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There is nothing wrong with fan characters with tragic pasts


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(edited)

I need to get this off my chest. I really don't understand what it is about tragic pasts that make people in this fandom hate fan characters. it's like they despise sentimentality. If anything, thing, they can assist in making fan characters interesting. I'm not saying all fan characters should have tragic pasts, mind you.

I hope this isn't considered a rant. If it is, I just want you to know that I have no idea how to access my blog.

Edited by heavens-champion
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(edited)

I agree with you, but I have a guess why they are hated. 

They are everywhere, and I don't mean only mlp-fandom, but everything that includes original characters. Tragic backstory is probably most common backstory type and not only that, they usually lack originality. two very common examples being, getting bullied and/or being orphan. 

 

It's same reason why fidget spinners are hated nowadays. If it's common/everywhere, people hate it.

Edited by The Cerberus
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7 minutes ago, The Cerberus said:

I agree with you, but I have a guess why they are hated. 

They are everywhere, and I don't mean only mlp-fandom, but everything that includes original characters. Tragic backstory is probably most common backstory type and not only that, they usually lack originality. two very common examples being, getting bullied and/or being orphan. 

 

It's same reason why fidget spinners are hated nowadays. If it's common/everywhere, people hate it.

If that's the case, more people should hate cars.

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There is nothing wrong with having a character that has a tragic past, per se. However, often times overly dramatic pasts are overdone to the point of cliche. I bet you can think of many characters (OC and in other fiction) that have had say, their parents killed in front of them or orphaned into an abusive home. While there is nothing wrong with that, the character has to be exceptional in order to distinguish itself from the many other characters that have a similar story arch. And if they are not, well they tend to leave a sour taste in roleplayers' mouths after sifting through so many similar backstories.

Also, at many times, a depressing back story is used as a crutch to make others have an emotional response to your character, which is very clear to other experienced role players. Your character should provoke responses by either being original or being exceptionally well thought out and detailed. If you want to make a character with a tragic backstory, I suggest that one should make sure that character has a reason for that backstory and that the backstory isn't overly cliche (see above). 

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Just now, The Cerberus said:

Cars are useful in life, original characters are not. 

That's because original characters don't do much.

3 minutes ago, Convergence said:

There is nothing wrong with having a character that has a tragic past, per se. However, often times overly dramatic pasts are overdone to the point of cliche. I bet you can think of many characters (OC and in other fiction) that have had say, their parents killed in front of them or orphaned into an abusive home. While there is nothing wrong with that, the character has to be exceptional in order to distinguish itself from the many other characters that have a similar story arch. And if they are not, well they tend to leave a sour taste in roleplayers' mouths after sifting through so many similar backstories.

Also, at many times, a depressing back story is used as a crutch to make others have an emotional response to your character, which is very clear to other experienced role players. Your character should provoke responses by either being original or being exceptionally well thought out and detailed. If you want to make a character with a tragic backstory, I suggest that one should make sure that character has a reason for that backstory and that the backstory isn't overly cliche (see above). 

I find the orphaned at a young age backstory to be classic.

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(edited)
26 minutes ago, heavens-champion said:

If that's the case, more people should hate cars.

Yeah, except cars are actually useful. 

@The Cerberus is right, the whole thing has just been played out. It's not original anymore, and it just makes it look like the creator is trying  to be edgy.

Edited by Yamato
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24 minutes ago, heavens-champion said:

I need to get this off my chest. I really don't understand what it is about tragic pasts that make people in this fandom hate fan characters. it's like they despise sentimentality. If anything, thing, they can assist in making fan characters interesting. I'm not saying all fan characters should have tragic pasts, mind you.

I hope this isn't considered a rant. If it is, I just want you to know that I have no idea how to access my blog.

Nothing inherently wrong, but people know how to make a character who actually has experienced tragedy. It comes down to writing horrible characters. I'll stick to OC's with tragic pasts in the mediums when I say this ... almost no OC with any horrible event in their formative years is written with any depth or substance. The author comes across as entirely self-indulgent, or they haven't diversified their narrative consumption enough to see how better writers do it. 

