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  1. #1

    Creating Characters

    A while ago, I read in an article that horror writers don't base their characters on the "dark side" of themselves; the article also said that most people aren't related to monsters of any kind, including serial killers. After reading that, I realized I might have a serious problem. I base most of my main characters and the things they do off the "dark sides" of myself. And the themes of my books are what I think of the world in general. I have a twisted dark side and have an S&M* streak within me( had a rough past- not worth disscussing here). So, does that mean I'm an "evil" person and should seek help? Also, am I being self-centered by creating characters based off me?

    *I don't mean THAT kind of S&M, though I'm into that too xD.



  2. #2
    Senior Member Frank Baron's Avatar
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    Re: Creating Characters

    I think writers find and develop characters from various sources, within and outside themselves. And an early and still-true-in-my-books adage about writing in general is: Write what you know. Some new writing gurus like to poo-poo that one but I believe it's still valid. I think it's especially important for younger writers, who, obviously, have not been around the planet long enough to experience some of life's more seismic events: marriage, childbirth and rearing, death, divorce, taxes, mortgages etc.

    So by all means, shape your characters from whatever source is available to you at this point in your life. Characters, situations and dialogue stemming from real life experiences will be easier to write honestly and honesty is at the heart of all great writing.

    You allude to having a rough go in your childhood and you're still young, so you're not far removed from the experience. Of course it will shape your writing and it should. As the years pass, you'll have many more (hopefully mostly positive) experiences and you'll meet more people and learn about their lives. Before you know it, you'll have a mental rolodex of character traits you can mix and match and create a host of various, realistic personas.

    Keep hammering those keys.

  3. #3

    Re: Creating Characters

    Aww, thanks Frank! You keep writing too LOL. Well, to quote the great Dr.Phil*, it's not that I think I'm an evil person, I just think I'm a sick person xD.

    *I'm being sarcastic, of course. But the Dr. Phil Housewives is awesome!

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Re: Creating Characters

    Mayesha,

    Perhaps it's a distinction of semantics, but no matter where the inspiration for a particular character comes from, at some point in writing about that character I will need to be inside that character's dark side. In order to get into the character's dark side, I have to find at least a piece of that darkness in me. You can probably pull off a minor character without that level of empathy, but main character no way. So writers may not "base" characters dark sides on a dark parts of themselves, but they have to find these fictional dark sides in themselves to write about the character with integrity, which means at some point, and at least in part, it does become true that the dark sides of characters end up being based on the dark sides of their creators. A little chicken and the egg logic circle and probably just because an interviewer asked a simplistic question.

    I think that the reason this what-you-know business that Frank brought up is a point of contention among some writers is that we view what we know through different lens. You do have to get to what you know to write with integrity about everything from character's inner lives to a particular landscape. But you can start with what you don't know and get there. For example, I've got a main character in WIP, who serially cheats on her husband. I''m blessed with a hot husband and a bunch of genes that prevent me from seeing other men as anything but my friend's husbands. So to get inside this cheating character, I've spent hours with women who have and are cheating to find the motivations behind their actions until I started to find commonalities with me. I may not understand cheating, but understand the thrill of risk, the fickleness of emotion, the pain of not feeling adored, etc. So I can build on these commonalities to understand my character. I can make what I don't know something I do know.

    Can't address whether you are evil or should seek help. Can only say that writing dark characters, of itself, isn't evidence of either. Just to reassure yourself, stick lighthearted girl with an idyllic childhood -- let's name her Becky -- in one of your stories, a little exercise in getting to know a character, who doesn't, superficially, have much in common with you.

  5. #5
    Aver0n 2o11
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    Re: Creating Characters

    In regards to basing characters off "the darkside of myself", if your willing to go there, please do. A lot of writers don't do that because they are afraid of what they will uncover - it's worse than seeing a shrink if you were to see just how horrible you can be as a human being by looking inside yourself. As long as you don't get too lost inside that darkness and actually end up a serial killer in real life, it's fine.

  6. #6

    Re: Creating Characters

    Thank you LOL. Ah, but don't worry- my emotional IQ's 123 so it's doubtful I'll be a real life serial killer LOL.

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