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Fictional Characters: The Self-Insert

I just had to write about this. I mean, there was no way I could talk about characters and not talk about the infamous self-insert. What’s a self-insert? Well, it’s actually a fanfiction term and used loosely for canon work, but I’m using it here to talk about writing. A self-insert is a character based on the writer who inserts themselves into their story. This isn’t like a director inserting himself for a cameo appearance in a movie, this is the actual writer under a different name. Now don’t get me wrong. If the writer wants to appear in their writing there’s no rule that technically says they can’t, but there is one problem… When a writer inserts themselves, they end up with a perfect idealized character version of themselves who everybody likes and that’s the main key. No matter what everyone likes the person and makes them out to be flawless. In other words, a Mary Sue/Gary Sue. And yes they appear in published writing. I may upset some people by saying this, but Bella Swan anyone? Stephanie Meyer admitted to that in a roundabout way when she says some of the things that happened to Bella when she first moved to Forks happened to her. She's since disputed it, but I can't help but not believe her.

I’m not saying a writer can’t have a character based on them. I mean, every character has some piece of the writer in them, but because most self-inserts are the writer's perfect and idealized self and a character who can do no wrong (they don’t even have to be God-like) I don't advise them. And a lot of times, they can do everything! They’re perfect. This was the reason I hated the latest Nancy Drew movie. She wasn’t liked by everyone, but she could do everything! Now why does this happen? Why do self-inserts almost always turn into Mary-Sues (well maybe not always, but you get it)? Because it’s human nature not to want to see our faults when we look in the mirror! It takes one hell of a person to admit that their not perfect and portray that in writing. I’d like to think I can do it, because I have no qualms about admitting that I can be a lying, manipulative, spoiled, no good, witch at times (not all the time people. I’m generally a nice, good person… generally), but I might not even be able to really write a character that’s me and capture the ugly side in an unbiased manner. This is the exact reason why I told a friend I would not write him as a character in a story I was writing and one that he wanted me to write (they’re probably reading this too). That’s why I don’t put anyone I know in my stories (maybe things they did, but not them). People don’t like to see the bad and the ugly, and they may not like the way I portray them because I clearly see the bad and the ugly. This is how writers act when it comes to inserting themselves. It’s painful to accept that you aren’t perfect and you don’t want to write yourself as imperfect in a fantasy world, but hey… Readers want three dimensional characters, people they can relate to and they’ll more than likely hate a perfect character than a person who’s flawed. That’s just the way of the world folks.

So that’s why I recommend that there be no self-inserts in a story. Not a one and I mean it. Because if I read something where there is one, I will be able to detect it and I will hate it and I will get on this blog and rant about it.

P.S. If you want more information on The Self Insert or the Mary Sue go to the links.

You may also find these post useful:
The Main Character
The Supporting Characters
The Antagonist
Cameo Characters

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