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More Writing Advice Blogs
Today, I dealt with someone who had written a bad story. This happens a lot, but at least this time the person's first language wasn't English, so that excused some of the problems. However, an issue this person would not let go was their "original character" (or, as they call it, a "creepypasta character").
This is not uncommon. Unfortunately, the concept of OC is usually the sign of a bad pasta. NOT the presence of original characters, but when the author goes out of their way to tell you or clearly thinks that it's special that they made up a character. A dead giveaway for this way of thinking is when the title and/or main character of a story is the same as a person's username. If you're confused about the whole OC thing, because God knows it's hard to explain (with good reason) in the context of creepypasta, then jump to the end where you'll find a clarification.
It's frustrating and ridiculous that there needs to be a division between an "original character" and an original character. But let's look at why exactly OCs are problematic.
The One Kind of OC
So, why does having an OC make your pasta bad?
Well, it's simple, it's because your character isn't original. Roll credits.
No, but seriously.
For semantics, let's use our alternate definition of OC, the more fitting "creepypasta character" or CPC. Anyone who sits down and tries to come up with a CPC is trying to come up with something like Jeff the Killer, Laughing Jack, Eyeless Jack, Ticci Toby, etc, etc, etc.
As much as you may argue against that, it is true. Whether consciously or unconsciously, you're trying to create a human killer character (okay, Laughing Jack is magic or whatever, but still). Sure, there are monster CPCs, but they are somewhat less common and are usually much less. . .obsessed over by the writer.
If you think this is hyperbole, take a minute and think of all the different CPCs you've seen. How many are human killers? How many are teenaged human killers who have bad parents and are bullied at school?
Why OC is a Concept That Holds You Back
It's not just the unoriginality, it's the backward creative process. Because your thought process started with, "I'm going to make a CPC," when it should have started with, "I'm going to tell a story," or at the very least, "I'm going to make a character." When your aim is to create a CPC you-
You know what? Fuck this. Jump to the end.
When you're writing an original story you should never have to point out that a character is something original and of your own creation. That's one of the bare minimum duties of a writer. Not necessarily to make a character that has never been seen before, but to make a character that doesn't immediately evoke another. Don't try to make a "creepypasta character," don't restrict yourself with that thinking. It will turn out unoriginal, because you're trying to make something that is like everything else out there.
Make a character, make a villain, make a monster, but don't make it while you're looking at a picture of all the other killers and characters out there.
Why an OC is a Terrible Starting Point for a Story
You're not writing a story, you're writing the bio on the back of the box of an action figure for your character. You've come up with the clothes your character wears, their name, given them a signature weapon, you've come up with a tragic origin story, they have a catchphrase, you've even drawn pictures of them. You've created EVERYTHING a creepypasta character has.
You've also created a creepypasta character that everyone has. You've checked off boxes on a list. So, you have an extremely generic and rote character and they're most likely the star of a generic and rote story.
Why? Because that's the only setting they fit in. You could send your character to the moon, you could send them to the bottom of the ocean, you could shrink them down to microscopic size and inject them into someone's bloodstream. No matter what you do, your story will be weak because you've made the story revolve around a weak character.
Look at stories like Psychosis. It's generally considered one of the best creepypastas. IT HAS NO CPC. There's not even any real monster. Creepypasta doesn't rely on CPCs. Creepypasta relies on good writing and solid story. Same with NoEnd House, Normal Porn for Normal People, The Disappearance of Ashley, Kansas, Dogscape Candle Cove and a lot of other highly regarded pastas. A CPC is in no way needed for a good pasta.
And more importantly. . .
The Monster Shouldn't be the Star (Or, WHAT'S WRONG WITH EVERYTHING)
Okay, three classic creepypasta, all well known and well liked. Now, what are these stories about?
Your first answer is probably, "Duh, Smile Dog, The Rake and a Tulpa."
Technically, you are correct. Let me rephrase that question. Who is the main character in these stories?
Go back and read them if you have to. The answer is, more or less, "A student and a lady, a bunch of different people through out history and some guy."
Do you understand?
Let's try another set:
These three stories all have monsters.
RED in NES Godzilla Creepypasta is well designed, fairly unique and has the potential in intimidate. He's become a favorite among CP fans. WE BARELY KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT RED.
The monster in The Cell Phone Game isn't even ever seen. We know nothing about it, we only know the circumstances that cause it to come for people.
The monster in Penpal also operates almost entirely behind the scenes. We never get a description, we know very scant details.
Now, think about almost every horror movie ever.
The person or thing doing the killing, the thing we're supposed to find scary, is almost never the focus of the story. The focus is on how the thing effects people, we're scared and interested because the figure is so mysterious. The Rake is interesting because in the story so little information is given. Smile Dog is interesting not because it's a creepy picture, that's just the hook, but because the image is just the surface.
It's not impossible to tell a good story where the monster/killer is the main character, but it's much, much harder. And the more you give away, the less interesting it is. Furthermore, if your CPC fits the same mold as all the others with only slight variation, then your story is going to crumble. Also, having a main character who is kind of blank, kind of a nobody, makes it easier for readers to slip into their shoes. This is good for short stories where you don't have a lot of time to build a connection between a reader and a character.
How to Write Better Characters
Read things other than creepypasta and fanfiction. It's that easy. See how diverse characters can be.
Remember, IT'S NOT IMPOSSIBLE TO WRITE AN ORIGINAL CHARACTER. It just takes more effort than it does to rip-off an existing character. Don't be lazy.
What to Focus on Instead of Creating an OC/CPC (A Super Secret Tip to Decrease Deletion Chances!!!!!)
If you spend even HALF the time you take drawing your character, shipping them, thinking of their catchphrase and cool ways for them to kill people and use it to make sure you understand proper grammar then there is a very good chance THAT YOUR STORY WON'T BE DELETED.
At least, it won't be deleted as quickly. If you followed the rest of the advice in this blog and stepped outside of the usual CPC, then there's almost a 100% chance your story won't be deleted.
If you've got a good hold on how to tell a story, then it's hard to imagine a scenario where that 100% is not concrete. The easiest way to learn how to tell a story: reading things other than CP and fanfiction.
So, good grammar + decent character + storytelling ability = safe from deletion
What is OC
OC is a label that comes from fanfiction. It means that your story involves a character or characters who are not in the established canon of the work. If I'm writing a Star Wars story and it involves a character named Dan Yolo, a long lost brother of Han Solo, banging Princess Leia, then that would be OC.
OC is really a meaningless phrase in creepypasta, because CP is a genre, not a single universe. Technically, every character should be original. Separate stories can have OC. Like, if I'm writing a story where The Rake fights a monster named. . .Empty Plastic Bottle. . .Man, then that would be an OC. But if a story doesn't have any connection to any other stories, then the idea of an OC is redundant.