Overdone humanoid clichés, and how to avoid them
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Note: This essay is based on forum reviewer experiences; we often see the authors struggle the most with starting to write about the humanoid anomaly first, and then repeatedly try to change the story until they have something workable.

Note 2: This is an essay for beginners. Veteran authors can sometimes turn the clichés mentioned here into something good, but this is mainly a tool for new members to have a summary of things that will be working against you when writing humanoid SCPs.


So humanoids then. Many new authors want to write one because they can be really compelling when done well. The issue is that the usual suspects (049 - the Plague Doctor, 096 - The Shy Guy, 106 - The Old Man) are really popular, made more so because they're in popular games. It makes sense for the game to focus on different flavors of spooky dangerous guys, because they have to present some form of challenge for the player. However, what that unintentionally tells new fans is that we're looking for more spooky guys that kill you, or powerful humanoids that help FIGHT those spooky guys for the Foundation.

This isn't what we are looking for any more: we have a lot of them already, and the core idea of "guy who fights good" is not unique enough to carry a reader's interest nowadays.

(over)powered-ness and clichés to avoid.

So You Want to Write a Humanoid SCP Object talks about "X-Men Syndrome", which refers to said humanoid having powers that are voluntary. If your SCP can be dropped in as an extra superhero/villain on a Marvel hero/X-Men film, you're setting yourself up for failure. One of the few reasons that some humanoids with powers survive, is an author absolutely nailing the characterisation of that entity. This is hard, even for veteran writers. Especially for a first SCP, we generally recommend writing something else first.

One common pitfall many new authors fall into is the infamous Mary Sue. If you don't know what a Mary Sue/Gary Stu is, it's a narrative flaw where, and this is by no means a full list, these traits generally apply:

  • The character is overpowered to an unbelievable degree. Nothing can stop them. This happens the most often in the SCP setting, in my experience. Changing this to almost unstoppable will not fix it.
  • Everyone likes/respects/fears it.
  • The character is flawless. ''Caring too much'' or ''disliking that everyone loves them'' does not count as flaws. Another common one is ''too clumsy''.
  • The Mary Sue/Gary Stu takes the narrative hostage in an unreasonable way: everything revolves around them and everyone knows them. They're the main focus despite the wider narrative not necessarily being about them. As an aside, shoehorned or otherwise gratuitous interactions with popular characters like Bright, Gears, Clef, etc. are an indication of this.
  • Possibly, but not always, it's a representation of what the author aspires to be/it's a representation of you, but with cool powers.
  • The character is able to somehow conveniently defeat another character that is established as very powerful/scary. Think something that can finally kill the lizard (682) or contain the Old Man (106) permanently.

The reason that there are very few humanoids with godlike powers that stand the test of time, is because overpowered entities with no other defining traits are predictable and not that exciting for readers. The reader is looking for a story that's more unique than how your humanoid was really awesome at containing [popular dangerous SCP] that one time. If your SCP looks like a non-parody version of Darkblade, try something else.

The Mary Sue/Gary Stu variety of self-insert is completely without flaws. It's good fun to write those! However, they don't fit on the wiki. Characters like this tend to be extremely limiting to work with or write about because they cannot mess up in any way. They always win, they are always loved, and whoever doesn't love them is a bad guy. In an SCP setting, this also applies when everyone fears/respects/can be manipulated by it. The only times you can really write an interesting narrative with such characters is either when they're in the background as a plot device, or… when you give them realistic shortcomings, making them not a Mary Sue.

Having said that, author avatars are a thing, and they were mostly made years ago, when the tone of the wiki was still a lot lighter. Overpowered author avatars are mostly old. New authors make new AAs all the time these days. To an extent, it's fine to have a self-insert, it just needs to be handled carefully. Don't make your author avatar friends with Bright, Clef, Gears etc. or make your avatar absurdly good at their job. The point of the wiki is to write interesting stories, not to wrestle the spotlight away from established characters and put them on your Original Character.

What to do instead?

Balance the character with drawbacks or personal challenges

One way to balance an "entity with powers" humanoid is to add an accompanying drawback to the ability or an opposing personal characteristic they need to cope with. Note: you're NOT looking for a weakness like those found in fighting-based videogames! Try to go for flaws that actually play a role in the narrative.

As said in So You Want to Write a Humanoid SCP Object:

Any nasty drawback or adverse circumstance you decide to inflict on your humanoid SCP object should actually be substantially detrimental to them, and preferably in a way that logically follows from their circumstances, rather than it being just tacked on for balance. It's similar in principle to why you shouldn't give story characters cop-out flaws like "too nice" or "clumsy" unless you're actually going to have them mess up by, say, letting a villain go and it coming back to bite them, or fumbling something at a critical moment and it getting someone hurt. I'm not sure how else to describe this, so I'll just skip straight to the examples here: SCP-116 has a fantastic healing factor… but it has no joints and can't move without breaking its fragile bones, and thus cannot communicate without causing itself constant pain. SCP-166 is a succubus whose powers allow her great control over men… but she's also a nun, is greatly distressed by her very nature, and her skin is so sensitive that she gets bedsores from wearing anything.1 SCP-187 can see the state things will be in in the future… but she's slowly going insane because of what she sees, she has to be blindfolded in order to eat, lest she look at the food and see it as what's going to come out the other end, and the Foundation mittens her so she can't claw out her own eyes.

