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How Do You Know if Your Character is In-Character? And Does it Matter?



One of the most important parts of fanfic writing is characterization, or how you write the characters. Your characters can make or break your story depending on how in character or not they are. But do you always have to follow canon characterization? And how closely? How can you tell if you are even writing in character in the first place? Are there situations where being a bit, or a lot, out of character doesn’t matter? How do you know what these are?

How Do You Know if Your Character is In-Character?  


So you want your fanfic Klaus and Caroline to be just like they were on TVD. How do you accomplish this? Well, since we only just got a scene between them after 8 months, it might be time for a refresher of their older interactions, going back to even 3×11. There are plenty of youtube clips of their scenes together if you don’t own the dvds; try having a Klaroline scene marathon to reacquaint yourself with the way they interact and talk to each other. Clips are also useful to get a good idea of the mannerisms and words that the characters favor so you can incorporate them into your fic.

Another way to make sure your written character matches up with the one on TV, especially speech-wise, is to read episode transcripts. The TVD wikia has transcripts of the episodes on their site, so you can always look back and see what kind of dialogue choices fit your character. Keep in mind these transcripts are fan made, so there are some minor discrepancies from the actual dialogue, but they are still a very good resource when you’re searching for a particular phrase or an oft used word for your character to use.

If you are struggling to tell if your version of the character is canon compliant, try taking a step back and taking a look at the character on the show. Make a list of everything you know about that character; create a bio for them. Include their physical appearance, mannerisms, favorite words or phrases, hobbies, etc. Anything you know about them. You might find clips and transcripts useful in this endeavor as well. Once you have written out a summary of that character you should have a better understanding of them. You can now use your list as a reference and write your character from there.

Another good way to tell if the character you are writing is in character is to read their lines aloud or to imagine the character speaking them in your head. Does what you wrote sound like something they would say? Can you clearly picture them saying that, or does it sound off? Try substituting different words if you don’t like the way something initially sounds and see if that helps. And again, refer back to the transcripts for more ideas of what the character might say and how they might say it.

As they always say, “two heads are better than one.” Get yourself a beta and have them read through your story or even just your ideas. Between the two of you (or more, no one ever said you could only have one beta) you should get a better idea of how in character you are writing and what things you can do to improve.

Once you do publish your fic, make sure you check your reviews for feedback. If you are writing OOC, chances are someone will call you on it. If you feel you have written in character, take any observations to the contrary with a grain of salt, but don’t completely dismiss them. If the review doesn’t offer much detail as to why they think you are OOC try contacting the reviewer if possible and asking. You may end up in a helpful discussion about the characters, which could help you revise your chapter/story to be better in character.

Does it Matter if Your Character is In Character?

Writing in character with the source material matters more in canon-verse writing; Alternate Universes/All Human fics are more flexible when writing TVD-verse. If you’re rewriting 3×14 with Caroline not walking out on Klaus after she threw the bracelet at him, you should definitely try and keep both in character as much as possible. In this case you are still writing within the canon-verse, so the characters should still act as they would in the show, the only difference being the diverging event.

If you’re planning an AU fic where you change the background of the characters or the current events of the plot, or an AH fic, then you are less expected to follow the canon characteristics of the characters to a T. How far you can differ the characterizations depends on how far you deviate from canon. The further you go from canon the less likely the characters are to stay the same. Be careful not to diverge so far from canon that you start bordering on Original Fiction, however.

In the case of writing in the TVD-verse, AH fics definitely have the most leeway in regards to what can be considered in character. For example, because human-Klaus didn’t spend 1000 years running from Mikael and may not have had such a terrible childhood, depending on your story, he can be written gentler and, for lack of a better phrase, ‘more human’ than canon-Klaus. You still have to be careful not to write human-Klaus so differently from his canon self that he becomes unrecognizable, you still want to be writing Klaus. The goal of writing a human character that is not human in canon is to explore different scenarios and their effects on the characters. If you take away everything that made Klaus who he is, is he still even Klaus?

To start building your human-verse character, you have to consider what traits the character would have regardless of their past. These things are the basic building blocks of the characters, the things that make them who they are. What characteristics would carry over regardless of the type of fic? What attributes define a character? If you find taking a character who has almost always been supernatural in canon and turning them human in a world where the supernatural doesn’t exist to be daunting, try starting with a character who was actually human in canon for a good period of time; someone whose human side is familiar to us, like Caroline.

Caroline will always be neurotic, consider friendship to be important, and be very involved in the community or in some type of social grouping, for example. We know this because she was all these things as both a human and as a vampire, so we can conclude that these traits are a basic part of Caroline; as much a part of her as her blonde hair and blue eyes. So unless you completely change her backstory to include something really tragic that would negate these characteristics, you should try and incorporate these types of things into her character, regardless of the TVD-verse you are writing in. You would use this same method to tweak any other character you bring into an AH universe.


Writing in character is most certainly a balancing act and the fic verse plays heavily upon that. Regardless of what type of fic you are writing, it is important not to lose track of the essence of your characters and what makes people want to read about them. After all, Caroline’s stubborn nature and desire to help her friends and Klaus’ short temper and deadly wrath against everyone except Caroline are some of the reasons we fell in love with these characters in the first place. Your fanfiction will be much more enjoyable if you manage to keep such important traits alive in some way in any verse you write in.

Written by Jess. Find her on Tumblr