FernWithy (fernwithy) wrote,

O.C./minor character disinterest

You know, sometimes I fantasize about getting the review counts that the Suefics reported by pottersues and deleterius get. And then I remember that quite a few either boil down to "OMGSQUEEEEE!!!!!" or "WTF?" and I stop grinding my teeth. I then usually note that these OCs generally--and often to the annoyance of the Fearless Sue Hunters--are interacting with popular canon characters, so the stories are really operating on the canon character rules rather than the OC rules.

It's just that it sometimes seems like writing a bad OC gets more attention than writing a good one, and yes, I am an attention whore, for those who have not noticed.

When I'm writing major characters, attention-craving is rarely a problem. A Remus-fic finds Remus-fans. Anakin-fic finds Anakin fans. This is the way life works when you're writing fanfic. ([Yoda voice]"This is the way of things... the way of the Fandom!"[/Yoda voice]) Or pro tie-ins, for that matter. People like those characters, they're searching for fics that feature those characters, and if you do a good job writing those characters and are lucky enough to get a few recs or come out at the top of the search, you're going to get readers.

But OCs and minor canon characters? No one is searching for them. You may have a group dedicated to good OCs in general, but no one is going to, on a whim, say, "Hey, I wonder if there's a good Dritali Neral story to keep me busy for a few minutes."

I'll say that, despite what I may sound like, I'm not actually complaining about this. I understand it. When I go searching for fics, I'm generally looking for Anakin-fic or Remus-fic or whatever, too. It's not shocking or wrong that by hit-sorting my stuff at TFN, the top three stories I've been involved with are Skywalker family stories, and the bottom three are OCs or minor characters (with a large drop-off in hits between the lowest Skywalker story and "The Flight to Rison's Deep," though I should point out that the very lowest, "The Sand Fair," is a Skywalker family story; it's just one that happens to be about Shmi, Owen, and Cliegg).

The Potterverse stories aren't quite as obvious, though they've tended to get less feedback. I've also done fewer of them--really the only pure OC stories I've written in the Potterverse are Vega Black and the Forbidden Forest and Moonflowers, the latter of which is tied in with a previously written story and gives the background of a character in close contact with Remus. I've noticed that OC and minor character heavy stories like "Banding Together" and "Kind Eyes" tend to get fewer reviews after their initial run on the new fic lists, but for all of that, the reviews tend to be of the same type as the reviews on other stories--it's not that the stories aren't received well by the people who read them.

I don't know if I have a point (other than cleverly listing all my OC stories while stressing that I love lots o' reviews ;)), but it's an odd feeling, and in some sense it's discouraging, no matter how much I understand it and share the response as a reader. I think we all want to be that special person to whom the rules of pre-existing interest don't apply, because hey--if I can make people interested in Vega Black, James Potter's great-great-grandmother, then maybe I can make them interested in Alitza and Milek, who are quasi-immortals whose mission is messing around with society for the pleasure of a megalomaniac named Vayadin, or with Addie and Livana, who are at present trying to rescue equipment from the crash of a spaceship... in other words, maybe, if I can "sell" my O.C. fanfics (not "sell" in the sense of "make money from, of course), then I have the potential to "sell" my real, total O.C.s.

This carries the unfortunate psychological corrollary, "Oh, no!!! No one's interested in Kerea Morlana or Vertash G'lahter! If I can't even interest people in seeing new folks in universes they know and enjoy, then what hope do I have for creating new universes?!"

That this is stupid and self-defeating is not something that escapes my notice, since people read original fic for different reasons than they read fanfic.

There's also the issue of interest overlap between authors, who are also usually the readers of fanfic. We're each creating our own OCs, and sometimes they're filling exactly the same niche. If I'm spending a lot of time creating an OC to bite Remus, chances are, I'm not the only one doing so. And you start to get that scenario in your head--I don't know about other people, but I can't write a fic without it seeming real to me--and someone else who does an equally good job writing about a totally different character who bit Remus is going to get passed over, because while my brain is saying, "Oo, how interesting, to get a totally different take!" my heart is saying, "Hey! Wait up there, brain! Haven't we been there for the past several weeks?" And that's most inconvenient, because the two people writing the same niche are the ones most likely to be interested in each other's stories.

I guess my point, such as it is, is that I understand both the actual behavior of readers and the frustration of OC writers. I'd love to write off the phenomenon as "too many bad OCs have spoiled things for everyone else," but the truth? I think it's just the nature of the beast. Fanfic is an element of fandom, and its hook is its familiarity to people who love the source material... a chance to see more of the people one loves to hang around with. There's no reason not to write original character stories, but if you're going to, it's probably prudent to have a different standard of expectations for them.

I guess that's a long-winded way of saying, "Waah."

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