Reflection: The Self-Insert Character

Sometimes, authors like to put themselves in a story.  Basically, there’s a character that the author directly based on him (or her) self.  They may be a character with the author’s real name, made obvious, or using a different name/appearance, but still a character the author sees as him (or her) self.  Obligatory TV Tropes link here.

My most extreme example was back when I wrote the Mysteries of Valleyville.  I, using my real name, was a character in the stories – a writer who lives on the end of town, documenting the odd happenings there.  I honestly did it as a joke at first, but eventually realized my character was quite knowledgeable about the town, and I realized I could be useful for exposition (this is a pronoun nightmare).  I think it worked out pretty well.

The problem is that I can’t make this character too directly involved in the plot, and ego has to be kept out of it as much as possible.  I can’t have my character end up too perfect, or they’ll become unlikable/annoying.  I believe this is what they call a Mary Sue.

I’ve had experience with this.  The protagonist of my Swogprille series was originally based on an idealized version of myself.  Unfortunately, this caused me a lot of problems, and made him seem overpowered, so I definitely had to rework his character later, and in the later years of the series, and revisions of the earlier years, I was able to improve his character.  He’s still very powerful, but has clear flaws, weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

These days, I do still have self-insert characters to some extent.  I mean, authors do create the characters, so the characters are, in a way, an extension of them.

When I do create a more explicit self-insert character, they tend to be flawed antiheroes.  In some ways, I know and accept my own weaknesses, which allows me to make such characters more realistic.  Or maybe it’s just because I know how dangerous ego can be when working with this trope.

But these days, I don’t really do this explicitly in my more serious stories.  I might take a few of my real traits/thoughts/feelings, and give them to a character (a good idea – write what you know), but I won’t overdo it.  At least, not intentionally.  So long as I don’t see myself as the character, ego should be better to keep out of it.

Or I can always just use the self-insert character for laughs, have a joke or two at my expense.  At least, that’s what I would do if I was still writing humor.  Well, I think I’ve said enough, White Rakogis is signing off.


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