1. Samuel Greene
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    Samuel Greene New Member

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    Avoiding putting too much of yourself into a first person protagonist.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Samuel Greene, Jan 5, 2012.

    Hello all!

    This is my first post here; I consider it dipping my toes into the water somewhat.

    When writing in the first person, do you find it difficult to separate yourself from the character's thoughts and actions, I most certainly am!
    If this is the case do you have any tips or a way of disengaging from this somewhat. I want to write a book, not a biography :p
    I look forward to your responses :)
     
  2. nhope
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    nhope Contributing Member Reviewer

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    If you find your character seems to be you, make him do something you wouldn't do, like sky dive or shoot someone. Introduce new things and you will have to think through what would follow that new action and by doing this you will have created someone less like you.
     
  3. DanielRoseington
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    DanielRoseington Member

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    Make a really strong character outline before you start writing. Try a few exercises where you place the character in a situation and think about how he/she would react and make sure it is different to what you would do. Maybe base the character off of someone or a collection of people who you know well, that could help as well. I think making the character the opposite sex that you are could help a lot as well.
     
  4. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    Firstly, do you consider it a problem for your MC to reflect yourself in some ways? It could help make the character fuller and more realistic.

    However, if you do see it as a problem, then as others have suggested, putting the character in situations you have/never will find yourself in will automatically make the character go through thought processes and make decisions that you never have, and so act differently to you.
     
  5. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    The only way to do this is to gain a deeper understanding of your narrator. Do lots of character development exercises before you begin and, once you've started writing, pay close attention to the char's personality and voice. You may find his/her voice becoming more distinct as you continue the story and you may have to rewrite many of the early chapters in your second draft to reflect this.

    I would advise not to consciously try to make him/her your opposite. If the character turns out to be your opposite, that's fine, but that shouldn't be your end-goal. Take yourself out of the equation as much as possible; don't use yourself as a contrast. This character should be his/her own person, not a funhouse mirror reflection of you. Although you can compare yourself to him, he should not be defined by you.

    For example, maybe you and this character both like cats. That's fine, but you have to look deeper and figure out why. If the only reason he likes cats is because you like cats, that's a problem. He should have his own reasons for liking or disliking them. You and the character may arrive at the same conclusion --we both like cats-- but how you get there is what defines your individual personalities. You could possibly use contrasts and similarities as a starting point, but please, please, please, don't stop there! Seek the reasons why he is who he is and the character will develop organically from there.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    All characters have bits and pieces of the author in them, on some level. There is no reason this should be any more of an issue for a first-person POV than any other POV. You can write almost exactly the same thing, with the exception of the grammatical elements particular to the point of view. Some authors do the same thing in third person, where the character becomes too much an extension of the author. I agree with the above, stating that when this happens you do not have a solid enough view of the character, and so the character isn't fully formed as an individual in your own mind. Those shortcomings in the character are then easy to fill in by just putting yourself in the character because that is what you are most familiar with, and most comfortable working with. The key, it seems, is to better define the character so you don't have to resort to your own characteristics to fill in the gaps.
     
  7. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    The first stories I wrote in first person had a main character that was based off of my own character. And I didn't necessarily think that was a bad thing because I could relate to real events that happened in my real life. Like my main character might be shy... and I'm just as shy in real life. So when I put my character in the middle of a club scene, I have an idea of what he would be going through.

    That being said, I never made a carbon copy of myself with my character. Usually I would change my character in some way for the better, although maybe in some ways it would be for the worse as well. Like... you can make your character an expert chess player or an over-confidant speaker in public when maybe that isn't you in real life... as long as it still makes sense with the other traits you've given him.
     
  8. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Nope. I feel like I become someone else. I mean, all my characters have elements of myself, whether they're first or third person, major or minor. But none of them are me.

    I'd say make sure you know what kind of person they are. If you don't know, think about what the plot requires they do, and build a character where such actions follow naturally. Chances are they are doing things you wouldn't do, unless you have an unusually exciting life!
     
  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I find that first person works best when the person isn't like me. They can have the same personality, but not the same age and occupation and everything. This forces me to think to develop them, not just insert myself. If you struggle a lot with this, try writing first person for a polar-opposite character: different gender, drastically different age, different political/religious views, different personality, etc.
     
  10. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I personally don't mind writing a character who's almost exactly the same as me in first person. They're never in situations I'd be in, so it's almost like being able to test yourself on how you'd really react to something. I've written myself breaking and entering, having hallucinations, different stuff like that. I didn't try and put any character spin on it. They were just little one-shots of myself in some situation I've never been in, and they were fun to write.

    For longer stuff, I have no problem creating the voice's own character.
     
  11. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    I won't put myself in a first person story. Nobody would ever get past page one.
     
  12. Anarchist_Apple84
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    Anarchist_Apple84 Senior Member

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    I'm a serious overplanner and have pages upon pages of notes on my characters before I even start writing. This way I've been quite successful in making all my characters have very different personalities so first person works very well for me. I love the fact all the voices in George R.R Martin's books are vastly different, which has been an influence in my work in progress.
     
  13. Betrayal
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    Betrayal New Member

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    I think that the way your main character describes things in your story should not be of a worry and it should depend on your writing style. As for the personality of the actual first character, that can be a different than your's. Something that helps me a little is that I use the moral compass from World of Warcraft (never played the game before though) and help me pin point a personality or category to follow.
    Here's the link to the website: http://www.wowwiki.com/Alignment
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    FYI - those alignments are not "from" World of Warcraft, they're from Dungeons and Dragons going back to at least the 1970s (if anyone had them before that, I don't know) and used by World of Warcraft, which also borrowed quite heavily from Warhammer.

    /derail
     
  15. Anarchist_Apple84
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    Anarchist_Apple84 Senior Member

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    Wow, my nerd sense is tingling! haha.
    Oh yeah, those go back LONG before WoW - the first (and honestly last ;) ) time I saw them was my Baldur's Gate II phase in the late 90's (Which ran on D&D core) and they were OLD back then.

    I'm suddenly depressed the late 90's count as "back then" :(
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that depresses me as well. I hear Nirvana on classic rocks stations and I'm like "oh no they didn't!"
     
  17. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I hope you don't use solely that because IMO that's kind of a bad way of defining a character. IIRC, the D&D moral compass (they don't even use it in WoW) you had things like Chaotic/Lawful and Good/Evil and you just kind of made combinations of them. But good and evil are relative terms anyway and don't really describe someone's personality the way writing demands it IMO. I think the better way to go about it is to take a bunch of basic personality traits and think about the few that your describe your character as well as the ones that the character lacks and also try to come up with kind of a backstory as to why they have those traits.
     

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