One of the best/hardest parts of being a writer is creating characters. I love making side characters with protagonist-like qualities and heroes with common attributes and humble beginnings. I love sympathetic villains as well as downright evil ones. I especially love books where it’s impossible to tell who’s right and who’s wrong. I just can’t get enough of them.
To create whole worlds, writers often put a bit of themselves into their characters. Sometimes, we almost look like them. Sometimes, we share personality traits. It’s how a writer gets to know their protagonists and antagonists so well. We write the things we know.
Now, it’s rare to find a character that is a complete copy of the creator. Some writers, especially those who share physical traits with their main characters, have been accused of creating “Mary Sues” and being poor writers for it. Interestingly enough, I have never see this accusation of lazy writing being thrown at male authors, such as John Green, who create characters that look like younger versions of themselves, over and over again (but that could just be my feminism talking). Either way, it’s wrong.
My main character has red hair, which I was born with. My locks faded to a shade somewhere between brown and blonde in later childhood, but I still possess the pale skin that so many European redheads are prone to have. Wanting to write about an Irish girl, it made sense to pick my original hair and skin color. I could describe on a personal level her constant struggles with sunburns and freckles. But unlike her, I’m not a genius, and I wouldn’t touch a bottle of milk if you paid me.
You see, writing a story about oneself is boring. Writers don’t come up with a thousand different versions of our world just to have themselves play the main role. We live by a mantra of “What if?” Why would a writer want to create someone they already know so well?
And if they do, so what? Maybe an author wants to be someone else for a bit. Maybe they want the world to know them better. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.