So, ''Any nasty drawback or adverse circumstance you decide to inflict on your humanoid SCP object should actually be substantially detrimental to them, and preferably in a way that logically follows from their circumstances, rather than it being just tacked on for balance.''

This basically means: Don't give it completely arbitrary flaws in order to ''nerf'' your monster/humanoid so you can say: ''Look, it's not all-powerful, only mostly so.''

Now examples of what you should do: SCP-2860 transforms any organic material it touches into marble, but he can't switch it off and is now in constant discomfort and had to be separated from his family.

Quoted from KothardarastrixKothardarastrix:

I'm not sure how new he really is, being from Series III, but SCP-2273 remains one of the best examples of a well-done humanoid in my opinion. You'd think that the extradimensional super-soldier with organic power armor would be a superhero, but you'd be wrong. Alexei Belitrov's article isn't about him doing cool superhero stuff, it's about the horrors of war. He has an engaging, believable character arc, and the complex personality of a real human being.

SCP-3812 is often (and rightly) considered the most powerful fictional character ever created. Contrary to what you might've read on Versus threads, though, Sam Howell's article is not about him being powerful and kicking ass. Like Batman vs. Superman, it examines just how horrifying the very existence of such a powerful person actually is, for him and the rest of the world. He's tormented by the fact of his own existence.

SCP-4820 is almost immortal and regenerates, but still has to eat. He was stranded on an island for 12 years, and has resorted to eating himself, regenerating all damage instantly. Now that he's contained, he refuses to eat anything else, because it's become a coping mechanism for him. His shelter was made of his own skin, as were his clothes.

Humanoid SCPs that tend to do well are characters that we can relate to, with circumstances that we can relate to. When writing about a powered-up humanoid who is clearly far divided from the average non-magical human reader, it's their more human-approachable qualities that will make the audience care about them.

That said, inflicting tragedy on a humanoid can be very heart-wrenching, but make sure to keep it reasonable. As the remakes of Tomb Raider show us: kicking the shit out of your main character for 8 hours is not a narrative arc.

Realistically portray their appearance and accommodations

Don't give us a painstakingly detailed description of your SCP. If a humanoid has green eyes, just say that they have green eyes. No ''piercing, vibrant green eyes''; you're writing a scientist's report, not a dating profile. On the subject of eye colour, avoid gratuitous heterochromia while you're at it.

In fact, unless physical traits are important to understanding the anomaly or if it's relevant to what to do during a breach, you don't have to describe things like eye colour and the like all-together.

As mentioned further below, avoid talking about how the humanoid is clothed, because they'll be wearing Foundation-issued clothing unless they need to wear something specific for containment reasons (it getting mad when its normal clothes are not allowed does NOT count as a valid reason). Having your humanoid wear ripped jeans and an ironic T-shirt is something the Foundation wouldn't allow. Think of a humanoid as an asylum inmate, which they technically are, who can be rewarded with better accommodations that can also be be taken away if they don't cooperate.

As said in So You Want to Write a Humanoid SCP Object:

The Foundation should go out of its way to meet a humanoid SCP object's needs, but those shouldn't be confused with its wants, especially when those wants are dangerous or unethical. A non-hostile and compliant SCP object's wants can inform rewards for good behaviour or cooperation, but keep it harmless and within reason. Think chocolate, toys, and movies, not human flesh, a sword, and an internet connection.

On the other end of the spectrum, overly harsh containment can be both a tool and problem for a tragedy. SCP-5031 tells a very good story about a new supervisor finding a sapient being locked in a box and forgotten, and trying to ease its pain through stimuli and forms of communication. After all, the Foundation is cold, not cruel.

On a final note: Your SCP should not be able to "extort" the Foundation for extra containment benefits, such as by threatening personnel or raging if not given what they want. SCP-682 isn't given treats, SCP-106 isn't given D-Class all day long. Containment is practical, and the Foundation has better ways to deal with anomalies than listening to blackmail.

A note from NaepicNaepic about containment:

You may recall that the SCP Wiki has three major classifications: Safe, Euclid, and Keter. Each term represents how difficult an anomaly is for the SCP Wiki to contain, with Euclid representing anomalies that are unpredictable. The core feature of humanoids is that they are similar, if not actually, humans. Humans are sapient and have a mind of their own: they have their own desires, their own grudges, their own opinions on how they should be treated. Above all, humans can change. Thoughts can change on a whim or event, and the Foundation has no way of predicting which event will cause what change.
This point is being brought up because there is the expectation that humanoids have specific powers that can be used to control another anomaly. At the end of the day, an anomaly is still an anomaly. The Foundation is an organization whose entire purpose is to contain SCPs. Letting humanoids roam freely and as friends of guards is a security risk. The Foundation has no in-story method of determining which humanoid will remain forever loyal to the organization. Perhaps they have a change of heart after meeting someone who can't be let out due to not providing any beneficial value to the Foundation. Perhaps they get brainwashed by a mind-altering SCP or GOI. Or maybe they just don't want to work for an organization that refuses to let them see the sun.
You as the author have full access to all the minds of both the humanoid and the Foundation, and maybe that's how you know for sure that the humanoid will never change their mind. The Foundation does not.

