This article was written to express a variety of different cliches common to Transformers OCs that the Mods here see on a daily basis. Please remember that these are, at heart, our opinions, and you are not being forced to follow them. However, we do hope that after reading this article, you'll have a better understanding of the cliches you may stumble across, and why they can be difficult.
First, the Nekoformer. And by that, I mean an OC with a typical ‘catgirl’ appearance in root mode: tail, claws, teeth, ears, occasionally whiskers, too. This design is only plausible for OCs whose alt forms are some form of feline, and this only extends to Beastformers. Think about this….what practical use does an OC with a car alt have for animal ears? What use does a jet have for an animal tail? They’re not practical - or logical - additions to an OC’s armor/appearance if they don’t match up to the alt mode, and at this point, the ‘catgirl’ look is such a cliche that this Mod thinks you really just shouldn’t do it unless your OC actually has a feline alt mode.
But please, avoid the cute posing and ‘nyan’-ing. It’s not ‘kawaii’.
Next, having rape in the backstory. This is THE minefield of the OC world, and is thus a very dangerous subject to mess around with. If you do it wrong, you end up belittling the suffering of those who have suffered from this vile crime, and your OC will not be pitied, but scorned for resorting to such an excuse. Very rarely is this cliche handled correctly, and this Mod, personally, has never seen it executed well.
Rape is never something you should take lightly, and to tag it on to an OC in an attempt to make audiences sympathetic towards them is an insult to all the people who had their lives ruined by this crime, even if you don’t mean it to be. In this Mod’s opinion, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and just not have rape in the backstory. BUT if you feel the event is vital to your OC’s development (or you’re just being stubborn and won’t change it), at least have the decency to do the proper research on the subject.
Next, ‘robo boobies’. These are fine in fanart, because fanart is fanart and no-one can dictate what you draw. But there is no logical reason for female Cybertronian OCs to have big, bouncing, organically moving titties. If your OC has a ‘breastplate’ (in the literal sense, I suppose) that’s not quite as drastic as that last visual, that’s fine, too. I would like to offer up some knowledge for you, though.
Having a chestplate that divides up the ‘boobs’ may look nice, but with one good hit in the right place, it’ll be a death-and-or-serious-injury sentence for your female character. That sunken point between the ‘breasts’ becomes a focal point for pressure if it’s hit, and - being closer to the heart/spark - that can do almost as much damage as the hit itself. If your set with your OC design, and don’t want to change them, fine….but at least hunt down a few references for female armor designs (practical ones, not the bikini-and-chainmaile kind) for future use.
Additionally, let’s review what breasts actually are: Soft, protruding organs on the upper front of a woman’s body that secrete milk after pregnancy. They’re fun to play with, sexually speaking, but that’s not all they’re there for. Their function is purely for feeding organic, mammalian children, and they serve no logical or evolutionary purpose on a mechanical being like a Cybertronian, whose reproduction is very different from humans, and not at all organic. They wouldn’t even be that much of an aesthetic addition (if any at all). What humans find sexy is not what Cybertronians find sexy. Human sexy is organic, smooth, and generally squishy. Cybertronian sexy is mechanical, shiny, and very solid.
Please keep this in mind when designing your OC with H-cup tatas.
Next, having multiple and/or close Canon relations/relationships. Don’t get this Mod wrong, she’s not saying to completely abstain from relationships with Canon characters. A relationship is anything from kissing and bonding to smiling at someone when you pass them in the hall, even if you don’t remember their name. All OCs will have some kind of relationship with just about every Canon, be it positive or negative. The issues start cropping up when these relationships become romantic, against the Canon’s character, or are of a close familial nature.
Sideswipe and Sunstreaker are twins, not triplets. They don’t have a long lost sister/brother. Bluestreak is the sole survivor of the destruction of Praxus. He does not have a brother/sister who was hiding off-world during the attack. Optimus Prime is bonded to Elita-One, not Lady Optima/Prima/whatever. Megatron does not have a long-lost daughter. Etc. These are just some of the cliched relationships this Mod has seen, and they beat the proverbial dead horse with their abundance. Can they be pulled off? Possibly (not that first one, though), and only if the author of the idea could make it work within the suspension of disbelief.
Consider the relationships in your own life when writing the relationships for your OC. Just because you might love to run up to Optimus and hug him in joy doesn’t mean your OC will (and that’s highly unprofessional, besides). Also, just because you despise Starscream doesn’t mean your OC should be mouthing off and sassing him to prove superiority. That will only get them shot. Keep in mind that your OC is not you (at least, they shouldn’t be). They will not react the same way as you in certain situations. They have different motivations; different life experiences…and they make decisions based on their lives, not yours.
The hardest part of writing these relations is keeping the Canons in-character, so be prepared to do research, and revise your headcanons and relationships if you learn something that better explains how the Canon would react.
