So I’m writing a book that draws from my own experiences, and as that’s the case, is it okay to use myself as a baseline for the protagonist, as long as I develop her into something uniquely her own? I don’t like the idea of a character being so similar to me, but I’m hoping she’ll be her own person eventually.

I heavily advise developing her into her own character before you start writing. Because no matter how reasonable you think she is, if someone doesn’t like her, it becomes a personal affront.

One of my former professors, Dr. David Jack Bell, once told us a story about this one guy who’d written a very clearly autobiographical piece for one of his fiction classes. They tried to tell him it was unrealistic or that the main character didn’t make sense, and all sorts of stuff like that. And of course, he was bothered by this.

If someone doesn’t like the character, then it may sound like they don’t like YOU.

It is also uncomfortable for your peers, as they can probably tell it’s you. So how can they give you honest feedback when they don’t want to insult you as a person?

I sort of answered with some ideas in another post, where I was asked how to make a character less of a copy:

I think what would help is if you write a list of all the features this character has. Any features like funny, likable, good at math, charitable, sneaky, sly, clever, witty, violent, helpful, sarcastic, listens to hip-hop, plays video games, wants to live in a dating sim, and so on!

Then, start looking at them in terms of your story. If Bill is good at math, how would that affect Gravity Falls? Does your demon need to be good at math? What would happen if your demon can hardly add or subtract?

Remove characteristics that don’t fit the story, and/or change them into something else.

These subtle changes, if you have enough of them, will create an overall different image of that character.

For example: Ash Ketchum has no sense of vocabulary, is enthusiastic to the point of being stupid, is overly confident, loves his Pokemon, has misplaced good intentions, is determined, is a hot-head, doesn’t read books, is generally pretty loyal, cares about his friends, doesn’t intentionally hurt people’s feelings, and will do whatever it takes to win if it’s within the rules.

You could start with Ash as a basis and then start to change things. You could turn Ash into a girl or a trans boy or even an elf or something else! Then, give him a fantastic vocabulary. In the show, he doesn’t even know what “envy” is, so let this character pull out Shakespearean insults. Maybe he could be a little bit of a quitter but has a bit of a superiority complex. What if this character wouldn’t care to resort to cheating?

You obviously don’t have to change every single characteristic you wrote down, but these are some ideas to give you a jumping point.

Writing a character of yourself will lead you to be very biased in certain directions.

I recommend doing some character-creation exercises to see how you can alter what this character is like before you put your pen to paper for your story.

Here are the posts I’ve tagged for character creation:

This is the character-creation form that I made for myself:

Best of luck!

Edit: Someone just liked an old post of mine that I forgot about. Here it is for additional reference:

Do you ever feel like writing about your life in the form of short stories? That’s called creative non-fiction!

Do not bring these stories to a creative writing class, unless your professor has specifically requested autobiographical stuff. Why is that?

Because your classmates will comment on the characters and their actions. And you can’t help but take it personally. “I don’t think someone would actually do that–it’s too mean.” “This main character has no personality at all!”

Anything they say about you and the people you included in the story will be too close to home for you to accept their criticisms objectively. You might even end up spending the whole time debating and trying to get them to ease up on you.

Creative writing classes are for fiction, unless stated otherwise. Keep your personal life out of the stories. You can include stuff that has happened to you, but remember–it’s supposed to be fiction and will be taken that way by your classmates.

There is a time and a place for everything. As a writer, it is up to you and you alone to figure out what those times and places are.

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