Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Evan Pen, Mar 27, 2015.

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  1. Disclaimer: This is my first time writing any sort of lecture/guide/educational thing of any type for roleplaying and since most thing I write this length are rants, I apologize for any tendency to ramble on or anything I missed. Comments are appreciated in regards to how I could improve this, and overall


    “Self-insertion is a literary device in which a character who is the real author of a work of fiction appears as a character within that fiction, either overtly or in disguise.”

    What is a Self-Insert?
    As stated above, self-insertion is a literary device and is actually used my multiple authors and sometimes to good effect, in published literature or even the stories people post online. A self-insert is the character in question, then— the author’s character. Self-inserts can also appear in roleplays.

    Now, from personal experience I know that there are multiple people who react badly to the idea of someone using a self-insert—it’s the point of roleplay to act as another character? To pretend? To use your imagination? Won’t they become a…. *glances around* Mary-Sue!?

    Differences Between Self Inserts and Author Surrogates
    “As a literary technique, an author surrogate is a fictional character based on the author.”

    Now, this is where we can take a moment to think: If a self-insert is the author, just put into the story and an author surrogate is based on the author, where’s the difference?

    It can be a blurry line, but it’s likely that in many ways that you probably have, or have in the past, used at least one author surrogate. And if you haven’t, you probably have at least one character who shares a lot of your views, thoughts, and personality traits to the point that there’s a possibility that they could be considered one.

    The main difference that I’ve noticed is that author surrogates tend to be different in appearance and can have some different personality traits while still retaining a chunk of the author’s personality, whereas a self-insert is the same in nearly all ways. This makes sense: a self-insert is literally inserting yourself into the story, whether that story is a book or a roleplay. This leads to that fact that in reality, those Mary-Sues are not self-inserts, but author surrogates that have gotten out of control.

    Why Use Self-Inserts At All?
    Why, you might ask, would you want to use a self-insert? That just shows you can’t be creative, right? Wrong.

    There is nothing wrong with a desire to put yourself into a story, to pretend that you, and not your character, are the one in the situation at hand. There’s a reason that any people read books with characters who are similar to them: what better way to put yourself into the story than to be able to relate to the character?

    And what character can you relate better to than yourself?

    Roleplaying for many people is a form of escapism and there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking that to the point of putting yourself into the story. There can be something fun about trying to figure out what you would do in unfamiliar situations. You can also use it as a form of practice, a way of examining who you are as a person. Not to mention that in a way, it is an easier form of roleplay. You don’t have to try and put yourself into someone elses’ shoes, you aren’t trying to take the personality of a fictional someone and make it apply to situations that you’ve never been in. You don’t have to ask yourself “How would they react?” because you can go off of instinct, based on how you yourself would react.

    It can also be incredibly difficult.

    Who wants to admit that in a situation they would run in terror? Or that they would react angrily to someone who’s supposed to be their ‘friend’? Who wants to say that they aren’t the best fighter, or that they can’t put up with certain types of adversity? If you make a character, you get to tailor them to the expectations of the roleplay.

    This isn’t to say that you can’t stretch the truth a little bit, because you’re using a self-insert in a roleplay that demands if – obviously in a roleplay where everyone uses a gun, you’re going to know how to use one. But you can’t give yourself traits that wouldn’t make sense for the roleplay or the job that you’ve given yourself within the roleplay, tempting as it is. You have to realize that if you have trouble with technology in real life can you really use your self-insert as the hacker in that high-stakes technology-driven drama roleplay you’ve been eyeing? Probably not.

    But if you’re good with animals, why not be a werecreature? Why not be the animal-empath in that modern-fantasy-superpowers-and-magic roleplay? You don’t have to stick to slice-of-life with a self-insert, you just have to expand on your talents and natural abilities, rather than applying new ‘powers’ that wouldn’t make sense for you, because they’re ‘cool’. That leads into Mary-Suedom.

    The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
    Everyone has them, though some of us like to joke that we’re ‘perfect’. Do you have a temper? Are you a coward in violent confrontations? Do you have trouble making friends? Are you lazy? Slow to understand some situations?

    You have to be able to look at yourself and pick out these things, and it can be difficult sometimes even when it is a looming flaw, because by using a self-insert and giving that self-insert the appropriate flaws, you’re giving other people your flaws, you are exposing what you see as your problems to the world. For some it can also be admitting to flaws that they don’t normally think about, like being snappish or insensitive.

