One of the things I’ve noted while writing is that nearly all of my main characters have something of me in them. The main character of my current novel is essentially a better version of me who gets to run around having adventures and doing all the things I currently can’t due to parental restraint and the lack of traveling money and explosives. Also, she’ll dismember anyone who speaks to her before 9 a.m. Her brother is a shy, contemplative sort who just happens to love archaeology. Her boyfriend is an only child. And her best friend is an exaggerated version of mine. In all of my imaginary friends, there’s some fraction of me, no matter how small. Even the villain (and we won’t mention what that says about me).
Sneaking ourselves into the story is a nice way of exploring the things that we may never get to do in the drudgery of real life. I somehow doubt that I’m ever going to get to jump off a train or foil a bombing or meet an alien, but for my characters, that’s all in a day’s work. My chances of finding Mr. Perfect are somewhat slim, but no character of mine is allowed to meet their “The End” without at least meeting him (well…unless I’m in a feminist mood). They get to do all the things I dream about–globetrotting, adventuring, escaping terrible deaths, and never running out of actually funny one-liners. And I get the honor of coming along for the ride.
It seems like most writers tend to pull from their own lives when they’re building their characters and their plots. Think Dick Francis. Agatha Christie. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They all pulled from themselves and the things around them to build their characters and settings. That actually seems to work pretty well, considering that Doyle came up with the most famous fictional detective of all time and Agatha Christie was one of the most popular writers, period. Not to mention that it’s fun. You can name the poor unfortunate soul who was eaten by rabid sloths after the math teacher who tormented you in 4th grade and then claim coincidence. Pulling your own feeling and your own preferences and peeves and such and transferring them into your creations can be a fantastic way of humanizing them, if nothing else. Bringing in all the little details that make you human can do the same for Mr. Protagonist.
One thing I’ve really had to watch as far as projecting myself into my characters goes is preventing them from all becoming carbon copies of me. Considering that the world is already in peril dealing with one of me, a whole army of them (fictional or not) would not be a good thing. That’s where pulling in the bits and pieces of those around you comes in. The aforementioned brother, Flynn Churchill, is rather a mixed-up individual because of that very fact. He contains my love of history, a healthy dose of the shy, bumbling professor archetype, and a dash of Indiana Jones and my cousin just to make sure that he doesn’t turn out a complete doofus.
Besides making a patchwork character, another way of combatting multiple-you’s syndrome is to just have someone else invent the character. Granted, this isn’t always a good idea if you want to keep your work entirely to yourself until it’s done or if you can’t find anyone creative enough to help you design a character, but sometimes it works brilliantly. In my novel, one of my best friends invented the main secondary character (incredibly redundant, I know), and as a result of having such a different personality behind the creation of the character, it created a lovely opposites-attract, Sherlock and Watson friendship to build the story on.
And that’s really all I have today. Not the best post ever, I’m well-aware, but it’s been a tough day and I’m tired. Therefore all I have for closing remarks is this: the end.