After having a heart to heart discussion with a friend, I have finally decided to write about this. If you read my Wattpad fanfictions, you’re probably asking me why I self-insert. There’s always an original character in there that has my name, a similar name, and/or some features of my appearance.
For the record, I do not put myself in my stories to annoy people. Many people see self-insertion as bad because some authors do not want their readers to see their flaws which is why some of them turn out to be Mary Sues/Gary Stus leading to the misconception that Mary Sue and self-insert are the same thing when they are not. However, that is not the case with me. When I wrote my Didact fanfiction, that story was solely based on who I’d be as a human in the Halo universe and I feel like I never bothered to give myself development, so that was pretty much a Mary Sue unfortunately. But, I did not want to give up my self-insert habits for the following reasons down below, and the lesson I learned after writing the story starring the Didact, is that there are many ways to be careful and more creative with an OC that represents yourself in the story…..without making them underdeveloped or overpowered. So here’s why I do it and am not afraid to:
1. To create something original and different in the story and relationships
I’ve seen so many fanfictions on Fanfiction.net and sometimes even on DevianArt when I actually lurk there; but only due to Google search results that often have the same thing over and over again when I am looking for something. That could be similar plot lines altered, or certain characters paired together…canon or shipped by numerous fans.
For example, I’ve seen fellow Hunchback fans ship Frollo and Esmeralda together just because of Frollo’s lust for her despite Esmeralda not feeling the same way. There’s fan art and fanfiction about them ending up together like one where she chooses to be with him to save her people. I on the other hand plan to write a story about Frollo where he takes possession of one of my OC creations but it may not be as explicit as The Warlord’s Prize.
This all comes down to the fact about why I’m not really into fandom shipping because most of it is illogical in my eyes. Fans who write and draw this stuff love to pair certain characters together and swoon over it…..but the problem that seems to arise is that, if they have a crush on that character they don’t want to pair themselves with him/her in fan art or fanfiction because perhaps they are afraid they won’t be able to come up with a good character to represent themselves, or they don’t want to be seen as a delusional hypocrite.
Believe it or not, but I think that creating your own character to be with the character you swoon over is far more original than pairing say Frollo with Esmeralda….because numerous fans already do that. It also makes an entirely different story and is a way of unleashing your own creativity with your love for the original story. Why do what write something similar to what others have done when you can write your own thing? Not saying that pairing that other people do isn’t different as well, but I think when you make an OC, it can be more unique than you can imagine and it stands out from the typical shipping of characters that other fanfiction authors do. I’ve always been the type of writer who likes to do what people least expect of me, even if self-insertion has a bad reputation of being confused with a Mary Sue. Making one is more original than you think it is when it comes to fanfiction in my humble opinion. I could care less if I was judged for pairing myself in a story, with whatever character I melt over, just to make a different story than what fans are used to seeing picked out of the canon or the legends.
If you make your own character to be added to it, it certainly won’t ruin the original story where you got your inspiration from, especially if the character you pair yourself with in your story is already taken in the original. It doesn’t mean you’re looking to tear that apart, it just means that you want to create something else, imagine it a different scenario. One of my friends imagined me getting together with Worf years after K’ehleyr dies (apparently she does die but I haven’t got to that part in the series yet…whoops, I spoiled it for myself!)
Like Kurt Cobain says: “I would rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.”
If I can accept the fact that some people like to ship two existing characters together a lot, then maybe those people should do the same for me.
2. I can make my character have different flaws and traits
I think most writers have trouble with this when creating an original character, especially one that is based off themselves subtle or unsubtle. The reason for this is perhaps authors do not want to reveal their flaws of a character that represents them. It takes a bit of creativity to make your self-insert represent you but have different traits that doesn’t make them overpowered or loved by everyone.
In the past two years I find I have been able to come up with OCs that are supposed to be me, but they have their flaws. A good example of this is Emi Takori from Kel Dor and the Kaleesh. She has my ideal name in the Star Wars universe but I’ve made her personality flawed in many ways: She can be reckless at times and that often gets her into trouble, especially during her younger years. Due to that reputation, not everyone on the Jedi Council trusts her, most notably Saesee Tiin whom after doing a bit of research on his personality; I decided to make him the one who dislikes her the most due to a grudge as well as distrust from past incidents. Her former master Luminara Unduli has also scolded her many times whenever she does something crazy such as take on General Grievous alone at a young age so in a way, she doubts her a lot sometimes.
The key to making a good self-insert is to make them not entirely based off of yourself in real life, because if you do that, you are more prone to not give them any enlargement or flaws. Sometimes you have to be creative with making them. In real life, you could be a social extrovert, so you could make your character a shy introvert instead, and perhaps other characters might be annoyed by the fact that your character never goes outside. It’s not as hard as it looks, you just have to keep an open mind, and at the same time, readers should be open-minded once they discover the character is a self-insert. Self-inserts are not meant to ruin the original story when they are introduced to it, they are meant to broaden and create something different from how I see it. Over time, I would probably get tired of seeing too many fanfictions of the same characters paired together so that’s why I create my own just as developed and flawed because you know me, I dare to be different and inspire.
