1. html-dragons

    html-dragons New Member

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    How much of yourself do you put into your characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by html-dragons, Oct 13, 2017 at 2:07 AM.

    A problem that I have when making characters is that I feel like I could be making them too much like me and then I get really self conscious about it seeming like a self insert. But I'm not sure if the amount of 'me' that I'm putting into my characters is actually abnormal or not. It's not like I base any of them on me, but I have given some of them various traits of mine or experiences I've had or speech patterns/slang that I use. Sometimes it feels like it's the sort of thing where it could be embarrassing/tacky to people who actually know me, but to a stranger it would just seem like an original/interesting character.

    In the thing that I'm writing now, all of my characters are very different to each other, but I feel like a large amount of my main characters would fit the label 'weird girl' in some way or another. Whether they are a flamboyant magical sea person with awkward social skills or an unfriendly 42 year old woman who spends her spare time catfishing a shitload of people. But 'weird girl' is a pretty broad category. I guess it's a trope I enjoy and relate to so those are the characters I enjoy making the most. When I consciously try to make a character that is not weird in some way they come out a lot more flat.

    I just wonder if this would make my characters have a self-insert kind of vibe, or whether I'm just being overly self conscious about it. Most of my writing practice has come from fan fiction so I've only recently been practicing with original characters.

    How much 'me' do you consider alright to put into your characters?
     
  2. izzybot

    izzybot Oportet Vivere Contributor

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    I've never been clear on what's so awful about the idea of self-inserts, honestly. I think the contempt is sort of misdirected. It's when your only note is 'me, but fictionalized', so all your characters seem very samey, or your main character is 'me, but perfect' and thus uninteresting (see: Mary-Sue, another term/concept with a confusing and murky meaning) that the writing suffers, I believe.

    That said, 'weird' is a pretty big umbrella. I wouldn't stress over that one :)

    Most of my characters - probably all of them - have some amount of me in them. How much? I dunno. I think, for a lot of them, they start out with a bit of me, but as their character and story grow on their own, it takes that seed to different places. So this guy has X issue of mine, but he also lives in space, is an orphan, is a soldier, fights with chemical dependencies, is missing two limbs, struggles with his inability to have a family, deals with chronic pain, etc etc - there's more that's not me than is me, and the part that was me has been changed contextually by other factors. Even in characters who're still heavily 'me' there are going to be differences, even in the thing they inherited from me, because of their own experiences. Does thinking of it that way help? Real people are also going to have similarities, but no two have the exact same experiences. No matter how much of yourself is in a character, they're never going to be you - not as long as you write them well.
     
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  3. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I didn't consciously put 'me' into my novel, but my own experiences certainly informed not only the characters, but how they react to events. (The events are totally fictional.) However, the POV character I assumed would be most like me is actually not so much. She's more straightforward and less self-protective and reserved than I am—especially when it comes to expressing love for somebody. However, I also feel she's more naïve than I am as well. I found I fully inhabited her head, but no more so than I inhabit the head of any character I read about. I wrote most of the story through her eyes—but that's what a POV character is for.

    My other POV character—her opposite number—was somebody whose head I also inhabited. Oddly enough, I think his occasionally waspish, deeply introverted and cautious personality is much closer to my own than hers is. That was definitely not intended. However, it helped me avoid creating an outright Mary Sue—to some extent, anyway.

    Looking back on it, I can certainly see aspects of 'me' in several of the minor characters as well, but I didn't put those aspects there deliberately. The realizations came to me later on, when I was editing the story.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017 at 8:39 AM
  4. GB reader

    GB reader Active Member

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    In a naive way.

    You are unique.
    If you put a little bit of you in a character, that character will be unique.

    --
    But as @izzybot says, those small fragments will soon be blended with the realities of your character.

    So, I wrote this little story where a young woman invites my MC for dinner.
    What do they have?


    “You will have chicken breasts and roasted root crops. There is also a yogurt sauce with mustard and honey,” said Samantha.

    This is what I prepare for my family now and then. But as i am 63 and Samantha is 24 I might have to add,

    "It's my mother recipe," said Samantha.
     
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  5. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Not fair. You've made me hungry! And I'm on a diet.
     
  6. GB reader

    GB reader Active Member

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    @jannert , they have two bottles of wine as well.
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Aaargh. Now you're just being mean! :) I'm updating to a new computer today, so I can't afford to be tipsy. Maybe afterwards. But I do love meat with root vegetables and a mustard sauce. Slurp....
     
  8. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I agree with @izzybot that the problem comes when the self-insert character is the "perfect" version of you. When you use the character as a mouthpiece for all the things you want to say to people, or you want to do, or whatever, and you don't give the character any weaknesses or flaws.

    Or if you make the self-insert character blatantly like you - I get a bit tired of writers writing about writers!

    Otherwise, though, I'm not even sure how readers would know it's a self-insert.
     
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  9. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I think self inserts are fine as long as you tweak them to fit with your story. I don’t know how many main characters I could name who were middle-aged male professional writers from Maine, but it’s a lot.
     
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  10. Lemie

    Lemie Active Member

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    It's probably impossible not to put parts of ourselves into our characters, but I can only think of one character where I actually did it on purpose.

    I can't think of myself, or any of my traits in a fantastical scenario. I would make a terrible and bland character! So there might be more of me in my characters than I tend to notice, but I usually try to make my characters totally unlike me. Partly I think it's escapism...
     