    There is another problem that can arise: the other extreme. Rather than having difficulty picking out flaws, the flaws you have are huge in your mind and you wind up giving your self-insert all of them in massive quantities. Your character becomes a massive jerk or a pile of gelatin in the corner. You have to think about your positive traits, too. Why do your friends like you? Your sense of humour? Your empathy? Your encyclopedic knowledge of all things related to Doctor Who/The Dark Knight crossover fanfiction?

    And what skills do you have? Are you good at memorizing? Can you cook? Are you an avid reader who would probably recite every line of Harry Potter in order, both as they are in the books and alphabetically? Can you use a gun? Did you go to summer camp and learn archery? Horseback riding? Are you a polyglot?

    What are your hobbies? Do you collect anything? Do you have a passion for a certain series, TV show, movie, etc? Cosplay? What music do you like? Are you interested in history, science, languages? You have to think of these things if you’re making a self insert.

    Adapting Backstory
    Some people don’t want to share their backstory and history online with everyone and that is perfectly fine! If you do choose to write out your backstory, I recommend changing details, mostly for your own personal safety and the safety of those in your life; don’t give out full addresses, the names of people without their express permission and don’t share what town you live in if your know it won’t be safe. And if there are certain details that you aren’t comfortable sharing, you can edit them out; this is the one area where self-inserts can be changed the most. You probably will need to change your insert’s backstory for a roleplay anyways.

    What you have to remember though is that there are certain events that have affected you and made you who you are. If you edit them out, replace them with something that would lead to the same affect.

    (Changes I’ve made to my own self-insert’s backstory have included making him cis for the sake of a roleplay and personal comfort at the time)

    Keeping Up Appearances
    Now this can be a hard one. A lot of us want to look different. And that’s fine. But don’t be extreme with it, if you decide to make your self-insert look somewhat different from you (hell, this can be for safety reasons).

    If you don’t have tattoos and have no plans to actually get some, don’t give yourself any. Would you dye your hair that colour? Would you look good with that colour? No? Don’t do it. Would you get that haircut in real life? Could you actually have that haircut/style in real life? Would you be able to maintain it? No? Don’t do it.

    Is that clothing style something that you and your possibly adjusted backstory would allow you to have? No? Don’t do it. Does it fit in with the roleplay? Then yes, go right ahead. Would you want to wear it but you don’t know where to get it in real life? Then go ahead but be cautious. And don’t go over the top just because you suddenly have free reign over the clothing in your non-existent, fictional wardrobe.

    And while maybe it would make sense for a roleplay, don’t change your build too much if you don’t have to. There is nothing wrong with playing a character who’s considered ‘too skinny’ or ‘awkwardly proportioned’ or ‘fat’. You know what it’s like to be that, why not roleplay it? People have a tendency towards characters with idealized or at least ‘average’ builds and that takes a lot away from the variety that roleplay allows you. People will have preconceived notions about certain bodies but you know that these are necessarily true, why not use that to your advantage?

    I also recommend describing your features in terms of how they look, rather than in terms of ‘pretty’ or ‘ugly’. Whether you’re egotistical or have low self-esteem, that isn’t description. People have no idea what your character actually looks like, they all have an idea of it in their head with no basis on any information given besides that word and everyone has different preferences which will lead to different ideas of character appearance (I actually have this problem with non-self-insert descriptions as well, despite being guilty of it myself).

    In Essence
    Do not assume that the self-insert is the stuff of fanfic authors and twelve year olds going at roleplay for the first time. A self-insert can be well thought out, you just have to be able to think of yourself more objectively than you likely do and know how and where you can make changes and adjustments.
    #1 Evan Pen, Mar 27, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2015
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  2. *... rubs eyes...*

    "It's so small, I can't find it."
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  3. I can't see it either. Too small.
  4. Yeah, I tried zooming in like three times, only to find that it didn't help much.
  5. I made the disclaimer larger if that was what people were having trouble seeing; if it's the overall text, I can make that larger too
  6. It's all the text, really.
  7. Muuuuuch better! Thank you, Evan! :)
  8. Yes, very much better... eyes no longer want to explode.
  9. This is a highly educational article that I would recommend forever and ever.
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