How to Make Your OC Awesome without Making Him/her Into a Mary-sue/Gary-stu
By Prof. Naga BA, MH
There are tons of guides about avoiding the creation of a Mary-sue/Gary-stu throughout the internet, but nobody ever say anything about making it awesome. Admit it, people. I know you have this problem. Even I have. But then I found a way-a way that will make the title into reality if you do it nicely and diligently. One single drop of ignorance and you're toast. There are steps to reach enlightenment. Scroll down and you'll know it.
ATTENTION: This guide is not for minor OCs that only appears for a very brief moment. If you're making a story and you want minor OCs for villains -- you can actually make them into a Sue/Stu, because Sues and Stus are meant to be annihilated.
Step 1: Themselves
1.1 The Protoform
Where does your OC come from? Most fanfic writers (especially girls) make their OCs based on themselves. They can also inspire by someone else-like your siblings, parents, or even your anthropomorphic dog. Wherever they came from, give them a name and decide their age, birthday, hair color, etc.
There's your awesome-to-be OC!
Keep in mind, though, that your OC must fit with her fandom surrounding. Like an Uchiha OC cannot have any other hair color but black. Grey-black, blue-black, purple-black is acceptable-but not white or pink. And they can't exist AFTER the massacre. Put them in pre-massacre timeline instead or better yet before the creation of Konoha itself.
Or an Autobot can't have red eyes, unless later you explained in detail why. Like...they used to be Decepticons.
OCs for fandoms such as KHR, Bleach, CLAMP works, etc is much easier. They-as far as I see-are not as strict as the two examples above.
If you already have one, then move forward!
1.2 Getting Deep Inside
Now that your OC is set, they need to be given personality. It's up to you how does your OC behave normally. However, this is the hard part.
Well, that's what you think.
Actually, it's quite simple. Start with one key personality. For instance: ignorant. With that one trait, expand it and put other personality traits. They can't possibly be ignorant forever; there has to be something that happens (perhaps an interaction with a canon character) that triggers their motivation to change. You have the brain, so you make something up. Take your time; you don't have to come up with something as you read this guide.
So, I lied! This is actually the easiest part! The hardship of this point is actually you. You are the brain of the whole OC-creating thing. If at one point you make your OC out of character it's your fault. So, focus!
Anyway, let's move forward!
For whatever reason you make your OC, whether it's for a fanfiction, roleplay, or application, they have to have a past-short or long. This is the tricky part and you will change it around as time passes due to the ever-flowing storyline. Good for those of you who're making an OC for a finished series like Sailor Moon or Death Note. Since they've reached their end, no more updates will be given and you can make up your OCs past much more freely.
Making up the past of your OC is the same as creating your OC themselves. In fact, the past looks like it has a body. Anyway, once again, adjust it to the timeline. OCs that are attached to main characters (like Tsunayoshi, Ichigo, or Naruto) are usually trickier, but what you have to do is keep yourself up-to-date and I can assure you that you and your OC will go just fine. If your OC is more related to a minor canon, it's usually easier to make a story of.
Take my example: my OC, Nagayoshi (oh, shut up; yes, it's based on myself) is related to Kakuzu strongly. Since Kakuzu's profile is mostly unknown, it's easier for me to play around with their relationship by adjusting him a little. How they first meet, how do they get connected, and all. So far (which is almost chapter 20 and still counting-whoo!), I've been successful, or so my readers said to me. Readers never lie, see.
Of course, you can modify the canon but not too much. In my case, I try to keep it as loyal as possible to the original storyline. I only make Kakuzu a little softer, but of course, keeping his moneygrubber and hot-headed side intact at all times.
And of course, in a life, there HAS to be ups and downs. Your OCs can't be happy-go-lucky or depressed forever. There has to be loss, death, sadness, hardships at one point and victory, life, happiness, and luck on the other point. Make it realistic. Look at other people's life. You don't do it there's a big chance your OC might come from a lame background.
