Wednesday, July 3, 2019

IWSG: Am I my Characters?

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

This month's wonderful co-hosts are Erika Beebe, Natalie Aguirre, Jennifer Lane, MJ Fifield, Lisa Buie-Collard, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

Be sure to check out their blogs (and others on this great blog hop) when you're finished here! This month's (optional) question: What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

I try not to just write characters that are analogues for myself--I'm rather dull, really: reliable, steady, not-that-dramatic. If I took "write what you know" to mean "write characters just like you" no one would want to read my work. Heck, *I* wouldn't even want to read my work.

I like my real life nice and boring and regular, but not my fiction, thanks. How many quiet and reliable schoolteachers who love the man they are married to and do what they say they're going to do on time would you read about?

Yeah, me either.

But I do find that fiction is accidentally confessional from time to time, revealing biases, prejudices, and preferences that I may not even really be aware I have until after I see them reflected in a character. Things that bother me in real life may end up bothering one of my characters, too. It can be a good way to take myself down a peg, too--my favorite person to poke fun at is myself.

Patricia, of the Menopausal Superhero series, is impatient with newbs. She's got her own way of doing things and doesn't like to be slowed down by having to explain herself to others.

There's a bit of me in there, always tempted to look away when they're looking for volunteers, hoping that maybe I can just do the work and not have to help someone else do it at the same time. Impatient with youth and inexperience when it slows me down.

(This is mostly in my teaching life; in my writing life: mentoring and being mentored has been a lot more natural, organic, and useful. The uselessness of most teacher training and evaluation programs could be a whole ranty blog post by itself).

Of course, Patricia isn't nearly as polite as me.

From Going Through the Change, the first in the series:

"Patricia rubbed at her forehead as if she could reach the headache forming somewhere deep behind her right eye. She had worked for this man for how long now, twenty years? A good ten years before that for his predecessor. He knew damn well she preferred to work alone and absolutely detested any kind of group project or partnership. Yet, this was the third time he had assigned her an intern to mentor. Always women, too. Or really, girls. Skinny little milksops with no real backbone. he actually used the word nurturing, like she was a freaking wet nurse. Didn't he remember that she had sent the last one home in tears?"

I also remember that when I got to the end of the first book I ever finished (unpublished, women's issues fiction: His Other Mother), I was surprised to discover that I'd written something very much like a gender-switched relationship dynamic from my first marriage. Oops. I didn't know I was doing it at the time.

Of course, there are small things, like a character who likes a food you like, or prefers the same kind
of pillow, or drives a similar car. Those slip in on me all the time because I need a small detail to add some life to a moment and I understand my own preferences from the inside, so they're easy to use.

But, I don't usually intentionally give my characters my own characteristics. I'm not using my fiction as disguised memoir. My imaginary friends are much more interesting than I am--and I like it that way!


  1. I feel pretty dull too and don't want my characters to be like that. But some of me does seep in. This question has really gotten me thinking about creating characters who aren't like me that could be really interesting, like a good person but super opinionated.

  2. The smallest of details about ourselves or our lives can sneak in to our stories. It's fascinating when that happens and we don't realize it right away.

  3. I usually give my character small details that are me. Something they like I also like or a job they have is a job I've done.

  4. I can relate to Patricia. I never had any patience for the new employees at my day job. (Or patience in general, I suppose...)

    A lot of my characters end up with similar likes/dislikes, too. One character drives a Jeep, same as me, but she totally had hers first. So now I'm copying my characters. :)

  5. Menopausal superheroes? Muy divertido! The happily married teacher who came up with that doesn't sound boring at all.

    "But I do find that fiction is accidentally confessional from time to time, revealing biases, prejudices, and preferences that I may not even really be aware I have until after I see them reflected in a character."

    Interesting! I never thought of it that way before.

    Milksops: great word.

  6. I can definitely relate to Patricia, especially when it comes to work. I just like to get things done, not explain them to new people.

  7. That's insightful. Now I'm wondering if I do that. I need to do some reading. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  8. I think I give my characters "vague details" that only slightly resemble "me". It's when I'm called out (usually during a reading) that I have to check myself. Great post. Happy IWSG day!

  9. Sorry, it took me so long to comment back. In college my professor preached not to just write what you know. But to write what you don't know. I try to do both.
    I don't try to intentionally base my characters on myself or have my characteristics either. Sometimes they just slip in and more often than not it works. Besides if every character I write was the same cookie cutter version of me, not only will I have a lot less stories to write. It'd become repetitive, unimaginative and boring.