Monday, August 10, 2009

My Characters...Yeah, All Right. They're Me

Do you create characters based on yourself?

I didn't used to think I did. But I totally do.

Now, see, I'm a pretty straight arrow. The worst thing I do is drive too fast. I'm polite to the elderly. I stop for pedestrians. I register my children for sports and school before the deadline. I'm almost always early. I always did my homework in high school. On time. I love to read. I got straight A's. I was in the marching band.

Some of you have a G-word for people like me. Go ahead. Say it. You know you want to.

Anyway, so to escape my G-ness, I created some characters. I put them in bad situations and laugh at them. Then I try to figure out how to get them out. It's called writing a book.

The thing is, most of the characters I've created are me in some way. Not every way, of course, but one little quality. The girl who can't ever think of a clever comeback (me). The one who wishes they could run fast (me). The one who loves the beach (me). The person who served on the yearbook committee (me).

I find that I can write these characters with authenticity...because they're really a small part of me.

I deliberately have my characters do things I don't, too. This helps me shed some of my G-ness I think. Or maybe it makes me a bigger one? I do not know.

A girl who can control fire (not me). But how cool would that be? The one who has all this rude stuff to say and actually says it (not me). Sometimes her mouth gets her in trouble. The girl who gets all the guys (not me).

These characters are even easier to write for me. That seems weird, like they should be harder because they're not me. But dude, haven't you always wanted to shed your skin and assume an alternate identity? Or is that just me? When I write, I can be anyone. I can be that girl who says exactly what's on her mind. And it's fun.

So maybe my characters really are all me. A bit here. A little piece there. Imagined or real, it ain't no thing. They're all me!

What about you? Are your characters like you? Even a little bit? Not at all? Which is harder for you to write?

37 comments:

JStantonChandler said...

Hi Elana!
My characters always have bits and pieces of me. Even my villians (especially my villians...). I think it goes along with the old bite of wisdom "write what you know". We know ourselves better than anyone. We put ourselves in our books, perhaps, to make sense of our own lives. And it helps to be able to live vicariously through our wild and crazy creations from time to time. I know I do :)

Jen

Scott said...

Since I've done a similar post . . .

Yes! I put a little of me in every character I create, even the mean and nasty ones. Like you, my characters do the things I don't in this life. I live vicariously through them.

I think, a good majority of writers, aspiring or otherwise, do the same thing. I've even been known to create some wicked villians based on people I don't like! Ha!

S

Sara Tribble said...

Oh yes yes yes!

I def. found with my current WIP Sonya is indeed a lot like me, but she's also like me learning to live in the moment (not me, never has been). Her BFF Liz, she envies because she does live in the moment, something I truly think is a great thing (most of the time).

I think it makes your characters stronger to resemble parts of you, even the ones who may be opposite, or how women 'create the perfect man' love the men I make..why can't they be real?!!? haha!

Corey Schwartz said...

What a great post. I only write PBs (mostly with animal characters) but I am sure if I tried t write a novel, the MC would pretty much be me. (another straight A G-girl)

Marybeth Poppins said...

Every character has a little bit of me. I couldn't help it. I didn't want to just make one character ALL me...so I spread it out, very strategically :D So I know all about this!

L.T. Elliot said...

Yes, my characters are me in lots of ways. I just tell the truth in different venues. Sometimes that means my characters do things that I wish I could do or be. Sometimes that means there are little quirks of their personalities that are me. Sometimes, I just like being a villain. ;)

BJW said...

I don't know!!!!

Great post. Making my brain work this morning. I'm not sure because like you said, the characters that are more different are easier to write because they're a part of us too. The part of us we may not listen to normally, but that wouldn't be nice to old ladies or stop for pedestrians. It may be suppressed or ignored, but it's there baby.

But on the other hand, sometimes I just imagine stuff. Like what it would be like to be a certain way, even if I don't have a subconscious draw towards it.

I really don't know. Hmm. Thank you!

quixotic said...

Great post. I think there is a little of me in every character. Writing can be great therapy. LoL.

Melanie Avila said...

I think there's definitely pieces of me in all my characters, but I try to spread it out. One person's anal about cleaning, another is the straight-A geek you talk about, another wishes she had a better relationship with certain family members... lots of good stuff to serve as a starting point.

B.J. Anderson said...

I think my main character is always a little like me. My villains aren't (or are they? Bwahaha!). I think we can't help slip in a little of our likeness into our books. It's what makes them ours.

Tess said...

My favorite characters have a little bit of me in them...that's why I like them so much. My mom read my work and said, "that's so much like your sister." WHAT? I said. It is NOT, it's ME,ME,ME...

er...excuse the diversion there...I guess my answer, in short, is 'yes'.

jbchicoine said...

I wrote my first novel for my husband. I wanted him to fall in love with the main character, and so he wouldn’t feel like he was cheating on me, I designed her in my likeness—only 100 times better.

Mandy said...

The character in my first book was me all the way. It was safe, easy to write, blah, blah, blah. So I decided I'd go a different way with my new WIP and instead of writing the person that I am, I wrote the person that I wished I was. WOW! The experience was great, the writing was better and I even felt that the character was more dynamic. Stepping out of my comfort zone and imagining that I was this other person was the best thing I could have done!

jbchicoine said...

Mandy,
I know what you mean about “stepping out of your comfort zone.” In the novel I just finished, I had to become a 32-year-old man, and write in first person. It took a fair bit of imagination as a 48-year-old woman. Stretching far beyond myself was, to quote you, “the best thing I could have done!”

