Today, I had the pleasure of reading a manuscript by a dear friend. It’s a sweet short story destined for greatness in a children’s magazine. Before I even finished the first page, I found myself imagining her characters as vague reflections of her and her siblings. She and I might have met as young adults — once her siblings were long past tea parties and sleepovers — but I could feel all of those childhood stories coming together in the brief snapshot of the characters’ lives. And it made me love the story even more.
I often find that I do the same thing when I write. Characters are obviously a part of us writers since they come from our imaginations and always live there, even once they’ve been captured on the page or forgotten from disuse. But some are more than that. Some of them are much clearer reflections of us.
The narrator of my first novel certainly is, but that shouldn’t be surprising. We grew up together. Sure, I was in middle school when we met and she’s always been about 18, but my experiences shaped both of us. When I wanted to learn to be brave, I made her brave so we could learn together. When my husband (then boyfriend) was uncertain of what to do with his future, hers was too and we helped them together. When I had to make sacrifices, so did she and we relished the bittersweetness of life together.
Since then, I’ve had many characters who have drawn on me for their shape, but none of them have been as intrinsically tied to me as she is. Maybe it’s just because I still had so much growing to do when we first met. Maybe it’s because all writers have a character like her. I don’t know for sure. All I do know is that reading my friend’s story reminded me just how special characters can be and made me wonder how many other characters are closer reflections of their authors than most people would realize.
Do you have any characters who are a reflection of you?