Hey guys…looks like it’s time for another blog chain. This question comes from Sandra who asked:
Have you ever created a character different from yourself in some significant way, such as (but not limited to) different gender, race, ethnic group, religion, or sexual orientation? If so, what, if any, research did you do to portray these differences? Was this character a main character, secondary character, or walk-on? Did these differences have an impact on the story?
Great question, right? She gave us another one too…in case we didn’t want this…but I love this question.
Most of my characters are drastically different from myself. In fact, two of my all-time fav characters that I have written – an antagonist, and a protagonist – are different in gender (they are male), not to mention temperament (They are basically evil…one in particular).
So, how does one do that…write characters that are different? For me, writing characters different from myself is actually easier than writing characters that are very similar. I think the reason for this has to do with the difference between the character’s voice versus the author’s voice. When I write a character like Seth (from a shelved novel) – someone so distinctly evil that his presence in a scene makes your blood turn to ice – I have to be authentically that character. Since he is not like me (I mean, I get mad like anyone else…but not crazy, cold-blooded like this dude), it is easier for me to stay in his voice throughout the storyline.
However, when I write someone like the Nesy, the angel masquerading as a teenaged girl from A BEAUTIFUL MESS, I have to be very vigilant NOT to let my voice (or my hangups as a human being) seep into the character. See, Nesy has a lot of personality characteristics that are like myself. I did not notice this when I wrote it, but as my crit partners shredded, I saw some of her problems – and all of it had to do with her similarities to myself, and my inability to keep my voice as an author out of her. It took a lot of hard revisions to get her voice solidified.
The main characters in my current WiP are definitely different from myself in some ways – leading lives more tragic than my own. To help with authenticity, I did research…interviewing many teens with similar backgrounds to my mc and I know that will help.
But here’s the thing…characters, no matter how different they are than us (as authors), they have something we all share…the full range of human emotions. So I guess, really, writing characters that are believable is more about tapping into that shared human experience more than anything else. If the emotional content rings true in your story…everything else will too.
For me, the distance of a unique character helps me tap into that authenticity more easily, than the character that is too similar in personality to myself.
So there….my round-about answer to the question…
What about you? do you write characters that are different from yourself? Is it easy? Hard? I’d love to hear your take on this.