This is more of a mini-rant/gathering of thoughts than anything. Usually when I write these, I’m addressing something I’ve seen prevalent in a single series so I have a case study, today it’s more of a general note with examples mentioned as I go through. I’m also going to lean mostly towards said Original Characters being involved in romantic relationships with the main cast – oh and here’s the full title of today’s subject:
Using Original Characters That Have a Prominent Role for Series that Already Support a Large Cast
I’m going to start by disclaiming that I’m not referring to plot device characters. For example, if you’re writing a fanfic for Star Trek and they go to a new world – a cast of original characters for them to interact with would be natural. What would not be natural would be a new crewman showing up on the ship or relatives showing up out of nowhere with no basis.
This may sound like a rant against “Mary-Sues” and the like, but that’s not quite what it is. If a show has a full cast of 4-6 people that show up regularly, than yeah – there’s not a lot of options for romance or having them interact with different people. An original character playing the part of a main role could be forgiven in this context.
I have a much harder time forgiving this in series that have insanely large casts. For example – Bleach. There’s no need for an original character in this show. The cast has literally over 50 or so characters already available for use. You want a mousey girl? Try Squad 12’s Vice-Captain Nemu or Squad Five’s Hinamori. The outgoing girl? There’s about six of those. But to make the point short – you’ve got your choice of just about every personality and type already represented at one point or another.
In the sense of romantic relationships, a random meeting of two characters who have probably never met is just as likely to work as a random original character showing up. Use someone who’s already there and create a new pairing. Make it work and you’ll get more readers. So – I guess my point is that you’re more likely to get new readers by making an odd, unheard of paring work well than if you create an original character.
Another example would be Transformers. Yet another series with hundreds of characters in its cast to abuse and bend to your will. And yet you still see original characters show up and steal the show. Though, this is one case where I’ve seen it done well and badly.
In a particular fic, they used a squad of police transformers (all original characters) that worked very well. They were designed well, intereacted naturally and felt like they fell into the universe. I stopped reading, however, when in the sequel one of them had kids with a main character of the transformers cast. (A decepticon if you’re curious) This is where the original character lost its value as a plot device and supporting role and fell into the land of lost interest.
It’s a fine line, really, and I think I just don’t see the point of creating love interests for series that already provide so much material to work with.