My favorite phenomena with stories these days, is that there’s almost a guarantee there’s fanfiction of it somewhere on the internet. Fanfiction (in case you might be in the small percentage of people who don’t know what that is) is when you write a story, which is based on an already existing story by a different person. My other favorite part of fanfiction, is when people make their own characters (which are usually called Original Characters, and shortened to OCs) and insert them into these fanfictions. It started being a big thing in the 60s with the Star Trek fanbase, and it’s still flourishing in this day and age, being written and read by people of all ages, starting with children. Almost every kid out there has at some point wished they could live in the world of their favorite show or book, which is one of the main reasons why they make OCs and write fanfiction. But since these are kids who are writing, they often make childish stories with childish abilities, but I still see them being critiqued like it was supposed to be professional or something. That’s just mean to kids, and making them scared to go into writing again.
Often, the first OCs a kid will make will be probably self-insert characters, so they enjoy imagining themselves hanging out with characters from their favorite series. Usually they give themselves certain aspects to try to fit themselves better into that universe, and to also make them be ‘cooler’. This includes stuff like being more attractive, some special powers, a melodramatic fate or backstory, or some other thing. They might seem like shallow characters, and usually they are, but these kids just want to have fun putting themselves into a thing they love, and will probably write fanfiction, or make art of their OCs, and sometimes post them online.
If you know anything about the internet, you’d know that people on the internet are not the nicest. The illusion of anonymity can turn someone into a real jerk, but that’s an issue to address another time. Usually, the kids who post their OCs are between the ages of 9-14, and aren’t the most amazing writers or artists. They’re just beginners and were proud enough of their work to publish it online for others to see. But now there are blogs, websites, forum threads, and more, dedicated to making fun of and publically shaming kids and their creations. Imagine being a kid again and the first stories and characters you wrote back then; they were childish and silly, and you can write so much better now due to practice and determination, right? Now imagine several older teenagers and adults mocking your younger self and your stories. Do you think your little self would be able to still have the drive to continue writing after being called ‘stupid’, ‘crap’, or more profane and hurtful things? Probably not.
People today have forgotten the importance of constructive criticism, and how much impact they can have on others. Especially on the internet, where they don’t have to worry as much about facing the consequences of their actions. If they were in a creative writing class, and insulted some first-time writer’s work like they do on the internet, they’d get kicked out, or punished in some way. But on the internet, these people’s actions are encouraged highly by others. Sometimes it’s people wanting to laugh at their old OCs and fanfictions online, and that’s perfectly fine. We all need to learn to laugh at our old work, as it’s part of the process of getting better. But when we laugh at other people before they’ve matured, this only stunts their growth, and discourages them.
So if you ever run across a crappy OC or poorly made fanfiction, remember how you were as a child, being full of inspiration and ideas, even if they weren’t very good idea. The kid still has this passion to embrace the world of writing and fiction, this is how the next generation of writers will start out, and the ones who grow, will probably be incredible. So the kid you see on the internet being bullied for those things, try to defend them, maybe?