Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Piece Of Me

I think the biggest thing we writers struggle with is writing characters that are so different than we are.  Although extraneous characters can be challenging at times, the hardest ones to write are our main characters, especially if they're so different.

I hate admitting this, but most of my main characters have at least large elements of my own personality.  I can write them so easily because I can relate.

But when I try to stray outside of this motif, I run into trouble.  As an example, I'd originally intended for the main character from Wrongful Death to be a high school girl.  Unfortunately, no matter how hard I wrestled with it, I couldn't pull it off in any way that didn't sound cliché.  In order to get the story on paper, I changed the main character to a high school boy.  I could simply fall back on my own mindset when I was 17, thus making the task much easier.

This challenge applies across the board as I admit I'd be unfamiliar with writing a main character who is a jock, gay, a woman, or Japanese.  Sure, I could do it, but I know that it would come across as fake and full of every stereotype imaginable.  In short, it would be bad writing.

I wonder how much this problem affects other writers.  Does anyone out there encounter this issue?  I'm not talking about secondary characters or villains, since I have little difficulty writing them, but their point of view isn't the driving force behind the narrative.  That's what makes this such a challenge - when we write the main character's point of view, we inevitably view things through his lens.  We hear his thoughts and experience things the way he would experience them.  If we don't know the personality, how are we to make him sound convincing?

Differentiation is something I've strived for in my work - one character is a scientist, one is a historian, one is a high school senior, and so forth - but I feel my own personality coming through most of them.  Is it laziness?  A lack of talent?  Is it really so hard to get out of the box?

What this has done is make me read things a little differently.  I've noticed similarities in the main voices of many authors, so this problem of mine isn't unique.  Can we break away, or are we doomed to tell the same person's story through only a slightly different scenario until the end of time?

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