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I am a moron of the highest order

Diddy

Renegade
I am an idiot, there are no other words... well there are probably a lot of deprecating ones... but that's beside the point.

So, I was reading something today from a long time ago, last year I think, perhaps a year and a month because I was in my first year of university. Anyway, in this thing I was reading, I was insulted... a lot. So it got me thinking about insults in general and I wondered about self-insert characters and how authors seem loathe to insult themselves in fiction form. Surely it's not that hard to make fun of yourself, what does the opinion of the internet count for?

For example if I wrote a fic about my past week it would be VERY boring. Unless you find descriptions of me playing street fighter or eating cake and feeling sick or walking around browsing for christmas presents, fun. There would be little to no dialogue and there wouldn't be many secondary characters to distract you from my mind-numbing boringness. You'd probably find Twilight more interesting, quite frankly.

My terrifically inane life aside, I can't see how people CAN self-insert. Nobody is quite as interesting as their fics make it seem they are, at least I've never met anyone quite so exciting. Does it count as a Self-Insert if the character they insert isn't as they are IRL?

Meh, ranty rant. Can you tell I'm bored? not as if my life currently is throwing up anything to stop me from being bored

What are your opinions?
 

SerenadeSP

My Loyal Feraligatr
I agree to an extent. I used to write a story when I was in elementary school and I used all of my friends names, but over time the characters became completely different than the people they were based off of, because the characters' lives were more exciting than the real version of the people. I don't even associate the characters with their (ex-)real life counterparts anymore, 'cause I can't say that they're the same person.

(( Off-topic: Do you think I'd get critisized for writing a story with the same names as people I know (not full names of course), 'cause I'd think that it would be just like any other name but I just want to see others' opinions. Sorry for going off-topic Diddy ^_^; ))

Honestly I feel that a writer will ALWAYS pour a bit of themselves into their characters (which could be why mine turned out so perfect), just so they can relate to them better. 'Cause if you can't relate to your characters, how do you expect your readers to? As long as the character has flaws and complex emotions to some extent I don't really see how it matters in the long run.
 

JX Valentine

Ever-Discordant
I think a lot of the time, you've pretty much hit the nail on the head when it comes to why writers do it. Okay, that made no sense, but think of it this way:

Your real life is boring. You're a pretty boring person. You're well aware of this fact.

All of a sudden, a hole rips open in time/space, and you're flung into a completely different dimension. One where you have knowledge over canon! A destiny! Special Pokémanz~!

In other words, I guess I could see how writers could create self-inserts -- straight-up self-inserts and not just "this character is based a little on me." It's because their lives aren't exactly desirable, so it's completely blatant wish-fulfillment. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that if it's done well, but unfortunately, a lot of people go a little overboard and turn their self-insert into a Mary Sue for the same reason. (That is, "My life is boring, so I want to see what would happen if things were not boring.")

This is completely relevant, I swear. It's because, to go back to the question you were actually asking, there's a fine line between something that is and isn't a self-insert, and whether or not you cross it depends on how much wish-fulfillment you're pulling. If it's got your personality, your name, your appearance, your likes and dislikes, even your skills, you could say it's you, I should think. Of course, once you start adding super-special shiny things to make "your character" seem more interesting, it becomes what you want to be, rather than how you see yourself. Once you cross that line from how you see yourself into what you want to be, you go from self-insert to OC (or even Mary Sue). But, yeah, I'd say it's still possible to create a self-insert because, when you get right down to it, all a self-insert has to be is a character that represents who you are -- who you see yourself as, as I've said.
 

Diddy

Renegade
There's a very low possibility of getting criticised for using your friends names because we don't know who you're friends are. I couldn't tell you if Jimmy Peterson was a made up person or I subconsciously knew someone once in my life called Jimmy Peterson. A name is a name and unless it's something like Moon Bloodgood (One of my favourite names that actually exist btw :p) or Morrigan Darkspire, then I think you'll be fine.

