WAW: When MC = Author

Writing About Writing: A once-a-week post about some aspect of writing. I’m not an expert; I’m just some guy. Take it with a grain of salt.


Let me get this out of the way up front: This is going to be more “just my opinion” than most of these posts.

But I really hate when I can tell that your main character is you.

Like, really hate it.

It’s like watching someone masturbate – not the porn star version, a regular person who I’m not dating or into. Kinda gross, mostly boring and totally not why I’m here (yeah yeah some people like it blah blah relax, it’s a joke).

Mary Sue

Mary Sues are a cliche in fanfiction. People take some shit that doesn’t include them and just add themselves in, as though all the fans of that thing were sitting around thinking, “You know what my favorite show was missing? This random ass person I don’t know.”

Books, Too

But, sadly, it’s not just fanfiction. Real deal authors make themselves main characters all the damn time. I can always sniff it out. Like, it has an actual odor to me. Because it’s boring, bad, annoying writing.

Of course there are exceptions etc etc blah blah blah. But as a rule, it isn’t good. Like, not even a little.

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2 thoughts on “WAW: When MC = Author

  1. I’m curious if you have any insights or advice on how to avoid self-insertion? All of us authors are going to end up writing characters that mirror parts of ourselves (or at least our perspective) to an extent, that is almost unavoidable. So how do you minimize or tastefully disguise this? Or as an editor what would you tell a writer you caught being too masturbatory?

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    1. I always make character sheets. Sometimes they’re extensive. Sometimes they’re brief. But they make the characters real, complete people who are totally independent of me. When making those sheets, I try to check myself for my own biases and too much of me being in the characters, but I’m human and can only do so much.

      I think it’s a matter of your imagination and empathy, really. Can you imagine what life is like for someone who isn’t you? GRRM manages to imagine what life is like for women. He has a good quote about it: “You know, I’ve always considered women to be people.”

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