1. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    Serious writing problem: All my characters are ME in some variation?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Dagolas, Jun 14, 2012.

    Everything in the title. I might make him an arrogant S.O.B who was an orphan beaten by his dad and who has a german accent, he will end up being me in some way or another.

    Any way to avoid this while writing?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Practice. It's a common problem for new writers, and it's a trap even veteran writers fall into.

    Also, peoplewatch. It's a good way to start getting into other people's heads and thinking outside of you.
     
  3. Samo
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    Samo Member

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    This isn't a problem is it? You are human, after all. Your experience as a person is invaluable.

    An "arrogant S.O.B who was an orphan beaten by his dad and who has a german accent" is just a set of characteristics. The only way to demonstrate character is to give the protagonist an intensely pressured choice. If you place yourself in the centre of the character and imagine truthfully how you would react in such a circumstance, it is safe to assume that countless others would act in the same way.

    Anton Chekhov said: "Everything I learned about human nature I learned from me"
     
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    depends. If this limits your characters experiences to what you have experienced and seen I guess it could be a problem. If you mean you step into the characters so much that you feel his problems as if they were yours, then it's not, To me that would be a good thing. I would say just be careful to not always make the characters react like you would have done in that situation, because they should be individuals and one of the challenges as a writer is getting into the head of your characters and make them respond in their unique, individual way.
     
  5. There_She_Goes
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    There_She_Goes Member

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    All my main characters bear a piece of me deep inside. The supporting characters, on the other hand, are usually very different from me. Thus, my relationship with them is much more... realistic? Like... "I don't know them, they don't know me". But my main characters are always with me. I can't leave them behind because they are like children to me.
     
  6. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    I think that's good advice. You can pick up little details about the way people interact with their surroundings and nuances in speech, movement, etc, etc. If you're observant, you might even see some of your characters in people you watch (without being creepy of course.) Chances are, some of the things you observe are going to be things you might not have thought to include before.
     
  7. Program
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    Program Member

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    If your character turns into you, you'll convey all the emotions, feelings, actions, etc. very well, because after all, you are literally the character and you have personally experienced most of the things the story is going to convey about the character.

    Yet, you might find it boring, but I doubt readers are going to know it's "you" - especially if they don't know you in real life. So, I don't really find this a serious writing problem, unless you don't really have much left to say about yourself.

    If you want to avoid this, you can practice. Just write short bits, and slowly progressing to longer passages, trying to describe to a reader what someone that is not you is like. You could start by creating characters like people you know in real life. Later, you can make up characters, and once you practice a lot, you'll get better. (Or, while you're writing, you could watch carefully to make sure your characters never turn into you. If you consider a detail that might make the character turn into you, toss it out and spend some time coming up with an alternate detail)
     
  8. nhope
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    nhope Contributing Member Reviewer

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    You know, some say that a person writes about some aspects of his life to understand them better. Of course your characters will represent parts of you because you are creating them, but what they do and what you would do will be different. The arrogant orphan beaten by his dad (btw, how an orphan with a dad?) could turn out to be a humanitarian or a victim of his own circumstance but most likely will fall somewhere in between.

    The best part of fiction is you get to have as many do-overs as you want. Write your story and don't worry so much. Just write the best story you can.
     
  9. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    You can have characters be modeled after you and be distinct, simply by making them reflect different aspects of you. For example, I could have one character be 'me without morals' (which turns out as a mad scientist, basically) and another be 'gifted rebellious schoolkid me' and a third be 'knock some sense into character types that annoy me me' (I know the syntax of that statement is odd, but it does make sense) and a third be 'stimmy autistic me playing with intangibility powers'. All four are based off of me, but they're all quite different.

    If you have several characters which are too similar to each other, pick whichever traits differentiate them, and exaggerate those.
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is a really Good advice I think.
     
  11. Morwen Edhelwen
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    Morwen Edhelwen Member

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    It could be a foster dad... Anyway, agree with everyone else.
     
