Pitfalls Of Putting Yourself Into Your Characters

Write what you know. Right? And what could you possibly know better, than yourself? Probably a lot of things. You see, I don’t think we really know ourselves as well as we think. We have issues and hang-ups that we haven’t even begun to discover yet. They are what holds us back, ties us down, and clouds our minds. And I don’t think anyone lets those things carry on knowingly. 

But here’s the thing, even when we don’t think we’re writing about ourselves, we are. And when we do so unknowingly, the writing gets harder. Sure, your character is more interesting because they’re actually dealing with real issues, but you have to be willing to deal with those issues yourself before you can get your character to.

Case in point: Spark, the infamous never finished but always mentioned short story. I finally realized why I’m having such a hard time moving forward with it and putting it to bed. I don’t have the issues that I had when I started it. Sounds pompous, right? Hear me out.

Spark came to me one night as I crept into bed after a long day’s work. I snuggled up to my wife, placed my hand on her belly and tried to feel my son dreaming away inside her. Like most writers, I had a dream of my own. That dream led to Spark, where a young man, too afraid of the commitment, challenges, and responsibilities of having a child causes the death of his unborn daughter. The story is his quest for retribution.

Here I am over a year and a half later working on a revision to the ending and I can’t think like that frightened father-to-be anymore. Not only am I Dad, I’m Stay-At-Home-Dad. I spend more time with my son than most moms get these days, let alone dads. And you can call me conceited on this one if you want, but I’m a damn good dad. At this very moment I’m watching a baby monitor while my boy sleeps and though he’s three rooms away, were he to pop up and make a move for the edge of the bed, I’d be there before he could fall. (LOL, he must have heard me thinking because he just woke up. Don’t worry, he’s fine, just needed to know I was nearby and went back to sleep.)

I’ll eventually be able to put myself into that frame of mind and playact what it was like, but I fear that it won’t be as powerful. But that's what's holding me back, fearing that I won't speak truth to the character any longer.  

And what about the other instance, the one where you don’t even realize you’re writing about yourself? You know your character’s problems, what holds them back, what they have to deal with, but you can’t write it. It could be that one of the reasons you can’t deal with your character’s issues is because yours and theirs are one in the same.

Have you considered that? Have you looked at your character’s flaws and considered that they might be your own? Are you ready to deal with those flaws in your own life so that you can write your story? Maybe that’s not you, but it is definitely something to consider.


Behaviour & Communication:
How To Be The Best Dad In The Galaxy

One last thing. A little patting myself on the back. This marks my 100th post and come Friday this will be my 15th straight week without missing a post. So yay me. I shall celebrate by poring cement, preparing dinner, washing clothes, washing dishes, and writing another blog post. :) 


Mellow Dee said...

You are an incredible dad. Congrats on the 100th post, love - you deserve a Blizzard from DQ to celebrate! Whaddya think?

David Noceti said...

I think that you want a blizzard from DQ and therefore you are suggesting that I get one too. :)

Amber J. Gardner said...

Congrats! Man, you have your 15th consecutive post while I missed my last one. I need to work harder!

"Have you considered that? Have you looked at your character’s flaws and considered that they might be your own? Are you ready to deal with those flaws in your own life so that you can write your story?"

*thinks* .... *thinks some more* ....Noo...Nooo it can't be. Aidan can't be me when I was younger, my feelings of powerlessness of my own future and fear to do anything about it. Nooo. ...And Anya...Anya can't be my mother, for reasons I cannot explain here. Nooo, no way...Maybe?

Oh my god. I did NOT do that subconsciously...did I?

My friend, you just opened a whole can of worms inside my head.

Amber J. Gardner said...

I meant 15th consecutive week by the way lol.

Mellow Dee said...

Well, if you don't want one, then I'll just go get one for myself, Mr. Bites-the-Hand-That-Feeds-Him. :-P

David Noceti said...

That should read, "That desserts him," because I made dinner. And I'm guessing that I'll be the one going to get the desserts to, soooooo.

Love you, dear.

Paige Bruce said...

Aw. I want that kind of love in MY marriage one day.

(Am I right in assuming that Mellow Dee is your lady love? 'Cause otherwise, I'm about to look like the first three letters of that word...)

I've heard "write what you know" and I've heard "DON'T just write what you know". I think everyone needs to find their own balance on that. One of the reasons I love fantasy and science fiction is that I'm always learning something new, and I want to provide that for my readers; at the same time, it's difficult to try to figure out whether the physics will let me do what I want to in a science fiction universe, because I'm not a scientist, and physics was my worst science in high school.

I think the best you can do in your situation is to try and remember what it was like as a Dad-to-be, pretend to still be there, and pretend that it's good enough to finish the story for now. Even if you end up with a crappy ending, at least you've finished, and then you can do some research, consulting, and deep thinking as to whether or not that character should really react like that.

Paige Bruce said...

Oh my god, I really DO look like those first three words. (Pretend this part is in the same post okay?)

Congrats on your 100th post and for sticking with it. ;) We readers appreciate your dedication.

David Noceti said...

What, her? Noooo, Dee is just some crazy fangirl. :)

And you're right. I do have to sit down and just do it. Trouble is, I need a few moments of non drowsy time to do it in. And not just non drowsy, but totally alone, able to walk around the house rambling to myself time. That's in short supply these days. Sometimes when I stay up late enough I can manage it, but that's rare.

But I'll have it done by Monday. My public promise. (did I really just do that?)

And I think you'll be fine on the Sci-fi just so long as you don't do hard sci-fi. I mean, look at Dune and Star Wars, they are both considered Sci-fi but neither bother to explain any of the "science" involved.

damihjva said...

LOL. You couldn't resist, could you?

That's okay though. I have the best crit partner in the world to talk me through the really, REALLY tough parts.


David Noceti said...

Hey, I named no names. I'm innocent.

And yes, don't you ever forget that last part.

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