Next, unparalleled beauty. This should really be a given one, but we’ll cover it briefly anyway. In just about every series, the Cybertronians are in some state of war or disaster. It’s not plausible for an OC to always be shiny as new, squeaky clean, immaculate paint job, etc. Soldiers generally have to keep their physical appearance in line, yes, but they have to be ready to get down and dirty when needed. I believe there’s even a Murphy’s Law-esque phrase about this….”No combat-ready unit has ever passed inspection, and no inspection-ready unit has ever passed combat.” It’s fine for your OC to like taking care of themselves, and looking primped (G1 Tracks? Sunstreaker?!), but if they’re that vain, you’ll need to play that into their personality.
Also, be VERY careful designing your OC to be ‘the most physically perfect, aesthetically appealing’ Autobot or Decepticon, who has the mechs falling over themselves in love with her (or him). This is just a typical Sue red flag, and it’s such a cliche that this Mod doesn’t think it should be used in any fandom, really. Are femmes rare among Cybertronians? That seems to be the general consensus, yes. Would war-weary mechs take notice of them? Probably, yes. Would they be falling over themselves to do her every bidding and make sure she always succeeds? No. Stop that. Right now.
That’s lazy writing, and though good for crack-fics, it’s just not realistic. I’ll pause that there, and recommend reading the CE article on “Suspension of Disbelief” for more on that.
Next, superpowers. This is a looser subject within the Transformers fandom, because the Canons are shown to have their own specializing powers, in some cases. Trailbreaker has his forcefields, Hound has his holograms, Mirage has his champion hide-and-seek trick…etc. It’s fine for your OC to have a specializing power of their own. But they have to keep it under control.
The general standing rule is to never surpass a matching Canon character in strength of power (i.e.: Forcefields stronger than Trailbreaker’s, or stronger magnetic powers than Windbreaker). Even when there is no Canon in the series with the same power as your OC, you have to play them to the same scale. They’re already the strongest one with that power because they’re the ONLY one - there’s no need to make them planet-shattering strong, or universe-rendingly tough. This leads back to suspension of disbelief, as well. The audience has to believe your OC is a solid character, even with these powers….and being super-powerful is a sueish red flag that you really don’t want.
Additionally, you need to consider the training required to use the powers. Your OC can’t be a child with the ability to blow up buildings with their mind. That’s ridiculously powerful, just plain ridiculous, and they’ve had no time to properly train their ability to that level. They’d have to first discover it, be taught how to use it, practice, practice, practice, etc. Please keep this in mind when giving your OC ‘superpowers’.
Just as a side-note, there’s nothing wrong with your OC having a power that they can’t control. Say you have a Dragonformer, and they have firebreath….but they’re afraid of fire, or can’t control it, so they only break smoke, or team-burning flame fountains, or just don’t use it at all. This route also gives you a conflict to work around, and it gives your OC the goal of gaining control. Don’t be afraid to try this out.
The Techno-organic. This is a cliche we see with far too many human characters in the Transformers: Animated fandom and so far NONE of them are pulled off correctly. Ocassionally we’ll simply run into characters who are cyborgs from some accident and have to get mechanical replacement parts through out most of their bodies, however this does NOT make them a techno-organic by definition the canon character Sari represents. Even then, the cyborg “version” is still beat into the ground pretty badly. It’s easier to pull off granted and very possible considering the technology present in that time period, but that doesn’t give your character an excuse to dodge around the obvious implications involved in getting such “upgrades” in the first place.
Let’s begin with that fact that yes, you’re character is not anywhere from 50-70% prostedic limbs/organs/parts. You’re character isn’t going to be getting all of those in one setting and they will have to pay out the nose for both the prostedics and the surgery involved. Certainly they won’t be waking up on the hospital bed completely fine, pretty and unscarred. Certainly they wouldn’t be anything “cool” once they find out how hard it would plausibly be recovering from and learning to use completely new appendages over all. Do the research, explore the impacts.
Now we’ll tread on…actual organic/technology hybrid characters…juuuust like Sari. No. Don’t do those. Sari is a techno-organic because of VERY specific circumstances that the writers of TFA never got to fully touch upon because of the cancellation of the show. More over, I’m actually infuriated that most people don’t even copy her correctly. Sari was a protoform who ended up in Sumdac’s lab and was imprinted upon when he touched her casing. The result took DVA from him and a body was modeled as such to make her look like him so scientifically speaking she’s his actual daughter since she includes his genes and of course other known factors. Do us mods ever see techno-organic characters with these exact concepts? No. We do not. Is there a way to do this correctly though? No there isn’t because that would be copying canon ideas and that’s to be avoided at all times. Should you also use those blatantly traced “Autobot Sari” bases? Hell no! Those are traced screen caps, people. Use another human base for those characters, please! If you want a proper TFA human, make them just a human that would fit into the series as a more common character, not a clone of Sari, PLEASE.
