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Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Trope-Tastic Tuesdays: Author Avatar

(Parts of this were originally posted on June 6, 2013)

Trope: Author Avatar

Description: Not limited solely to books, the Author Avatar is a version of the creator of a work inserted into the work itself. This can work in a number of different ways. Sometimes the Author Avatar is the narrator, giving opinions on what's going on in the story. Other times, he/she just makes a cameo appearance as a minor character. Every now and then, you get a character who is obviously the creator's favorite and can do no wrong, leading to the dreaded Mary Sue (which, yes, can happen in canon works).

Examples: Charlie Brown/Charles Schulz; Dante in the Divine Comedy; Liz Lemon/Tina Fey in 30 Rock; a whole lot of Stephen King, Woody Allen, and Tim Burton characters

Pros: It's important to have a distinctive voice when writing, so why not use your own? Aspiring writers are frequently told "write what you know", so it makes sense to write it from your own point of view, regardless of whether you're blatant about it or try to camouflage it. I only chose a few examples for this post, but there are plenty of others out there. A lot of writing conveys the author's opinions and biases anyway, so you might as well really try sell it via your main character, right?

Cons: Make your Author Avatar unrealistic and flawless, and your audience is going to rebel. They'll probably rebel loudly, especially if they disagree with "the character's" opinions. Somewhere along the way, you're going to have to write a character that isn't a version of yourself. Don't let the Author Avatar become a crutch!

Would/Did I Use It?: Years later, my answer hasn't changed much. While some main characters I write are more similar to real-life me than others, I haven't intentionally put myself into a book, nor do I plan to. For fun, though, if I had to pick the character who comes the closest, I'd go with Veronica, the main character of Seductive Suspect. We all like to think we'd be a hero in an adventurous story, but when the shit starts hitting the fan in the book, Veronica locks herself in the bathroom and cries, which is probably what I'd wind up doing. Combined with her love for coffee, crossword puzzles, and snark, she's the closest thing I have to an Author Avatar.

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