Boy 1: This is my friend Terminarnold.
Terminarnold: Hey.
Boy 2: And this is my friend Rambo Balboa.
Rambo Balboa: ADRIAANN!!

That's a preview of my new high school script fic extravaganza.


As for you Jax, I think you got it.

It comes down to wish-fulfillment. a 'wouldn't it be awesome if' kind of situation.

On slow days I often wonder what my life would be like if I was born the opposite gender, pick out key moments in my childhood and think about how a gender switch would affect that. To this day I haven't reached any solid conclusions.

I just don't think you can call it a self-insert if you're adding things or taking them away from yourself. Changing the situation maybe, "how would I react to being sent to the pokémanz world?" or "What would happen if Ash was sent to our world and I befriended him?" (the second one was actually one of my many ideas that never came to fruition, if anyone wants to steal it, by all means)

If was, for all intents and purposes, me, in the pokeyman world- BUUUUT I had a 'love makes pokémon stronger' outlook. I couldn't say that was me, just someone who is oddly similar to me in some ways.
 

Ysavvryl

Pokedex Researcher
Using names of real people you know isn't too bad. You know, just so long as you don't go turning that character into an evil blood-thirsty monster to be defeated and leaving the story where the namesake person can read it. That could cause problems.

I personally take names from phone books for random one-off characters...

The self insert as wish fulfillment is usually how that kind of thing works. It's especially noticeable (and irritating) when the self-insert and/or favored characters get away with terrible things, like degrading another character or blowing up a town, without consequence. Of course, I'm not fond of when that happens in any story.

I have also seen self-inserts where the author constantly makes fun of him/herself, like their boring-ness and nerd-iness. Those can run all the way into Anti-Sue territory, which can be just as bad as Mary Sues. But good ones can often be quite funny to read.

My opinion is that things should be kept in balance. But that is in no way a solid rule, as imbalance can also be quite interesting.
 

Chickorita

Active Member
I think any amount of self-inserting or friend-inserting past the bare minimum of "hey, I/someone I know has this trait, which would be cool if combined with several other personality traits to make an unrecognisable character!" is a bad idea since, if the character is effectively you or someone you know, you'll be less likely to let bad things happen to them in the narrative or let them be flawed people. And that's just boring. I'd much rather read about endearingly obnoxious people who get screwed over by the universe than Princess Perfect.

Besides, it seems slightly lazy to me. Isn't it easier to just make up a character? If you keep basing characters off people you know or, worse, fall back on simple stereotypes/archetypes, eventually you will run out of characters to use.

But YMMV, I guess.
 

SerenadeSP

My Loyal Feraligatr
I think any amount of self-inserting or friend-inserting past the bare minimum of "hey, I/someone I know has this trait, which would be cool if combined with several other personality traits to make an unrecognisable character!" is a bad idea since, if the character is effectively you or someone you know, you'll be less likely to let bad things happen to them in the narrative or let them be flawed people. And that's just boring. I'd much rather read about endearingly obnoxious people who get screwed over by the universe than Princess Perfect.

Besides, it seems slightly lazy to me. Isn't it easier to just make up a character? If you keep basing characters off people you know or, worse, fall back on simple stereotypes/archetypes, eventually you will run out of characters to use.

But YMMV, I guess.
Honestly, I agree with this. When I originally wrote the story I had no idea that I would actually want to take it somewhere. I've changed the names of many characters, but a small few of them are hard for me to change (especially because there is symbolism that lies behind the character's name that tied into their new personalities, which happened by pure coincidence) and I wanted to make sure that it wouldn't cause problems. All of the 'insert' characters have been changed drastically as far as personality goes anyway - they're entirely different people in my eyes. It's just the names.

Besides, I do have bad things happen to all of them and give them flaws,etc., because I realize that insert stories are boring (as the original story was, to be honest) and I don't want that to happen. All that remains from the original story, besides the basic plotline, is the names of some characters.