The Dragonformer. Mods Bex and TCA love this type, but it is, indeed, a cliche. Have there been Canon Dragonformers? Yes! BW Megatron (merged with the spark of G1 Megatron), RiD Cryotek, BWII Galvatron, Cybertron’s Scourge, and RiD Megatron (though he’s a whole ‘nother can of worms). Does that mean you can slap a dragon form on your OC willy-nilly? Well…..not really. Canon Dragonformers are still quite the minority, and that means that other Dragonformer OCs need to follow that rule.
Can Dragonformer OCs still be created, though? Yes. Two of the Mods here have attempted to do so, themselves (such as TCA’s Dragonsbane), and even one of our fantabulous OCs of Note has pulled it off (Blazestorm). However, if you want your Dragonformer OC taken seriously, you’re going to need to do a lot of work on them. Primarily on their powers and mythos.
Dragons, by nature, are very strong, very dangerous, and just all around powerful creatures. Their scales and skin are neigh impenetrable, they breathe fire, ice, lightning, etc, they’re supposedly quite magical….you get the picture. It’s fine to keep one or two of these traits, but you can’t keep them all. For example, Mod TCA’s Dragonsbane doesn’t have impenetrable armor (and the magic thing got dropped years ago), but she does have firebreath/a flamethrower….which she has no training for, and so never uses, essentially reducing her ‘magic dragon ability’ count to 0. OC of Note Blazestorm had all the endurance and power of a dragon…..but these are the result of a berzerker state, which (in this Mod’s opinion), evens out the power with this lack of control.
Then again, Blazestorm is fitted nicely into a BW-era setting, whilst Dragonsbane is a border-testing G1 occupant…..don’t get us wrong, there IS a strong degree of trial and error, to this. To summarize, we Mods just want you creators to be aware of the risk and work you’ll need to do to make a Dragonformer OC who stands out from the crowd (in a good way).
Next, the Human-to-Cybertronian. Here's another cliche that a Mod enjoys (Mod TCA's Dragonsbane exists because of this such cliche). This can be fun, and quite interesting, if done right…..but doing it right is difficult, and requires a lot of work. Let's start by looking at some of the different ways this transition can happen (turning a human into a Cybertronian). G1 canon has Autobot Spike/Autobot X….Armada fanfiction has the "Minicon-bonding- literally-with-a-human" trope…TFP fans seem to like techorganics a-la Silas….and Movieverse and TFA both seem to use the "it's the Allspark's fault" excuse (as well as TFA's Sari-esque techorganic). Let's separate a few of these theories right now:
If you call your OC a techorganic/they are an organic with mechanical parts/they are a Sari-esque techorganic, they do not qualify for this segment. Please see the appropriate segment above. "Human-to-Cybertronian" means OCs that transition completely from an organic human form to a mechanical Cybertronian form. They don't have an in-between, and it's illogical to give them the power to switch. If you can make it logical for them to switch, inform Mod TCA. You'll probably make her year.
This doesn't mean you can't write an H-to-C (pardon the shorthand) OC, though. If you can make the character interesting to the audience, you can get away with a few cliches. I had a favorite H-to-C OC back on FF.net, from an Armada fanfiction posted in 2004. They were of the "Minicon-bonding-literally-to-a-human" type, but I enjoyed the OC enough that I agreed to look past that in favor of reading the story. Suspension of disbelief, and all (it can stretch even further, with Imaginaaaaation~). And, as stated before, Mod TCA's own Dragonsbane is an H-to-C OC, of the G1 Autobot (Decepticon) X variety.
The difficult part is making the initial change sound as logical and as believable as possible, within the series rules. But once that's done, as long as your OC is developed well, you might be able to pull this cliche off.
Finally, having an overly tragic past. If you do it right, you can have an OC whose parents died, or was abused, or otherwise betrayed by someone they trusted. All of those instances contribute to the person your OC will become. If you look back over your own life, you’ll see ever instance where you yourself suffered, lost a loved one, and curled in on yourself in self pity. There’s nothing wrong with that, because it happens to everyone. EVERYONE. The problem, however, rears its ugly head when creators pile on the angst in hopes of winning a sympathy audience.
Jumping back up the list a bit, rape should NEVER be used to win your OC the pity vote. It’s insensitive, offensive, and will win you more enemies than fans. Killing family and friends left and right is also a bad idea. The deaths of loved ones have benefits to character development, yes, but when a creator kills off all the friends and half the family in a few short weeks/months/years, the audience will start to think the creator doesn’t care about their characters - and no audience will care about an OC if even the creator won’t spare them their feelings.
Additionally, don’t fill your OC’s life with abuse. There’s a phrase to help explain this, I think: “The abused often become the abuser.” Please have the sense to do some amount of research on the subject your submitting your OC to, and write them accordingly. If your OC was sexually abused, they’re not going to be sexual experts completely at ease with their sexuality. If your OC was physically abused, they aren’t going to be close-contact, touchy people. If your OC was emotionally abused, they aren’t going to be a bubbly, happy person 100% of the time.
Remember, these are the Mods' opinions, and not a demand of obedience. Please read this article with an open mind, and remember, we're only here to help.