Monday, August 2, 2010

How Much of You is in Your Characters?

As writers we often place bits of ourselves into the characters we create. Some part of me can be found in everything I’ve written. But only parts, otherwise I’d run the risk of having one fully fleshed out, three-dimensional character and a host of copycats.

My sister just finished reading my latest novel. The first thing she said was that she understood my MC so much. She loved her voice, her humor and she got her insecurities. The reason this resonated with my sister is because it was very much ME. My MC and I are polar opposites physically. She’s tall, slim and of another race than I am, but her personality has bits of me that I think my sister picked up on.

My MC is attractive, but doesn’t really know it. She’s a bit immature, doesn’t really know what to do with boys, and likes to work on cars over being dolled up. When I was 12 I thought nothing of playing games, climbing trees and being a kid. While other kids my age were out discovering boys, I wasn’t.

In the 7th grade, there was a girl in my class who was really nice, but really quiet. One day she sat on the bench while I ran around being chased by my silly friends. I asked if she was okay because she didn’t look well. She stood, perhaps to get away from our loud laughter, and I noticed her pants were undone. I pointed that out to her—being the helpful child that I was—and she promptly told me that she was pregnant and couldn’t close her pants anymore.

I was FLOORED! I feel terrible about it now, but at the time, I stared at her like she was a circus freak. My mind was SO far away from sex, pregnancy and anything close to it, that I didn’t know how to act around her anymore. This may sound weird but, even though I didn’t lose my virginity until 5 years later, I’d lost some innocence that day. At the same time—looking back now I see that—I tried like hell to hold onto what was left.

My struggle for innocence stayed with me so that by the time I was sixteen, all of a sudden, I wanted a boyfriend. I’d spent the three years between 13 and 16 having lots of boys who were friends—and yeah, most of them liked me as more, but I was clueless—to suddenly wanting a boyfriend and feeling like I’d been left at the starting line while my friends had been running for a few years.

This is what my sister picked up on from my MC. It seemed so real to her because I knew exactly what my character was feeling and going through. I didn’t consciously write with the idea that I’d take something from my adolescence and put it in this character. I honestly didn’t notice it until my sister pointed it out.

So tell me, how much of you do you put in your characters?


Tamika: said...

I think all of my characters have pieces of me, we are interconnected on a lot of levels. I find that the more time I spend discovering them the more they reveal to me about who they are and then I see traces that are nothing like me!

Karen Denise said...

Tamika, isn't is nice when your characters reveal traces of who they are and it's nothing like you or what you expected?

Angie said...

It's always good to draw on those kind of experiences, even if we don't realize we are. I think deep down there must be a piece of me in each of my characters. That's a scary thought sometimes. What will my writing reveal about me to others? I think it's one of the great things about being a writer, though.

Stephanie said... terrible for that girl to be so young and in a situation like that. Like you, at that age, sex was the furthest thing from my mind.

I have a couple characters that are me...though sometimes I have changed their appearance somewhat. Any of my friends can tell you that it is me. But then I have another characters who are so far form the MC in A Bitch Named Karma. She is my alter ego! I've never been bold enough to say the things on my mind...but my character sure is!

Jai Joshi said...

There are bits and pieces of me in my characters here and there but I try not to think about that as a conscious way of understanding them. I try to make my characters true individuals with their own likes and dislikes and dreams and fears. There might be little things that come from my own personality but in the end their are themselves and no one else.


Amanda Borenstadt said...

I think I put bits of myself in some of my characters, but none of them are all me. I draw from my experiences and feelings, but my characters come from a patchwork of people and ideas.

I have one character that I created when I first began writing that I wish was me- brave, cocky, sassy, cute - my alter ego, I guess. :p But I got her out of my system, thank goodness! LOL

I'm too squeamish to put the actual me into a story. I don't even like writing anything remotely autobiographical. I admire people who write memoirs and stuff like that. It's a beautiful gift to others to share ones experiences.

elfarmy17 said...

Spring of eighth grade (I'm going into 10th now) I started writing a novel based on a series of dreams I've had, and it turned out that the main character was EXACTLY like me, except in her world some of my fantasies were true. I'd also merged some of my relatives I have issues with into one person and had her fight him. So once I realized this, I continued writing it for a bit just as self-psychotherapy. I think it helped a lot of things. Not that I was terribly screwed up.

The main character of my most recent novel, that I started last November, is a bit like me, but not NEARLY as much.

Mechelle Fogelsong said...

What's weird is that I'm female, but it's my male characters who reflect my personality most.

I'm not a lesbian either, just to make that clear.

Freaky, huh?