Original Characters and Settings
Original characters are a lot of fun.
So Boldly Reading asked, in Blog Prompt #9, about original characters and original settings.
- What’s the best setting for an original character? Is it as a lone figure, thrust into a canon ship or situation? In a group of original characters but still in a canon ship, situation or series? Or as a stand-alone crew, group, political party or other agglomeration of individuals?
- When do original characters and scenarios tip the scale from new spins on familiar works to out and out non-Trek? Is there a bright line between Star Trek and not-Star Trek?
- How can original character love interests be integrated into a more canon scenario? What about original character leaders?
- For canon characters who have very little back story or screen (or authorized book) time, what’s the tipping point between when canon converts into what is, for all intents and purposes, an original character?
- Also, for representations of canon characters in fan fiction that are not well-portrayed (e. g. the author misses the mark and does not accurately represent the canon character’s language, ideals, vision, etc.), can the situation be salvaged by rewriting the story with an original character?
- For original settings, what makes them unique? Can an original setting be so extraordinary that it, in a way, almost becomes a nonliving type of Mary Sue?
- Who are some of your favorite original characters that you have created? Do you feel they fulfill their purposes?
- What happens when you take a Mary Sue test?
- What are some of your favorite original settings that you have created? Did they work?
- Who else’s original characters do you enjoy reading the most, and why?
- Are there others’ original settings that you like reading the most? What makes those original settings your favorites?
A Cast of Hundreds
When I last checked, I had created over 300 original characters to encompass various scenarios. These included figures from as far back as 1775 (including Benjamin Warren)
The Lone Original Character
I’ve found that I rarely do this, as I love making original characters so much that I just can’t resist tossing in several as points and then counterpoints and then even more.
A Hazy Shade is one example of, truly, there only being one original character. In that story, the sole original character is Jonathan Archer‘s wife, a Calafan named Miva. Other single-OC stories include Atlas, with its very brief glimpse of Susan Cheshire, and Penicillin, which is an interplay between canon character Jay Hayes and Lili O’Day. For all of those stories, they are short and the OC (except for in Atlas) acts as a sounding board and a counter to the canon character.
A Small Bouquet of Original Characters
Perhaps the best example of this is in The Light, where Jewish crew members get together to remember a lost life and to celebrate Chanukah. Because none of the canon ENT characters are known to be Jewish, the story would have rung hollow if I had tried to shoehorn someone in, such as deciding that Hoshi Sato is suddenly Jewish. While that is not an impossible situation, it was unlikely. Further, I wanted the Jewish characters to be young people, more or less fresh out of school. Hoshi would not fit into that fairly limited scenario.
Therefore, The Light centers around Ethan Shapiro, Karin Bernstein, Andrew Miller and Josh Rosen, with a quick appearance by Muslim crew member Azar Hamidi. The seven main canon characters all make appearances, though.
A Larger Bevy of Original Characters
In order to best accommodate the E2 scenario, I needed to fill the NX-01 with people. This meant making sure that all of the women were accounted for, along with a lot of the men. People would flit in and out as the story line is somewhat episodic and the chapters can often read like vignettes.
I could use several characters I had already created, such as Deborah Haddon. And that not only saved me ramp-up time but also dovetailed rather nicely into my preexisting fanfiction. After all, if I said that Deborah was on the ship in 2157, in Reversal, then it made sense for her to have also been on the ship in 2154, when the ship was kicked back in time, in Reflections Down a Corridor and Everybody Knows This is Nowhere.
I also made characters to make specific points, such as Mara Brodsky and Robert Slater, as I wanted someone to be cuckolded. When Slater was cuckolded by a canon character, Walter Woods, that worked well with marrying canon and original characters – and eventually quite literally marrying them. Original characters were also created in order to fulfill certain roles on the ship, as Communications would have to be handled on second shift and night shift. Maryam Haroun and Chip Masterson, respectively, fulfilled those roles.
Lone or Few Canon Characters
The best example of this is in the HG Wells stories. As Temper makes clear, the sole canon character is Richard Daniels. Richard needs a support team, which includes people like Boris Yarin and Crystal Sherwood. By giving Rick occasional missions to the NX-01 or elsewhere in canon, and having him eventually need to confer with ancestor Malcolm Reed, I was able to provide more canon credibility to these stories.
In the upcoming Barnstorming series, the few main canon characters are Martin Madden and Wesley Crusher, but the crew of the Enterprise-E is seen, as Madden lives and works there. Keeping a few canon characters on hand, I feel, can make a story a lot more Trek.
Canon Characters Begone!
The Eriecho series is 100% fanfiction characters, and it will likely stay that way, as are Gina Nolan‘s universe and the Bron-Sophra-Skrol-Tr’Dorna group. Even without canon characters, the situations or the history or the species can bring back the Trek part.
For example, Eriecho’s story arises from the events in the JJ Abrams timeline. Whereas Gina’s world comes from the Dominion War. Bron and Skrol are Gorn, Tr’Dorna is a Xindi Reptilian and Sophra is a Cardassian. These three canon species bring that story line squarely into Trek, I feel.