Remember: your goal is to make your OC awesome.
So you have finished the entirety of their past. Good! You have a good view of what they would and/or wouldn't do in the future as you continue their story. However, keep the long version to yourself. When you put your OC's past into an application, shrink it 50-80% of the whole thing. Nobody in the internet wants to spend their time reading your OC's memoir.
By reading and following this first step, you have created your OC! Yay! Now, it's time to move them on, and so shall we!
Step 2: The First Baby Steps
2.1 Talents and Abilities
The most challenging section ever! I made up with two categories of world below, because not all fandom has the same attribute.
2.1.1 T&A for non-fantasy world fandom</u>
If your OC lives in the world like that of Chobits, Ouran, or High School Musical, then they can't have talents or abilities that are inhuman. They can't be Superman; however, they can be Sherlock Holmes.
Every parent (authors) wants their kids (OCs) to be good, smart, and perfect. They can, except for the perfect part. You can make your OC a baseball champion, a high-ranked detective with marvelous power of deduction, or convincing actors. However, they can't be all of them. Pick one up to, at the most, five talents. Sure, it's easier to develop your OC into awesome when they have that much talent, but the problem is that it's terribly risky.
If your OC only has one talent, use that one power to give them other power. Like...if your OC is a great actor, that acting talent can help them go through things happening in their life. It can be used to trick their boss or teacher, it can bring them to the Oscars, or worse, it could bring them to their own fall-depending on how you want them to be.
If your OC has more than one, though, you have to make some judgments first. Despite having the maximum amount of talents, use only one or two most frequently. Let the other talents be forgotten. It's an effective way to trick your readers -- in a good way -- from thinking that your OC is a Sue.
What's better is when your OC started out with no talent at all. They earn one as they live on. This is actually the best way to make your OC awesome, and what's more, since they started from zero and work their butt off for it, they won't be a Mary-sue/Gary-stu!
2.1.2 T&A for fantasy world fandom</u>
Fantasy world is much more flexible to shape. No matter in what fandom you are, you can do what is impossible in real life. Here, your OC can fly, teleport, telepathy, etc. However, again, adjustments! (OHNOES).
OHYUS. Even fantasy has rules. You can't be God-like, even when your OC has flaws. Therefore, absolute immortality is a big NO. Five-minute immortality is acceptable. At least, they still can die.
Look at your designated fandom. If it's Twilight, there can only be humans, vampires, and werewolves. You can't put Big Foot or Predator in it. Your OC may have Edward Cullen's mind-reading ability, but can't be more effective than his.
If your fandom is Naruto and you want flying ability...haha...no way -- at least not without the combination of nature and chakra. I used to make an OC like that exactly but after learning that she has Sue-ish abilities, I immediately stop using her and create a new one -- which is Nagayoshi. Now it hurts me when I reread the stories in which she first appeared.
See? Even I make mistakes.
I must insist, though, on this world, your OC must only have FIVE at the most. Any more than that and you have crossed the forbidden line between human and god. In fact, let me give the breakdowns below:
~Superhero(ine): ONE power that can be break down into many sub-power. ((Ex. The Flash's power is anything with speed. He can use that speed to vibrate his molecules and become intangible.))
~Ninja: Depending on rank, 3-4 jutsu (excluding the basic ones). Genin should only have one; Kage/Sannin/S-rank criminal can have more than five (what a beautiful chance).
~Twilight vampire: ONE type of ability only. All vampires can run fast and jump high, so those two are not included as abilities.
~Twilight werewolf: What else to say? They can only transform themselves plus all the abilities werewolves possess.
~Shinigami: About 3-4, depending on rank too. Even Captains don't seem to have a lot of abilities.
[If I miss anything, notify me.]
