Among the many odd questions an author is often asked one of the oddest is some variation on “Which character is you?”
It’s so very strange to be asked this – because depending how you look at it, either all of them or none; unless, of course, I happen to have a character who is a shy author named Jaye Em Edgecliff that lives in Georgia and writes teen fiction.
On the one hand, they are all me. They do, after all, come from my own hand and head. They may be inspired by any number of things from notions and ideas to other fictional characters I encounter in my reading or watching a movie to real people I’ve met or seen or read about. In the end, though, they’re my perceptions of those people. Even if we assume the ficton view of reality wherein all of these characters are very much alive and real somewhere, it doesn’t change that the story on the page is my perception of those very real people. By that measure, all the characters are me. They’re all my perceptions of right and wrong, my perceptions of beauty and kindness, my perceptions of humour and sorrow, and so on. How I narrate the story is going to highlight those perceptions – they’ll paint who is or isn’t supposed to be a villain and who is or isn’t in love with whom.
More accurately, though, they are a part of me. My own dreams, desires, thoughts, feelings, experiences, darknesses, prejudices, anger, sorrow, laughter, and all go into shaping the words on the page and little pieces of those go into each little person in the dreamworld of the fiction.
In that sense – unless one of the characters shares my name, my description, etc. none of them are me. I don’t share a religion with any one of my characters; my political and philosophical viewpoints do not perfectly align with any one of my characters. Yvette and Lucas like eggplant, Lauren does not – neither do I, but that doesn’t make Lauren me.
I’m not sure what the point in asking such a question is. I have written characters who share nothing with me, personally, beyond morphologically – they’re human shaped, not even actually human, just shaped this way. I often write characters with different beliefs, different outlooks on life and everything else; major and minor characters, protagonist and antagonist alike. I assume that this is mostly true of many authors. I suppose we all, somewhere along the way, do write our views and thoughts into things. This character or that one will say some brilliant line that perfectly parallels our own views. Sometimes, if we feel strongly on a matter, we might write a protagonist who shares fully in our outlooks and thoughts; still, I do not believe that means the characters are ourselves – I’ve yet to meet any author who is writing purely from personal experience, using the Dragnet names changed and slightly tweaked reality to write their novels. Oh, they exist, certainly, but I believe there’s a good reason they’re rare: most people who live that interesting a life write memoirs, not novels.
So, in answer to the question – no, neither Lauren, Sally, Yvette, Lucas, Allison, Sarah, Lisa, Lucy, nor anyone else you have met or ever will meet in my stories is me, unless there’s ever a quiet author named Jaye … then maybe, but she’s shy and avoids the narrative camera like it’s carrying a plague.
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I’ve been asked this many times. And I have an easy answer because my protagonist is me and other characters are based off people I know. Of course, not every author does this. Great post.
Oh, certainly some do. And at least it’s an easy answer then.
Banzai Girl, we comic I read is that way — the characters are based on the author and her friends — but it’s a question I don’t believe is often applicable.