I am not embarrassed to say I have been an avid fan fiction reader and writer since I discovered tumblr. That would mean I have been fangirling for four years now, wow.
The main fandom I am in, the Directioners, is the craziest, down right insane fandom in current existence (if you wish to argue that, I am up for debating it.) I also wrote a Union J Hunger Games inspired fic a couple of years ago. So I am quite familiar with the bizarre and diverse world of fan fiction sub genres and stories.
I’m going to generalize by saying most who read and write fan fiction are teenage girls, but many continue to in their twenties. There are plenty of male readers and writers as well; or readers and writers who don’t identify with a specific gender. (Agender, genderfluid, whichever you identify with, thumbs up to you!)
I believe fan fiction is positive based on three things.
1.) It creates a community and a sense of belonging, a normal need for the majority of teenagers, or anybody who wants friends, for that matter.
2.) Just the fact that it gets more kids into reading is fabulous.
3.) It gets people into writing.
If you have been reading and/or writing fan fiction for some time now but have come to the point where you want to create your own characters and worlds, one of my main tips for you is when you transition from writing fan fiction to anything else is to: Avoid the Mary Sue/Gary Stu.
If you are unfamiliar with the Mary Sue/Gary Stu, let me direct you to the wonderful urban dictionary definition of it.
Mary Sue: A female fanfiction character who is so perfect as to be annoying. The male equivlalent is the Gary-Stu. Often abbreviated to “Sue”. A Mary Sue character is usually written by a beginning author. Often, the Mary Sue is a self-insert with a few “improvements” (ex. better body, more popular, etc). The Mary Sue character is almost always beautiful, smart, etc… In short, she is the “perfect” girl. The Mary Sue usually falls in love with the author’s favorite character(s) and winds up upstaging all of the other characters in the book/series/universe.
To sum it up easily, the Mary Sue is a first person, self-insert of yourself into your story. Everyone likes to escape into the fantasy worlds where everything is better, so it is natural that writers create their Mary Sue’s to be exceptionally beautiful, social, intelligent and funny. (Not to mention that somehow, every male character falls helplessly and completely in love with her.)
This is what you do not want your main character to be like. You can always base a character on yourself or others, and I’m not going to tell you how to create your characters, because that is all up to you and your imagination! That is the fun of it, after all! What is good to keep in mind is that what makes a character interesting is the fact that they are different, have flaws or problems. Internal or external struggles with characters generally shape the “conflict” in the story. If your main character is nearly perfect and gets along with everybody, what is your conflict exactly supposed to be? And above all, how are your readers going to be able to identify with your main character? (Cue Nobody’s Perfect by Hannah Montana…)
I’m not saying there is anything wrong about writing a fan fiction with your Mary Sue, hardly, I am all for it.
Just be aware that if you are interested in genres apart from fan fiction, it is best to steer clear of this type of main character.