1. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Active Member

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    Thoughts on self inserted characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Oldmanofthemountain, Oct 29, 2020.

    What are your thoughts on writers basing some of their characters on themselves? Especially if they are actually honest with adding their real flaws into their protagonists, and their characters aren't just simple wish fulfillment?
     
  2. Malum

    Malum Offline

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    Best way to make a character seem realistic is through your own understanding of emotions/events. That's my opinion anyways.
     
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  3. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Well, I like Bukowski's stuff and his main character Hank Chinaski is a very poorly masked alter ego.

    Same with Kerouac's characters. All his characters are pretty much him and his friends.
     
  4. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    I think it's unavoidable to put pieces of yourself into your characters. It's not necessarily a bad thing. Just like any character, just make sure they're fleshed out, and have good arcs, and their own personal, secret prejudices, and their own lessons to learn. Treat them just like any other character.

    And probably don't tell anyone they're a self insert. Bad stigma attached and all that! I think the only reason people 'dislike' self-insert characters because those kinds of characters typically stumble into the Mary Sue category. They're flawless and loved and they only face problems that help showcase how awesome they are.
     
  5. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Yeah, they're bad if it's obviously roleplaying your own fantasies. But great if it's a gritty, honest exploration of imperfect lives.
     
  6. Malum

    Malum Offline

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    I've found an effective way to make other, differing characters is to merge characteristics of people close to you, should they play a 'positive' role. If it's realism you're going for, prevents making your friends feel directly targeted.
     
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  7. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Active Member

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    I’ve heard plenty of stories of writers getting into trouble, for making their characters too close to people that they know. Especially close friends and family members. To the point that their real relationships were permanently ruined.
     
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  8. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Supporter Contributor

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    In addition to the other valuable comments here, I'd also like to add that this is often unconsciously done, and sometimes towards negative results. My case and point would probably be the title character of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. At pretty random intervals, her character will rather abruptly jump to a very wistful and cynical one on the condition of women, when she was anything but that earlier literally in the same day. Virginia Woolf notes this in her long essay A Room of One's Own, where she talks about how that is literally Charlotte speaking for the character and causing a bit of odd variance in the writing. I think she calls it emotional writing in fits of passion, meaning she was probably just upset when her and her sisters were working on their respective works. It can literally happen to any of us.

    It's good to pay attention during the editing process for these slips of character. You need to be aware of personal biases that your characters may or may not have, and try to strive for consistency in the characterization throughout, unless there are particular turns where that is necessary. Imprinting your own values on a character can lead to some incoherence, but can be ironed out in the editing process. Sometimes it can even be imposed more if that specific bias and point is what you are going for. Just be aware that you will do it automatically, even if your character doesn't exactly fit that same idea.
     
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  9. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Yeah, that's vey touchy. It ruins friendships (never happened to me btw)
     
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  10. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Me neither, but the subject I'm writing on right now, which is a collection I'm looking to get published when finished, could certainly have this effect. In fact, im almost certain it will if they read the stories, so that's something I'll have to deal with later.
     
  11. SolZephyr

    SolZephyr Member Supporter

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    I've seen it done well and I've seen it done awfully.

    As has been mentioned, a self-insert is fine as long as the character still has an arc with flaws and challenges. I think another acceptable way is to simply have a "cameo", where you have a self-insert character show up briefly but not play any major role (ala Stan Lee). It might be a tad self-aggrandizing, but I think it's overall harmless.
     
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  12. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    I have never in my whole life seen someone else use that term and I am so happy to finally have that trend broken!
     
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  13. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Your characters don't have to be you, but you have to be able to be your characters.
     
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  14. LucyAshworth

    LucyAshworth Active Member

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    I feel guilty about this, but I can't find any good reason against it. On the other hand, many people have told me that I seem like a character out of a book.
     
  15. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    Isn't every single character that you write in some ways 'you'?
     
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  16. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    They can't all be you.
     
  17. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    but most of them have a little of you in them... which isnt the same as a self insert
     
  18. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    Exactly this. As an example, whenever any of them speak, it's got to be your voice, whether or not it's one you are 'acting' on behalf of the character.
     
  19. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Writing is not roleplaying, at least, not for me. I think it's more likely a writer somewhat steals the identity of someone they know to base a character on rather than base every character (even somewhat) on his- or herself.
     
  20. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

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    Hmm.. think you misunderstand. I don't know what roleplaying means in this context. Whether or not you 'steal someone's identity' as you put it, or you 'act' out their identity as in how I put it, the argument remains the same that it is your hand that writes the dialogue. A character may be consciously designed as the polar opposite of the author, but the author wrote that character, the character is the product of the author's brain, what the character says is what the author decides.

    That is unless you just lift someone else's work and speech, in which case it isn't yours and has nothing to you. But that typically requires credit. ;)
     
  21. DriedPen

    DriedPen Member

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    I think that is the scary thing for me, I put elements of my own personality (both good and bad) into my characters to make them real, but then I am almost afraid someone will pick on those traits and know parts of me that I wish were left in the closet.

    But I am probably one of very few people on here who has the unfortunate issue of having defend my writing inside a court room. In some ways it is a compliment: my characters were so realistic that some thought my character was fully me. It is a silly statement because was Tom Clancy a Spy?
     
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  22. ThunderAngel

    ThunderAngel Contributor Contributor

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    I’ve experimented with this because of a dream I had that perfectly fits the overall mysterious theme of my Asylum memoirs. It certainly feels interesting putting yourself within your fictional world, yet it’s kind of satisfying at the same time. :)
     
  23. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Senior Member

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    Well, since everything is from the writer's perspective, I suppose any character can be author-like. As for literal self-inserts, they're only tiresome if they're fantasy fulfillment for the writer -- creating his own world, where everyone does what the writer wants and his own principles are gratified at the expense of everything/one else. It's like reading someone patting themselves on the back for being "correct."

    However, as a spice, character inserts can work, so long as they aren't the focus of the story. I put myself briefly in a fanfiction I wrote, as a sort of cameo to put in my commentary about the nature of fanfiction, and why I was writing the story in the first place. I think it's better to go for straightforward inserts briefly done rather than creating a character that is only a thinly-veiled you.
     
  24. Thomas Larmore

    Thomas Larmore Senior Member

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    Every character I write has some of "me" in him or her. There's no way to avoid this, nor should you try.
     
  25. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    That's not the same as a self insertion the way the term is currently used. What you're talking about is way more natural and positive and really unavoidable. Hell, every setting and house and car you write about has a lot of you in it in that sense.
     
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