Thursday, August 10, 2006

It's Not Me

One hears it all the time.

Which of your characters are you? Is this based on your experience? When did this happen to you?

It doesn't quite irritate me, but it is certainly one of those things about the writing life. It's not all that incomprehensible--we are the filter, and the work (usually) comes through us. The drink is going to taste like the filter, to some degree. I am interested in katanas, history, classical education, psychic phenomena, and forensics. Some of that comes out in my work.

But I am not Danny Valentine. I'm very glad not to be her, as a matter of fact. She's not a very nice person. I'm also glad I'm not Theo Morgan or Mari Niege or Rowan Price or any of my protaganists. They are mostly people with inadequate coping mechanisms. Well-adjusted people don't make good suspense stories, I guess.

If I were to be asked which character of mine I most identify with, I would be hard-pressed to find a protaganist. I tend to identify much more with secondary characters--like Jason Monroe in the Valentine series. The exception to this is Elise in Fire Watcher, with her irritation over a world that just moves too bloody slow. But other than that...I just don't see myself as any of my characters. Certainly they interest me, and their stories interest me--otherwise, why would I write them?

But they are not me.

I recently had a discussion with Christopher Luna about the "meta-I" in poetry. Basically, a poem is a compressed moment of experience, and the "I" in the poem might not be the "I" of the poet. Yet we associate the I in the poem, however far-out, as the I of the poet. It's only natural to do so. After all, we're trained linguistically to think of I as a powerfully-charged word. We recognize the power inherent in self-declaration (witness our million-dollar memoir business and the popularity of blogs.) We also love to peek into other people's Is and witness their intimate moments.

This is what art, especially writing, is built on. The urge to peek inside another person's head. Voyeuristic? Sure. Enjoyable? Certainly. Healthy? To a certain degree.

And confusing? Oh my, yes.

So how about it, my fellow Warner women? Do you identify with your characters? Why do you think the author and the character are so often conflated? Where is the line between processing one's experience and vicariously living through your works?

I want to know. :)


Diane Perkins said...

Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy has a theory about dreams, that the characters and objects in our dreams are in fact projections of ourselves. He believed that since we are the creators of our dreams then everything in our dreams must be aspects of our inner selves.

This is what I think about the characters in my books. They must all be parts of myself. Not me, certainly, but containing parts of me. That's how I create them!

elizabeth Hoyt said...

I identify most with my heroes, which, now that I think of it, is kinda weird.

I think some people can't imagine being other people or thinking in other points of view, so they figure the author must be projecting herself.

Michelle Rowen said...

I am told by those who know me well that my vampire character Sarah sounds exactly like me. But being that I am not a vampire, I take this with a grain of salt. Besides, she's way better looking and more popular with boys than I am.

But seriously, yeah, my characters are pulled right from my personality. They're different, but not. You know? However, my next female protagonist is a hired killer, so I'm not sure how much identifying I'll have with her. Could be a challenge. ;-)

Diana Holquist said...

My characters are NOT me. Furthermore, they are not YOU. No one believes this. Everyone thinks that the whore-bitch in the story must be that woman from our defunct book know, the one who always did that thing with her hair... NO!!!! She's not. The character in the book is just a rotten woman who did a few things that slightly resemble the things that crummy, low down woman did. Just because she has the same name means nothing. Really. I swear...

Oh, dear. I better stop now and hire a lawyer...


Diane Perkins said...

I always identify more with my heroes, too. I think they are the part of me that would have loved to be a man, doing manly things. Either that or I was a man (and a hunky hero at that) in a past life.

Elizabeth Hoyt said...

Well, naturally, Diane, if you and I were men in past lives we'd be hunky heroes. I mean, DUH!