The best tragic characters should have traits or attributes that accomplish one of three things ... 

1. Build something relatable into the character that readers see in themselves. It's a back door into empathy even if someone hasn't experienced the specific life storm they have. 

2. If you don't go relatable, go inspirational. Shit happened to the OC in the past? What if the OC already tackled it and succeeded. They can still have shades of it through a nuanced personality description, but by and large people will respect the character who has been to hell and back and is no longer dreary, angry, bitter, and an emotional wreck. Inspire people. 

3. If it is a tragedy and you are writing the character, FFS read about what happens when people go through something similar. Lost a parent? Disabled? Lost a spouse? Read books that have characters that went through that. Talk to people IRL or online that have dealt with a similar tragedy. If you are self-inserting your own life ... be careful. You may think you know what you feel internally, what it is like to go through the hurricane of emotions that is born from loss ... but if you do that you need to 'write outside' of your own head. You basically need to be a hella good writer and are competent at employing various elements of narrative style. 

It isn't that the concept is bad that can turn off the ideal viewer, it's the mediocre use of the craft that makes people dismiss it as not worth their precious time. 

 

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I'd say the hate is simply due to the fact that tragic backstories have been overused to the point of becoming unoriginal and easy to use. A certain prejudice has been created towards the trope because of how many uncreative characters have emerged from the bunch... But honestly, judging an OC solely because they have an awfully unfortunate past is just blatantly wrong. Everything depends on whether or not said OC was created in a realistic, relatable way with good writing.

Not ALL tragic backgrounds have to be "nothin personnel kid" levels of edgy. The same can be said of Alicorns: Not ALL of them have to be celestial beings drenched in Mary Sue stereotypes. It's just a matter of knowing the good old do's and don'ts when writing a character. 

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(edited)

 

I find tragic backstories to be lazy character creation. They give their makers the impression that they can get away with anything related to their character and make them unstable and unpredictable, which brings no real challenge to storytelling. Also, in roleplaying, it's quite unpleasant to roleplay with these characters since they tend to be overdoing everything. While not a rule, I have indeed met people able to roleplay splendidly with traumatic past OCs, most people whose OCs have tragic past tend to be a nuisance to roleplay with, jumping from one thing to another with no proper transition and logic, and having their characters act like the kind of people most about anyone would get a restraining order against, let alone actually interact with.

That being said, if owner can actually use the backstory to create an interesting character with an interesting personal plotline, it can still be a great thing.

Edited by javaleen
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4 hours ago, heavens-champion said:

If that's the case, more people should hate cars.

I hate cars. :P

 

43 minutes ago, They call me Loyalty said:

By whose definition does someone name right or wrong? Interpretations defined by perception.

Struggling over subjectivities is a foolish task, which only denotes ignorance of oneself.

It's called having an opinion.

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I was going to post a really simple "tragic characters aren't bad, bad characters are bad" post but after giving it a little more thought, I'd like to elaborate a bit

I feel like a lot of you are missing the idea of what makes a good character. Real people are characters, built up by their own life experiences. People aren't sick of characters that have tragic backstories, people are sick of badly written characters in general, a lot of whom just so happen to have tragic backstories. A character can have a traumatic experience or several, but a good character is written with at least some understanding of the implications of those experiences, and consideration of the other events that shape said character. @javaleen is right on the money here, tragic backstories are often used as a crutch by bad writers in some attempt at making a character more interesting. That isn't to say tragic characters are bad because they have a tragic past, but I feel like it does stem from a problem in the mindset of the writer that their characters need to stand out somehow. Your priority as a writer should instead be making your character realistic, natural, like somebody you could actually go out and talk to and learn from, not making your character superficially "interesting".

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Tragic stories have their place, but it's when they're taken to cliche extremes that people start to roll their eyes at them. "On his own from the age of five. Taught himself to survive by wrestling with mountain lions. Can't make friends because he knows he'll just hurt them. Etc." The kind of junk you think is "deep" in middle school. :P 

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Cliche is the big word in this respect.

