When Partial Self-Inserts Might Actually Be a Good Idea
I had no idea that blogs were a thing, and I've been here for seven months. I'm not sure if that's embarrassing.
But basically, I've always held the opinion that partial self-inserts are not always inherently bad, and I though it would be good if I were to ruminate on why I think that and how I think it can even be beneficial to write them sometimes, and these blogs seemed like a good place to do that. And a warning: this is very much going to be full of my ramblings, as will all my future blog posts, likely. Nothing is organized.
(And this isn't going to be a regular thing. Just when I feel an urge to do something like this again.)
Now, just to be clear, I don't think that full self-inserts, or self-inserts that are just a copy-paste of yourself onto the page, are typically a good thing. Even if it's not intended, it's very easy to identify way too much with the character and take things that happen to them and mistakes that they make personally, and thus minimize the amount of bad things that happen to them and the mistakes they make, and that's how you get a Mary Sue or a Gary Stew. What I'm talking about are taking one or a few parts of yourself and putting them in a character. In my experience, not only can this make them more realistic because it's a characteristic that a real actual human has, you can also understand your characters and their actions better because you've likely felt the same emotions or had a similar experience.
The bigger, and less writing-related benefit, is that it can help you understand yourself. Personally, I've always wanted to write a book that explores a very specific part of my psyche. Considering the personal nature of such a thing I'm not comfortable disclosing which part of my psyche I'm talking about, but that's not really necessary to explain what I'm saying. So I'll come up with a different example, that's maybe not as personal.
So, say, I came up with a character that had a deep desire to leave their mark on the world, a characteristic I also have. Numerous questions that I've had about this throughout my life are "Is this some issue of pride and narcissism?" "Why can I not just be happy by making other people happy? Does not being content with that make me a bad person?" "If I don't leave my mark, is my life worth it? Does it matter?" I've come to my own conclusions about these questions, but that's very personal. Writing a character with this same need can help you find answers to these questions, and thus deal with any issues that come with it. If you wanted to try to figure out how to go on if you reached the age of sixty and you haven't done anything extraordinary, I think it could be very beneficial to write a character going through these same struggles, because it forces you to deal with it without actually taking the fall. I'm not sure what genre this would fall into, but I've never really considered it, because any book I wrote like that would never see the light of day.
Now, there is a slippery slope here that can turn a book of self-discovery into a fantasy, because you could start to identify with the character too much and make them succeed at leaving a mark on the world - and that would just remove the whole point. This is why I would make sure to keep the character separate from me - you have to be very careful, because self-inserts are really a problem with mindset and how you look at the character.
So, as a summary: self-inserts can be a tool of self-discovery as long as the character is kept separate from self. You have to be very careful about this.
But anyway, I'm curious how other people feel about this, because the general consensus is that all self-inserts are bad, and I just can't get behind that.
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