1. ZoomerWriter

    ZoomerWriter Banned

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    How do I avoid writing a self insert protagonist?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ZoomerWriter, May 29, 2019.

    I've noticed in a lot of the fiction I'm trying to write the protagonists tend to be loosely based off myself in terms of character development/arcs due to the scenario somewhat being based off a real life scenario I've been through. A lot of writers do this so I would like to try as well.

    But I've been feeling worried about this since I'm worried that they might be too similar to myself and I don't wanna write a self insert protagonist because they are bad.

    What can I do to avoid unconsciously writing a self insert MC?
     
  2. LoaDyron

    LoaDyron Contributor Contributor

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    Hello, friend. :superhello:

    You have to experiment more of personality traits. Try to get inspiration from your friends, family, co-workers, boss, teacher, or even Oriental and European horoscope. I'm sure people had an impact in your life, some parts of their personality you didn't like, or you liked. How did they react to certain situations? What is their culture like? What is so different from you? When you write your characters, and you spot something that is you, change that. Re-write again but different.

    I hope this helps. Keep on good work and have fun. :superagree:
     
  3. Maverick_nc

    Maverick_nc Contributor Contributor

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    I'd ask firstly why are they bad, per se? As long as you have the self awareness to know your own flaws and include them, I'm not certain it's a terrible idea. Of course, the character has to be interesting enough to want to read about, so if similarities occur perhaps exaggerate the traits on your character to make them 'pop' off the page and thus differentiating them from yourself.
    I'm sure even George RR Martin wrote a lot of his character Tyrion as himself.
     
  4. ZoomerWriter

    ZoomerWriter Banned

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    I can easily explain this in a couple of images :D
    615+5-4R1ZL.jpg 41K99+cInvL._SR500,500_.jpg
     
  5. Maverick_nc

    Maverick_nc Contributor Contributor

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    Those two stories, whilst widely criticized in certain circles, were absolute smash hit sensations. Are you suggesting you don't want to be successful?!
     
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  6. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I think self-insertion protagonists can work really well IF—and it's a big IF—you make them believable and are willing to give those protagonists a really hard time. In fact, maybe even they don't even win at the end of the day. If they do win, they need to have learned a lot, and maybe even sacrificed a lot. Don't make things easy for them.

    There is a difference between self-insertion and wish fulfillment. Self-insertion can make your protagonist come alive for your readers, because that protagonist is you, and you know (or you think you know) what makes you tick, and what you fear, and what you want.

    Wish fulfillment, however, can be silly and unrealistic. Wave a magic wand and you get what you want. Smile and everybody loves you. Try something difficult and you get it the first time. Lady Luck rides your shoulder and you always win.

    If you want 'you' to be a great progagonist, make sure you give 'yourself' really major problems, bad times, dilemmas that can't be solved, but can only be coped with. What are your faults as a human being? Are you too impulsive? Do you hold grudges? Are you difficult to live with? Are you hard to please? Are you tactless? Do lots of people dislike you? (If so, why?) Don't make yourself into a paragon of virtue who can do no wrong, because nobody ever is. Be upfront about what you're bad at. If you have a skill, make sure you've earned it via hard work, years of study, etc. If you have a talent (something that comes naturally to you), make sure it's something believable.

    In other words, the 'imaginary you' should be just as realistic and interesting as you are yourself. Then have fun. Put yourself in a setting you find interesting and challenging. Surround yourself with friends and enemies who are as real as you are. Stir the pot a few times ...and hey. You'll have a story.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2019
  7. graveleye

    graveleye Senior Member

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    I do it all the time and don't really care. I even go as far as to utilize the "fantasy fulfillment" route...I write things for my MC that I wish for myself.
    But I also write into my MC my darker sides, my emotional negatives and shortcomings. Some of them I make up or exaggerate.
    I make bad things happen to him, things I would never wish on myself, but figuring out how to make him grow and face the challenges (or run away from them) has proved an interesting study of my own peronality.

    Not many people really know me, and those that do will probably recognize me in the character, but those are not the people I am writing for anyway. I have a handful of friends, but I intend to sell more than a handful of books.
     
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  8. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Reality can be a great jumping off spot for fiction, but you've got to let the fiction take over if you are really writing fiction. Fiction and nonfiction are handled quite differently. And just because something happened in real life doesn't always make it believable in fiction. That's important to keep in mind. I often start fiction thinking about myself or my life, but I am quick to let that evolve into something else, a better story as far as fiction goes. Let your mind take yourself and this character that feels like you go in different directions and explore different hurdles, consequences and results. I think it's best when fiction can run a similar course to reality but had the freedom to go off road. So, through out the map and think more about the story than you and your experiences.
     
