Monday, December 10, 2012

Main Character or Alter Ego?

This week for our family movie night we watched “Nim’s Island.” It is the story of a little girl who lives on a remote island with her marine biologist father. Being so far removed from the outside world, one of her favorite pastimes is reading, specifically reading the “Alex Rover” adventure series. Alex Rover is a rugged, daring, fearless hero.

As the movie progresses, you learn that the author of these Alex Rover books is Alexandra Rover, a petite, blonde, agoraphobic hermit living in San Francisco. Her closest relationship is with her hand sanitizer and her diet consists almost entirely of Progresso soup.

Anyway, the little girl and the author end up coming together after a fun series of twists and turns, but the part that really struck me as interesting was this clear (obviously intended to be ironic and humorous) gap between the author and her main character. It got me thinking, I wonder how many authors write main characters that are their polar opposite?

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a lot of us out there who do that, or if not that, then at least use their writing as a form of therapy. I find that I’m fascinated by writing stories that have a main character that embodies traits I wish I had, or a storyline that I daydream could happen to me, or even something that I don’t want to happen to me, but I’d be interested to find out how I’d handle it if it did.

I think that I write for many of the same reasons Alexandra Rover did in the movie. For writers like us, writing is our way of exploring the world. We write to take risks, because we know we have the power to control the situation. We write to explore our own emotional worlds as well, and because we have total control, we feel safe.

Is your main character your alter ego? Is your story something that scares you? Do you write as a form of therapy? Leave a comment and share- I’m curious!


  1. I wonder whether we sometimes make our main characters very different from us because some readers assume that the main character is the author, especially if it's written in the first person. When I think back to my books I can see that I've done this a lot. My MC is either much older and more patient than me (the Haven books), or vain and petulant (Honeymoon Heist), or strong and private (No Escape) or a guy (Saved Saint), none of which are traits I think I could be accused of.

    Despite that, however, a great many friends who read my books comment that my hero, Rodney (from Honeymoon Heist) is extremely like my husband, Roderic, down to having the same profession and character quirks. And I have to tell them, time and time again, that I wrote Honeymoon Heist before I met Roderic. It's entirely coincidence.

  2. Haha, I was actually thinking about that the other day. How in the world did someone like me, a duty-bound, sheltered small-town girl, come up with an ancient, obnoxious daredevil with a scarring history?? He's one of the coolest characters to ever come up and introduce himself to my mind but I'm certain if we ever met in real life we'd mostly avoid each other.



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