Are Your Characters Too Much Like You?



Hello, minions. My alter ego would like to begin by apologizing for missing the last Loki post (apparently human college is incredibly time consuming. Clearly she knows nothing about the time commitment of world domination).

do your characters all seem... too much like you?

My brother pointed out to me, when he read my manuscript over my shoulder, that all my characters speak like me and overuse Asgardian phrases. I realized that, yes, you puny humans don't actually speak that way. And I needed to rewrite my characters so that they were more human/punier.

aspects of characterization

how they look

No one can choose how they look (otherwise, everyone would like me), but a character's appearance is still a reflection of their personality. From general details like choppy hair versus slicked back, or freckly versus scarred, a reader gets a sense of a character even from the most minute of details the author drops in the descriptions.

reflection of you: I've noticed this is mostly true for main characters: for the general characteristics (i.e. hair color, length, texture, eye color, height, weight, gender), your main character might be a lot like you. 

other note: There are also aspects of yourself you might realize you never put into your main character, such as a physical trait you're not particularly fond of. For example: my alter ego is rather tall, and she has never written a female main character above average height (though probably will in the future). 

does it matter? Depends. For one book, no. If you happen to write several books with different main characters, then a reader might take notice if every one of your protagonists are blonde with brown eyes and burns just from fluorescent lighting.


how they dress

There's a big difference between the boy that always wears a sports jersey to one who wears a black trench coat with sunglasses. 

reflection of you: Does your main character love scarves as much as you do? Does she prefer black, as is your preference? Does your love interest dress in the way that you find attractive for the gender of your sexual preference to dress? 


how they speak

speed: speaks for itself

word choice: Does your character have too colorful or too little colorful of a vocabulary? Do they all speak the way you would? Do you find CPs commenting that "this sounds unnatural" or "no one says that" and you get offended because you say it that way?

regional Dialect: If you're writing a character who lives somewhere you do not, is your own regional dialect creeping into your words? (For example, do your New York characters go to a sandwich shop to buy a hoagie? Or are they buying a sub?)

cursing: This doesn't necessarily mean all the classic four letter words, but just general expressions characters say when they're angry or insulting someone. You might call someone a 'poopsickle,' but perhaps it fits more with your character's personality to say 'scumbag' or 'meanie.'


Interesting article about authors more bad*ss than their characters


how they act

what they like: Does your main character want to be a writer? In most cases, this doesn't work too well. Sure, it's easy for you to relate to, but how many people in the world want to be writers? Most importantly, do you intend to have your protagonist come across as sane? Do you really know any sane writers? :)

decisions: Impulsive or deliberate? More based on the heart or on logic? 

talents: Is English or history your character's best subject? (Assuming you are like the majority of writers) Is math or chemistry their worst? Are they athletic? Are they music-oriented? Good with kids? Not so great at public speaking?


how they react

what offends them: Some things may offend your characters that wouldn't offend you, of course. The harder one is when something doesn't offend your characters that would offend you. It might rub you the wrong way, but sometimes you need to acknowledge why it wouldn't for your character. Otherwise, your character might seem too sensitive.

humor: It's pretty natural to have characters have similar to humor to you. You're the one coming up with the jokes (which is hard enough as is). The main trick is to give your various characters different styles of humor--all of which may be facets of your own.

flight or fight: This may be one of the few times writers, most likely, give their characters the opposite quality. We want, as readers, the main characters to fight. My alter-ego confesses that in most situations, she would run without a second thought, and most definitely would have been killed during the first day of the Hunger Games.


how they think

the nitty gritty: This depends a lot on the POV you choose, first or third person, close or distant. But I try to think of this overall as the character's central essence. This is the combination of all of the above, since (especially in first person) this is where the reader sees the character evaluating all of those things. 

These are writer personality types. Compared to the
average population, we're quite skewed.
My main tip is Myers-Briggs Personality Tests. Sure, I may be overly fascinated with them, but it's incredibly helpful for me to type my characters and then compare them to myself. So far, none of my main characters have been my type, or even close to it (actually, in my WIP, the MC is the exact opposite of me). Doing so helps you to understand all of the above, and how your character might filter the events of your story versus how you would.

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Was this helpful in determining whether or not your characters are too much like you? I hope so. As your future world dictator, I do sometimes hope to be of services to you humans.

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