One of the exercises in Baty's No Plot? No Problem! is to make two lists before writing your own novel: one is for elements we (as writers) enjoy about other's books and one is for those elements we do not enjoy. This is not meant to be a literary critique, but simply as a tool to identify what we like to read and what we don't. Baty's philosophy is that if we write something with elements that we enjoy reading in a book we will have fun writing our novel and we will stick with it. Conversely, if we write something we wouldn't enjoy reading then we won't enjoy writing it and we'll give it up.
Makes sense, no?
I decided I needed to have my two lists on the wall behind my desk so I can swivel around and look at them from time to time while writing. So I bought a big roll of butcher paper and some of that magical adhesive substance that doesn't ruin paint and made my lists.
As I began, some interesting information was revealed.
- 1. I tend to look for characters who are introspective and who learn from their mistakes.
- 2. I most enjoy female characters whose personalities (haha) reflect my own.
- 3. I intensely dislike characters who put up with emotionally abusive or manipulative families.
These are certainly not surprising facts, but I found it interesting to see it laid out in a list. I began remembering the characters and plots of books I have most enjoyed, and realised that all the characters I most enjoy reading are those with whom I can personally relate on some level. Furthermore, that I base all my fiction female characters on myself, to some degree.
I wonder how many writers model their main characters after themselves. Is this narcissism at its finest or are we simply writing about what we are most comfortable?
As a side note, you know how I've got this obsession with the Twilight Series? Those novels have most of the elements from both my lists. I guess that explains the love/hate I've got with them.