YOU ARE NOT ME, WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY BRAIN // Or, When Characters Are Annoying

Sometimes, I just want to walk up my MC and go

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BECAUSE I LITERALLY HAVE NO IDEA WHO THIS PERSON IN MY BRAIN IS OR WHAT THEY WANT FROM ME. One day they just waltz in there, say, “Hi, I live here now,” and I proceed to scream, hug them, and wet my (imaginary) pants simultaneously… and that’s pretty much that.

Well, okay, maybe not quite. Sometimes, it isn’t that easy. Writing a character from scratch can be scary. You’re essentially creating a brand-new being out of THIN AIR, pouring your LIFE AND SOUL into it, and then setting her free into the world and letting her do whatever she wants… except you are her.

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OF COURSE for us master writers, this is fantastically easy and we have no trouble morphing them into the person they want to be and using them very wisely for the purposes of our plot, RIGHT??

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BECAUSE MY CHARACTER ISN’T ME.

I am a reasonable person. My characters will sometimes do some VERY STUPID THINGS. And then I have to freak out about it in my head and wonder if they should have reacted more like I do.

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… Um, come again?? No. NOOOOOOOO. You see, I will most definitely NOT be volunteering as tribute. There’s been a major misunderstanding here. Sorry for the inconvenience. I’ll just, er, um, be over in this corner, um… eating some herbs and being miserable.

It’s one of the weirdest things in the world to put yourself in someone else’s shoes (namely, your character’s), and suddenly realize all of your responses are different. But then again, if my character has all the same goals as me, the same family environment, the same responses… am I not writing my own autobiography in a parallel universe?

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So my characters shouldn’t be identical to me. Got it.

Having all my characters be just like me would be infinitesimally boring, for me and for everybody else having to suffer through my sorry book containing only one character with seventeen different names. (Although who wouldn’t want to read a book just about me? We all know I’m FABULOUS.)

BUT THEN, having someone in my brain 24/7 who likes completely different things is ANNOYING.

You refuse eggplant at the dinner table and suddenly all you can think about is how much you character Loves it, with a capital L. You watch a TV show and realize how much your character would yell at you if they saw you sitting around on the couch for so long. Basically, ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING YOU DO, they disagree with you. And complain to you. And you can’t shut it off because they’re living in your head.

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If this seems like it’s going around in circles: it is. Because however much I want to tell you that there’s a specific formula you can follow to find the ideal character who shares just the right amount of things with you, there isn’t one. And that’s the bottom line. Every character I have in my head has at least one trait of mine. Some have more. Some have less. Some are so utterly different from me it’s uncomfortable having them in my brain.

Yes, I created my characters. Yes, I did pick their likes and dislikes. But only in the beginning. Like children, they started to grow, become their own people. I saw something, thought, Oh, Johnny would love that! and it was suddenly a part of his character. I didn’t have a choice. And maybe the same is true of people.

I know sometimes you just want to throw your characters across the room. I know, sometimes, you look at them, and then you look at a book, or a TV show, or someone else’s novel, and think they aren’t good enough, that they’re too like you, or too unlike you, or not enough this or not enough that, or something else.

But give your characters a chance. They’re people, too, you see. Even if you created them in the beginning, they grew in the end. And however different they are, you must have at least one thing in common with them. And if you can find that… well, you can get along with them, I’m sure. (Or maybe you can’t. I have no idea.) There’s a reason they are characters, and not the tips of plot bunnies left over in your head. You keep them around because however crazy they drive you… you like them.

I like the idea that your characters chose you. Maybe you started to create them, but they chose you. Like your friends. Because they thought you could write their story. So why not give it a try? You and your characters, you’re a team. Maybe you try to change them and they try to change you, but in the end… you’re partners. They must have chosen you for a reason. So trust them, let them trust you, and you’ll figure it out. Somehow.

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How similar or different are you to your characters? Is it sometimes really annoying to have them in your head. OH, I know, let’s all complain about how annoying our characters can be together!

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6 responses to “YOU ARE NOT ME, WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY BRAIN // Or, When Characters Are Annoying

  1. I struggle with this a lot- often my MC is basically just like me! I’ve tried really hard to switch it up in the past, but for some reason it never works out like I want it to. This is a an awesome post!

    • Thank you! It’s very hard to also write other characters who are different, because we need diversity in personality, but sometimes it’s hard to be seventeen different people at once!

  2. I think it’s great that all your main characters are not the same basic person as you. I know several writers who struggle with this, often producing the same voice for all their characters.

    • I think that in a way, all of them are the same person as I am, but that’s often because I try to use my own thoughts and emotions as a base and work from there, since I have never been in anyone else’s head. But I sort of have different syntax for each one? A lot of them primarily differ in the choices they’d make and what aspects of my thought process/similarities to me they bring out.

  3. I GET THIS. I TOTALLY DO. I feel like I never write characters like me because I’m boring… 😄 Buuuuut, it is frustrating sometimes and difficult to be constantly trying to be a DIFFERENT person. I mean writers are basically actors, right?! But we’re acting like a MILLION characters instead of just one. *collapses in exhaustion*

    Although…ahem. I actually have never had characters “in my head doing things”. Like, I write them. But when I’m not writing, they’re not around. xD I feel like I’m weird because almost everyone else describes their characters running rampant in their imaginations!

    • EXACTLY.
      Like, um, no, that is embarrassing. WE ARE NOT DOING THAT. (But then we end up doing it anyways, because, you know, HEAD.) And that is literally the PERFECT way to describe writing. I think I actually might have liked acting if everyone hadn’t tried to push me into it as a child… *wanders off on a tangent as usual*
      Hm, yes, I understand what you’re saying. Most of my characters were only alive on the page when I needed them to be, and I admit I do miss that. Because sometimes when I’m not writing they need to KEEP QUIET. *coughcharactersareyoulisteningcough* It might just be that I think about writing a lot? Like unless I’m really tired or I subconsciously want to think of writing, I can forget about them and about my writing while doing other things. But yes. I TOTALLY get what you’re saying. *squees a little and does a happy dance because CAIT THE LEGEND, OF WHO I AM A MINION, commented on my blog*

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