Anonymous asked: Im not sure if Im self-inserting myself into my characters. Firstly, is self-insertion considered wrong or looked down upon? Why? Secondly, a lot of the MCs share characteristics with me. They are bullied, suffer from depression, have few friends, are withdrawn, and others are how I wish/view myself as: bad-a, a fighter, heroic, brave, etc…. Is this considered self-insertion?
"Self-insert" refers to one thing: making yourself a character in your story.
The easiest way to find out if your character is a self-insert is to think about your character and ask yourself the following questions:
1) Is this character me?
2) Is this character an alternate version of me?
3) Do I think of myself as being this character?
If you answered "no" to all of these questions, you do not have a self-insert. If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you do have a self-insert.
Are self-inserts inherently bad? It depends. There are times when it is okay to have a self-insert character. For example, if you are writing a memoir or a story loosely based on your life, obviously that character is going to be you. It could also be used as a narrative device, though there would need to be a specific reason why you chose to do this, and it happens pretty rarely. However, if you’re writing fiction that isn’t based on your life, and there’s not a specific reason why you’re writing yourself into the story, it’s really best to avoid self-inserts. Why? Because unnecessary self-inserts tend to become a mode of wish fulfillment for the author.
What is wish-fulfillment? It’s when the writer makes decisions about the story based on their personal desires rather than what’s best for the story. For example, perhaps you’re writing a murder mystery with a mild romantic sub-plot between the main character and a detective. Then you decide to write yourself into the story as the main character’s best friend, and you absolutely adore this detective character you’ve written. So much so that you begin to write scenes between you and the detective. And you just have such great chemistry, you can’t help indulging it a little—he’s just so darned adorable! And then suddenly you have a second romantic sub-plot, but it’s over-powering the intended romantic sub-plot. Then, before long, your romance with the detective is taking center stage.
This is a problem for a couple of reasons. For one thing, self-inserts tend to not be as well developed as other characters. This is perhaps because the writer knows themselves so well that they forget about characterization. Another problem is that self-insert writers tend not to realize that they have stolen the show from the main character and intended plot. So what you end up selling to people is a murder mystery about Susan and the quirky detective she has to work with, but instead the story is all about Susan’s best friend and all her romantic dates with the detective. The third problem with this is that regardless of how interesting this series of fantasy dates may be to you, they’re probably not going to be as interesting to other people.
So—is it okay to imbue your characters with attributes and experiences you also have? Absolutely! But if the character is you, or a fantasy version of you, then you need to examine your choice and make sure it’s in the best interest of the story.
One final word on self-inserts: if you are writing the story for yourself or maybe to share with family and friends, you don’t have worry about these kinds of “rules” so much. :)