July 3 question: What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?
First of all, I like how the question assumes I’ve written personal traits into my characters. This is something I think we authors should just take for granted. Everything we are, everything we’ve experienced, our pasts, our present circumstances…it all informs what we write. Whether we’re consciously trying to filter it out, or not, our worldview will become part of what we write. And I think that’s a good thing! No one else can write the book you are writing, because they aren’t you.
Ahem. *reels self back from tangent*
The fact that my own responses are how I’m programmed to write my characters is something I’m wary of. So I take time to create my characters as their own people with personalities in my mind. I know where they’re coming from, what hangups they have, things which scarred them as children, even their physical quirks
As we’re trudging along and I throw different obstacles in their path my first instinct is to write how I would react. And that’s not how I’m going to write the book. Nothing but similar type characters, reacting the same ways I would every time?
Nope. My books need diverse, distinct, developed characters. So I take another look at the scene I’m writing and instead wonder, how would Colton react? How would Mr. Smith respond to this bombshell? How is Michaela taking this? Then I start writing what they would do.
Are pieces of my own personality still sneaking through? Of course.
Still, I try hard to make sure the characters have their own way of doing things. Sometimes I try for complete opposites: an outgoing extrovert enjoying being the center of attention instead of what’s natural for me: an introvert fading into the background. Other times I go for more wish-fulfillment, i.e. when I was in a similar situation, this is the comeback I really wish I’d thought of then.
And for personal satisfaction, I always give each character one of my favorites to be their favorite. One show, a color, a food, something that is definitely all me. It’s a fun little easter egg (which probably no one else will care about unless they also love Firefly, or yellow, or chocolate peanut-butter ice cream).
If you’ve stuck around all the way to the bottom of this, congratulations! And here is your bonus prize:
A list of character strengths and weaknesses from author/former lit agent Nathan Brandsford.