This month's Round Robin blog is about: Your characters come from your mind, from other people you've witnessed, but can you create their lives without them revealing something about yourself? Have they ever taught you something?
I have a feeling we all reveal some small bits about ourselves in all our characters, both the heroes and the villains. Often it’s not deliberate, or even noticed, but thoughts, expressions, feelings, tics, histories, dreams, likes, dislikes, desires and fears sneak their way into the characters we create and torment for the next 200 or 300 pages.
As a romance writer, creating heroes always means giving them attributes that I find appealing which says a lot about what I find attractive in a man. It probably says something about the things the men in my life have failed at, too. For my heroines, it might be things I wish I was and know I’m not. Or she might have a lot of the same desires, drives, dreams and flaws that I am so familiar with because I live them every day.
In any genre, including romance, there is usually a villain or an antagonist who can reveal something about the author, even when the author is the kindest of souls and would never for a moment consider doing any of the evil things the villain has in mind. Perhaps the villain threatens the thing the author is most afraid of in his or her personal life. When I was a small child, my family was driving home after dark when a fire truck raced past and my father decided to follow it. When we got there the house was already engulfed in flames and we watched fascinated as the firefighters fought to quell the blaze. For years after that I had nightmares about my house burning down. Sometimes I was worried about my safety and my family. Sometimes I was more worried about all the things I might lose. How easy it would be for me to create a villain who happened to be an arsonist and in so doing, reveal all my personal horrors.
Of course, some authors deliberately include themselves or their biases, political views and more. Sometimes a best-selling author might use their powerful far-reaching platform to advance a cause as Suzanne Brockmann has done to promote acceptance of the gay lifestyle. Other authors have used their knowledge of the inner workings of politics to write novels with a political agenda, either conservative or liberal. And of course, there are the memoirs that are all about the author to start with.
As for the question, have any of my characters taught me something? I can’t speak for all authors, but I have definitely learned from my characters, especially those who are very unlike myself, either in personality or in outlook and beliefs. If you deliberately choose to create a character who is of a different ethnic or religious background - I hope to God you have done the research - how can that character not teach you something? Perhaps tolerance for a different point of view, or acceptance of a different way of life. Even villains have their reasons and while some are just pure evil, most have something about them a reader and the author can relate to or have sympathy for. Nearly all my characters have taught me patience. I create them and love them, then I create a world of trouble for them to deal with, but real problems don’t go away overnight. I can’t write them out of trouble from one chapter to the next or I have no story so I have to be patient while they grow, get stronger, come to terms with life and triumph.
Why not hop on over and check out these authors and how they see themselves in their characters, or perhaps get a peek at what their characters have taught them.
Dr. Bob Rich
Rhobin L Courtright