Split Personalities

So, sitting here, thinking about what parts of an author are in their characters. Obviously, I can’t speak for all writers but, for me…

The hero would usually be the parts of me that I hope people remember about me, mixed with some parts of wish-fulfillment. They are the ‘best of me’ alongside the kind of qualities I wish I had or the things I wish I was better at. The hero’s weaknesses, their flaws, are the annoying things I see in myself, the things that I know annoy other people or cause problems.

The buddy is largely what I think I’m actually like, mixed with things I like about people I know. These qualities do not come from any single person. Rather they are an amalgam of people I’ve met over the years. Some of whom I no longer know.

The anti-hero would be the bits of me I don’t particularly like, wrestling with those I do and those I wish I had. For me, an anti-hero is a real tortured character, trying to achieve one goal at the expense of all other possible outcomes. In their own eyes, they would be an anti-hero because of the way others see them, not because of what they are actually like.

The antagonist is fun. That’s the fantasy-revenge-against-evildoers-of-my-past part of me, the one with the quips and magic powers of pain. The person I become in my own head when I lie awake at night, thinking of all the terrible things I could do to people I’ve encountered down the years who have hurt me or people I love; people whose continued existence and freedom make no sense to me.

There are so many archetypes in literature that I have not mentioned here but that’s because there are only so many sides to any person that I can’t possibly be involved in every character I create. And it surely goes without saying (but I’ll say it, anyway) that, the more I write, the less of me I can use in my characters. They would become cardboard cut-outs, stenciled drawings. The rule for now, though, is not to write what I know but to write from what I know. To use what I know exists and then warp and twist and beat it into something very different.

None of my characters are me. Most of my characters are a bit of me, a bit of you (if I’ve ever met you), a bit of what I wish and a bit of what I fear. I’m sure it is the same for other writers.


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