Everyone is tired of seeing the same thing over and over again in this fandom with OC designs. Im a character designer hobbyist and I hate to put this utterly bluntly, but I've seen the bad OC backstories made for attention seeking, because its "cool" and the kids that claim they live goth/emo/alternative. I think its also what socially awkward bronies latch on to to go with the crowd because having a black and red dark alicorn prince who saw his parents die, is opposite to what you see in the show and its also to attempt to stand out and do one better than that other person with a similar OC.

Don't get me wrong, it is possible to write a tragic backstory OC that is good, but you should really be smart about it. Dont just make it obvious and throw it in peoples faces that your OC had a horrible past. You need to make it realistic. A lot of people who have had tragic moments in their past have gained the power and courage to move on and not show it. You can have the most socially normal character, but they had had a long battle against losing a limb, being tortured, losing a friend or family etc. Maybe they still show little ticks like a side effect or PTSD, just as an example. 

It is possible to make a good original idea for an OC with a dark past. You just need to think about it and maybe do some research. 

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The reason they are usually disliked is because usually that tragic backstory is the only thing they have going for them, with no other depth to speak of.

It is the same thing in a manner of speaking as the OCs that are created with an adherence to being ultra powerful... it is the only thing they have going for them, and as such they come off bland and terrible. It makes them 2 dimensional in a 3 dimensional world in most cases.

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I can't speak for everyone, but in my experience, roleplayers who create characters with tragic backstory are trying to quickly earn "sympathy points". They want you to connect with your character, feel bad for them, and appreciate them without putting forth any real effort into the character's personality and instead focusing on backstory. It's similar to characters who have been bullied excessively or with disabilities that aren't really detrimental in any way -- cheap ways to earn sympathy.

It's also a great way to explain away behavior that might be viewed as evil. For example, a character might murder several people, but the author will try to justify the character's actions with something like "the character was bullied when they were a kid and can't connect to society well, therefore he is innocent and not a villain." Such backstories have become so common that they are almost always despised.

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31 minutes ago, Meson Bolt said:

I can't speak for everyone, but in my experience, roleplayers who create characters with tragic backstory are trying to quickly earn "sympathy points". They want you to connect with your character, feel bad for them, and appreciate them without putting forth any real effort into the character's personality and instead focusing on backstory. It's similar to characters who have been bullied excessively or with disabilities that aren't really detrimental in any way -- cheap ways to earn sympathy.

It's also a great way to explain away behavior that might be viewed as evil. For example, a character might murder several people, but the author will try to justify the character's actions with something like "the character was bullied when they were a kid and can't connect to society well, therefore he is innocent and not a villain." Such backstories have become so common that they are almost always despised.

Just like how the whole Fifty Shades of Grey is romantic and passionate instead of abuse :dash: ?

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Fan characters with tragic pasts are usually a crutch that inexperienced writers use to try to get readers to sympathize with their characters as well as just how common and cliche they have become at this point are some of the reasons why they are hated.

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16 minutes ago, Steve Piranha said:

Just like how the whole Fifty Shades of Grey is romantic and passionate instead of abuse ?

Pretty much. Abuse is wrong, period. A tragic backstory can explain it, sure, but it doesn't justify it. It's still wrong.

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25 minutes ago, Meson Bolt said:

Pretty much. Abuse is wrong, period. A tragic backstory can explain it, sure, but it doesn't justify it. It's still wrong.

At least in the OC's case is justified in universe and rarely outside of it. Problem with the Fifty Shades is that is justified outside of it :dry: . I wonder if readers would think that if Grey was poor and unattractive :dash: 

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9 hours ago, Blue Diamond said:

Nothing inherently wrong, but people know how to make a character who actually has experienced tragedy. It comes down to writing horrible characters. I'll stick to OC's with tragic pasts in the mediums when I say this ... almost no OC with any horrible event in their formative years is written with any depth or substance. The author comes across as entirely self-indulgent, or they haven't diversified their narrative consumption enough to see how better writers do it. 

