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September 17, 2010 / Chersti Nieveen

my main character and I are so not friends

So I realized the other day that when I read a book, sometimes I imagine that the author is the same at the protagonist. Weird, right? But being a writer myself, I know that a book is like a mirror into the author’s soul. You can’t write a book without putting a piece of yourself into it, much like a horcrux. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the book reflects the author as a person.

But then again, sometimes it does. Some books are so transparent that you can see the author’s opinions on a subject very easily. And when the author has multiple books out with multiple protags, yet they all have the same [blank] quality, you can easily see that quality fitting right back with the author.

I know this because it’s happened in my own writing. I see patterns repeated that definitely reflect on me, but I’ll let you figure out what those things are.

But then again, my main characters are definitely NOT me. In fact, some of them are NOTHING like me at all. And some of them, well . . . let’s just say I wouldn’t even be friends with them if we went to high school (or even college) together. They are the person who is needed to tell the story. Their character arch is important to that story, and the plot helps the character grow into who they should be. And even then, they aren’t perfect.

My writing track record:

Melanie [Mel and Cal]

I’m not sure if I would be friends with this bossy girl. Mostly because this is pretty much me when I was that age. Bossy and very opinionated. Oh wait, this is completely negating my whole post that my protags are NOT me. Hmm… next protag! (disclaimer: this character is based on my eight-year-old self, so in that sense she is not who I am today. So there!)

Cassie [Mind Games]

This girl has issues and sees her dead dog. I guess I might be friends with this girl, because I’m not against anyone for having issues. But in the end, her and I don’t really have anything in common. And usually you hang out with people who have similar interests.

Emmy [Invisible]

She is shy and really only talks to her brother. Yeah, we would never be friends because I’m outgoing I’d probably just overlook this girl. And even if I wanted to be friends, she would probably spend the whole time avoiding my calls until I gave up. Nice girl, though.

Mykelle [The Last Onset]

This girl has an attitude problem. She is mean and snarky and so much the opposite of me that I’d probably go to great lengths just to avoid her. In fact, she would probably drive me nuts with her uncaring attitude.

Wow, I am noticing a pattern here. Even my new protag, Lisabeth, has friend problems.*Gasp* But that’s not to say I don’t have friends, or am a bad friend. Right? Right???? Oh wait, like I said I am not my protags. *big sigh of relief*

So how much does your writing reflect you? Do you see any of your hidden tendencies cropping up in your writing?

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5 Comments

  1. Nikki Mantyla / Sep 17 2010 8:00 am

    The main girl protagonist is always the hardest for me to see clearly. The more I can distinguish her from myself, the better. It’s so much easier to write a character who is very different from yourself, that’s what I’ve noticed. When she’s similar to me, it’s too easy to assume she thinks like me and put my own thoughts into the story instead of figuring out her voice. Does that make sense? I’ve also noticed that when an author says he or she patterned the main character after himself/herself that the main character often feels flat. Weird that characters based on a real person end up feeling the least real. 🙂

  2. Karen Krueger / Sep 17 2010 9:58 am

    I think that Tessa and I would be best friends. We have similar interests, particularly music. But she’s not exactly like me. She’s braver, says what’s on her mind. I think she’s the person I wish I could’ve been in high school. But then at the same time she still has confidence issues like I did in high school too. Very interesting…
    I think it’s hard for me to make my characters different from me. I mean, I know how I would act in a situation. But it’s not about how I would act, it’s how he/she would act. Which means I have to know my character REALLY well. And that’s sometimes difficult.

  3. Rachel Giddings / Sep 17 2010 1:19 pm

    I think I have the opposite problem from Karen. When I first start with a character, I have almost no idea what his or her personality is like, just vague hints. (Evram, for example, has gone through four different incarnations.)
    How do I get to know my characters? I have a stock character that I pull into everything–basically, my writing persona–that I have sit down with the new character. I write scenes that I hope to have appear later in the story. (Not only do I want to get ideas out, I want to watch this new character squirm. I learned a ton about Evram just by pushing his limits.)
    By the time revisions roll around, I’ve usually cut the stock character, or she (or he, sometimes) has developed into an individual entity. That way, it’s my sidekicks who are often alike and not my protagonists.
    This also means my protagonists and I aren’t guaranteed to get along. I spent more than a year trying to get along with Liria. We’re actually on good terms now (finally).
    I don’t know why Myka bugs you, Chersti 🙂 She and I get along just fine!

  4. Kelly Bryson / Sep 17 2010 1:57 pm

    It’s a tricky thing, isn’t it? We have to be able to crawl inside our character’s heads, become them, but it’s not the same as them being us.

    If we were our characters, then where would our antagonists come from? lol

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