So this is something I’ve been thinking about for some time now, and it’s especially applicable, I think, to stories told in first person, but it can also be important in other POVs. I thought that maybe I might be able to sort out my own thoughts on the topic by writing about them, so here goes nothing. Hopefully something useful comes out of this post.
To some extent, the author of any novel or story is going to end up inserting at least a little bit of themselves in every character. It’s kind of inevitable because you are their creator—you base them off what you know best, and it’s probably you that you know best. And of course there are characters based off of people you know, but even they will be written differently by you than anyone else. You’re always going to a have a particular style that you’re good at writing, and that style is going to bleed into your characters.
Here’s an example. In my current project, Frontier, the main character is a young man who’s talkative, opinionated, and sarcastic. Hey-ho, I happen to be all of those things myself. So in my first two drafts, the “I” in the story came to reference the author, me, instead of the character. And obviously if you’re writing a memoir, that’s a good thing, but I’m not writing a memoir—Frontier is set in the far future. So I had to ask myself the big question: is it okay to have a main character that’s just like you?
I’m sure different people have different opinions on this, but as for me, I don’t see any issue with one of my characters being similar to me, so long as they aren’t exactly me. I’ll find a way to make them quintessentially different, even if it’s just a habit that I don’t have, and then I’ll play that up until the character is not me. For example, I made my main character extremely good at getting himself stuck in awkward conversations, and have him be really bad at responding to them. I also chose to make him a whole lot braver with his sarcasm than I could ever be.
There’s one key thing to remember here though: even if your character is exactly like you, who’s going to be able to tell? Seriously, who? Pretty much just friends and family, and if you’re planning on attempting to publish your book or story or whatnot, then your audience is going to be much larger than just those people. The vast majority of the people that will end up reading the character will have no clue that he/she is a clone of you, because they’ve never met you. Think about all the famous authors you’ve read books by. Do you have any clue whatsoever whether the main character was a mirror image of themselves? So in the end, it’s really less important than you might think.
Hopefully this post helped you with your character design; I know it helped me just to write it, and until next time,