Is shot for repeating himself about 50 times within two posts.

Gah, I can't explain myself very well can I?
 

Dragonfree

Just me
Do people generally actually make themselves interesting when they self-insert? I don't read a lot of fics, I admit, but the self-inserts I have read (that weren't really I-wish-this-was-me-inserts) are mostly characterized by the main character being awfully boring - they're normal, nice, kind, just, basically exactly the way the probably relatively normal people writing them are or at least how they see themselves. People tend not to be very aware of their flaws, and since flaws tend to be what makes characters interesting, self-inserts that aren't blatant Sues tend to simply be uninteresting. And even if they are aware of their flaws, it's hard for most people to write fiction about their own flaws seriously getting them into trouble - we all like to think our flaws are minor or justified or don't really matter.

That, I think, is the main reason self-inserts are a problem even aside from the general problem of Mary-Sues - not only are you relatively unlikely to be interesting, but you're also unlikely to know it if you really are interesting, and you will probably have a hard time of writing about it even if you know it. It takes serious self-awareness and enough confidence to cheerfully portray your own problems to write a self-insert interestingly.
 

RoflLuxRay

Pokemon Physiologist
I believe self-inserting serves a self compliment purpose. I mean, some people's life is really boring and placing them on a fic, taking them through a journey and bla bla bla makes their imagination go off and make themselves what they would call a "good day"

This begins going off the road when self-inserted characters gains advantange on the rest of the characters, like an unbelieveable winning streak or wining a battle with so much ease it makes battling look like a joke. Just by looking at a character like that you can say "Well, is this guy ever going to lose?" And drift your eyes off somewhere else.

I have noticed people usually mention something about "this guy has this tic" or "this girl is afraid of that" but is that really how a character is build? By throwing a random, shallow atribute to him that would make him look "special" to our perception of the rest of the world?

If a self-insert is made, it has to be the most human as posible; because that is how great characters are build: by working from their personal ground to their very own fears and flaws, by making them look human.

I have to agree with Dragonfree, it takes a lot to write about yourself, to look yourself in a mirror and point at your own flaws, because: yeah, we can't be perfect and flawless, but accepting those flaws and embrace them is really a huge step into making ourselves better persons.
 

JX Valentine

Ever-Discordant
Do people generally actually make themselves interesting when they self-insert?
Generally, a writer who does it correctly would do it the way you've described: by realizing that it's supposed to be the world around that character that's the interesting element, not the other way around. Unfortunately, in fandom, it's usually that self-insert authors -- using the term very loosely -- think that every part of the self-insert fic concept is just another bit of wish-fulfillment. As in, it's not just that the author wants to see what would happen if a character who's exactly like them is thrown into their dream world. The character becomes a vehicle for the author, capable of gaining the powers and love interests that the writer wishes they could experience. ...Which is basically the classic definition of Mary Sue, so I guess you could say a number of Mary Sues were meant to start out as self-inserts but got a little off the subject, if you know what I mean. For a clearer example, I once read a fic (that's actually right here on Serebii, at the risk of being punched in the face) where the character started out as a self-insert thrown into the Pokémon world. By the end of it, he was a buff-and-tan Fabio-esque character who managed to get a female ninja hired to kill him to heel-face-turn and become his virtue-touting bride and followed it up with saving the world from Mewtwo's wrath while becoming an intensely strong trainer at the same time. All of this when he was actually a pretty ordinary guy at first. Then, for a second example, a lot of artists on dA seem to like doing this in fanart of their favorite characters if they don't just create a Mary Sue to hook up with John Doe. So, yeah, there's a nice chunk of authors who are in it just to entertain themselves, rather than simply to ask a what-if question.