  9. raine_d

    raine_d Active Member

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    It seems from reading your post to be the scenario, the things that happened in your life that you are most interested in and the self-insertion is a result of them having happened to you? - if that is so, try picking someone else, or a composite of other people and try imagining "what of this happened to them instead of me?" That may help.
     
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  10. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    :superidea:
    frabz-First-well-kill-it-with-fire-Then-well-run-it-over-d36b7c.jpg
    To keep it short (though I loathe 50 Shades with all the passion of a trillion Magnatars), while
    those two stories did so well still baffles me, considering the protags were so dull that at least
    for me reading the former was absolutely impossible. So I don't know how they gained the success
    that they did, unless people are really that easily amused.

    OT: I don't see a problem if you want to write self insert (in part or in full) into a story(s). Though
    I am sure it helps that you have a much more interesting and rich personality, over the two planks
    of wood in the books you posted.
    Think of it like actively sharing a day dream or a fantasy (doesn't have to be sexual), and let it flow
    from there. Honestly no one will really know that you are writing your adventures and flights of
    fancy based on your own life exp. , except for the few people that really know you well enough to
    be able to draw the parallels between you the person and your character avatars. :)

    Good luck, and I hope you are not discouraged from writing self insert characters. Might just learn
    something about you, you didn't know.
    :superidea:
     
  11. disasterspark

    disasterspark Active Member

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    This used to be me when I first started writing. I wrote a super needlessly overpowered protagonist. Looking back makes me cringe. I don't think you need to make a protagonist completely different from yourself. It's natural that your characters have traits similar to yours, unless you're writing a stand-in for another person, real or not. Whether you're writing a single protagonist, or multiple, it helps to only add some traits of yourself. Then exaggerate some to all hell, and mute others. Then explore where these traits may lead. For instance:

    - Anyone can be loyal and brave, Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars could be those things, so he turns to the dark side, murders jedi, children, and his wife, and becomes Darth Vader.

    - The Soldier from Team Fortress 2 is strong and patriotic. And he's, well...



    - Most superheroes are selfless and care about others, so they get superpowers and help others.

    However with protagonists with regular joes like you or I, you wouldn't have to exaggerate some of those traits. Take Winston from 1984. He could literally be anyone. All they have to do is figure out that the government is bullshit, then rebel, then badda bing badda boom, get caught and sent to a scary room.

    And if you're writing multiple protagonists, but this can apply to antagonists and supporting characters as well. Maybe look back and apply some of your younger self.
     
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  12. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I agree that self-insert characters are only an issue if they aren't done well, and that's true of every damn thing about writing. If writing a "self-insert" character gives your writing more depth and vitality, go for it. If you find later that you're having trouble torturing the character enough or making the character fallible, THEN worry about the character being a self-insert. But lots of writers include a lot of themselves in their characters. I don't think it's automatically a bad thing.
     
  13. Odile_Blud

    Odile_Blud Active Member

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    I don't think writing characters similar to yourself are necessarily bad. If they were, let's be honest, memoirs or autobiographies would never be a thing. I think it, like any character creation, depends upon how you develop them and whether or not you make them interesting. I think what you're thinking about is a Mary-Sue which is often the author's fantasy depiction of themselves, but Mary-Sues are not bad writing because they are based off the author but rather because they are uninteresting. They are often too perfect in a way that does nothing for the story or their arc, and there is no real reason for anyone to get invested in such a character unless the reader, too, desires to live vicariously through them.

    There have been quite a bit of successful authors that openly admit they based their characters off of themselves or events in their own lives. Hell, if I am correct, I believe many of what is written in Tom Sawyer is based on people he knew in his real life (though I'm not sure if any of the characters are based on himself).

    My advice: I wouldn't worry about whether or not the character is too similar to yourself, but rather, I think you should ask yourself what it is about the character that makes you want to share their story. It could be your self conscious trying to get something off your chest or maybe their's something you want to say or maybe there are aspects about yourself that you think are interesting and that's okay.
     
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  14. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    The characters we write each have a little piece of our souls. Make it a small piece, else every character will be the same. Mix it up with other things you experience and raise the tension three fold.
     

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