Friday, April 8, 2011

Are You Your Characters? Yes and no.

All authors will imbue their characters with some of themselves. If anything, it's just an easy way to add verisimilitude to characterization. Of course, a character shouldn't be a cheap author avatar (unless the story is basically your memoir or a roman à clef). In most cases, unless the story context is very similar to the author's life, it will come off unnatural. J.A. Beard would make a convincing protagonist in a story about a programmer-turned-scientist. Not so much in a story about a gentleman's daughter in Regency England.

When I construct my characters, I try to build them up from their own experiences and lives. I create extensive biographies with many events that won't show up in the actual story. My theory is that by creating these backgrounds and considering the realistic reactions to the events, the end product will be a character that will seem very real even if it takes a bit of work. As a very character-driven writer, I probably put more effort into my character building than almost any other aspect of my writing.

I often try to create a fully realized person that may be completely different from me. In most cases, the more different a character is from me, the more satisfaction I gain from creating them. There is also the useful side-effect of ensuring that all my characters are distinct from each other. If they all aren't me (and not just the opposite of me), they'll be more likely to seem more fully realized to the reader.

At least, that's the idea.

How do you construct your characters? Are they you or somebody else entirely?

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