*Title quote from Evanescence’s song*
No, this isn’t a bio post. This is a post about characters. I mentioned in my last post, about Zoedar, that the characters started out being based on me and my friends. Sepherym’s maid was based on my sister, the cousin was based on my other best friend, Sir Luke was based on a very grumpy friend of mine from electronics class. But that was because, at the time, the story included the princesses and a few others being hidden on Earth as humans, so we were the humans that would become Zoedavians and travel away to a different planet. Cute and all, but the idea was later cut.
All my characters are at least a little autobiographical because they come out of MY head and because they deal with issues that interest me. A lot of my protagonists are female because my husband says when I write male characters they sound like girls. I’m working on improving that but I still stick mostly with female leads. A lot of the time my characters are fairly plain (with the exception of those two princesses and my one vampire character), they are nice looking but not celebrity pretty or super model pretty, often they are insecure about their looks or their talents or their self worth. They aren’t popular kids (if it takes place in high school), they aren’t rich or famous. It sounds like an everyday sort of person you’d want to read about, someone plain and normal who is thrown into extraordinary events and who discovers self worthy and inner strength along the way. But how many times can I write about THAT girl who is essentially me? More importantly, how many times would you read it?
Change the hair colour, the eyes, the age, the name, but she’s still the same girl. I read a very good tip in an article – borrowing a body for your character. While sitting at the park or the pool or on the bus select someone around you who is about the right age and pretend that they are the character, not you.
What’s the point, she’s still the same girl, right? Wrong. She’s not me anymore, she’s that girl on the bus. And now she has all sorts of annoying habits. And she listens to music that I hate (because I can hear it from where I’m carefully observing). I can give her all sorts of traits and habits that I don’t have because she’s not me! And I don’t have to be embarrassed telling you that the character wet the bed until she was 12 because it’s not me, it’s that stranger on the bus who will never know she’s in my story.
Strong characters are multi-dimensional, they have strengths and flaws, they have room to grow, they love things and hate things and have opinions on everything. They are people, full real living people. They just live on paper and not in the rest of the world. And strong characters are unique, they look and sound like themselves and no one else. We’ve all run into people who look like us or at least share one or two physical traits. We all have friends who share at least some of our interests and opinions. But we are all unique and so too must be our characters.
There is still something autobiographical in every character. In my latest novel , “Liar, Liar”, the female lead’s mother grows rose bushes just like my mother did. But so far that is the only distinctly autobiographical point in the novel. As a writer I pour so much of my creativity into every piece that it’s impossible not to have a part of my leech into the writing.
So there is my writing tip for the day. If you have characters that are too flat, or sound too much like you, give them someone else’s body and really imagine them again. They’ll take on a new life and you’ll find real freedom in letting them go.
Signing off …