I see tons of posts about how to not write a main character like yourself. They’re full of great tips, but I have to wonder, is that all necessary?
Certainly, if you’ve written several books, it’s good to switch things up: to force yourself into a new perspective. Don’t give yourself a free ride; you’re better than that! But for a first story, or a first serious story? Don’t write yourself off as an amazing character.
The main character in my current book is based, somewhat, off myself. I like this because, when she’s faced with a situation, I know exactly how she would evaluate it without referring to what I’ve learned from other books. After all, the most in depth I’ve been in anyone’s head besides my own was when reading. Rather than going off of what other authors think, I can directly base thoughts off a real life example.
One reason people suggest not basing a character off yourself is that it’s less challenging because it doesn’t make you consider other points of view. That’s not true, though. If you’re going to put your characters in tough situations (which is really a must for most stories), they’re going to have to make hard decisions. It’s easy enough to figure out what another person would do in that situation, but what would you do? You can see why someone else would choose a path, but why would you?
Other points of view and reasons for acting are essential- no one has this life completely figured out, but that’s where secondary characters can come in. They can show an alternative option or ethical approach to your main character’s beliefs.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to agree with everything your main character does. After all, we make mistakes every day and characters shouldn’t be different. But basing your character on yourself should make you think hard about the choices they make. That doesn’t sound less challenging to me.
You’re a unique person. We all are; no one thinks or acts or sees things in the exact same way. Because of this, using a character based on yourself is a valid method to propel your story. One common writing tip is to base your characters on the people around you. You are just as much of a person as they are- your reactions and decisions are just as realistic as theirs.
This being said, we’ve all read books where the main character is a blatant self-insert of the author where everything works out right and their flaws magically disappear by the end. How do you avoid this? Well, it all boils down to being honest with yourself.
- Be honest about your flaws. We all have them, and if you think ‘being clumsy’ or ‘being socially awkward’ is your biggest flaw, then you’re missing something. Yeah, it’s scary being honest with yourself on paper where others can see, but it’s also a super important thing to do. You’re going to have to confront your dark parts some time in life, and the sooner you do that, the better.
- On the flip side, be honest about your strengths, too. Sometimes it’s easy to get so fixated on your dark side that you forget you have good points, too. To write a realistic (and likable!) character, you have to balance the two, and that means acknowledging your strong spots as well as your weak ones.
- Don’t stereotype yourself. If you’re truly going to write a character based on you, you need to have a clear vision of yourself. I know it’s fun to see yourself as the kick-butt character, the funny impulsive character, or whatever, but take a good look at yourself. You may have aspects of those types in you, but be careful to have a full perception of yourself when writing. After all, the point of basing a character off yourself is to avoid stereotypes.
From where I’m standing, it’s perfectly acceptable to model your main character off of yourself. After all, you know yourself better than you know anyone else, so that should be a good way to craft a well rounded character.
Have you tried basing a character off yourself? How did it go?