I was about to put mutant, wizard, and robot there but I cancelled it. Mutants are born with a power; wizards can add their own spells; and robots don't have power. It would be really awesome if your character can only use one ability to create many kinds of benefits. My OC Nagayoshi is a lightning chakra specialist; she can do anything with lightning from electrocuting someone to sensing electromagnetic fields for a certain perimeter. She's also a thief, but other than missions, she never uses it. As of now, that ability was kind of forgotten.
This section is for interaction with canon of your selected fandom.
It won't be a fanfiction/roleplay if your OC doesn't interact with the canon. You can decide who are they working for, their friends, rivals, nemesis, or lover. Again, the hardships in this one is on who your OC are interacting with. If it's the main character of the fandom, then it's usually a little bit hard to make a romantic relationship. On the other hand, if it's with a minor character, it should be easy (depending on the character).
Now, to make this interaction happen, you have to set a possible scenario. For example: you want your OC to make an interaction with Pein while you know perfectly that Amegakure is a strict area and your OC came from other village. How are you going to make it happen? Does Pein sent his men to capture your OC for what they have done? Was he on a solo, seriously-important mission and stumble upon your OC in the forest?
Make it logical. It's just a little absurd to find one of the Olympus gods in some chess club. Unless that canon does travel around, you're lucky then.
What's awesome is you arrange a genius way to meet with a canon that is almost impossible to meet. It's a challenge, but that's where the fun is.
2.3 You've Had Me At 'Hello'
This has been a controversy everywhere in fanfictioning universe: pairing your OC with a canon. Not only that, it's the most difficult. I've worked my butt off for this one too. Everybody always say that being paired with a canon is Sue-ish, especially for characters like Edward Cullen, Percy Jackson, or Sasuke Uchiha, because they either already have a love of their life or they just have no room for love.
You can make those types of character forget their canon pair: by making an AU story, where Bella Swan is your OC and Edward saves her from the car and la...la...la.... But of course, that is the fastest way to make a Sue and a bash-worth character, and it's not awesome. So DON'T do it. For your own good.
In pairing with a main canon (whether they're protagonist or antagonist), the secret of success lies in your creativity and storyline elaboration. So the more complicated your story, the more chance Edward Cullen would fall for your OC. Hopefully...
Oh, so your OC isn't in love with a main character. But you're asking: "how many canons that can fall for my OC?"
I'd say maximum three. Two, if they're main canons. It's better if there's only one canon but the rest are OCs. For example: your OC is a celebrity. They're good-looking, charming, sexy, just...hot! Obviously, celebrities have admirers, stalkers, you name it. But it would be better (awesome, perhaps) if those stalkers are minor, forgettable OCs. Meanwhile, your OC has to work hard to get the canon's heart.
That...apparently...is what I'm trying to do in my mega-series right now. Romance is just not my forte. In my story, my OC has two admirers so far, and they're both my own OCs too. For me, you can have as many OC admirers as you want as long there's only one canon involved in your OC's love life.
2.4 Spotlight Issues
This is also a problem in some certain fanfiction writers. I know that your OC is the main character of your fanfiction right now, but that doesn't mean they get all the good stuff. Make them fall, not just once, several times, so that other characters that has better skills in doing that certain activity can shine. Yes, your OC can be strong, smart, and everything, but readers want to see more of the others too. You're only lucky when your readers are five-year-olds-they haven't understood the true beauty of a story.
I've seen an Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfic that has this exact of issue. The main character of that fic, a female OC, is not bad. She's not a bitch, not a weakling, and not omnipotent either. Yet, she's always involved in all plot of the original story, many times stealing Katara's spotlight where the young waterbender should have a role in that certain plot. At that time of reading, I was still clueless about this Mary-sue business, but now that I've learned about it, I just realize that was not right. The author should have just made an alternate timeline for that character instead of replacing her on some canon's spotlight. I'm begging you, don't do that.