Of course, not all self-inserts turn into hilariously obvious Mary Sues, so to answer your question directly, no, self-insert authors generally don't write that way. Likewise, your mileage may vary with the ones that aren't Sues, too. Personally, I've read many self-insert fics where the character was unintentionally boring and mundane, just because they were actually trying to force "their" character to be cookie-cutter new trainers instead of because they're just modeling the character's personality after their own. I'm thinking these might be the ones you were talking about. (Some people are into that kind of thing, though, so.) And yes, you have a very valid comment right there: many characters in the fandom who are actually self-inserts share pretty much the "I'm such a nice and ordinary person" kind of personality. In my opinion, though, it's probably not so much because the author can't see their own flaws (because I know a number of authors who don't actually think so highly of themselves, sometimes even imagining flaws they don't even have) as it is that they just want to preserve what they think are their best traits to make their character seem more friendly to readers. As in, this is how they'd probably talk to you -- very sweetly and with as much friendliness as possible. That way, when you read the character's name and make a connection, it's a way of associating with the author. If you say you like the character because they're friendly, for example, the author will feel like you're saying you think they're nice, too.

In the end, you've still got a valid point. It does take a lot of courage and meditation to see yourself from an objective standpoint, but with a number of authors, I think it's rather more because not a lot of authors have the balls to present themselves like that in the first place.

Buuuut to go back to the original question, does the entire self-insert Sue thing happen? Yep. Does it happen a lot? Yep. (If I linked to more examples, would someone drama-flail at me? Yep.)
 

Super_Nerd

Writer of Stuff
Self-insert is probably one of the most natural ways to dip a toe into fan-fiction. Imagining yourself in a game/show/etc. is, at least for me, what got me writing this stuff in the first place.

And it can be TERRIBLE. I know my early stuff was your standard Mary Sue pwns everything in sight with little effort. In my defense, I was eight or so.

Today, the one story I do have here--which is a adaptation of something I started in the Bad Old Days--is fundamentally a self-insert. The two main OCs used to be myself and a close friend. Now that they're not Winning Everything, I've enjoyed taking the time to find out just how flawed they are. So in that sense, I totally agree with what's been said as far as that.
 

Beechlgz

Well-Known Member
I would actually recommend against self-inserts for certain poeple, depending on who they are and how they go about it. Such as a very honest and sensitive person who is as honest in their self-insert as they are in real life. If you allow the world to see all your weaknesses (or even a very small audience) people can learn how to break you. Chances are slim but I wouldn't wish for anyone to risk it.

As for inserting friends, only of they clearly permit it.

Self-inserts can be good though. Just the writer needs to be very brutally honest. Chances are, if they are honest, there are going to be a lot of personal issues and emotions cropping up that the writer will need to come to terms with. They'd kind of have to get to know themselves all over again. It could get quite emotionally draining, but maybe also fulfilling. We all have issues, just most of us don't confront most of them in order to protect ourselves from our own past traumas and worries.

Most people won't go that far though. They'll prefer to portray themselves how they see themselves on the surface, and not how they truly are deep inside.
 

Mei

Well-Known Member
At the risk of restating a point that has been made several times already, I agree that self-inserts would work best only if the writer is willing to be honest about their weaknesses/flaws. If they portray themselves just as how they want other people to see them, they'll end up with a one-sided, Mary Sue-ish character. But then again, writing about you own flaws could be pretty painful--as Dragonfree said, we like to think that our own flaws are justified or minor.

Diddy said:
Does it count as a Self-Insert if the character they insert isn't as they are IRL?
I wouldn't think so. The whole point of a self-insert is that it's you in the fic; if you portray yourself differently than you actually are IRL, then it's not really a self-insert, is it? Again, it goes back to the idea of being honest about what you're really like and presenting all aspects of your character instead of just the favorable ones.
 

Karpi

Forever a pirate
The only way I can see this working for most people is if they self-insert themselves as a character other than the main character.

