1. RainbowWarrior
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    RainbowWarrior Member

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    Putting yourself in the story

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by RainbowWarrior, May 2, 2013.

    i have loads of characters that were made from scratch, except one. the main character is based on me.

    loads of you are probably thinking that doing that is unimaginative blah blah blah, and even i sometimes feel that way too.

    but i said that my character is BASED on me, meaning that i am a mere template. so my mc is not a clone of me. ive changed some of her traits etc to make her as unique as i can. there is a strange freedom about putting yourself in the book, because you can sort of take yourself on journeys that you will never experience in real life, and thats what makes my story more fun to write.

    i HAVE tried to make an mc from scratch (believe me. ive tried), but i just cant. they form in my head, and i try to write about them, but i just end up writing about an empty shell. my book is in first person, and having me (sort of) in the story allows me to really go into the depths of my mind, which makes my writing very deep, and people have given me praise for that. all of my other characters are fleshed out, so why cant i do the same for my mc?

    but here is my main problem.
    my current plan is that my mc spends the first few chapters in england, and after she finds out she was born in america and evil people are hunting her etc etc, she has to return there to find out about her past and her destiny. you later find out that she lived in america until she was about 5, and then was taken to england because her mum was trying to hide her from the villain and keep her away from the huge war (which resulted in her mum getting killed, and her memory was wiped with a special drug). when the story starts she is 15/16, so she basically grew up in england and has a british accent.
    countless times ive considered making her stay in america, but that means getting rid of some exciting scenes (e.g. she has to get onto a cargo ship to america (which sinks) because flight travel is banned in 2070), and a lot of her personality will be changed.
    sometimes i think that the subconscious part of my brain is making me want to keep her british just because she is based on me (fyi i am british).

    what do i do??? :confused:
     
  2. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is your shift key broken?

    I'm not really clear on what you are asking here. She the MC stay in America? Possibly? While it will cost some exciting scenes, it will, presumably, present the opportunity for may others.
     
  3. popsprocket
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    popsprocket Member

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    It's your story and you can do whatever you like with it. If you're afraid that removing the England scenes will be problematic, simply replace them with something else which is equally exciting.

    But you should be warned that self-insert characters are fairly looked down upon. You say you've changed her traits so that you aren't exactly the same person, but if she reads like you writing about yourself having an awesome adventure then you'll receive significant criticism for it.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    How would most people know? Many very knowledgable people advise putting as much of yourself as you can in your characters. I see nothing wrong with it. As long as you can create characters that are also not like you (although almost any character you create will have at least a dash of you in him or her -- that's what makes them realistic.)
     
  5. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    I think the main issue with self-insert characters are that they tend to be idealized versions of the author, full of cool quirks and abilities that the author wishes they could have in real life. The story can run the risk of becoming pure wish-fulfillment without any real development of the main character.

    But, inserting yourself into your own character won't automatically kill a story, so long as they're still treated like a character as opposed to an avatar. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series is a good example - I'm not sure exactly how much of herself Rowling put into Hermione, but she's often talked about how much she identifies with her, and even supposedly made her patronus into the shape of her favorite animal. Hermione kicks all kinds of butt, but even so, she has her ups and downs just like all the other characters. She's flawed and runs into problems that she can't face on her own. Even though she's more or less a magical author avatar, she doesn't read like that at all.

    I don't like to base my characters off of myself, or who I wish I was, but I agree that most people tend to put a little bit of themselves into their characters. If you can't identify with your own characters to at least some degree, chances are that none of your readers will be able to identify with them, either.
     
  6. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't quite understand the question in the OP. Could you plese re-word it (with capitals and apostrophes in their proper places)?

    On another note, I second what chicagoliz said.

    This aspect in writing has always intrigued me. Why wouldn't there be development? The character could at least become awesomer :D Though to be honest, it has always bothered me a bit that Roland in the Dark Tower is a self-insert of Stephen King. It's funny how when the author him/herself is a badass adventurer, it's totally cool that they self-insert, but when they're some mousy desk jockeys, then people react more negatively. Like with Ernest Hemingway: self-insert away! With E. L. James: please, please, please don't.

    I would imagine that many writers "sprinkle" their own traits in their characters, also to examine some aspects of themselves. It's like... I try to write characters that are very different from myself cos that's interesting, but I know I have put a lot of myself in them anyway (like how they react to something, what kinds of shoes they wear, or really happen to like horses...)
     
  7. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    It's a real talent writing a character as the MC who is not you. I wouldn't recommend it. Most of the main characters in my stories share a lot with me. It's not really a concious decision though, it just happens because I am me and I am writing. Often a lot of work has to be done to clean up characters and make sure they're speaking right after a first draft - they often just sound like me on the first run through.

    Have you been to England and America? Is this your life story? That you moved from the US when you were five? I don't seen it being a problem. Do as ye' please.
     
  8. RainbowWarrior
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    RainbowWarrior Member

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    ive been experimenting with her staying in america, and its actually working in some ways. ive managed to tie up loose ends at the beginning, and now i can bring in characters earlier, and give her old friends instead of having her meet loads of brand new characters.

    also, i have to fill in so many plotholes if the events happen in england. if they happen in america, they make more sense. 8)

    making her british makes her easier for the villains to distinquish, which is going to be a bummer.

    i think im going to decide that she stays in america :)
     
  9. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    It strikes me that the bigger issue (or at least an issue that is just as important) is being familiar enough with America so that it reads like it takes place in the U.S. I read the recent rather infamous trilogy written by a British author that takes place in America, but because of the way the characters spoke, I kept picturing them with British accents, which didn't make sense in the context of the story. Some of the geography was off, as well. I kept wondering why the author didn't just set it in London.

    There are several long threads about setting a story in a place you haven't been. So wherever you set it, make sure you know enough about it to realistically convey it's atmosphere.
     
  10. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would argue this is a different problem. If they're idealized versions, then they are not the author. If they're idealized versions of anyone, they won't be believable. People are complex -- you could create two very different characters who are both nevertheless in many ways, similar to you.

    I'm not certain this is even possible for many people. There's a reason the saying, "All fiction is autobiography" exists. Of course that doesn't mean that all of our stories are literally our autobiographies. But most of our major characters will have something in them of us.
     
  11. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    And the amount of research one has to do if they are not familiar with the setting... while interesting, it's also surprisingly time-consuming.

    Thank Larry for Google.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    listen to liz!... she's right on all counts, imo...
     
  13. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    That's a fair point. Maybe I've just been floating around amateur writing communities for too long - I've seen all the ways a self-insert can go horribly wrong. But yeah, technically they're not so much self-inserts as they are just author avatars after a certain point, so it would be considered a different kind of problem.
     

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