I did it intentionally, so it comes as no surprise that the protagonist for my young adult project, Bo, is just like me. Mostly. At fifteen, she’s smart, she loves to read, she loves the outdoors, she’s close to her mom, and she’s a bit socially awkward. She doesn’t have any friends, because they all think she’s weird and no one wants to hang out with her. (Disclaimer: I did have friends in school, so in this way we differ. We weren’t super close, and I preferred to spend most of my time doing my own thing, but they still existed.)
I’ve really enjoyed writing Bo. I feel like she’s easy to identify with, because we share so many personality traits. The tricky part comes in the progression of her storyline. She’s the hero of this story. She’s going to save the day. So how do I get from my own relatively mundane existence to the person Bo needs to become? What do I need to put her through to facilitate that growth? How does she (would I?) need to react to certain circumstances to propel her forward? Is this truly how I think I would act under similar circumstances, or just how I hope I would?
I’ve been watching a lecture series on youtube that I may go into more detail about later, but one thing the instructor said really hit home. He was talking about authors who model main characters after themselves, and the relation this has to the emotion that character shows. I already knew I was modeling Bo after myself, so I’m trying to take this lesson to heart. We know ourselves pretty well. And because of that, it’s easy to skip over putting all of those pieces into our characters. Our actions and decisions make perfect sense to us, but not necessarily to other people. We need to stop and make sure that we aren’t skipping steps, simply because we already know the steps so well. Emotion is a big part of that. Since we already know how we’re going to react, we don’t detail those emotions and those thought processes for the reader. It turns the character into a robot, which is bad for the story and easy to dismiss for the reader.
I hadn’t put much thought into that when I started the story, before I heard this lecture. It never occurred to me that modeling Bo after myself could be a bad thing. Who can write me better than I can? I’m an expert. But I’ve made a mental note of it now. I can monitor myself as I write my remaining chapters, making a point to identify those emotions and flesh out Bo as a character in her own right, not just a reflection of myself. And, when it comes time to edit, I’ll be watching for those things in my beginning chapters, too. Because even those she’s me, Bo deserves to be herself, too.