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    • How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.
      - Henry David Thoreau

      Will you write from experience, turning people you have met throughout your life into the characters of a mystery thriller or science fiction marvel? Or will you create a personality in its entirety, crafting each nuance with love, care and, maybe, just a little malice?

      Perhaps you will mix the two, introducing people you have known to people you have yet to meet?

      Will you spend a lifetime in your mind creating the protagonist, growing them from birth until they reach the age required for your tale, noting a highlight here and a low point there on scraps of paper, filling their personality with the detritus needed to make them human? Or perhaps they spring fully formed into your world, ready to fight or flee at your whim.

      Will your creation remain alive in your world, growing in understanding as they experience new ideas? Or are they as stone, with fixed mind and demeanour?

      Will they be like you? Would they be your friends if they could step out of the pages, or you into them? Do you share ideas and loves, hates and desires? Or perhaps someone that you would desire to meet, who will brighten your day and fill you with a sense of wonder and longing.

      What of the antagonist, that person who would oppose your will? Upon which disfavoured relative will you base that undelightful character? Will that unfortunate needy recognise themselves or just feel discomfort, realising that something is amiss but not having the insight to understand? Will you greet that miscreant with a secret smile when next you meet, feeling smug in the knowledge that they have been undone?

      Or is your enemy truly a fiction, too horrible for you to admit into your life as doing so would surely result in the demise of one or both of you? Or is the mind that you have brought forth so ugly, so much the antithesis of you, that you would in turn wish to be lovers, drawn to the darker undercurrents of a mind so repellent that you lust for it?

    • To reply more prosingly: I've been thinking about this a lot lately, because I'm working on a novel with a protagonist who isn't much like me, and perhaps even less like me at her age (16). She's physically brave, joyfully athletic, easy in herself -- all things I wasn't. I was strongly identified with my nerdiness: she's a pretty good student with a couple niche/bookish interests but also a varsity athlete and doesn't see any conflict there (I don't see the teens these days sorting themselves strongly in that way, when I substitute-teach.) I guess the bookish interests are ones I share, and some of her flaws -- she's awkward in some ways, and a little too snarky for her own good, along with other imperfections less true of me. Oh! And she has an unfortunate response to blowhards and jerks that is PRECISELY cribbed from me. But mostly...not much like me at all. Would she like me if we met? I hope so! In some ways I'm more like her mom, so yeah, she'd put up with me, with some eyerolling ;)

      I'm not sure where she came from. This story needed a heroine, and she came out on the page. Sometimes I can just hear a voice and there's a person behind it, like her, but I usually have more idea where a protagonist came from, and they usually share a few more quirks with me than she does. I love her though, just as I do characters I make out of more of my own clay.

      I think you have to have compassion or understanding for basically every important character in a book. I've actually managed difficult people in real life by imagining them as characters, even! Which means...I'm better at compassion for flawed human beings on the page than in the world. And that's important: when I do make a protagonist who shares my own flaws, I forgive and love her or him readily -- although in real life, there's no one I instantly take against more than someone who shows my worst traits in high relief. Writing's good practice for forgiving myself, I guess.

      And my current heroine? That impulsive, athletic, brave girl? I know just who she is, and have no idea where she came from. I'm glad to know her though.