You don’t have to spend a lot of time introducing their character or describing them since the reader knows them from the original material.  However, with new, original characters, the writer needs to remember we don’t know anything about them.

  • Build a history for them and introduce it a little at a time in such a way that it works with the story, but don’t do an info dump to catch us up.  When giving people details, they will only remember a small portion of them or will get bored and skip ahead to get to the story once more if there is too much.  Don’t give the readers information overload.
  • Like any other new character, we need to picture them.  Give us enough details of what they look like to build a picture, but let our own imaginations work as well.

Adding characters is a great way to explore a fandom’s universe.  Have a great time creating them and happy writing!

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