I'll emphasise it a bit: There is NO reason your SCP should roam around the facility. It's a massive security risk, plus it has no benefit to the Foundation.

Make sure their behavior and any crosslinks are realistic

Zyn and I wrote a Crosslinks guide a while back, and there's something very much relevant here too. This is an example of a crosslink that does NOT do well with readers:

4. Having your SCP object look super good by containing/defeating/making peace with other SCP objects.
Example: "When SCP-049 breached containment, SCP-XXXX immediately teleported out of its cell to confront SCP-049. They had a conversation and then SCP-XXXX escorted SCP-049 calmly back to containment."
What it might look like to a reader:
"My SCP is the most powerful/smart/perfect ever, so it's very very important."
"My SCP is super helpful to the Foundation so everyone must love it."

As described above, the example given makes the reader feel like you want to one-up a beloved or infamous SCP. Avoid such crosslinks unless necessary, since if the SCP can be replaced with a random person and the story would proceed in the exact same way, it won't look like you're trying to tell a story. It looks like you're trying to say that your SCP is so amazing, that it can control/kill other SCPs. The Foundation isn't going to rely on SCPs to do its job; the Foundation is much more likely to use non-anomalous containment cells and security personnel that they understand and trust.

Crosslinks should make both linked entities look good and more intriguing to the reader, as well as make sense in-universe for the Foundation to initiate.

Tell a story, instead of numbers off a character sheet.

Narrative is really what makes or breaks a humanoid: We're no longer looking for dry reports about monsters, that stopped being eye-catching a decade ago. SCPs are short stories disguised as a technical document, and that story needs to be memorable in some way. The more your SCP looks/feels like an X-Men from a comic book, the higher the story quality has to be to compensate for it.

That's not to say that the SCP object itself has to be completely devoid of personality or feelings, or that it shouldn't be afforded a modicum of basic human decency if it's sufficiently non-malicious (the Foundation isn't unnecessarily cruel, after all), but your SCP article is a piece of executive documentation on an SCP object. If you're going to paint your humanoid SCP object as something worthy of compassion, highlight it by your article's coldly pragmatic lack of compassion. At most, you might be able to get away with writing about it as if it were an animal and you its zookeeper, assuming that it's not very dangerous. Note that I'm using the term "it" instead of "he" or "she" or "they"; I very strongly recommend that you follow suit.

Furthermore, a humanoid on its own isn't going to capture audience attention, not anymore at least. When the wiki was young, you could get away with making a spooky/powerful humanoid without much in the way of backstory, because there were fewer of them. Now that we have thousands of SCPs, you need something to make your humanoid stand out and/or be relatable. Who is your entity? Who made them this way? What are their goals? Why does it have its effects, what function do they serve in-universe?

But SCP-XXX is really popular, so what changed?

I come across authors every once in a while that are very much only exposed to series I SCPs, and have the mindset that ''well, this humanoid is very popular, so why can't mine be?'' The reasons are numerous:

  1. When you have so many SCPs with detailed worldbuilding, new spooky monsters without anything in terms of context and backstory feel boring and predictable in comparison.
  2. Writing standards were different. Some actions have been done to ''update'' some older SCPs with modern writing standards. An example of this is the rewrite of the Plague Doctor, SCP-049. It used to be a very simple humanoid that created zombies. The rewrite gives the doctor a lot more character depth, interactions with Foundation personnel, and an expression of remorse for its actions, even though he genuinely wants to help humanity in his own twisted way. There is ambiguity regarding what exactly the plague he wants to cure is, as well as some very good voice lines.

Here's some fuel for thought: I reviewed a concept a while back2, about a humanoid that had the ''power'' to relive moments of murder, and was able to intervene in them. He started out as a murderer himself. Here's what I suggested: He was stuck in some type of limbo. Every time he failed to prevent a murder, the same scenario would play out. Over time, he noticed that if he successfully intervened and saved a life, a next scenario would occur. This would be read by the readers by notes manifesting to his corpse or something like that. There would be notes of despair, because he didn't know if it was ever going to stop, if he was in hell and this was his punishment, joy when he finally managed to save a life after 20 tries, hope that he was redeeming himself. Then the notes would stop, giving the reader the feeling that he found peace at last.

That was a short story about a humanoid with powers, but the entity having the power is not the story. The power is a story element that allows it to happen, because the story is his redemption.

The community can tell the difference between ''I have this cool story to tell about this humanoid SCP'' versus: ''I want my cool new OC's to be SCPs.''

So to summarise:

  1. Avoid the clichés specified above unless you're certain that you will NAIL your storytelling. The more clichés you use, the more the story has to make up for it.
  2. Consider the examples above; humanoids are usually only interesting if their anomalous traits and/or personality are used to tell a story.

Good luck with your writing!

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