It's not cheating. I swear, it isn't. Writers do it all the time. Luminaries like John Carpenter have admitted to it. Stephen King does it (where exactly do you think The Dark Half came from?), and so do so many other writers you've read. You may not even realize it. What I'm talking about is the age-old chestnut of basing a character off yourself. Maybe the character's not really you. Maybe he's a little taller, or a little quicker on his feet, but, let's face it, it's you. The character is Superman to your Clark Kent, Batman to your Bruce Wayne, Snake Plisskin to your John Carpenter. We all do it. We take a premise and drop an idealized version of ourselves into it and think to ourselves "That's what I'd like to think I would do in that situation."
Here's a couple of examples from my own work: My first book, An American Haunting, centered on the Rosewood Family, which consisted of Gabriel, wife Trish, and daughters Lizzy and Shannon. What many didn't know was that Gabriel Rosewood was, in fact, me. Trish was my wife, Tabby, and Lizzy (Elizabeth) and Shannon are my daughter's middle names. The cat in the story, Bishop, was even patterned after my daughters great white hunk of useless fluff, Spot. The characters were written using pieces of our personalities to fill them out. Granted, as it was my first book, I had a lot to learn. Years later, though, I used the technique again with the Stanley Cooper Chronicles.
Stanley is short, pudgy, with wild hair and a sarcastic attitude. He's me. No, I don't see dead people and I never died, but his reactions are mine, his physical description is mine, and his sense of humor is mine. As are his faults and insecurities. I gave him my life so he would come to life on the page. Obviously, I'm not going about chasing South American rat demons, nor have I ever encountered a walking corpse. I do have a copy of the Necronomicon, but that's another story that has more to do with nerdiness than actual occult writings. The point is, I created Stanley so I could live vicariously through him, like putting myself in an action movie. And it serves a few purposes. First, it allows me to live with the illusion that I could be that smart-ass unlikely hero if the chips were down. Second, it gives me real insight as to who the character is. But most important, it allows me to paint the character's emotions from a unique perspective: Mine. Because the feelings he has are ones that I've felt, I can mine my own experiences and pull things out that, admittedly, are hard to write about, but are effective.
So if you're reading this, I'm assuming you're a writer. Otherwise, why on earth would you be reading my blog? Which brings me to my real question and an assignment of sorts. Question: Have you ever based a character off of yourself? Question the second: Would you, in your own work, create a series or a story around said character? Assignment: Write yourself as a fiction character, and post about him/her in the comments section below. Should be fun. Might be interesting. You also might learn something about yourself that you didn't know.
Until next time, WRITE ON!