So, some writing advice. Because I thought of it and it’s been a while since I did any writing advice articles on here.
Here ya go. 🙂
When I was 12, I had a brilliant idea. I was planning to write a book, Odd Team Out. And the main character was going to be . . . me.
I mean, who could possibly be easier to write? Plus, I’d be a super cool spy and fight bad guys. I would give her a clever, coded version of my own name (no one would ever connect the dots that Mucklestone and McStone had some sort of connection) and when my book was famous, I would nonchalantly reveal the secret that I myself was, in fact, the heroine. And I’d give her my dog as well, just to carry on the trend.
Well, turns out, it wasn’t as good of an idea as I once thought. Writing down everything about myself in a character wasn’t exactly easy. Not to mention Jean had a mind of her own.
She didn’t have time for laughs or jokes and no matter how I wrote it, her smile just wouldn’t go sideways. She was a spy and there were more important things on her fictional agenda than identifying with her creator.
So, off she went in her own direction, taking with her little more than my looks.
But Cobalt was a different story. He picked up all of the optimism, cheer and humor right off and ran with it. All of my jokes I intended to channel through Jean rerouted and ended up coming out through Cobalt.
I was baffled. Jean was the one I had intended to be the one I could point to with attributes of myself, but it seemed like she’d gone and shared them with Cobalt. My mishmashed cyborg had gone and ruined my plans of inserting myself as a character.
But, he’d given me a better idea.
Looking back at starting to write Jean, I had, by making her myself, stinted my other characters. If I were to follow through with my original plan, all of my other characters would have had to be something distinctly not me. Jean was my identifier, thank you. I wasn’t putting myself into any other characters.
But the extreme either way takes away from your writing. If the character is only yourself, then you don’t have any of the fun to discovering someone new and being someone else for the time while you’re writing them. And making them too different looses the relatability that you have with them.
Find the middle ground.
Share yourself with all of your characters. Give each of them one of your defining traits, tastes, hobbies or quirks and really, it’s amazing how many characters you can identify with simultaneously. Even *gasp* the villain.
Villains are a little different (hopefully you don’t share in his desire to violently take over the world), but it actually does still apply. I’m still working on perfecting identifying with the villain, but at the moment I mostly give Übel all the impatient outbursts I don’t allow myself to have. 😛 Maybe just jotting down the evil villain-like thoughts that cross your mind occasionally will do.
But seriously, though. This element is really fun to add into writing your characters. Give one character your facial expressions, another one your hair (and the problems that go along with it), make one hate a food that you hate, give another your favorite jacket or boots . . . just make all of your characters have one or two puzzle pieces from the jigsaw puzzle of you.
I don’t know if it’s just a bad habit of mine, but I keep giving my stuff to my characters. Jean has my necklace, jacket and watch. Cobalt has my boots, hoodie, scarf and hat. Wally has my messenger bag, emergency food and uses all of my hand gestures . . . not that I grudge him the emergency food. Take all the halva you want, Wally.
You’re the writer. Have fun with it.
Homework Super fun-awesomeness assignment:
Write a short story in which one of your characters acquire something of yours. A small belonging, nothing more. What do they do with it? Do they keep it in their story?
Okay, so I might do a follow up to this about basing characters in real life. Off other people, not yourself. What do you guys think? Would that be fun?