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.

For more of what we had to say…check out Kat’s BadGirl post yesterday and Margie‘s take tomorrow.



19 thoughts on “Blog chain time…all about character.

  1. I agree with you that character voice is important. I think that’s why my most successful stories to date have been in first person; the POV requires me to create and maintain a distinct voice for me character. And yes, sharing the human experience is what fiction is all about.

  2. Great post! And I agree with Sandra. I do my best writing in first person POV, even if at a later time I change it over to third person. All my first drafts are in first just to understand the character’s voice.

  3. Hey, Christine. I love writing from different personalities, which adds so much depth and interest. I find it’s fairly easy for me to find the unique voice of a character because I write in third person, which gives me just enough distance to see that character as whole, separate and “real”. Great post!

  4. Now that I think about it, it would be very difficult to write in the voice of an angel without adding the hangups human beings face.


    I think maybe the pure evil voice would be easier. Is that scary? 🙂

    1. Fortunately, my angel is not pure…too many years as human has “stained” her soul, so to speak…so she is a little easier to write *wink*

  5. This is a great post. Your last bit is what I’ve always said. If it ain’t honest, it ain’t gonna come through. Okay, so I paraphrased, but it’s too true. Good writing involves honesty and showing the reader the story from an authentic point of view, no matter what type of character it is.

  6. Not letting our own voices (and attitudes) creep in is definitely a challenge. When I write a character really different from myself, I have to picture a reader who doesn’t know me; otherwise I think too much about their surprise that I would write such a character.

    Totally agree with you on trying to reach for the common human experience.

  7. What a terrific post! I agree that writing characters different than me is easier because I have that distance. I had run into similar problems when an MC and I were too similar–was very difficult to separate my thoughts from theirs.

  8. This is a great question to think about. I’m writing a novel in which literally every character is very different from me, including the main character, who is a different race than I am. I was scared to even try this at first, but as I continue to write I’m feeling more confident. What I share with this character in terms of basic human needs and emotions is more important than the ways we are different, and the ways we are different helps me keep her perspective clear.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Helen. Keep writing and your confidence will continue to improve! Good luck with everything

  9. I agree. Keeping our personal voice out of our characters can be a challenge. My agent was contantly getting me on what he called “stiff” language for my teens. So, it’s something I have to continually work on today.

  10. Great answer! I think it’s really difficult to not put a little of yourself into your characters, even if you don’t intend to.

  11. Wonderful post, Christine!! I have to admit, I enjoy writing the protag a bit too much. I’m not the bad-guy sort, which may be why I like to write them. It’s fun to explore that darker side of human emotion and motivation.

  12. I fully agree that you have to get into your characters to write them authentically. I also have a much easier time getting into characters who aren’t like me than those who are. Great post, Christine!

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