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?