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DISCUSSION: Self inserts. Good or bad?

I mean, to an extent, you've got to put at least a little bit of yourself into your characters to write them ("Write What You Know" and what not).

To be honest, I think the term "self insert" is a fairly neutral term, and it only became derogatory once it started getting associated with "wish fulfillment".

I think, like a lot of things, self inserts can be good or bad. It's a purely case by case basis.
 
Wilbert Awdry imdrtyrf (or "inserted", as those with proper typing skills might put it) himself into his books, as a character that was explicitly depicted as the person who was writing the very books in which he (as the character) was featured in, and it worked. It's proof that most anything can work if done well.

But whether a character is a self insert or not, they have to be valuable to the story being told.

I guess if someone as a writer NEEDS readers to know that a character is a self insert, in order for them to feel that their character is being properly appreciated, it may be a sign that the character was made with motivations that might pave the way for untextured stories, as mentioned above.

I'd bet a at least a few of the great stories of all time were self inserts which we the audience were never hip to.
 
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It's not an inherently bad thing. It can be quite useful as an introspection process about your inner self and how would you interact in that kind of world.

However, I think many not like it because of how obvious it is sometimes, the self-insert character ends up being some kind of god or an extremely specific experience no one can relate to. It has to be written carefully, my advice would be to give the characters something from you but also differences so they all feel unique.
 
Self-insert characters got their bad reputation because they tend to go hand in hand with Mary Sues. Stuff like having inexplicable powers, having a relationship with a canon character the author likes, being more powerful/smarter/reliable than the main cast, etc. So in theory, you can avoid this pitfall by writing the self-insert as someone who feels like they're part of the cast, flaws and all. But if you fail in doing that, the character sticks out like a sore thumb.

For example, if you indulge too much in wish fulfillment and ended up with a story that bends the rules for your character's sake, then the story becomes far less entertaining and more people will call you out for it. As much as some of us would like to be, nobody is flawless. It's harder for us to relate to a character who has no real problems/issues whatsoever.

There are also those particular authors who are unable to separate their real selves from their fictional counterparts. As a result, any criticism against said characters is considered an attack against the author.

The self-insert character is not inherently bad. It's the unfortunate connection to wish fulfillment and to those who overindulge in it.
 
@Greninjaman

Give them realistic flaws, just like you would any other character. They can be based on your real world flaws, they can be something different. You also don't want to go too far the other way, and make a character so flawed no one will want to relate to or cheer for them.
 
What are ways one can make a self-insert work?
Write them like any other character. Have the self-insert follow the same rules of the universe as them. Don't show the self-insert special treatment just because it's "you" in there, lol. In fact, it's probably a bad idea if you tell your readers that it's "you" in there. Let them guess. That'll make it more fun.

As a blatant wish fulfillment example on what NOT to do, let's say your self-insert takes Ash's place in one of the anime seasons, still having Ash's companions (but Ash himself is nowhere to be seen). Let's say the self-insert is actually a "newbie," but the self-insert does everything that Ash ever did better. In battles, decision-making, etc.

Maybe the self-insert even gets preachy to Ash's companions about how to be a better trainer, and then they just simply agreed to it without argument (or there IS an argument, but they were proven "wrong" later). One of them becomes the self-insert's lover too. All conflicts get resolved easily, meaning the rival sucks, Team Rocket is never an issue and the local regional evil organization is full of incompetent mooks. The self-insert may acquire some legendaries later on, enough to the point to make Tobias from the anime seem less excessive. And win the local league easily.

Congratulations, Champion Mary Sue! The people have chosen you to the be the Emperor/Empress of the world! All of the Elite Fours and the Champions in other regions bow to your incandescent glory!

