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(I asked another question about this novella here.)

In a novella I'm writing, I explore the lives of a young Hispanic woman, Ramona, and her brother, Rafael, in an Orwellian-esque future America where Hispanic immigrants and citizens alike are persecuted. Ramona, give or take, is me, while Rafael is my brother. Their fears and experiences closely mirror my and my brother's own, with a bit of dramatic exaggeration (for example, we have undocumented relatives, but inside the novella, these undocumented relatives have been imprisoned or killed).

I can see ways this could strengthen my characters, by making them hit so close to home so I can really understand and showcase their feelings and thoughts. Are there weaknesses to this?

  • Maybe have a look a this question: writing.stackexchange.com/questions/35717/… – Llewellyn Sep 22 at 18:03
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    Does your story have a ruler called Ronald Stump? – Peter Paff Sep 23 at 13:39
  • @PeterPaff Haha, I never name any dictator or president. – weakdna Sep 23 at 13:52
  • If you plan on publishing your story, including the information that you based the story on yourself, keep in mind that people will identify you with the character. They won't know what is true and what is not, including the bad sides, including personal insights. You have to ask yourself if you want that. – Backup Plan Oct 3 at 9:52
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There are pitfalls into which you are more likely to fall if you base your protagonists on yourself and/or people you care about. These pitfalls can trouble you regardless, but if you're basing a character on yourself, you need to be particularly aware of them. Here are some, in no particular order:

  • Mary-Sue characters: how self-critical are you? Are you giving your character your weaknesses, your worse traits, your mistakes; or are you writing the character as the kind of person you would have liked to be? Each character needs to be ultimately human, not super-perfect.
  • Wish fulfilment: what happens to your characters - does it follow from the story, or does it happen because you want it for your insert-character? Does Prince Charming fall in love with your character because she's earned it, or because you want a Prince Charming for yourself?
  • Nothing bad can happen: are you comfortable having bad things happen to your characters - things that might traumatise them? Are you comfortable killing them if your plot calls for it? Or do you love them so much, because they are "you", that you protect them from the full impact of what the plot can wreak on their heads?

That said, to some extent of course you'll be putting something of yourself and of people around you into your characters. Little details you observe in people around you can make your characters come to life and be unique. Your understanding of good and bad, of how people are, how they think, how one might respond to a situation and how one should respond - all those things inevitably seep into your writing. So it's not a question of "whether", but of "how much".

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