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To be honest I think a writer can’t create any believable character or story unless we have similar experiences our characters are going through. As a writer you’ll have to project something of yourself into the characters to make them feel real. Either you have been in a similar situation as your character or have observed something alike up close.
Well, of course if you character is orbiting Saturn, you cannot have had the actual experience itself, but you have experienced the emotional response your character is having. Is your approach that of a scientist’s looking at something interesting? Or are your words about the awe and admiration upon seeing something so magnificent? There’s a difference in emotions you convey in your writing and that difference tells about who you, the author of the book, are.
After all, whenever we write about anything, we write it through our personality. Even if we were describing a simple scenery, our wording tells about ourselves. Ask a group of writers to write about a similar subject and every one will write differently – our own personalities shine through our words (actually just like this IWSG post – check the link at the end of this article and you’ll see a list of writers writing about this same subject).
When I have been writing about the very bad characters in my Nephilim Quest series, I found it hard at first to make them “alive” – it is very easy to write the bad guys into archetypes who are all bad. But such a person is not believable. They are boring. So I chose to concentrate on that little speck of humanity inside even the most evil of characters. There was hope, even well hidden love. Or the total disregard of other people’s suffering while you reach for what you want, the feeling of superiority over others – you can write about that if you have ever met with a narcissist.
Through the writer’s projection of their own emotions the characters come alive – the writer finds their depth, their essence.
I could never kill or hurt anyone on purpose – and writing about these evil characters who do just that forces me to really think about what it was that twisted their basic humanness so. Something they lost - something that caused them great pain. How they felt when forced into a situation where all their finer emotions were stripped away and fear and hate surfaced. How they tried to create the feeling of security by controlling their surroundings and the actions of others. And as we know – that always fails… This is what forces them to change. And the characters have to change – they cannot remain static because the only constant in life is change. Refusal to change causes only suffering when the world around changes anyway. Here is a conflict that makes a good story.
If you consider the fact that you cannot help projecting yourself into your characters, the act of writing becomes a journey of self-discovery. As a writer my books reveal things about myself every day. That can be painful – but also a relief. Handling one’s own fears, bringing light into one’s own darkness.
So my answer is: yes, of course I have projected myself into my books – they way I think about the world and people around me, how I feel. How could I not?
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Not sure if I'm suppose to comment here. But I just wanted to say that I agree with you completely. You have share your emotions or your characters would …
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Very well put - writing is a journey of self-discovery. Of course we might be exploring unknown worlds, but we have to imagine what we would feel in that …