  12. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    On some higher, may be subconscious, level all the characters are a reflection of your ideologists, believes etc. Even the hateful antagonist you have created is made up of everything that you believe are loathsome qualities in a person. You can't get away with that, and why should you? Those are part of the things which will make your "voice" unique. But why should you, a college educated person from a stable family for example, make your orphan protagonist from a dysfunctional family act like you in any given situation? It just doesn't make sense and hence it's a pitfall. A good writer should have the ability to forget how he/she would react and solely concentrate on how the character would react in a given situation? Any similarity between how the character reacts and how you might react should be coincidental.
     
  13. Rapscallion
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    Rapscallion Active Member

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    My main character is a much younger version of me but, with all the knowledge and experience that I possess now. He's not half the darn-near-criminal little rascal that I was. I am virtually reliving my youth through this character, writing a sort of fictional biography. Where I would land in trouble, he lands in a predicament, and usually ends up helping someone else out of trouble as he works his way out of the predicament.
     
  14. Boomstick10995
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    Boomstick10995 Member

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    I agree with Ettina. It would be a nice exercise to create characters that reflect an aspect of you.
    One thing I like to do is look at my friends around me. I usually befriend like minded people, so I see a bit of myself in them, but they are different
    from me in that they have different backgrounds, social lives, etc. So you can try it from that perspective. Put yourself in their shoes, and try to imagine
    what type of person you would be if you came from a different background, different family, different social life, etc. and base your characters off that.
    Hope that helps!
     
  15. the_eternal_learner
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    the_eternal_learner New Member

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    I think it can be a great thing to lend aspects of yourself to a character - it really gives you the most accurate first-hand perspective on the character that way! I think we're all multi-faceted enough to be able to create many characters using parts of ourselves, in fact one of my stories on the back-burner is going to be about four different women, all of whom loosely represent me in the various stages of life that I've experienced. Obviously you don't want to keep repeating the same few traits over and over, but bits and pieces here and there, scattered throughout your characters from time to time, can definitely work out OK.
     
  16. WordofPen
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    WordofPen New Member

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    The best result of this: As Program said, you'll convey the characters' emotions much better, and much more realistically.

    The worst result: The characters become a mouthpiece for your own beliefs and ideas, and they can't take on their own life and help direct the story.

    It's okay to get attached to your characters, and it's okay to find ways to identify with them. To be honest, I believe that it is best if you can find a way to love, or at least understand, each character- that way, the villains aren't pure evil, flat characters, and the extras all get a little more individuality, adding more depth to the world. However, if the character becomes you, then you need to step back and think about what you should do. The easiest solution is to base him/her on someone else entirely. Or, you can spend some time with the character, and really think about how he would be as his own person, and work through some interviews and character sheets. Let the characters have a life of their own. In almost all cases, I would say it's for the best.
     
  17. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    FWIW, I use Enneagrams to create believable characters with sort of consistent traits. HTH,
     
  18. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Do not worry. I had a project, once, where in for a time all of the characters were a different side of me... well the male caracters that is. One was imaginitive and a natural leader, his brother was har working and willing to concede leadership to one who was better suited, their mentor wa wise, and acted mostly out of reson and experience,the youngest apprentice exhibited my youth and passion and naivity, while the villain exhibited everything dark, angery, bitter or malevolent in me...it is not bad to draw from yourself when you creat your characters, but just kow that once you have their personalities set, they are individuals who can grow and change and you must let them change with the story. They must think and act according to who they are and become separate from you :)
     
  19. Night Queen
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    Night Queen New Member

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    Okay, well I'm a new writer to, as someone above said. The same thing tends to happen to me but honestly, i don't see it as a serious problem or, in most cases, a problem at all. I don't mind my characters having a little bit of me in there simply because, when you read a lot of famous authors, their main characters tend to have certain similarities that one can assume is a lot like them. Besides, putting me into my characters i think is one of the ways i put my own style and spin on things. This is just my opinion though :p
     
  20. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Cognito is correct.

