Perspective: Who are you when you write?

While A is away the blog still gets to play. Please welcome Ionia Martin from Readful Things Blog!

When you write, whether it is books, articles, etc., do you feel that you write from “you” perspective, or do you alter your personality somewhat to please the audience you are writing for? Do you write from your own perspective when you write fiction, or do you write from that of the character you have created?

For me, the answer is: It depends on what I am writing. When I am blogging, I am myself. The good, the bad and the UGLY all tend to come out (along with furry rodents.) I don’t censor much of what I am thinking and I tend to be very honest about life, the mood I am in and how I feel about things.

It is much different when I write a novel or a short story. The characters may be nothing like me. Sometimes they exude qualities I wish I possessed. Other times they are built of the parts of other people that I find offensive or off-putting. In many instances they do or say things I would not even think of if I was in my normal frame of mind. (Not that I ever really am.)They begin to take on a life of their own.

I feel this disconnect between one’s everyday self and who they become when they pick up the golden pen of writerly wisdom is important, if not absolutely necessary. If you can step outside of yourself and look through the eyes of your characters, I feel the audience can not only sense that, but get to know the characters as if they were real people. I can’t stand it when I read a book and feel like I can’t care about anyone in it because they just fall flat. I need to feel that the characters are real people, with real issues that have a heart, a soul and a mind of their own.

How do draw the line when writing fiction? How much of yourself should you allow to seep into your characters? I believe the answer to this lies with the individual. There are so many different forms of literature and so many different personalities that I don’t think there could ever be an exact science.

So I pose this question, on Katie’s lovely blog and to the woman herself. Do you control your characters or do they control you? How much of your own personality goes into what you write?

Ionia Martin

My name is a Ionia Martin. I am a writer, a reader, a musician, a photographer and a mother. I am also a book reviewer/blogger and love to read books of many genres/styles and varieties. I love discovering new voices in literature and spend almost every minute of my spare time with a book of one sort or another in front of me.

Read more about Ionia, her book reviews and her wonderful thoughts and ideas at Readful Things Blog

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56 thoughts on “Perspective: Who are you when you write?

  1. It totally depends on what I am writing. You are right in pointing out that in order to make the characters real/believable, they must be made alive by the writer. But it is true that a part of you also seeps into your character because after all, you are the creator. To what limit it must be allowed, I don’t know because I have never cared to check it out. But if I think of it, the reader must not know who your real self through your characters.. but of course when the piece of writing is non-fiction and is meant for the blog, I am an open book. By reading any of my life-related posts, one would see me as a real character in the real life. That is all.
    Good post.. It made me think.

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    • Thank you:) I think where I begin to struggle is when I want to give the character the same base traits in consecutive books. I have trouble pulling myself out of the makings long enough to vary my characters. A learning process, this writing bit.

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  2. Even in my blog. I take on different “voices” depending on whether it is humour, first person child, adult serious, etc – and then there is fiction, poetry and non-fiction. I suppose it is in the non-fiction that my “true” voice comes through.

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  3. I think it’s 50/50 between me and my characters. I set the stage and write the script while they bring it to life and add their own take to it. I spend a lot of time making them and thinking out their scenes, so I have to trust my characters to stay true to themselves. In that way, I think there is a part of me in every character. Even if it isn’t a direct part of my personality, it’s a part that can be accessed if need be. I find this most disturbing with villains and arrogant characters.

    I have a counter question: Is it possible to create a character with qualities that you envy and develop those qualities in yourself? Can the character become a teacher to help the author grow?

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  4. The characters run my writing life. I start out with a rough idea as to personality and motivation. All of a sudden they start talking or something and out pops a new convention or trait. It totally causes me to wonder what the hell is going on here. Charles asks a good question. Can a character cause its creator to change? I think the character trait is already known to the writer and therefore if change in writer is needed the writer will make the decision to either change or not.

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  5. Since I wrote a fictional account of a true story, My characters were already there, but I immersed myself in them. As I recalled them from my mind, I took on their voice, their mannerism, pictured myself doing the things they were doing and let myself lose all control. I feel the characters are really able to hold to their own personalities that way. I recalled their voices to me and let them speak.

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  6. Thank you for this, Ionia. This is a great post with some thought-provoking questions. I can’t tell you how much I’ve been thinking about your questions since I first read them scheduling the posts! That may be why this response is a little long-winded!

    Like you, the way I approach my characters is very different from my approach to the blog. D is pretty snarky here. Some of his snark is my own, but most of it is his frustration with me for not having a voice for 10 years (13 if we count the time that I spent writing – and bombing – the books the first time) and then suddenly having total freedom. Heady stuff. In the books though, he’s . . . well, Sunday he made me cry. He’s epic and grand and has quite grown on me – because he’s not my personality anymore at all.

    And that has made all the difference in my writing. It isn’t me anymore. Being inspired by a damn fine performance into seeing D for who he is, and then giving him full reign on this blog allowed his personality to flourish. It’s given everyone else in here the opportunity to claim their own personalities as well. There are elements of me – Maureen will forever play out my 16-year-old fevered nationalism when she fights in the 1916 Uprising and young Sean will always be a little shy – but on the whole they are their own people.

