A novelist friend of mine once worried about his book. But not in the “I-hope-it-sells” kind of way. His concern was far more personal. He’d written a character that several readers found “creepy.” He mused aloud, “What does that say about me?”
I’ll tell you what it says.
He’s good at creating believable villains. But this is not a reflection of a dark personal character.
We create fictional characters that spring from our subconscious, and as such, they are mirrors of us. You’re actually sharing more with the world than Facebook or Instagram ever could, when you write for the public.
The reward in this risk is that you get to discover yourself through the writing journey.
I’d like to present 3 ways we learn about ourselves when we create fiction:
1.) Creating villains.
Many things affect our personal life, and there are generally two kinds of people we remember from our past: the really good people and the really bad ones. My theory about villains is that they are not reflections of “us” but rather reflections of our fears. Echoes of school bullies or adulthood enemies. These villains are the opposite of us most of the time… but there are some weaknesses they have that we share. I believe that Dickens’ Scrooge was really his fear of childhood poverty returning: an old man who would hoard so much money that he wouldn’t even light and heat his own home in order to save more.
Know your villain, know your fear.
2.) Creating heroes and anti-heroes.
Then there are the heroes. Or in the case with films like Star Wars, there’s the antihero Han Solo running around and doing un-heroic smuggling ventures while saving the day! Antiheroes are more popular than heroes in quite a lot of fiction: who wants to be perfect anymore? But heroes are perhaps closer reflections of us than the villains. They are our best intentions given voice. Often they will do the things we can’t bring ourselves to do in the real world: speak up for the helpless, defy social conventions, or simply state the truth in front of a crowd. Go, heroes!
Know your hero, know your aspirations.
*some people may say, “What about the villain who is the antihero?” Then you got some ‘splainin’ to do. Or perhaps this is your way of working out your biggest problems.
3.) Creating worlds.
Worlds directly reflect on their creators. Consider C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra. A planet where Adam and Eve have not yet fallen, a strange and unique place where redemption is possible and everlasting life assured. Or how about the worlds of The Hobbit? A writer has complete control over the worlds he or she makes, choosing the fictional government, social classes, and even what sort of universal laws (magic or not) are in place. And thus writers take on great responsibility to their audience—to create realistic, well-structured worlds.
Know your worlds, know your creativity.