The best tragic characters should have traits or attributes that accomplish one of three things ... 

1. Build something relatable into the character that readers see in themselves. It's a back door into empathy even if someone hasn't experienced the specific life storm they have. 

2. If you don't go relatable, go inspirational. Shit happened to the OC in the past? What if the OC already tackled it and succeeded. They can still have shades of it through a nuanced personality description, but by and large people will respect the character who has been to hell and back and is no longer dreary, angry, bitter, and an emotional wreck. Inspire people. 

3. If it is a tragedy and you are writing the character, FFS read about what happens when people go through something similar. Lost a parent? Disabled? Lost a spouse? Read books that have characters that went through that. Talk to people IRL or online that have dealt with a similar tragedy. If you are self-inserting your own life ... be careful. You may think you know what you feel internally, what it is like to go through the hurricane of emotions that is born from loss ... but if you do that you need to 'write outside' of your own head. You basically need to be a hella good writer and are competent at employing various elements of narrative style. 

It isn't that the concept is bad that can turn off the ideal viewer, it's the mediocre use of the craft that makes people dismiss it as not worth their precious time. 

 

I very much agree with this particular post and this thread in general.

First off, just going by MLP fandom OCs, the level of the character is normally reflected in the age of the person behind the screen.  Yes, if you have some 10 year old playing an OC, then that character MAY be all sunshine and lollipops.  If not, then that tends to be sort of iffy depending on how much that person has gone through to properly pull from their backstory.  But if you have someone more mature who has a character with a tragic past, then the character they play is going to be more mature.  However, the same is true... you sort of have to have some sort of experience or really have a good idea of how to use your character's background.  Like @BlueDiamond said, there are several ways to use your backstory well.  Read books about the subject, talk to others who have gone through it, pull a little from your own past, et cetera.

It also depends on what is meant by "tragic".  To me, the orphan is a bit of a trope and a bit cliché because people who have orphan characters do usually just play the abandonment edge from what I have seen.  But AJ, Big Mac, and Applebloom are all orphans and has only really come up once or twice over seven seasons.  Fluttershy was bullied when she was younger and one could argue that that is where she draws her kindness from, by learning a lesson about how to treat others.  Same with the Cutie Mark Crusaders.  Even though they seemed to feel bad about it at times, they mostly just dusted their shoulders off and didn't let it get to them. 

I actually like characters who have a bit of tragedy, or at least experienced some kind of loss, because (and yes, the characters are fictional but still) makes them more realistic.  To me, it is the characters who have only happy stories and are always optimistic that make my brain hurt.  There isn't really a way to relate because nothing is like that, not in real life and though MLP is lighter, we have seen that bad things happen.  Bad ponies do exist and while quite a few of them have changed for the better, some of them seem to stay the same (Flim and Flam) or we don't really hear from again (Suri) but the ponies who were around them learned from their mistakes.

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Now that it's just about unanimous that cliches and lazy writing is why we see a dearth of great OC's with some skeletons or baggage ... I'm going to drop a trick or two that most creative minds employ when fleshing out a engaging character. 

Introspection. Make your characters think about their struggle in a way other than to motivate them; make them challenge their own thoughts and feelings. I adore him, but why? What’s the real reason I despise her? What needs to happen so I can overcome my challenges? Are my goals aligned with my personality. How does my pre-tragedy inform my perspective? Get into the character's mind and let that individual tell you what he would think. As a shortcut, some actually ask themselves what a friend would do -- or even another character they know inside and out -- if they had the same circumstances thrust upon them. 

As Meson Bolt said, if your character's past is nothing more than a vehicle for their actions now, you failed. Start again until you get it right. I can tell you that when I see a character that is motivated to kill because he has been bullied, I'm likely to check out right then and there unless you have given him a great personality that engages me, but let's face it ... that requires a lot of talent. Making a sociopath a hero isn't easy. I could build a castle of papers from fanfics, self-published books, and RP's I've seen that have tried that and failed in spectacular fashion. 

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