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Reader's question: Do you write yourself into stories?
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Written by Amanda Gannon   
Tuesday, 30 August 2011 02:12
The first time I heard the term "self-insertion fanfic," my brain broke.  I thought it meant something totally different.*

What "self-insertion" actually means is that the author has put themselves into their fiction as a character.

Writers (and artists of all kinds) do this with fair frequency, usually placing themselves in a minor role, but in some genres, porn and fanfiction being two of them, it's pretty routine for people to write themselves in as co-stars.  Some people object to it strenuously on principle, asserting that it is lazy or crass or simply pathetic, but I am not one of these.  It's like anything else.  It can be done well or poorly.

Oddly, despite how looked-down-upon it seems to be, it also seems to be something that people expect out of writers of smut.  I personally don't understand this, but I'm not most people.

I've been asked if my characters are really supposed to be me.  (Actually, I've actually been outright told that some of them "obviously" are.)  I've been asked if I write myself into stories as myself.  I've been asked a lot of questions that boil down to the same thing – "Is this supposed to be you?" – and I have never been able to give a short, pithy answer, because the answer is actually really complicated.

The way people usually ask the question, the answer is "no."  I don't write myself-as-me into stories as a character, and while I won't rule out the possibility, I never plan to.  I might someday write something autobiographical, but that's fundamentally different from putting yourself into your own fiction.  So I usually answer "no" to these questions, because, in the sense that the asker usually means it, I don't.

But in another sense, I do, and sometimes I like to acknowledge that.

If we are talking about primary or secondary characters with a major plot role to fulfill, well, some of these characters are a lot like me.  Some are hardly like me at all.  But they are all me, or parts of me.  I created them, I control them, I speak and move and act for them through words and story.  No matter how chatty or pushy they are – and believe me, they can be plenty of both – they are still my little puppets, and I'm the boss of them.

A long time ago, an acquaintance said that they had interpreted the female protagonist of something I'd written as being, basically, me.  I was offended.  Writing myself into my own story?  The horror!  That's pathetic!  (I have since come to more amiable terms with the idea.)  But after a while I realized that I had relied heavily on personal experience for that story, and in that sense, my acquaintance was not wrong.  Everything I knew about getting a tattoo went into that short story.  (Which is a good one, if not Adventurotica, and you can buy it on Smashwords.)

In Witches' Mark, Stormy is short, pale, dark-haired, kinda fat, and really, really pretty, with largeish boobs.  I've gotten "Like anyone we know? *wink wink*" more than once. That doesn't offend me or anything, but I do think it's an oversimplification.  I wanted Stormy to be a lot of things that sexy fantasy heroines are not.  More than a few of those things are also things that I am not.  She is, however, some things that fantasy heroines almost always are: young and beautiful come to mind.  She's a porn heroine, so she has the expected big boobs, and she's randy.  She came out with a superficial physical resemblance to me, but that wasn't deliberate.

There's just as much of me, if not more, in Darius, who is desperate for something he can never, ever have without destroying himself, who has deep-seated abandonment issues, who feels worthless a lot of the time yet, paradoxically, is strikingly vain and often selfish, and who has a very complicated and often conflicted sexual identity.  I know those things really, really well.  Like, the first one?  That's pretty central to my psychological makeup.  It is what caused me to almost kill myself with starvation and exercise, and it's why I don't look in mirrors if I can possibly avoid it.  Darius's physical appearance and mixed-race heritage make him very different from me in some pretty fundamental ways, but inside, he's a lot like me, or a combination of myself now and myself when I was his age.  (He is also, I will point out, more than a little like a boy I once knew.  I'm not the only person who makes it into my characters.)

Some of my characters are the kind of person I wish I was, some are the kind of person I wish I could get away with being, some are the kind of person I would have been if things had been just a little different, some are the kind of person I am afraid I might become.  But they're all parts of me.

Which only makes sense; I'm writing them.

I try not to push it too far.  I try to write characters who are different enough from one another, and from me, that I am not repeating myself, and I still only succeed at this maybe half as well as I would like.

So, the question really isn't "Do you write yourself into your stories?"  It's more like one of those pictures where you're supposed to find the things that are the same and things that are different, seeing if you can find the parts of me in each character I write.

I may not be there as a character, looking and talking like myself, but I'm in there.  Just keep looking.

* By "different" I mean that the specific image that popped into my mind the first time I heard the term "self-insertion fanfic" was "Shrinking yourself down to the size of a Barbie doll and climbing into Orlando Bloom's ass."  This was during the LotR fandom peak, and I first heard the term in reference to an alternate-universe LotR fic, which explains at least part of that assumption.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 August 2011 02:12
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