Grr(aphic) Mondays: Should your characters be an extension of yourself?

I think I have already mentioned this but how much does Neil Gaiman look like his character Morpheus? It’s like he wasn’t even trying to disguise the fact that Morpheus is a self insert character. Or is he? In a recent interview with NPR Book (to read the full article click here) Neil protested ‘I’m Morpheus as long as I can also be Death, and as long as I can be Merv Pumpkinhead’. In short Neil suggests that there is a part of a writers being in every character they write, but is that true and should that be the way that a writer approaches their characters, like some sort of metaphorical horcruxes?

It’s All About Balance

Every character can’t just be you. I’m sorry to tell you this but even if your the most eloquent and exciting person on the earth people are going to get bored of you by the end of the first issue of your story. I talked about ‘tweaking’ yourself in an earlier article and while that advice still stands if your creating a larger or longer story little tweaks aren’t going to cut it. An easy way to create more depth is through simple role playing. There’s a bit of folklore surrounding Harry Potter that suggests that when J.K.Rowling first created the character she was on a train and she mentally interviewed Harry, what J.K.Rowling was doing here was a simple role playing technique. Rowling took herself and imagined how she would responded to the questions she was asking if she was a young male wizard fighting Voldemort. The three main character supposedly all went through this process at one time or another and it really shows. It’s very easy to identify on of Ron’s lines amongst a bunch of Harry’s.

Comic Book and Graphic Novel writers will do a similar thing. When Geoff Johns writes the Justice League what he is essentially doing is saying ‘how would I respond to Darkseid invading the planet if I was the fastest man alive or an Amazonian Princess?’. Tweaking will help you create a character concept, which is important but role-playing techniques will help you peel them off the page and throw them into real life. It’s the difference between narrating the action or living it and it will always come across in your writing.

Dungeons And Dragons Is Good For You

I am a pretty geeky guy in his third year of a Creative Writing course. I am at a pretty good University with the highest rated student bar in the country, but on a Friday night you won’t find me there. Most of the time I am with a bunch of other writers playing Dungeons and Dragons or Munchkin or Cards Against Humanity or one of about a trillion other games. Why? Because they hone your skills, if your not into any of these games I suggest starting with Cards Against Humanity, it improves your ability to make others laugh and gives you some improvisation techniques. If you can get a few friends interested work your way up to a role-playing game. You will go through the process of creating a character that is both a part of you and something entirely different.

As you play such games keep writing, write from your characters perspective then write as though you are one of the other characters in the group, if your taking on the role of the gamemaster then write from the perspective of the all-knowing gamemaster (but also write as one of is idiotic henchmen). Your writing will change as your go through this process and you will start to see your world and all your characters as strong and independent, while each will still hold a part of your soul.

It’s also useful to indulge in role-play as a reader, when a writer presents you with their world it can help to insert yourself into it to get a better idea of the plot and why certain characters are acting the way they do. The reading experience is a collaborative one at the end of the day and it’s important that both the reader and the writer put their heart and sole into creating a world from a few markings on a page. When done right both a reader and a writer might feel that are living a double life, one of the mundane and one of the fantastic, and that is the true power of fiction.

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