Reflection: Me and My Characters

I’ve often found myself referencing one of my poems where I talk about how writers put their soul into their stories, by putting a piece of themselves into each story, whether they know it, or want to, or not.  But this makes the relationship between an author and his characters a complex one.

In a way, my characters are a piece of me, as I created them, based on some of my subconscious desires.  But at the same time, they are not me.  They have their own personalities that are very different from mine.  If every character in the story was too much like me, the story would be too unrealistic and bland.  In real life, everybody is unique.

And let’s face it – the more a character is like me, the more likely they are to become too perfect, what is often referred to as a Mary Sue.  But that’s a topic for another day.

I have been previously accused of making all my characters too much like me before, so it’s something I definitely work to avoid.  I do this in many different ways.  For one thing, I consider characters from other stories, TV shows, cartoons, anime, movies, video games etc.  I often find myself modeling characters based on other peoples’ characters.

Other times, I look at character and characterization tropes on TV Tropes, and use these as a guideline for my character.

But I try not to design a character to be an exact copy of another character, or too much of a textbook example of one of the tropes.  I often try to avoid this by adding elements from another character, or combining several tropes.

But considering the writer is still me, I may very well be making characters too much like me subconsciously, without realizing.  I may eventually realize this, but it could be a while, if I notice it at all.

One notable example: in real life, I never swear; I believe it to be wrong.  This used to be reflected in all of my stories.  A few parts of Swogprille even mention there being a law against public swearing – an extension of this belief.

However, when I was writing Cromm, I realized that though I never swear, most people do.  There are many cases where it would be out of character not to swear, so in The Cromm Conspiracy, characters do swear.  I still believe it to be wrong, but I am in the minority, and I accepted that for the sake of writing a better story.

But while there is swearing in some of my more recent stories, I don’t include it unnecessarily, or for the sake of being vulgar.  I only include a swear word if I feel the character has a good reason to use it by his or her standards.

That’s not to say it isn’t bad to make characters like me.  Many times, I want a character that shares a few of my personality traits, but even so, I shouldn’t make the character an exact clone of me.  I should be doing it because I want the character to be that way, not because I am also like that, or because I’m too lazy to make a different character.

But in the end, I am the writer.  It’s very difficult for me not to put pieces of myself in a character.  I will definitely end up including some lines, scenes, and more just because I like them, even if they aren’t completely true to the characters.  To summarize, good writing and character design is tough.  See you (sort of) next week.

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