Writing Tips

Write Yourself in Your Characters

 

Wait, what?

I know we have all heard that you should not make yourself the main character in your novel. I agree (to a point—there are some good autobiographies out there, and it can be argued that Frankenstein is sort of Mary Shelley’s autobiography, but I digress….) But that isn’t what I am talking about.

I been thinking that every single one of our characters should have part of us, the authors, in them. (Okay, maybe not the unnamed peasants who only have two sentences of dialogue.) But I would like to think that every one of my active characters—protagonist, supporting characters, minor characters, and even your villain—should share a part of me.

WriteYourselfintoYourCharacters

So this is just my opinion, and I have no idea if established authors actually do this (I imagine that they do, though.) But this is what I feel makes my characters come alive to me.

When I say that every character should share a part of you, I don’t mean a physical characteristic—if fact, I think that most of your characters shouldn’t look anything like you. What I mean is that they share one emotional, spiritual, or social aspect of your personality.

For instance, my character, Raewas, is outgoing, loud, stupidly funny, and likes to be the center of attention. I am none of those things, but I have given myself one tie to Raewas. Both Raewas and I share this feeling that we are always pretending in front of other people, that we can never show our true selves, and that we have to hide who we really are. Now, I can use my experience to put meaning into Raewas’ actions and words. In a sense, this similarity makes me care more about Raewas and makes him more real. Before I did this Raewas was a boring character called Delsin whose only role was to bully Baehur.

Naturally, it is probably a good idea to give a different part of yourself to different characters. I mean, if all of your characters shared the same trait from you, then they would all begin to look the same. So while Raewas shares my social façade, Baehur shares my devotion and need to succeed, Arkeh shares my longing to hide my weaknesses and walk alone, and Mar shares my desire for freedom and independence.

I think this applied to our villains, too. I mean, what is scarier than seeing yourself as the bad guy? I think this becomes clear just by looking at our favorite villains. Loki has a need to be accepted and loved. Moriarty has this crazy brilliance and charisma which we want (and let’s be honest—we all wish that we could play a “game” like that with Sherlock Holmes.) My favorite Disney villain, Scar, wants to be recognized and to no longer be second best.

Our favorite villains are the ones that we see ourselves in.

There are two ways which I see to do this. First, you can take one of your strengths and twist it until it becomes evil. The best example I can see of this is in C. S. Lewis’ novel, Till We Have Faces. The sister, who in the original myth was the villain, loves Psyche more than anything, and it is this possessive love which brings Psyche into ruin.

The other way is to take some of our other traits, which we see as borderline dangerous, and magnify them until they are on villainous levels. I’m trying to do this with my three main villains. Ra’ Hazak has a desire for knowledge which he pursues to dangerous places, and he is afraid of death. Anarr just likes following the rules and wants to become the best, the strongest, and the smartest inside the system. My ultimate villain, Nakavar, is afraid of living in oblivion—he wants to be somebody and to be recognized. Nakavar doesn’t want to live in the shadows of other people anymore.

Maybe this is just my crazy idea, but I feel like my characters really come alive once I put a bit of myself into them. Of course, I don’t think you should make a character that is a true copy of yourself, but I think putting a bit of your personality or desires into every character can be good. Or at least, it has worked for me (or I think it has :p )

As humans, one of the biggest things that cause us to make friends with other people is sharing likes, dislikes, and experiences. Once we empathize with someone, we like them more, and they become more “real” to us. I think the same thing applies to our characters. We should be able to empathize with them, and the one way to do that is to share some trait with your character.

What do you guys think? Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

God bless,

Gabrielle

P.S. May the 4th be with you 😉 Happy Star Wars day!

 

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6 thoughts on “Write Yourself in Your Characters”

  1. I automatically feel a connection to you for that P.S.

    This was a great article! I like my characters to have things in common with me, as well. I haven’t written enough to be that good at covertly writing the similarities yet. Hopefully that will improve with time and practice, though.

    Thanks for the post!

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    1. Thanks, Michelle!
      I wouldn’t say that I am good at writing empathetic characters either– hopefully, we can both get better 😉 Good luck with your writing, and God bless!
      Gabrielle

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  2. I agree that that would be a good way to keep your characters realistic and relatable (though for me it’s all in theory, because I have done VERY little creative writing and don’t intend to do any more).
    I highly relate to that Raewas characteristic you mentioned as your own. I’ve been noticing it in my relations with my own family, and it is frustrating me, especially because it seems to be distancing me from them, even if they don’t know it.

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    1. I definitely know what you are talking about, Zane. I’m struggling with it a lot– with my family and friends. It is hard because I know that God has called us to more and to be genuine and part of a community with each other. But I don’t like being open with other people, and I feel like I can’t show who I really am. Yet, we know that God calls us to more, and how are we supposed to mission to others if we are always wearing a facade?
      I guess it is just about trusting God and His plan. I mean– sure, we want to follow God– but are we actually willing to make ourselves vulnerable like He asks? I don’t know if I am, but hopefully, I can find the faith. I’ll be praying for you to find your faith, too, Zane.
      I hope to explore two sides of this issue in my next two novels (following Child of the Curse), but hopefully, I can live the solution first!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gabrielle, I’m a teen writer myself and I just stumbled across your blog and this post as I’m looking to start my own. I just wanted to say that I love everything about this post. It is so spot on. Writers say, “write what you know”, and sometimes young writers are discarded because they haven’t lived enough life to “know” anything well enough to write it. I could say a lot about that viewpoint, but most importantly, this is where you start. You start with yourself. And you learn a lot about yourself as you go. But when a writer writes what he knows, it is powerful; this is, I think, exactly how we create powerful characters.

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    1. Hi, Alena! Great comment and very true. One Bible verse that inspires me is 1 Timothy 4:12a: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers….” One way that we can set an example in through the characters in our writing.

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