Tell me, how do you make an overall normal character, without making them a Mary Sue or Gary Stu? What do you do in order to make a believable character?
This helps quite a bit in showing you how to avoid making a character a Mary Sue or Gary Stu:
Essentially, it's okay to give a character some strengths, but they need weaknesses too. And don't go the other route where your character is a total loser at everything and fails at everything they do. People don't like reading that either.
Also, it's best to make a character just make sense. If they've been working hard at doing something their whole life, then they should be respectfully good at it. Also, you want to make a character people will root for and admire because they're doing the right thing and trying the best they can even when faced with some pretty tough challenges and decisions. And even though they have faults, they learn from their mistakes and try again.
As the guy above me said, make them have some strengths and weaknesses. Nobody is truly "normal," so try to make them odd in someway, even in the slightest.
If you want to make them as "normal" as possible. you may want to look up stereotypes, but I think if you're not looking for humor, you shouldn't do that. Try to base them off of someone you know in real life that you think is "normal," and let your mind take it from there.
There are numerous ways to flesh out a character, even though there are just as many wrong ways to do as well, but it all depends on how you write them out. Because guess what: you can make a likeable Mary-Sue if you handle them just the right way. (Yes, Virginia, not all tropes are bad.) Strengths and weaknesses are amongst the biggest thing(s) needed to make a good character, but you have to have an equal balance. It also helps that, unless the plot calls for it or just to paint a basic picture for the reader (which is usually why we give them a physical description), physical attributes aren't important.
Where Mary-Sues tend to come into being most of the time (outside of too many strengths and not enough weaknesses) is when you keep on bringing us back to what the character in question looks like, and then gush over how pretty they (supposedly) are. This is why people frown when they start to read a paragraph all about the clothing of a character--we don't care what dress they're wearing or how tight/loose it is around their waist. We don't care about the hairstyle (unless it's important to show the growth of a character, since some characters are attributed to how their hair hides their face to show they're shy or not a people-person). We don't care about their shoes. We don't care about how their eyes sparkle. (Unless it's important--again. Depending on your character, you may have to bring us back to what they look like so we can do a compare-and-contrast with the beginning and end. Readers are smart enough to figure it out most of the time, but it doesn't hurt to allude to it every now and then when you feel it's important to show us--keyword "show".)
Instead, give them struggles throughout the entirety of the story, and focus our attention on that, because this is what matters the most. There are two struggles a character will have: an external struggle, and an internal struggle.
The external struggle is a physical opposition they encounter, usually as they're going for a goal. This is where a lot of (exciting) action happens in the story. The internal struggle is a of a more intimate level in that you are getting to know the character for who they are. They may realize they have a problem with themselves that they must overcome, but they might not be aware of it, depending on who your character is. This is the most important aspect of character growth in that they identify their internal problem that's keeping them from reaching their outer goal, and they solve it. And of course when they do, they may not want the physical goal in the end, because that was who the old character would've wanted.
No matter what your character will look like, this is what will define the character for us.
(Moral of the story is: appearances aren't everything. That's one of many reasons why Twilight sucks eggs.)Charm >>> Physical appearances
Last edited by Kutie Pie; 6th January 2013 at 5:59 PM.
What you have to strive for in making characters is making them come off as realistic - of course, seeing as this is fan fiction of another universe, "realistic" is relative to the world your characters live in. That ten-year-old kid from Littleroot won't be given a Bagon with all its strongest egg moves by a stranger who turns out to be the champion he battles in the end, but the same ten-year-old kid can start with a Bagon that was left to him by his mother before she disappeared for unknown reasons which hatches as a baby who starts off with an especially strong Take Down but with its other attacks being pitifully weak. Yes, even the latter plot has a lot of cliche elements, but if it is handled correctly [that is, realistically, unless you're going for satire or sci-fi or something like that], then those cliche elements can turn out to be valuable points to develop not only your plot but also your character.
Realistic characters should also be wary of the other elements in the story - they must react accordingly to the setting, to the point where your plot is at the moment, and to other characters. And these reactions help in fleshing out the character, because it gives us another point of view outside of descriptions about him/her and his/her actions. Kutie Pie already tackles how you need to go outside of description in her post, and this is to assure that the character isn't flat.
As for Mary Sues and Gary Stus, it's a matter of avoiding bombarding your characters with too much strengths or weaknesses [which includes making it either too easy or too hard for them to achieve anything in the story], but finding a healthy mix of both, since that is where you'll get your "normal" character, as you put it. Note that, as I said above, that doesn't mean avoiding cliches all together - cliches are cliches for a reason, and that's because it's been proven many times [or rather, far too many times] that they work. It's just a matter of presenting these cliches in your own, unique perspective, one that [ideally] breaks away from the Mary Sue and Gary Stu way of presenting them.
In the end, it's also something you get to practice as you do more writing, as creating more characters [or writing more about a certain character] will allow you to explore different character dimensions and aspects, which will introduce you to overpowered and "underpowered" characters, flat and cliche characters, and hopefully realistic characters.
Personally for me, one of the simplest ways on making an original character is to know your own personalities. Most of the protagonists of my original novel has some relations to myself.
But to make them much more diverse is to pair one of your positive traits with a negative trait of yours.
One example, I remember making one of my latest characters as stern as possible. All I did was infuse my serious and authoritarian personality and vocals, and my blank lip smile with my humble and understanding personality. It is more of the reaction of the people that I talk face to face during personal discussions and meetings. Turns out most of my pals find themselves uncomfortable to chat with me. My lip smile is rather straight. not mad or happy. Neutral and focused
If you are listening to that kind of person above who cares for others despite the ways he give his advice is rather harsh and serious, would you ever remain a smile? Let alone approach?
Personally, I won't at all.