“I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.”

-Henry David Thoreau

I admit that I resisted this. I was sure that basing a character off myself, however loosely, would be narcissistic. I believed that writers who constantly wrote about themselves just needed a lot of therapy, and I don’t need therapy. I tell myself every day that I’m artistic but I’m sensible. I’m emotional but I’m mature. I. I. I. Me, me, me!

I’m finding myself everywhere in my writing! And not just in one character- many of them. The strong and the weak, the heroes and the villains, the sweethearts and the jerks. Even the ones I have heavily based on other people, I still see a little bit of me.

“Self Portrait” by my Father Bicknell C. Robbins
One of my favorites of all his work, if not the favorite.

No human being can be defined in a few strokes or words. Each person has the capacity for love or hate, stupidity or intelligence, seriousness or sarcasm. We may have been born with certain tendencies for one or the other, but to every condition there is an opposite, and we have the potential to become whatever it is we want to become. To define ourselves is to choose what we are.

Because of this dual nature you really only need to know one person extremely well to draw a myriad of interesting, believable characters. Yourself.


“Self Portrait of an Artist” by my sister Caitlin Robbins. I can’t tell you how well this captures her soul. A little funky, carefree, original, but above all beautiful and full of love.


“Self Portrait of a Violinist” by Caitlin Robbins. This captures my sister’s love of music in a way that only she could portray. She’s every bit as talented a violinist as an artist.

There are two characters in my current work that I have found most fascinating. The heroine and the villain. As I continued to flesh out these characters, discover their pasts, their strengths, fears and desires I realized something very interesting. They are both me. They both display the opposite natures inside myself that I struggle with on a daily basis. They both have desires that I have. Wanting to do what is right, but also wanting what I want when I want it.

The heroine is not wholly good, and the villain is not just evil. And that is the point of using yourself to draw your characters. No person is any one thing. Though we may recognize in ourselves certain characteristics that trump others, deep inside us there is a well overflowing with different emotions and desires. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge them and use them in your work.

I failed to keep myself out of my fiction. It’s there, written all over the page, but I’m not sorry. I’ve discovered that this is the whole point.

Q4U: What’s something about yourself that surprises people?
Me: Even though I like romance, I don’t like flowers as a romantic gesture. They just die, and that’s not really a good sign to me.


3 comments

  1. I find myself creating the person that I want myself to be. Giving them the attributes that I wish were stronger in me.

  2. To be honest, I have never tried my hand at fiction. But I’m pretty sure I would experience great difficulty avoiding the temptation to either confess my weakness, scold my failings and subtly flaunt my strengths in writing about characters that aren’t supposed to me. That seems a fairly human leaning, and any exposition of humanity that doesn’t reveal a part of the human who wrote it would probably come off as robotic. The bad kind of robots, not the helpful ones.

  3. But I’m very excited to read more of your blog and your new work, as soon as it’s done. I wish I had more training in editing or literature in general, but I know what I like. Good luck!!

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