Changing personality to suit the current story

I have often wondered just how much or how little of the author’s personality and experiences end up in a fictional character, and, in writing it, do I have to change into someone else, something else, in order to play the part?

Will they have to climb mountains, escape from what is almost the inescapable, be shot, tortured, get dumped, get divorced, become world travelers, or get locked up in a foreign jail, or just a dark smelly hole and forgotten?

What we don’t know about we have to research, read up on, and, I guess, experience some or all of the above on the way to getting the book written, but it’s perhaps an interesting fundamental question.

Who am I today?

Or it can be a question, out of right field, in an interview; “Who are you really?”

My initial reaction was to say, “I’m a writer.”  But that wasn’t the answer the interviewer is looking for.

Perhaps if she had asked, “Who are you when you are writing your stories?”

It would make more sense, and give me a lot more scope, but in that moment I would have to channel the interviewee persona.

Am I myself?

Am I some fictional character made up of a lot of different people?

Have I got someone definite in mind when I start writing the story?

The short answer might be, “I usually want to be someone other than what I am now.  It’s fiction.  I can be anyone or anything I want, provided, of course, I know the limitations of the character.”

“So,” she asks with a degree of whimsicality, “what if you want to be a fireman?”

“I don’t want to be a fireman.”

“But what if the story goes in the direction where you need a fireman…”

It seems to be a sticking point.

“What is this thing you have with firemen?”  I’m shaking my head.  How did we get off track?

“Just saying.”

“Then I’d have to research the role, but I’m not considering adding a fireman anytime soon.”

She sighs.  “Your loss.”

It’s clear she had a ‘thing’ for firemen.  Moving on.

Yet I suspect all of this has been leading to another very interesting question; “Who would you like to be if you could be someone else?”

That’s an easy question.

I would like to be a writer in that period between the wars, perhaps an F Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway, in Paris, or if it is a fictional character, Jay Gatsby.

He’s just the sort of person who is an enigma wrapped up in a mystery.

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