    How deep are you thinking about the character? I still use the same MC I had when I started; however, instead of being like me, like when I started writing, she's grown her own personality, quirks, dislikes. It comes from a combination of practice and allowing the character to come alive in your head.

    We talk about this very thing in a closed sci fi writer's group. There's several ways of accomplishing what you want to do. What I do might not work with you but here goes:

    I've always had a certain image that allows me to enter Kate's world...when there, I tell her to tell ME about her life-I just put the words to paper. So, with enough practice, you can achieve you goal. Just don't give up!

    Michael Jordan said he lost over 300 games, 90+ times he took the last shot and missed. How'd he manage to make so many game winning shots though? Practicing and never giving up!

    Practice, practice, practice, and never give up. If there's a certain genre you like to write, you can always find a group to help you improve also along with this website. JUST DO NOT GIVE UP.
     
  21. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Cognito is correct.

    How deep are you thinking about the character? I still use the same MC I had when I started; however, instead of being like me, like when I started writing, she's grown her own personality, quirks, dislikes. It comes from a combination of practice and allowing the character to come alive in your head.

    We talk about this very thing in a closed sci fi writer's group. There's several ways of accomplishing what you want to do. What I do might not work with you but here goes:

    I've always had a certain image that allows me to enter Kate's world...when there, I tell her to tell ME about her life-I just put the words to paper. So, with enough practice, you can achieve you goal. Just don't give up!

    Michael Jordan said he lost over 300 games, 90+ times he took the last shot and missed. How'd he manage to make so many game winning shots though? Practicing and never giving up!

    Practice, practice, practice, and never give up. If there's a certain genre you like to write, you can always find a group to help you improve also along with this website. JUST DO NOT GIVE UP.
     
  22. LuminousTyto
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    LuminousTyto Senior Member

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    A lot of professional writers say that their characters are just extensions of their own selves.

    What you need to do to minimize this to the point that people wont recognize it is to write nice lengthy CHARACTER BIOS which aren't you! Start with the physiology of the character, then the psychology, and the sociology! Have interviews with your characters. There's a lot of good books on this subject like Write Great Fiction: Character Emotion and Viewpoint - Nancy Kress or How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using The Power of Myth - James N Frey. I found the one written by Frey especially helpful when discussion how to make your characters seem real and of themselves. Check out those titles and DO WHAT THOSE BOOKS SAY!
     
  23. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    I don't know if it's wrong if every character feels like it's you in some way. Read a book, watch a TV show, you'll find another character that is you, even though it was written by someone you've never met.

    What you can do, if you want to avoid everyone being TOO similar to you (I've watched a show where all characters are clones of the writer. It's a problem) is to pick one element of you, and dump it on the character. Or one fear you have, and drop that on the character. Bill O'Reilly's novel, for example, "Those Who Traspass", has one character who is a cop who grew up in Levitown, and is Catholic. He has another character who is a journalist who feels bitterness toward people who took credit for something he had done. Each of the two men is somewhat based on Bill O'Reilly, and he does not try to hide it. And yet each one has different motivation and goal.

    In my own story, I have characters who are somewhat me. One is an orc who has some love-hate relations with the empire of light, inspired by my own feelings toward the US, my favorite country in the world. Another character is dealing with a missed opportunity, which is also inspired by something I've experienced.

    You can also read about historical figures and base some of your characters on them. I have a character who has a lot of tension with his father, and it's based on John F. Kennedy and his own dad. My research into that relationship was shallow, but it sparked creativity. Writing about their tension was inspired by an article I read on an unrelated issue, and by people in this forum who helped me out.

    Bottom line: Find some personality trait or personal story of a real life figure, and let it spark a similar character and a similar plotline.
     
  24. andyscribe
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    I find I am my own best character resource. But that means me in my many guises and moods, ages and situations. And then there's the anti-me doing, thinking and looking the opposite of any of the other mes.

    People are very complex so why not use yourself? And if that gets a bit samey, start on friends, family, colleagues, that bloke in the pub, the lady on checkout in the supermarket, ...
     

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