So the problem that I have both faced in my own writing and found in other's novels is this: Amateur authors tend to cast themselves as the main character. Here's the problem with that. When was the last time you read a good book about a normal person, with a totally normal life, who did totally normal things? Hopefully you have never been forced to read such a dull book. I would imagination that would be awful, and I would hope to spare you such a novel.
Writer's don't agree on much as far as the writing process goes, but I think almost everyone will agree that a good books is when good characters meet an interesting plot. And to have those things, you have to break from ordinary. So unless you're a professional thief, Olympic candidate, or daughter of a famous rock star, a character who is the literary incarnation of you is probably not a huge break from the ordinary.
In addition to that, we all view ourselves very unobjectively. So if you base a character off yourself you will find it very hard to portray that character as making bad decisions or doing the wrong thing. None of us like to present ourselves in a bad light, and so we will have the same problem with characters based off ourselves. We want them to be amazing heroes, and hope we will rise to any occasion we face, so when our characters have every right to be breaking down and giving up, we don't even let them show fear or doubt, because we hope we wouldn't either. (On a side note, it is also very hard to torture or emotionally devastate a character based intentionally on yourself.)
Disclaimer: It is perfectly plausible to have characters that originally seem like normal people, but as their stories play out, we realize they are more than that. Take the Pevensie children from the Chronicles of Narnia. They seem like perfectly normal people, but out of that Lucy because one of the most caring literary children I can think of. While Edmund is a bully who learns the error of his ways. Now, if you were Edmund and trying to write the story of Narnia, don't you think you would have a hard time exposing the selfishness Edmund shows?
So we've labeled it as a problem, but how to we fix it?
- Give your characters struggles you don't struggle with. I believe it was Lily J. who shared this idea with me and I think it's great!
- Switch the gender. (I'll be honest, this one is probably my favorite.) It is, I find, hard to represent my personality in a boy, because I am very girl-like. Just switching my main character from a girl to a boy really deepens my character.
- Give the character skills you don't have/want. I am not a fantastic chef, but neither is it something I strongly desire for myself. If a character of yours is really great at something you don't really thinks about all that much, your character's interest in that hobby will lead to a different personality from yours.
- Give your characters a history that leads to an interesting person. I'm the middle child of a large family in a two parent home in the country. Nothing about my history or past makes me all that special. If I was the runaway daughter of a drug cartel leader, on the other hand, I would probably be a much more interesting character.
So that's what I have to say today. What do you think? Anything you'd never heard before? Anything you disagree with? Or something that particularly stuck out to you? I'd love to hear your opinions! Either leave your answers in the comments or feel free to write up a similar blog post with your opinions on this topic and leave me the link!
Have a great week!
Have a great week!