Monday, July 27, 2009

There I am Again

Quote of the Day:
Remember that you should be able to identify each character by what he or she says. Each one must sound different from the others. And they should not all sound like you.
~Ann Lamott

I had a little laugh when I read this quote, because this is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. Mostly because I am now in the edit stage of my YA book and a few of the comments I've gotten from my critters have been things like "teenagers don't act like this" or "why is she doing this?"

Almost across the board, my answer has been "well, I acted like that as a teenager" or "because that is what I would do."

I've started to realize that there may be just a little too much of me in my characters. Now, I'm not saying it's bad to have pieces of yourself in your characters. No matter what I do, I'll never be able to stop doing that entirely. But, I need to be more true to the actual CHARACTER and let them feel and act and speak as they, as individuals, would do. (Because our characters are "real" people right?) ;-D

I need to start asking, "what would my character do in this situation" and stop asking "how would I react to this situation." And it's been really hard for me to do. In my non-fiction, speeches, and just every day interactions with friends, family, and complete strangers, equating situations to myself and my personal experiences is sort of how I connect with people.

But in my writing, having every character react the way I would doesn't leave room for a lot of diversity. Now, I'm not saying I do this with every single character or every single situation. It's mostly when I get a little stuck, when I'm not sure how I want my character to respond to something, that my personal preferences start creeping in there.

How about everyone else? Do you ever find too much of yourself in your characters?


beth said...

Ugh--I'm in the exact same boat as you. I've got two POV characters. One is wayyyy too much like me! *cut, cut, cut*

Jamie D. said...

Sometimes I have to force myself to let my characters make decisions that I personally would never make. It happens more and more often (which is good, because my characters are far more interesting than I am), but sometimes it's really hard, esp. when I don't agree with their decision in that situation. I worry too about getting published and having people think that because my characters made some decision, it's the same one I'd make. I don't suppose that's as much of a worry with YA though (or maybe it is?).

Yeah - I struggle with it, but I'm usually hyper-aware of the separation between me and them, so I don't think too much of me gets into them. Perhaps I just don't know though.... ;-)

Don said...

Once I'm done drafting, I'll have a lot of work getting my three characters their own voice. Right now one of them is pretty unique, but the other two are way too much alike in their actions and attitudes.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I have the opposite problem - I have my characters do and say things that I would never do/say so that I can live vicariously through them.

Jenna said...

I'm usually pretty good at keeping my characters separate from myself. Although there is always something of me in them--since I *am* the one writing them. But most of my characters are very different from me, and they all have a unique voice.

Sometimes, though, I slip up and find a character saying exactly what I would in a situation. In that case, I do a lot of editing.

Great post! :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Yeah, it's way hard to keep the author's voice out of everybody's mouth. I do have a character who showed up one day and talks in a voice I've never heard. My crit buddies love him, so I have to figure out how-in-the-world or the alternate universe I channeled him.

quixotic said...

I'm guilty of putting myself into my characters a little too much. My first draft came back from my beta readers with one major complaint. They couldn’t differentiate between a few characters. I hope I fixed that with edits.

FictionGroupie said...

The litmus test for me is when i let my husband read my stuff. If he says, this is so you. I know I let myself slip in too much. It's hard not to.

B.J. Anderson said...

Haha, yes I have this problem every now and then, too. I keep forgetting that I'm old and teenagers of my time probably did stuff differently than teenagers of now. Sigh.

Weronika said...

Don't even mention it, Michelle - I have quite the same problem to deal with it, and it's exhausting! Absolutely exhausting. I have such a hard time diversifying the various voices across the board, whereas they must be diverse for the novel to succeed organically.

Good luck as you continue to progress with your revisions. Keep us updated!