After a while, being a canon character gets boring. Even if you love your character, and the work that inspires it, eventually you feel the need or at least the desire to put your own stamp on things. When boredom rears its head you have two choices: you can take your character down a different path or you can create a unique character all your own.
When you take a canon character down a path other than the one depicted in the book, film, game or series, role players often say the character has entered an alternate universe or AU. It’s not a bad description. Think of it as taking a left turn at Albuquerque or entering another dimension or just making a decision that changes everything. In other words, your character says or does something that changes their reality and makes it different, sometimes dramatically so, from the work that inspired it.
For the most part the general rules of the universe your character exists in remain the same even in an AU. Your character, particularly if it is a canon character, is recognizable as part of that universe. They obey the same general rules and have many characteristics in common with the character that inspired them but they are not a carbon copy of them. An AU character has their own story.
Original characters or OCs are characters that the person playing them creates from whole cloth. In some cases they are specific to a certain universe. In other cases they may hop between or even bridge multiple universes. When a character plays across more than one universe at the same time, they are referred to as playing in the pan-universe or multi-verse. It can be a lot of fun, but you have to really know your character and give serious thought as to how they translate from one set of rules to another.
Original characters, follow some basic rules, usually those of the universe they were created in. After a while they can adapt and take on characteristics from other universes whether they play in them or not. The best thing about playing an original character is that the only limits are your imagination, you aren’t going to be running up against any copyright issues.
Regardless of whether you choose to explore alternate universes or original characters, you’re going to need some inspiration. The best place to find this is not in other role players. Yes, imitation is a sincere form of flattery however, some RPers work long and hard to make their characters different and copying them can be insulting. Rather than imitating your favorite role play characters, pick up a book or turn on the tv. Chances are, you’ll be immediately surrounded by characters. Some you’ll like and some you won’t. Even if you don’t like a particular character there may be something about them that you do like or could see in another character. The good news is you can cherry pick the qualities, skills, talents, jobs and pretty much anything else to suit your needs and those of your character and universe.
So the next time you find yourself getting bored, take a look around and see what catches your eye. Maybe you can use it to tweak your character or maybe it will lead you to an entirely new character. Either way, you won’t be bored anymore.