That lady told me “the writer must have had so many affairs.” I asked her why she thought that. “The book is so realistic, I am sure it must be based on her own life. How can she write such a book without undergoing those events?” I was shocked by her thinking that as writers we live the lives of our characters: meaning our character’s actions mirrors our own. I hastily corrected her limited vision of a writer’s life. "It’s the power of our imagination that sees us creating characters who seem so realistic. That particular writer has just been blessed with an extra vivid imagination. The story idea could have been triggered by a news report, or someone she met somewhere, or by a movie. It’s not necessarily based on her real life.” I am sure my argument did not convince the lady.
Yes, we do breathe our characters, live them for the duration of the time it takes us to complete our books. Our characters are born out of our over active imagination. We spend weeks/months making them believable, and as real as possible, but they do not mirror our lives or are our literary reflections.
I write middle grade fiction where my characters are super brats. But I am not one in real life. The book I am currently writing is about a notorious prankster. I can say with complete honesty that I have only played two pranks in my life, both harmless ones.
Just because my protagonist is a mischievous brat, that does not mean I am one too. We writers do give few of our traits to our characters: strengths and weaknesses, but that’s just about it. The rest is fuelled by our imagination and the power of our words. Every situation and scene is not an exact replay or reflection of our personal life or interactions. Every scene: good or bad need not be a scene we have experienced in our lives.
We writers are great observers of life and we can be called people watchers. Whatever we see is jotted down in our memories and brought to life when we start writing. When we read our completed products we do find few similarities between our characters and ourselves: maybe few struggles echo our own, few situations mirror our own, and few traits of our characters match ours, but that’s it. The rest is all make believe.
What about you all? How much of yourselves do you add into your characters? Are your characters your literary replicas? Is your story a written account of your life? Is your life your literary inspiration? Is it like looking in the mirror when you read your books?