We’ve all heard it. “Oh, you’re an artist? Draw me.” “You’re a singer? Sing something?” “You’re an author? Make me a character in your book.” If I’m being honest, the closest I can offer is killing a character that reminds me of you. (That sounds quite graphic, but if you’re an author, chances are you understand.) Then, there’s the somehow even more popular one to hear: is the main character based on me?
Now, I think it’s safe that George R. R. Martin is not quite as murderous as his set of characters, and as far as I know he doesn’t have ambitions to claim any thrones. Nor can J. K. Rowling relate to the “Chosen One,” and I sincerely doubt she has the stomach of Ron. However, I would be rather big-headed if I compared myself to the king and queen of modern literature.
So, what do I do? I take a part of myself and morph it into its own person. For the book I finished last year, I had four main characters. Their names will mean nothing to you now, but for the sake of clarity, their names are Logan, Abigail, Trevor, and Makenna. I have Logan’s sense of always wanting to do what’s right, Abigail’s need to always be right and be the smartest in the room, Trevor’s dorky awkwardness, and Makenna’s inability to completely open up to anyone. I started from there, and then worked towards creating them into their own three-dimensional characters. However, that’s as close as it gets.
Otherwise, I have to take the time to get to know my characters like in any relationship. They’re as real to me as anyone else. There’re characters I naturally click with, and then there’s one who I have to put in effort to open up to me. A good portion of the time, when I have writer’s block, it’s because one of my characters is being difficult. I need the plot to go a certain way, but they’re not reacting how I want them to. Some people might say, “You’re the author. They’ll do whatever you tell them to do.” But, they won’t. That’s the start of a very poorly written novel.
Something I struggle with is the male perspective. They’re like a whole different species to me. I understand them as much as I understand quantum physics, or in other words not at all. All I have is observations I’ve made throughout my lifetime. I don’t really think my male characters are girlie or anything, but I always feel like I don’t make them as strong as they could be. As a feminist, I believe in equality. But, that means that I want all of my characters to be strong – not just the females. (With that said, you will not find a single of my works without a strong female lead.) Whenever I want to develop them more, I’m always hesitant. Do their minds work anything like ours? Hell if I know.
I’ve an entire world in my head – multiple actually, thanks to a long history of unpublished work. They’re worlds that I want to share with this one. However, anyone I share it with can never see it quite like I do. It’s basically like they’re looking through a window that hasn’t been washed; they can see enough to connect some dots but everything’s still a little blurred.
So, no. I’m not my characters, and they aren’t me. I’m merely the person in between, trying to make the window that much cleaner. Maybe one day I’ll even be talented enough to open the door.