  11. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Doctor Who fanfic
    • Kyra Sylvan is a devoted to an Abrahamic faith and is horrified by the "two wrongs make a right" worldview of vigilante serial killers
    • Damien Mitchell is an insensitive, head-in-the-clouds type who loves science and who has trouble making important decisions
    • Captain June Harper loses her cool the most when she sees people abusing their power over others
    • Shanjik tends to beat himself up over his mistakes
    • Nathan Durst is a devoted Christian and a brooding loner
    Urban Fantasy WIP
    • Alec Shorman is a comic book / SFF / D&D nerd who tries too hard to make everything funny and who tends to be more spontaneous than step-by-step
    • Charlie Petersen is a cold-blooded loner who loves science and who needs a lot of time to herself
    • Amy Carmine is a true crime and military history nerd who tries too hard to make everything funny and who doesn't like being told what to do
    • "The KT Bomber" loves coming up with crazy ideas and loves showing them off to a captive audience, but also having a lot of alone time immediately afterwards
     
  12. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

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    It's all under the "write what you know" umbrella.

    I know me. I know how I think. I know the events that have happened to me to shape who I am. Therefore, I can use that to influence the development of my characters.

    How much of yourself you use as inspiration is different for each author and each character, but it's hard not to draw from personal experience--you know it'll connect with people because it's true, in some manner anyway. People are like this because, well, you're like this, and you're people. And there's nothing wrong with it.

    Just vary it up and use your imagination. If you're supplementing each character with "things" (can be personality, origin, quirks, anything) that are different than you, you should be fine.
     
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  13. rktho

    rktho Five WIPs are more efficient than one

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    I made myself the omnipotent creator and puppetmaster of my world because that's what writers are.
     
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  14. rktho

    rktho Five WIPs are more efficient than one

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    There's a character in my dragon book who's a young, 17-25 year old writer from California, but to be fair, nowhere in the book does it say that he's a young, 17-25 year old writer from California.
     
  15. html-dragons

    html-dragons New Member

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    Thank you for your perspective. It's pretty reassuring to me.
     
  16. html-dragons

    html-dragons New Member

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    I think in general all of you have helped me to understand where the line is a bit better. I think maybe the way I'm doing it is fine and I was just overthinking it.
     
  17. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Senior Member

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    Not much. I'm pretty boring in real life. I mean, I'll keep a room entertained but we're probably not leaving the room to embark on a great adventure or a life changing experience or anything. This means I'm probably only good for a small chapter before another character needs to wake up the reader.
     
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  18. RMBROWN

    RMBROWN New Member

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    Unlike Homer I put a lot of me into my characters, it is the only thing I am expert in. I'll tell you I'm the most interesting person in the room with lots of tales of adventure. Being short on imagination and talent, I learned a long time ago a really good writer that can spin miles of bullshit into gold. The other kind of writer that has no talent but has done remarkable things. I had to chose the later not out of choice, but out of practicality.
     
  19. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Member

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    I'm with @HomerPotvin . The characters are more interesting than I could ever hope to be. However...with this current WIP, I set out to really challenge myself. That meant giving some of the characters some of the things I'd most want to change and writing about topics I'd usually avoid.

    Kathryn's klutziness? That's all me. Part of her family dynamic is a more extreme version of mine. The characters' age difference was also me, but I had to sanitize them because there is no way that would fly in 2018, and rightly so. (Characters' ages: 24 and just turned 18. Ages they were altered from: 26 and 16 1/2.)

    Edited to change the year from a typo!
     
  20. CoffeeBoy

    CoffeeBoy Member

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    Almost every time I write, I put myself in characters. In that way, I still feel as if this is my story. I find it absurdly easy to put myself into characters because it's the only way I can actually direct the flow of the story and also make it somehow work.
    The characters I put myself in usually go through struggle, struggle with belief, faith. losing their patience, fights over trivial things and much more. It also provides a guide to me to actually take it easy every now and then, because I am a bit uptight.
     
  21. GB reader

    GB reader Active Member

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    Does your character put things into you?

    Some time ago I entered the flash fiction contest. It was the “shoot, I forgot...” prompt. I wrote about a young woman that for the first time was shot in a photo studio. I tried to show what she felt. I wrote:

    **
    “Look at my hand.” John holds the palm of his hand towards her.

    “The hand is your face, start like this and turn towards the camera. Tilt to the left and stop when you are looking straight into the camera. You will have to do it several times. I want to catch the flow in your hair.”
    **

    But, this is fake. I have been shooting models in studio more than a 100 times. I never used the ‘hand’ instruction. It was there because I wanted to illustrate the insecurity she felt. Someone controlling her with the mere movement of a hand.

    Well…
    Last Sunday I was in the studio again. I tried the ‘hand’, but my model just looked at me with funny eyes.

    I had probably been to eager to test this. I tried this with miss C, that I have shot 5-6 times already.

    So, now I need to find a real person that is like one of my characters.
     
  22. John-Wayne

    John-Wayne Member

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    When I was a kid, I drew simple comics where I was the leader of my real world club at that time "The Eagles", and we went on all sorts of adventures.

    As a Pre-Teen and Teen I was a secondary Character, usually the Husband of the MC or the child of the MC, depending on the situation. this may explain why so many of my MCs are Women. :p .

    But now, my Characters are their own people with their own personalities and Lives, that I could only hope to have. :p . And I have completely removed myself form the stories, they are not about me but my Characters.
     
  23. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    A lot of my characters have bits of me or bits of people I've known or met. Probably why my characters are so strange. :rofl:
    Or I'll take issues that I've dealt with and tweak them.
    Usually my main component for taking on any character is can I boil down their motives and traits enough that I can understand them -- and I can. I might not be greedy but I've felt greed and envy and I can exaggerate that if need be.
     

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