So you feel like you're a good writer. How about we work on your character now?
Many of you have heard of 'Mary Sues,' the name coming from a story by Paula Smith written for the Star Trek franchise. They are the prettiest, they are the best at everything, they are the most powerful, and for some reason, everyone loves them. Almost every writer has had a Mary Sue at one point.
One of my very first characters outside of the Lion King fandom was a Final Fantasy character named Kayna. If that name sounds somewhat familiar, it is because, yes, she was named after Kain Highwind from Final Fantasy IV. Kayna was half GF... But not just ANY GF. Griever was her baby daddy. Also, Seifer thought she was so fine and she was best friends with Rinoa and Fuujin:
I got that thing to about 60 pages before I said to myself 'What the hell am I doing?' and never drew another page. Of course, that was hours of my life I'll never get back, as well as the fact that I decided to trash the in-game version of the character, which had logged quite a few hours by that point. It was a hard lesson. But when I created another RP character that was more logical, more people opened up to her - and me - and I had a much better experience.
Not every character with special talents and appearances is necessarily a Mary Sue, but you have to remember to balance the cool with the not-so-cool, and the strengths with the weaknesses. There are some things you should look out for, though.
Do multiple points describe your character?
Unnaturally beautiful. He/she turns heads.
Tragic past. Family is dead/missing.
Young age, but is very talented with fighting/science/etc.
Has a very visible injury/scar that does not hinder movement.
In the case of RP within a fandom, related to a canon character.
Only weakness is that he/she is too beautiful.
Part of your character's background states that everyone loves him/her
Very skilled in more than one discipline (IE is an artist/scientist/linguist/monster hunter/Karate master and is better at all of them than anyone else.)
Has obscure skills that you intend to bring up in RP all the time.
Hair/eyes that are an unnatural color.
Everyone wants to sleep with him/her
Has personality disorder of the week.
A better gauge of your character's Mary-Sueness or not can be found here: www.springhole.net/writing/mar…
That is the Mary Sue Litmus Test, and is very helpful.
You also want to look at Self-Inserts, which aren't necessarily you yourself inserted into your RP, but someone you wish to be. These characters are often an extension of your own personality. They have your same likes and dislikes and interfere with the world in which you're RPing by bringing up topics that may be foreign or inappropriate for the setting. For example, is your character listening to a CD of Justin Bieber in a world where there are no CDs or Justin Bieber?
Use your character as a challenge for yourself. In order to play a character well, it is natural that you'd give them some of your likes and dislikes, because those are things you know and enjoy. Maybe you like animals, and you feel that you know enough about them that you could play a veterinarian adequately. That's okay! Bringing your knowledge into the game is great, because it makes your character more effective. But if your veterinarian is also 15 years old (because that's how old you are), is getting bad grades in high school (because you are) and can fly in a world where no one can fly (because you REALLY want to be able to fly!!) then there's a problem.
So you want to be a veterinarian in a game. Instead of putting yourself in there, do some research. A person has to go to school for years and years to be a vet; some say it's even harder than becoming a doctor. So after graduating from high school at the age of 17, first your character has to go through 4 years of college, putting her at 21. Next, she has to go to veterinary school, the length of which can vary depending on your dedication (how many classes you take in a semester, and if you go to school over the summer) and what level of skill you want to end up with. Are you a veterinary surgeon, or are you a vet tech? By the time you've added all those years together, your minimum age for being a skilled, respected veterinary is about 28-30. By that time, maybe you have a family of your own. Who are they? Or maybe you were so dedicated to your schooling that you didn't have time to marry. As a veterinarian, you aren't going out and partying every night. You're probably reading up on the newest research regarding parvo in German Shepherds, or new technologies in relieving blocked intestines in ferrets.
So how about some tips for creating a good character?
Think of what is logical for the world you're playing. If you're playing in a Final Fantasy game, you know that half-Espers are possible, but there has only ever been one (to our knowledge!) and that was Terra. It's probably pretty unlikely that it's going to happen again, so reconsider creating your half-Esper character. What is plausible in that setting? Well, there are a lot of Magitech Knights that are infused with the power of Espers, so you might try building from that. When you're trying to decide whether or not your character can fly, consider whether there are other people in your setting that have that ability. If not, then it might be something you should reconsider adding, or try another game where flight is actually possible.
Consider your character's weaknesses. While many people want to put their characters' powers down on paper, your character's weaknesses will provide you with far more interesting RP. And I'm not talking about things like 'His greatest weakness is that he's a perfectionist,' which is really a non-fault. Neither am I talking about 'He is a quadriplegic,' which is a bit too extreme. These vary. But since we're already talking about Final Fantasy characters, let's say we have an original character in a Final Fantasy VIII setting. He is a dedicated soldier and desperately wants to join the elite rank of SeeD, but if he junctions with a Guardian Force, it causes something to happen to him - maybe he passes out. Or gets a rash that slowly covers his body if he remains junctioned. Maybe he gets violently ill. Regarding an original setting, maybe you're playing in a vampire RP, and you have a vampire hunter character whose best friend was turned, and so while she participates in the search for vampires, she can't actually kill them.
Allow your character the ability to grow. A flat character is one who has things happen to them, but never changes in any significant way. An example of a popular character who did not change through the entire story is Dr. Hammond from Jurassic Park. Despite the realization that his park was quite dangerous, he maintained that it would be able to work (somehow) right up to the time he was eaten by compys. An example of a very round, dynamic character who changes throughout his series is Harry Potter, who goes from a very innocent, hopeful young boy to the angst-filled, talented teenager who realizes that it's his destiny to destroy Lord Voldemort. The point is, allow things to affect your character. React to the setting and adjust your character accordingly. Perhaps you are a Predator character on a far-off planet, hunting Xenomorphs, but the alien Queen saves your life. How will that affect your view on them in the future?
Give your character a reasonable powerset. Remember this - your ability to kill everything ever does not make you interesting. It makes you boring. If the entire basis of your character is that she can kill everything, then you do not have a well-rounded and interesting character. When planning your powers, give yourself limits. If you can shoot ice out your fingers, how long can you do that before you wear out? How far can your ice go, and what can it effect? Remember that in an interactive RP, you aren't sitting in front of your television playing Mass Effect, where the only person who has to feel satisfaction for a job well done is you. You are writing a story with other people, and if you can instantly disarm/kill them, that's no fun for the other people involved.
Interact. In the past, I've seen a lot of characters who have chosen to be withdrawn or antisocial. You have to realize that a character like that is a difficult one to play in a social game. The entire point behind an RP (especially one over the computer, and not pen and paper) is to interact with other people. You are not going to have any fun if you're a wallflower, nor are you going to provide interactive entertainment for the people you are RPing with. The reason people will RP with you again in the future is if you can provide them with an enjoyable RP experience as they are trying to do for you. Reciprocate their efforts in kind.