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It’s not always about me…

September 14, 2008

Back in February I mentioned,

The ubiquitous “they” always say “write what you know” – and all I truly know is me.  And so when I write, there is a lot of me in what I write.  Characters, situations, settings.  They are me, they are my life, they are the things I know.

I am conscious that I put a lot of myself into a few characters.  The most obvious “me” characters are Gideon in The Long Watch and Ewan in Salvage the Good.  By design, and as I write them, they think like I do.  They react to situations as I would react to them.  They are me, but they are an alternative “me”.

It is interesting to see people’s reactions to such characters, especially people who know you.  When you know that a character is “you”, then there is no pretence, there are no hidden clues as to your psychology.  It is all transparent, so the amateur psychoanalysis can be quite amusing.

But what about characters that you don’t intend as you?  What happens when others project “you” on to those characters?

The character of Captain Juan is not me.  I came up with the character, and he was a vehicle for a ridiculous and outrageous tall tale.  As such, he was a very one-dimensional character when created.  In the past few months however, the character has taken off, become more serious, and been fleshed out (and in a recent episode, he has really fleshed out…).  But he isn’t me, and I have never intended him to be me.

But that doesn’t stop people I know interpreting him as me  – my wife cannot read the story without imagining me in the title role, which leads to raised eyebrows when he winds up naked in a crow’s nest confronted by a young lady!  Particularly when those chapters aren’t written by me…

For the record, when I think of the Captain, I see a cross between Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, James Bond, and Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride.

Do your readers ever project you on to the characters that you have created?  Do they get it right, or do they get it wrong?  How do you react, in either case?

One Comment
  1. September 14, 2008 12:31 pm

    I can relate to this one. The first book I wrote was a romance. My husband assumed I lacked romance in my life. The second book I wrote I killed the husband off before the story ever starts (means to a tortured soul nothing more.) This time he knew I wanted another life. Long story short, it only went down hill from there — at best, leading to a long hiatus in my writing, and the worst, nearly leading to a divorce.

    Anyway, he finally talked to a few English professors that also enjoy writing. They all had the same story. “Oh, yeah, my wife, husband, mother, whatever can’t read my stuff because he/she is convinced I’m looking for (fill in the blank)” One had to give up writing all together.

    We finally found a common ground “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Sometime it hurts my feelings that he refuses to share this part of my world, but I would rather he stay hands off then not be able to write or loose what we have.

    I for one believe: We are not our characters. They are merely manifestations of fertile imaginations. And, personally speaking, while I may become my characters, they are never me!!

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