This way you are forced to see yourself from another person's point of view. Of course my method only works if you take characterization really seriously ad actually try to think like a different person when writing.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Well, as a self-insert writer who actually has a fic that she likes to take seriously, I'll chime in here with some insight I don't think anyone can really get unless they've written it:

I've always thought of the self-insert story as trying to be more interesting than that person's life, simply because you're not writing about everyday life. Stories tend to have incredible things happening, so there's no reason why writing yourself surrounded by things that you would never see in real life is inherently bad.

The problem is when you get to personality. A bunch of people have already addressed this, but it is pretty easy to end up with the world revolving around the self-insert if you go about things from the "this is a story about me" sort of way. But if you spend all your time thinking out the world and the events of your story by their own merits and the fact that you happen to be in the story is an afterthought? I don't see why that can't work.

That said, I have a very significant reason for writing a self-insert that is quite different from why we usually assume self-inserts are written.

I write my main character as a self insert because I find a great number of terrible situations to be absolutely fascinating, and I can enjoy seeing my characters' reactions (all of them really, just more through the main since you see more of her) rather than having to experience those things firsthand.

Sure, my story started out as a silly "it's ME on a Pokemanz journey!" but back then it didn't have a plot either, sooo... >_>


I'm not saying that I'm like...a master at self-inserting, but I have learned a lot of things from the process. The world and the events of the story exist completely independently of the main character and are the part that I emphasize the most, and the main character struggles at living through them so that I can most effectively show them off. And it's fun to throw my main character into crazy situations to see how she'll react. Ever tried thinking of some insane hypothetical situation where all options are equally awful? Odds are, you have no idea what you'd do. I don't either. But somehow my main character ends up having to choose. I have fun gaining insight from things like that.

And as someone else mentioned, throwing out laundry lists of character traits does not develop a character. This is probably another reason why self-inserts often fail. Who can really fully summarize themselves? And apply this to a character? The best characters are the ones that live for themselves and do what they want, not what the writer makes them do. And it's the same on the other side of the coin: laundry listing your own flaws doesn't make a character any more real.

But strangely, the things I enjoy most about my self-insert, Jade, are the things she has differently from me. We both prefer to avoid conflict, but when stuck in it anyway, I turn defensive and fiery, whereas she kind of shuts down. I self-analyze way too much and ramble my findings to everyone, while she has trouble understanding her emotions, much less why she does what she does. I get agitated if the people I'm around most often aren't ones I have a close emotional bond with, but Jade isn't too bothered by the fact that her Pokemon mostly just tolerate her. I'm arrogant and take pride in my skills, while Jade doesn't care that she's mediocre at just about everything.

Actually, one thing very characterized by the way I look at people is that it's not their traits that define them, it's their reactions. Defining someone's personality is hard. Defining their reactions is simple and concrete, yet offers more insight into someone's personality than almost anything else. In real life I constantly do things for the sake of analyzing someone's reaction--it's the same way in my writings. Maybe I can't really define anything specific or noteworthy about my self-insert's personality, but I think her reactions to the things she encounters in the world and events of my story, are my favorite part. I understand everything about my story because I am the writer (well...mostly...it kind of writes itself a lot...), but my self-insert is not the writer, and so I get to write her reactions to the elements of that world that I most enjoy.


And, I'll just say that self-inserting friends is HARD. You constantly worry if they'd approve of what you're having them doing, and they turn painfully vanilla-bland. The only way I've made it work is by turning them into different people. :/

~Chibi~;249;;448;
 

Palindrome emordnilaP

4985 5218 3157
I used to self-insert, but I'd think that's how my personality was, but I've decided to make up personalities and try to think like them as I'm writing. Having done that for, oh, two years, I find it almost impossible to self-insert, perhaps if it was a silly comedy or something involving a geeky 16-year-old, then I would. I still name-drop the names of my friends when I can't think.

But writing like I'm the main character gets too boring after about ten minutes. I find myself in a corner and would end up writing something that I wouldn't normally do, or I'd just leave the story there and never look at it again. However, thinking about it, it takes a brilliant writer to self-insert perfectly, to truly capture what they are perceived to be like by the people around them.
 
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