Well, of course, if you intend to alter a canon's spotlight, make sure that that character doesn't really have a big role in the scene. For example: you cannot replace Ichigo Kurosaki from rescuing Rukia when she was about to get executed. Ichigo was the one who is supposed to rescue her. If you do that, then what have you done to the IchiRuki coupling!?!
An acceptable example is when you put your OC as a substitute to one of Team Jacob's werewolves -- but NOT Jacob himself. With that, your OC doesn't disturb the original storyline.
Or...you can make an AU storyline and say...your OC adopted Naruto as his/her own son. Again, it takes all your creative juices to make your story, your OC, and the canon themselves good.
It's a different story, though, if your OC is situated with weaker canons. If on one situation your OC is the strongest character around, then you can actually steal the smaller ones' spotlight. For example, Bleach:
Your OC is in some patrolling mission with low-ranked Shinigamis (anyone lower than the big 10 and captains) and a Menos Grande suddenly appears. Their comrades were helpless; they're just not strong enough to beat a Menos Grande. Your OC happens to be the highest rank amongst them all (can be anything).
Since your OC is strong, you can actually make your OC defeat the Menos singlehandedly. They're the most powerful amongst the group, so why not? However, if your OC is not powerful enough to defeat the Hollow, despite their blood-shedding efforts, there's one solution to save your OC life: bring down the Deus Ex Machina! It can be anyone stronger than your OC.
It depends, once again, on how your story goes. But if you try, your story might have a perfect character balance -- and not making your OC lame too.
Step 3: Fitting in With the People
One crucial point here; and, no, no more sub-steps.
This one might sound a little bit the same as point 2.2 Interaction. Anyway, this one is more elaborate than the first one.
So your OC has met this canon of your choice, or any other canon they're supposed to have connections with. Whoever they are, they have personality. Personality is like magnets. Two personalities that do match sticks, and repels when they don't, just like magnets.
Now, I want you to think over on your OC and the canons -- especially when you're about to pair them together. Do their personalities match? Will that canon want to go out with your OC? Does your OC have a turn-off that makes the canon turn away from them?
Don't you tell me "Oh, [Canon name] will absolutely fall in love with [OC name] and do stuff with her because he/she is just SOOOOOO sexy!"
If you do, then you're not being serious with this OC-making thing and awesome OCs don't need nor do they want lousy writers. Being serious is a must or you'll fail terribly.
This is also important when you're giving your OC friends and/or enemies. What cause them to become friends? Do they have similar ideas or not? If they're enemies, what makes them hate each other so much?
And So, Our Kids Have Grown...
This is just a recap from all steps' main point.
Once again, I have to say, that your OC's growth depends on how you get the story flowing. Your OC may be a cool character, not showing any Sue or Stu sign. But if you get too overwhelmed with his/her success in their life, you might make them too strong and that's where it goes really bad.
If you're a loyal-fanfictioner type (those who stick to the original storyline), then you should know how to adapt your OC to their surroundings. Your OC may be the main character of your story, but it doesn't mean they can get all the fun, right?
By now, you should have understood that to make your OC awesome without making them a Mary-sue/Gary-stu is through some deep critical thinking. I don't ask you to be a scientist or a professor. I'm not thinking like either of those -- I'm still just a teenager, a college student. You don't have to open all your school text books too. Just read what you want to read, Wiki things that you're interested in but do not understand. This is not a school project, so you can do whatever you want.
Also, again, be serious. Your OC needs your constant attention and care. You must be careful on where to leading them. Small mistakes can be overturned, but big ones...they may need a total revamp.
I know, it's not easy to make an OC awesome without sacrificing so much thinking energy. Well, no sacrifice no victory, right? It's okay; it's hard for the first time. I made a Mary-sue too, remember? Nobody's perfect. As long as you have the passion and the carefulness, I can assure you that you'd be successful.
This is the end of the guide. I hope it helps so far. I know there's a lot of rambling, but it's just me.
Enjoy in making awesome OCs!