3. I feel more connected and dedicated to my work
Nothing perks up your enthusiasm to write a story as much as having your own part in it too. You might get excited for the next time you have a chance to sit down and work on it because you feel really connected to the story. I know there are many ways you can feel dedicated to your work; and this is just one of them for me. When I sit down and write, I like to feel motivated to do so and wonder what is going happen next to my character in the plot and her interactions with others. This can happen when I’m getting to an exciting point in the story or my readers are looking forward to updates.
Nevertheless, I don’t rush with any of my stories because I want to feel the need to update them no matter the frequency. I enjoy a story more when I feel like I’m in it, especially when I write it, and that shouldn’t be a bad thing.
4. Not everything my OC has is related to me
This relates to #2 and I find that creating an OC doesn’t have to be you entirely. In order to do this, you have to analyze your own personality and think about what you want to make different about your self-insert if you don’t want readers and yourself to look back and think it’s a Mary Sue.
Most of my self-insert creations only share a couple of things similar to myself which is name (or the name is altered but not an entirely different name), and some features of my appearance. For example, Emi Takori and my character in The Warlord’s Prize have auburn hair and I do not. My character in the Didact fanfiction has emerald eyes and I have hazel. Several years ago I made a short Ghost fanfiction where my OC had my name spelled differently and her appearance was more based on what Chloe Moretz looked like in Carrie.
Personality-wise is different. I can be stubborn but I find that Emi Takori is even more stubborn. She likes to get her hands dirty and bend the rules while I am very by-the-book and prefer to think things over before I do something risky. My character in The Warlord’s Prize has spent years as a nomad and I suppose it’s safe to say that she is a big extrovert while I am the opposite.
If you’re able to distinguish many differences from yourself to a self-insert you have made, then that is what will make your character more creative if you wish to play a part in the story itself
5. It’s not as bad as most people claim it to be
To summarize: For a long time self-insert has had a bad reputation from the society on the Internet deeming it Mary Sue/Gary Stu when in reality those are two different things. Someone could end up creating a character who is a Mary Sue but they are not representing the author, or they could create a self-insert with a lot of development, a different personality/appearance and flaws that enrich their development as well as make other characters dislike them.
It’s not that self-insertion is always sign of a lack of creativity or the author’s desire to fulfill a fantasy….perhaps the author wants to create something different from their imagination. I for instance look at all the fanfictions out there where the same characters are paired together as a couple based on popular ships eg. Frollo and Esmeralda, Optimus and Arcee (due to their interaction in TFP), Usze and Olympia, even Sabaton fans ship Thobbe and Chris apparently. Thus I self-insert into the world of characters that I love, whether its subtle or unsubtle and create my own story no matter how closely it relates to the original story or other fan’s creations. Like, The Warlord’s Prize is completely contrast to Mulan providing a darker sequence as if the story wasn’t Disney and if Shan Yu had more character development. So, I feel like I’ve put a ton of creativity and development into that story so far with some help despite the protagonist being a self-insert; she has a lot of evolution as a character and is far from being perfect.
It makes me ask, if you really love that character so much then why wouldn’t you want to make a story about you with them instead of putting them with someone else like other fans do? That’s probably something I will never understand but oh well.
Yes, self-insertion can involve a way of taking a fantasy in your mind of being with a character you love, and putting it in a story for others to read, but how is it a bad thing to pair yourself with that character rather than pairing them with another that others want to see? It doesn’t hurt anyone, it doesn’t ruin the original story, and it doesn’t automatically mean you are delusional and crazy. Who knows, I’ve had some people read my stories on Wattpad and they enjoy them, not caring if the protagonist is somewhat like me in a way because that shouldn’t matter. There are many things that can create a good story even if one character resembles yourself no matter how big their role is. When did it become okay to ship characters together but not imagine yourself with that character that you love?
So in a sense, it’s okay to self-insert as long as you at least have a plan how you’re going to approach it so can create a character just as rich as the ones that already exist in that universe; they can have flaws, not every character has to like them, their looks and personality can be made to be different from your own. You just need to have the confidence to create a character based off yourself that is just like the others, so they’re not perfect leading to the common misconception self-insertions get. It’s different than retelling an existing story, altering it, or pairing existing characters that weren’t together in the canon because it allows you to stand out with your own story showing your not afraid to take things up a notch and make something original.
It’s also a way of feeling more connected to what you write as you feel that you are not only the author but you are also part of the story itself, and finally it’s not a bad thing to do and frankly I feel that other fanfiction authors and artists should be more open-minded towards those who choose to do this like me.