Will I ever write a story with 100% original characters, 100% original species and completely outside of any sort of canon scenarios? At that point, I feel it starts to tip perilously close to not-Trek. But there are a ton of canon scenarios, and those can include very non-canon people being off their ships. After all, characters are born, have relationships and possibly marriages, have families, have jobs and retirements, and they also die. Just because a kiss between a Gorn and a Cardassian has not been shown on screen – or between two completely original species, such as a Calafan and a Daranaean – does not mean it’s wholly not-Trek.
But I do recognize that it can be a far harder sell to the reader. For such a scenario, the reader, I feel, should read earlier work in preparation. That can bring these original species into the Trek-like fold.
Adding Original Details to Canon Characters
In many ways, this is the very purpose of fan fiction. It is to fill in the blanks where canon left off. Or a show was subject to cancellation too soon, etc. The three canon characters I have done this the most with have been Malcolm Reed, Jay Hayes and Richard Daniels. Have I done well by them? I like to think so, but it’s hard to say (and it is particularly difficult as all come from ENT).
During ENT, this character was the tantalizing fourth or fifth of seven. He was sometimes the sixth, but rarely in the top three and virtually never first. This is when it came to storyline development, writer affection or plot twists. Even when the storyline centered around Malcolm, he never seemed to get his due.
Fan fiction has allowed me to give him a wife and a child, and it has allowed me to give him quirks like lactose intolerance and personal interests like crossword puzzles. Stay tuned, as there is a lot more Malcolm to come!
For a character seen in five episodes and who only had a first initial, I have given him ex-girlfriends, an earlier posting on Titania, and an alternate timeline wife and two children. Along the way, Jay also got a love of blueberries and was also not too adventurous in his diet, never having tried either figs or parsnips until prompted to do so.
Will there be more Jay? I adore this character and so I’ll find a way, but right now I don’t have anything specific planned.
For a character with no first name, he’s gotten a reputation as a ladies’ man, a pair of somewhat more serious ex-girlfriends, and a great love. His off-hand canon statement of being mostly human led to not only working out how he was put together, but it also led to a thought experiment about unlikely hybrids, resulting in characters like Boris Yarin and Kevin O’Connor.
Richard flits in and out of my fiction and he may or may not turn up again. Because of Multiverse II, I’ve seen more interest in the HG Wells universe, so it’s very possible that he and his group will get new adventures, much like Another Piece of the Action.
From the start of In Between Days, I decided humans would have, even by 2151, colonized all available surfaces within the Solar System. This means the planet Mars but also a ton of moons, such as Titan, Titania and Ganymede. To give these locations some spice, I decided on some set characteristics. For example Titaniais a Southerner’s paradise. Plus Martian cities are all named after metals.
The E2 stories allowed for more original settings, including writing Phnom Penh during the Third World War and three new planets, Paradise, Amity and Speakeasy. In order to give the latter three believability, they got certain problems. Paradise is often too hot, and there are no natural pollinators. Amity has poisonous malostrea. And Speakeasy isn’t supposed to exist at all, and is only dimly lit.
Favorites and Mary Sues
Of course I love Lili O’Day, and I strive to keep her out of Mary Sue territory. She burns things. And she often avoids people. She gets jumpy and nervous and it is not necessarily endearing.
In Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, she is particularly unfair to José Torres. She does, at times, fail the Mary Sue test, I admit. But I believe that her overall arc comes down rather favorably on the believable end of things. She does have a lot of adventures. Plus I do spend a lot of time on her. But that’s also because I love the character so much.
The Raw Deal Characters
Pamela Hudson, another favorite, more or less stays out of Mary Sue territory due to her often sour disposition and her many screw-ups in life. Things turn out for the best for her, but she has a tougher row to hoe than Lili does.
Eriecho stays out of the world of Mary Sue due to her poor upbringing and her violent past. I’ve barely scratched her surface; time in Canamar is not fun. As I unwrap more layers of this character, I think she will leave Mary Sue far, far behind.
Levi Cavendish stays well away from Mary Sue, even though he’s a genius, because he’s so damned messed up.
Otra D’Angelo has her own weaknesses, even though she has what is essentially a psionic-style gift for seeing temporal alternatives. But it gets her a pretty raw deal with the enemy.
People often call canon character Wesley Crusher a Mary Sue. A lot of people love to hate this character. I’ve done my best to try to rehabilitate him, particularly in Crackerjack.
Love for Others’ Babies
Captain Sarine‘s Kalara is perhaps the best-realized female Klingon I have either seen or read. I’ve also enjoyed the interplay of thebluesman‘s Captain Dylan and Dr. West. Miranda Fave‘s wacky Tabatha (don’t call me Tabby!) Chase and her crew get things done with few stuffy conventions and a lot of flair. And Mistral‘s Shand feels very much like a real alien person. Enough like us to be someone we could work with, but enough unlike to keep us a bit … unsettled.
In the scenery department, kes7‘s Tesseract universe puts together a crazy-advanced ship with the right kinds of off-kilter people who can make it run. And trekfan‘s overall Hank and Bethany mythos brings those two original characters from home to the Pearl to marriage and domesticity, and eventually to Hank’s end.
I cannot imagine fan fiction without original characters. Plus I confess it often dismays me when people do not try to write them. Even poorly realized Mary Sue are, at least to me, an attempt to go outside oneself. They mean people are stretching those creative muscles. For me, original characters and scenes, I feel, take it all to the next level.
Damn, I’m gonna go out and make myself some more characters!
‘Cause 300+ just aren’t enough.