    And Charles, yes – many – if not all – of my characters embody qualities I would like to possess or cultivate for myself. Most of them are far wittier – even some of my villains are better at turning a phrase than I am! Many of my characters have stood in my mind with something to teach me.

    PS: this is great – I realized there are about 3 different posts contained within this comment. Yay for blog prep work!! πŸ™‚

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    • I was about to say: Katie I think you have already written all of next week’s posts in your comment, but then you, as usual, got there before I did. Well, literally you are a few hours ahead of me. Still, (by the way this was so much fun) I do see your point. I have characters that I think of frequently when certain situations outside of the writing zone appear. I tend to speak to them as if I were speaking to a real person, to learn about them and try to figure out what to do with their often overwhelming personalities.

      You found a way to do this and make it entertaining in the process. I envy that. Me? Not so much. I just spend a lot of time making people think I have multiple personality disorder.

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  7. Hmmm… I am pretty sure my character’s control me… they are always doing their own thing and never what I intended. Darn character’s they make writing so challenging. It would be nice to figure out a way to entice them to do what I had imagined…. oh hey, mr character… here is a snicker’s bar but you only get it if you walk over there and punch that fellow for being a jerk… nope… nope… blah… πŸ™‚

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  8. This is such a hard question for me. I am not enjoying writing very much at the moment, and that is probably because of so much personal disappointment with it.

    When I am on, I very much enjoy meeting my characters in my head, getting to know them, feeling out the sounds of their voices and letting them take me away. I never really think about how much of me is there, because fiction writing is such a transportive experience. I sometimes come up from the screen and cannot remember what I’ve been doing.

    On my blog, I am me. From time to time, I do voice work on characters there.

    I guess what bothers me about this question is how dark my fiction writing gets, and I don’t think I am particularly a dark person. It has to come from me, and I must be painting these characters with some angst of my own, but I don’t want to dwell on that much. πŸ™‚

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    • I like that answer. I tend to write some pretty dark things as well. (Most of them don’t see the light of blog) But that is a particularly engaging question. I think we all have the ability to be dark and create thing opposite to our normal personality, I believe they call that talent, which you have bushels of. I truly love that you are yourself on your blog. Plus you make me feel less guilty for some of the shite (sorry Katie) that I post.

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      • ‘s okay – so not a family blog. As Helena proved with the um… runes. yeah, runes… πŸ˜‰

        My mother likes to call the deep dark aspects of writing our writerly dark-side, but I don’t think it really is (took exception to it when she said it over the weekend, actually). Perhaps some of our own frustrations go into it, but seriously, some of the crap that they (characters) come up with has no place in my soul, not really. I think, as Ionia said, it is just part of the universes, and characters that find a place in our minds/hearts and believe in us enough to give those deeds life, as it were.

        And I second the bushel-loads of talent, for you both!

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  9. I’ve been reading that wonderful creator of character, Carlos Castaneda:
    ‘The world, according to Don Juan, had to conform to it’s description; that is, the description reflected itself…my “talk” with the coyote acquired a new character. I had indeed intended the dialogue, since I have never known another avenue of communication. I had also succeeded in conforming to the description that communication takes place through dialogue, and thus I made the description reflect itself.’
    Later, C.C. has Don Juan’s sidekick, Don Genaro say: “The trouble with you, Carlitos, is that you are a genius.” Absolutely priceless.
    Wonderful post and fascinating discussion.

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  10. Hopefully I can make sense here. Writing with only one cup of tea in me and needing to go to work in a few minutes (I so hate the workweek πŸ˜‰ … In my short stories, my characters seem to reflect some part of me that I question or want to understand better. I was an overly sensitive kid and now am an overly sensitive adult. By that I mean I sometimes actually feel other people’s pain (like deep loneliness) … it’s visceral, not existential pain. Writing helps me to exorcize that pain, to see if I can help the character resolve his or her pain, to see where the pain might lead the character if it is not resolved. So, so far, in my short stories, my characters seem more like meditations on a theme, although I try to make the characters seem as real as possible. Novel writing has been different for me. There’s a lot more time and space to develop the characters and also for the characters to run amok on me. That’s happening in Camp NaNoWriMo right now and it’s made it difficult to write. As I wrote the “villain,” he morphed into a much greater villain that I originally intended, a villain with little or no chance of redemption. I could keep him that way, but it wasn’t my original intent. I drew him from some very dark part of myself and it’s not a pretty sight. But I am the writer. After reading Charles’ guest post and the comments, I realized that I could take back control. I don’t have to let my characters dictate every development, no matter how strong-willed they may be. I can take the current villain and make him more sympathetic. He’s not the bad guy anymore, but most other characters will think he is until proven otherwise.

    As for my blog, my voice in my blog is my own and yet it is also who I aspire to be. I can be a virtual “social butterfly”, but in real life, I am a “wallflower” πŸ˜‰

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  11. It’s a current interest with me, so I will ask this: how do people cast away their own personalities and take on the personality of their character in first-person writing? I mean, they’re used to referring to themselves when using “I” (obviously) so wouldn’t the characters at least have a residual trace of the author? (Or is that something that people just let happen?) I can’t really imagine taking on the personality of a character I developed. I should get to know them somehow, but how? I imagine third person writing may be a way (if not somewhat ineffective.)

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