Fantastic post from Holly Lisle on writing characters you can respect:
“You have to write the people who resonate with YOU. My heroines—like me—understand that bad shit can happen at any time, and they are determined from the first that if survival is possible, they will survive, and if survival is not possible, then they will not die cowering in a corner waiting for the rescue that never comes. And like me, they understand this because bad shit has already happened. And because they learned WHY you don’t wait for rescue—you save yourself. And because they have learned to value their own lives, not for what their lives mean to other people, but because of what their lives mean to them.”
Incidentally, I recommend reading the comments, as well. Very interesting stuff.
Regarding characters, here’s what I know at the moment, as I contemplate my current project and my next novel: I don’t want my heroes and heroines to be the same every time, or little more than variations on a theme. As a writer, it concerns me that could be the case, that a sense of “sameness” could be settling in on the work I produce. To some degree, it’s inevitable. Every writer has a resonating archetype from which they create (Holly and I share a certain survival instinct, though I’m willing to put on heels, every now and then), and every writer is the product of a unique set of circumstances that shape an individual view of the world that cannot help but influence one’s deepest creative decisions.
And yet, one can still write a character who resonates truthfully with those views and archetypes—a character whose existence satisfies that impulse inside the writer—while still being unique and going against the grain of what has come before. It simply requires more effort, and a stubborn refusal to take the easy way out and fall back into comfortable habits, comfortable personalities, comfortable outcomes.
Don’t get me wrong: comfort is nice. I love being comfortable. Everyone does. Comfort has an important role in the telling of a story. But in life, it’s not the comfortable times that people usually remember and talk about: challenges and challengers, overcome and understood, are what linger over the fire.
Which is my rambling way of saying that yes, write characters who resonate with you, because you’ll be living with them forever; but don’t get complacent, either. Push yourself to do more with your personal archetypes. Grant yourself permission to go deep into painful, uncomfortable places. Don’t worry about anything except for what you know to be true in your gut. You can’t make a mistake when you write. You just can’t.
(Well, maybe you can—but the point is, that’s what revisions and the delete button are for, right?)