And there you have it. Just write the self-insert as a normal character. Put YOURSELF in the shoes of your other characters. What would YOU realistically do during certain situations? Would YOU make different decisions in their stead? You can probably get away with making the self-insert more ideal (your own personal aspirations) from time to time, but take care not overindulge. Maybe you had bad acne in real life; but in the story, your skin is clear. And that's fine. Maybe you weren't that strong or courageous in real life either; but in the story, you gain both from character development. That's fine too.
 
This thought came to me: Would using a self-insert work best for beginners? Like, should they start their first story with a self-insert?
In a way, yes. Because who knows you better than yourself, right? It's good practice to learn how to build characters.

But writing characters also requires some flexibility. So you would need to explore personalities that differ from your own and experiment. In a way, every single character you write will derive from your own personality in some way, but this is why you need to try different things.
 
In a way, yes. Because who knows you better than yourself, right? It's good practice to learn how to build characters.

But writing characters also requires some flexibility. So you would need to explore personalities that differ from your own and experiment. In a way, every single character you write will derive from your own personality in some way, but this is why you need to try different things.
Yeah. I do agree with you on that. It's good idea to be flexable with the characters, self-insert or otherwise.
 
Not really a huge fan of self-insert fanfics. Self insert OCs aren't inherently bad to use, but too often they come across as annoying or selfish people yet seemingly everybody in-universe loves them?
 
Not really a huge fan of self-insert fanfics. Self insert OCs aren't inherently bad to use, but too often they come across as annoying or selfish people yet seemingly everybody in-universe loves them?
I agree that they aren't bad, but if done well it can work. That really is the case with anything when it comes to fanfics.
 
Most of my characters have started out as self-insert in one way or another. Whether it's just an aspect of myself, or purely there for wish fulfillment. I think it tends to help me set a good foundation, and then use an easy-to-write character to build out the world. Of course, this means I have to heavily edit previous chapters, but I never mind. I have more fun trying to figure out situations for basically me, but in that situation, as opposed to a character I don't know at all, which leads to more fascinating ideas, imo.

I typically diverge from here: 1) I'm writing a serious story, or 2) I'm going pure wish fulfillment, will probably never post it but I desperately needed it anyway. Without self-insert, there is a lot of introspection that I would personally miss out on. For that reason alone, I find self-insert to be invaluable.

There's also the pure enjoyment of putting yourself into a story. I've enjoyed quite a few self-insert fanfics just from that alone. It's easy enough for it become more of a "second person" story and treat the self-insert character as my own self-insert, but I think that requires a bit of being a crazy fangirl in order for that to work, lmao
 
I'd say good. It can be self-indulgent or wish-fulfiment but there's nothing wrong with writing for fun or for yourself, and even posted self inserts can have a certain fun or appeal. Self insert fanfiction can also be a surpisingly good way to sort out identity issuees or otherwise something for comfort. I'm not one to judge someone for what they like to write and I can always not read if it doesn't interest me. I'd recommend people try writing self insert fanfiction if they're bored or curious since it can be fun.
 
In my most recent writing project, the main character wasn't a true self insert, but he was a wolf named Chevs, a nickname I've gone by on the internet. (Chevy>Chev>Chevs) To avoid confusion, I said that the character is pronounced with the hard ch, while if you say it with the soft ch (shevs) you're talking about me. I mainly did this just because there's a love interest in the story and I didn't want to ship myself with a fictional character, but Chevs is heavily based on me.
 
On the fence about it. Depending on who's the writer, some characters might have some elements of themselves to help them write stuff easier cause they know that stuff. But the majority I've read with self-inserts are outright garbage and just devolve in world warping Gary Stu characters.

It can probably be done well if done by a good author, but I personally don't really like them.
 
My self-insert fic was unorthodox as it was a comedy-drama starring myself and several friends and acquaintances based on the drama of these forums a decade ago, but I had a lot of fun with it in high school.
 
Long story short, it can work for a character idea but you'll need to play fair. That means being honest and portraying the things that suck about you as well as the things that are great about you.

But honestly, I gravitate more towards characters that share key elements with me but aren't quite me.
 
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