Lisa and Laura said...

Oh yeah, Kate is the person that we wish we would have been in high school. Smart, funny and totally confident. Sarah, the MC in our WIP is probably a more realistic version of us, a little shy, a little nerdy, always thinks of the best comebacks only 20 minutes too late.

So, yeah, we're narcissists. Deal with it.

Novice Writer Anonymous said...

I'm like you. All my characters have pieces of me in them. But I think they have to be that way in order for a writer to craft authentic and believable characters.

ash-krafton said...

While I was drafting my first novel, my lucky beta was my husband, who asked (more than once) "Is this autobiographical?"

I said no, of course not, because I wasn't writing about myself at all. But after re-reading certain passages, I realized parts of my personality had crept into my protag's personality as well.

Still not autobiographical, though--hopefully I will never find myself in dark situations, wishing I could write my way out of them!

Amanda J. said...

Oh buddy, my MC is a guy and I didn't think I was putting in of me in him I was SO wrong haha. I looked back and realized he's quite a bit like me in some ways, and so is his little sister.

I think we all put some of our qualities in our characters, just like we put our hearts into our books. We can't not.

Great post, Elana. And I was a band geek, an orchestra dork, and an all around nerd in high school so don't fret!

Amanda

PS- my verification word is chess, does it get any geekier? LOL

Kim Kasch said...

My characters are always a bit nepotistical. A little bit me, a little bit my husband, daughter, son, mom, dad - you get the picture. I steal from my real life to pretend I'm creative ;-)

Fiction is always a lie. My stories tend to be a lot of nonfiction :)

Lazy Writer said...

There is always a part of me in my characters, but sometimes they are who I would like to be, if you know what I mean.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Oh, yeah I've had the G-word applied to me, or even worse the n word that rhymes with mice. I think writing characters who rebellious is definitely a way for me to get some of my ya-yas out. But, like you, I also infuse them with different parts of my personality, so even when they are more bad than G#$@, they still have a little part of me in them.

Icy Roses said...

I certainly agree with you. That is why rebellious characters are fun to write--they shed the G-ness. :-)

jbchicoine said...

I think I must be the biggest Duh I know—It’s been all day, I’ve read several references to it, but alas, I simply cannot figure out what the “G” word is! Could someone please give me a ‘sounds like…”?

Liza said...

Ibchicoine, it took me a bit too, but I think it sounds like "eek." That said, as a real novice writer this post brings up why I haven't ventured into fiction writing yet. I'm not sure how I'd manage to NOT write about myself. I need a lot of stretching in that regard. Any suggestions?

jbchicoine said...

Now I've REALLY gone bright red. Duh.

Annie Louden said...

A lot of my characters are like me, and it's annoying! Then they're boring and don't do anything.

But, sort of on the flip side of putting yourself in your characters, I like to try to live vicariously through them. I only have one life, and I can't do it all, but at least I can write about characters who try fun things I may never do. This is how I calm myself when life seems to be going by too fast.

Horserider said...

I think all characters have a bit of the writer in them. Claudia has my quiet side. Selma has my wild side (what I have of one, anyway). Alexander has my dark side. Lorenz has my sweet side.

Katie Ganshert said...

My characters have bits and pieces of me. Other parts are very opposite from me. I can't help but put a piece of me in there, even subconsciously. :)

christine said...

I talked about this a while back when I talked about authenticity. I think everyone has a little bit of every kind of character deep down inside - it's just a matter of bringing out!

Kudos to you for doing such an awesome job with it!

Danyelle said...

*hearts post*

Yes! Each of my characters have a sliver of me in them somewhere. One of may favorites is my alter ego. He has no problem speaking his mind. I don't think I'm capable of writing someone that doesn't have just a smidgen of me in them.

Tami said...

You're amazing! and each one is too.

Can't wait to read your book!

Ryan said...

I believe that we all put a little bit of ourselves into our characters. Its just like if you hear their voices or do interviews with them in your head. It makes them more authentic. Although I have a tendency to make my characters more of what I would like to be instead of who I am.

ElanaJ said...

Ash, I snarfed out loud at your comments.

And jbchicoine - GEEK! I'm a huge geek. I even wear glasses to prove it. And I spend all day on the comptuer. So I haven't even outgrown it yet. Le sigh.

Great comments today guys! You make me smile every single day.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Hm, I hope that all my characters are better than me! (Except for memoirs where the lead character is somewhat flawed!)

Lori said...

Hi. I'm like you too. My characters always have something of me. And bits of my friends and other people I know. Yes, it is magical to get into the skin of the character and live a life you choose for yourself. Even if it's only in writing.

KM said...

I love this topic, because I think every writer can relate. I dare anyone to say that they have characters that don't share anything with the writer; if nothing else, they have qualities that you dislike or wish you had, which really is part of you.

My current WIP definitely has a character like me; I straight up based her off me. (That sounds so egotistical, doesn't it?) But I found it so incredibly easy to write her, because I just wrote what I would do. I also have a character based on my best friend, and I constantly have to think "What would Amy do?" But I think, actually, my strongest character was one I just created; his voice is like a concentration of my own frustrations about humanity and its injustices. He's the most fun to write about; he has a lot of good one-liners I only wish I could say to people. :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

I love being able rewrite my history as a cool person =)

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