This week’s question is from Ramani, who asks:
How do you keep personal bias from your stories? Like, I’ve noticed that my relationship with my mother often reflects on my character’s mother.
Interesting question. I’m not sure I’ve ever had that issue… Maybe because my character’s lives are so very different from my own? Also, I never model my characters after real-life people, so maybe that’s another reason why bias has never come into play. For example, all the mother figures in my novels are drastically different from my mom (like, they’re cruel, filled with secret pasts, or money-hungry while my mom is loving, honest, and generous).
That said, my attitudes might make appearances. I feel strongly about the environment and global climate change, so if I ever wrote an MC in a position where those issues mattered, I’m pretty sure my protagonists would feel the same way I do! And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing–like, if it was appropriate to the story, I wouldn’t try to keep that personal bias out.
I think as long as your bias isn’t negatively affecting your story, then there’s no need to worry! If it is, then clearly your conscious of it and can change it! Remember, in the end, YOU control your characters–not the other way around. 🙂
I’m with Sooz in that I don’t really have that problem either — I generally steer clear of basing characters on people I know in real life. Fiction is about exploration, and what fun is that if you’re just dredging up things you see and experience on a daily basis? Obviously it’s good to write about what you know, but it’s just as important to use your imagination. Honestly, you know yourself pretty well, and the great thing about writing is that it’s fluid — you can always go back and delete any personal bias with the hit of a button. If it suits the character, leave it. If it’s definitely you speaking through them, then it’s time to reevaluate.
That being said, my characters definitely tend to share similar likes and dislikes with me. All of my characters hate bananas, dress well, and listen to great music 😉
I totally agree with Sammy and Sooz–very rarely do I base characters on people I know in real life (though I mighttt have used some names of particularly awful people for villains that meet untimely ends in my novels). Some of my novels or scenes, however, DO come from personal experiences–not the exact details of those events, but the feelings behind them.
My characters all share SOME things in common with me, mostly in terms of their quirks, dietary habits (like me, Celaena, the heroine in QUEEN OF GLASS, abhors eating fish), and musical preferences. But I also like to make heroines that are vastly different from me. In A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, my YA “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, Feyre, the heroine, is nearly illiterate. As someone who can’t LIVE without books, it was really fun and challenging for me to write about a girl who grew up without the comfort of books/stories. It made me, as a writer and a person, really re-examine what life would be like without those things–and without the privilege of an education. It was both fascinating and a bit terrifying.
Like Sammy said, though, fiction is about exploration! There’s nothing WRONG with your heroine having a similar relationship with her mother, but don’t be afraid to branch out. You might discover some new things about yourself–and your writing–in the process! 🙂
I am very careful while writing to never force my own feelings and opinions on my characters. I hate it when authors give their characters the same exact social and political outlook as themselves; it’s a type of self-insertion behavior I associate with immature writing (fan fiction anyone?). Also it can frequently read as preaching, which is obviously a big no-no. Note: I’m talking about really obvious preaching, not occasionally sharing some of your attitudes with your characters, as in Susan’s case 🙂
I had to learn to take a lot of political stuff out of Nameless just because it’s not interesting to anyone else; if they want to learn about gender equality issues hopefully the story will inspire them to learn more, not my preaching in the novel.
But it’s not exactly like not preaching is some huge sacrifice. I love getting into different perspectives with my characters, and of course you can always apply details from real life into the anecdotes that explain why they feel a certain way. For example, in my YA zombie book, Milani’s father was stationed at the military base at Pearl Harbor. My own father was in the military, so I was able to draw character similarities between our fathers just based on their military training, even though her father and mine are vastly different people.
I think it’s fine that you’re exploring your relationship with your mother through your characters, as long as you stay true to the character and don’t turn the story into a platform for preaching, or get into the habit where you insert so much from your real life that it hijacks your plot. 🙂
Do you find your own viewpoints and biases sneaking into your stories?