I had a very odd moment of insight into my WIP and its main character the other day. My epiphany had to do with the heroine’s reasons for her behavior, and, more importantly, her feelings upon doing what humans naturally and constantly do–contradicting herself by behaving in a way that went against what she considers her personal standards.
Every character is, to one extent or another, a reflection or inversion of the author who creates them. There is no other way to write a character except through the lens of one’s own understanding about human nature and human emotion and human logic. If you were to look at all a writer’s characters, you’re basically seeing the funhouse of a thousand mirrors view of that person’s psyche.
But I think the degree to which an individual character contains recognizable pieces of the author varies. This heroine has never felt like a particular analog to me, but I am slowly realizing that she and I have much more in common than I initially believed.
Hard on the heels of that revelation about her was an intense protective feeling for her. Not in the sense that I (as the author) am going to make her path less difficult or her choices less hard; her story is set, her choices already laid out before her. But I feel an, I don’t know, an empathy for her that makes me want to see her triumph, to see her laugh in the face of that adversity and emerge from the (psychological/emotional) battlefield triumphant. As I would with any of my friends, I want to see her win at life.
Is this some distorted reflection of my own desire to vanquish similar dragons in my own life projected onto her? Is that what all writing really is, the exhorcising on one’s own demons through character avatars? Or do I care about her simply because she’s an admirable, relatable character with whom readers will easily identify, and that is coming through even in the drafting stage?
This is the insanity of being a fiction writer. You can never tell when you care about your character because they are worth caring about, or because they are a means for you to write yourself out of your own psychological corner. Oh well. As long as readers can’t tell the difference, I am not sure it even matters. Not even, in the end, to me….