Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Creating Mini-Me

Our blog chain topic for today started with 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?

I am towards the end of the chain this time around, and WOW there have been some really good responses from some of my fellow chain bloggers (you can easily read them all by starting with the link to Sandra's blog above and then just following the links straight through from one to the next). Mostly I am impressed by how fearless so many writers are in tackling characters who are completely difference from themselves - difference sex, nationality, race - they have done it all. In fact, one of the two themes that's been repeated is: be brave. The other main idea that I picked up on, was to also be true to the characters in your head by listening to them and letting them be whoever or whatever they are.

Yeah, I know, it kind of sounds like the same advice your mom gave you in junior high, and you were all like, "Yeah, okay whatever, Mom. Now buy me the same shoes that everyone else wears so I don't look like a freak." Of course, I usually didn't get the shoes. And even when I did get the shoes, I didn't have the equally essential fifty dollar sweatshirt from The Limited (Yes, I specifically remember this item of clothing. Actually, it was a whole line of sweatshirts, that if I recall correctly, had a sort of Graffiti-esque type writing across the front done in a Golden Girls color palate. Seriously, what pre-teen girl wouldn't want that sweatshirt? It would have looked totally rocking with my red glasses. Alas, as one of five kids that was a bit out of our budget, but my older sister had a friend who was an only childhood and she owned a whole pile of them. We thought she was the luckiest person on the planet - not counting my older sister's other friend who was also an only child and her mother packed her the BEST lunches ever. Like slices of cheesecake for dessert kind of lunches. Meanwhile we got the generic version of Oreos.) to complete the outfit so it didn't look quite right anyway.

Long tangent. I know. Except it's not a tangent. Really, I swear, I'm not using my blog for public therapy sessions. Okay, maybe I am a little bit - but that doesn't change the fact that I also actually have a point here, and I am getting to it right now.

POINT: The characters I write don't necessarily look like me, act like me, or live like me - but at their core they are created from my experiences and in some essential way reflect my point of view and the way I see the world.

In other words they are underdogs, screw-ups, and dreamers. They might not always win, but they put up a good fight. And yes, sometimes they have terrible fashion sense.

What about you - when you write do you like to create mini-me's or do you try to break the mold?

Make sure to check out the post before mine from Shannon - one of our new blog chain members. And tomorrow Amanda will be finishing up this topic!


  1. Great point that no matter how different our characters are from us, who we are and what we've experienced informs how we write those characters and how readers take them in.

    I got hand-me-downs from a wealthy cousin. Too bad she was way skinnier than I was!

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  3. Great post! - The advice from mom comment was great!!!

  4. Hyper-Wear T-shirts. Remember those? They changed colors when they got hot (but never worked past a couple of washes). Only the coolest of the cool kids had them. Needless to say, I never did. Awesome post!

  5. Fantastic, Kate. I love that, no matter how different the characters are from you, they somehow reflect your way of seeing the world. Awesomeness.

  6. I'm reminded of the scene from Life of Brian where the mob chants, "We are all individuals!" Perhaps this is what our characters do. ;) Very good point about how all of our characters, no matter how varied they are, come from within us.

  7. I enjoy creating male characters. In fact, it is rare for me to have a female be the main character. Sure, she'll be right up there, but the story is usually focused on the male (not always though).

    I really go out of my way to think of people different than me when I create characters. But I always put a little bit of me in them. It could be eye color, it could be the way I talk, or it could be an interest I also have.

  8. I do remember those The Limited sweatshirts. But since I didn't like "Golden Girl Palate" I never got them, probably to my mother's gratefulness.

    I break the mold. I stomp on it. I try to stay away from "me" as much as possible - for the character's sake (and dare I say it, for their sanity). More entertaining that way.

    Great post!

  9. Ha! I never got to wear the cool shoes. My mom tried to buy me girls' sneakers because they were cheaper.

    But yes, great advice! And aren't all blogs sort of therapy for their writers? :)

  10. Great post! Ultimately, no matter how different our characters are from us, they always echo some deeper part of us.

  11. Great response. And I don't mind the slight rambling because it emphasizes your point so well. So much of what we write comes from ourselves, it's inevitable that part of us will be in it (even if the MC is entirely different from us).

  12. "They might not always win, but they put up a good fight." Best. Sentence. Ever. Awesome post!!