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Creating A Character Who Is You

4th September 2017
(Blog Posting)

 

 

It’s odd and yet consistently true that if you write someone you know into a novel as a character, even if you do so in precise detail, that person will not see it as themselves. I’ve often wondered why that is and have come to the conclusion that we simply do not see ourselves as others see us. The person others see, is a stranger to our internal monologue and self-identity.

 

Similarly, if you write yourself into a story, chances are that your friends and family will not see it as you, for exactly the same reason. My protagonist, Nick Guymer is famously me, myself and I.

 

I don’t just put my characteristics into him, I just am him and he’s me. Whatever he thinks or feels, are what I think or feel. If he likes a band, I like the band. If he hates being in big groups of people, so do I. If he feels like alcohol is a friend, so do I. There is no separation between his passions, quirks, foibles or perversions and mine. If Nick’s done it, I’ve done it. If it’s what he likes, it’s what I like. In other words, I’ve been incredibly revealing about myself in order to give him, the main character in all the books, some real depth and power. He should feel very real: as real as me.

 

The only difference between us is, for plot reasons, he can knock you out with one punch, and I’ve never hit anyone in my life. Also, Nick can drive, and I can’t. And to be honest, I’m regretting that decision. It’d have been more interesting to have him get everywhere by bus or on a bike, but I’m stuck with it now.

 

This was a deliberate choice on my part for a couple of reasons. Firstly, in order to have a chance at making a living at writing, I knew I’d have to produce as many books as possible, as quickly as possible, and it’s much quicker to write a character that’s just you. There’s no thinking about how the person would respond to something, you just write down how you would. So it speeds up the whole process. Secondly, writing the Nick Guymer novels has always been therapy for me. When I started them I was very depressed, though not really aware of that fact. So by writing about myself, I have got to know myself much better and become more content within myself as a result.

 

However, and this is the weird thing, even though I’ve ripped my tripe out and put it on the pages of 13 novels, until I’ve told them, very few people who know me thought Nick was actually me. That just shows you the gulf between our self understanding and the outsider’s view.

 

But the good thing about all of this is if you’re ever stuck for a character, just put yourself into the story. Be as naked and revealing as you like, because you can mine your own psyche for your own darkness, safe in the knowledge that neither your readers, nor your friends and family will know it’s you, even if you think it’s obvious.

 

Of course, as in my situation, now that I’ve made it public about the relationship between myself and Nick, readers look at me in a different way because now they know all the weird stuff Nick thinks, that is on the page, is the same weird stuff that goes on in my head. Even so, I’m really glad I took this approach. It’s been very satisfying as a writer to explore myself in this way and I’d highly recommend it to any other writer. You might lose a few friends who can’t handle the truth, but, hey, you’ll gain more interesting ones who are more in tune with who you really are!

 

 


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John Nicholson
John Nicholson
(United Kingdom)

I write the Nick Guymer & Artie Taylor novels. I also write about football and rock music and do comedy reviews for anyone who will pay me. Currently have 17 books published


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