Someone just asked me, again (I get asked this a lot), if my characters are based on me in any way. I always say yes, sort of. There’s a bit of me here, a bit of me there. Aspects of my personality are cut up and divided among my characters. Then, as I was going into more detail about who got stuck with my addictive personality and who was lucky enough to get my love of guinea pigs, I realized something: I have no idea where the line is drawn between me and these people anymore.
I’ve been writing the same series for several years, and I know these characters inside and out. In fact, I’ve become so dependent on them, the thought of writing a book with different characters was actually incredibly daunting at first. It was like cutting the umbilical cord between my real life persona and my many alter egos. And it wasn’t until I’d done that, and had begun fleshing out new alters for myself, that I realized just how embedded (and invested) I’d become in them.
It kind of scared me. I felt like I was coming down from some sort of schizophrenic episode, and—for the briefest moment in between books—there was no voice inside my head but my own. It was terrifying. I felt mentally naked. My brain was all undressed and vulnerable and the quietness was … well, disquieting. I’d formed an absolute dependency on them, and the addiction was hard to break. I found myself in situations thinking “What would so-and-so do if they were here?”, or “So-and-so would totally punch that guy in the throat right now”, and then I wondered: Exactly how long ago did I stop thinking for myself? At what point did I start making decisions based on what some non-existent entity would do, rather than figuring out what I wanted to do?
And then I freaked myself out a little bit. Just who the hell am I anyway?!? Perhaps I’m someone who’s not capable of making decisions for myself, so I invent people to do all the hard work for me. Perhaps I just don’t have the stones to face life head-on, so I develop different personas who I can call upon to deal with stuff for me when I can’t hack it anymore. Perhaps my father was right: I am Walter Mitty after all.
I slightly wondered if my creativity was just a crutch I was relying upon get me through all the tough times. I wondered if that was healthy. I wondered if I should start looking for a therapist. Then, I had a minor breakthrough: I only have one brain. I may have compartmentalized different aspects of my personality into different ‘characters’ within my psyche, but ultimately, it’s all coming from the same place: My grey matter. Whether it’s the snarkiness I get from one character, or the courage I get from another, it all originates within me.
The characters do not define me—that would be impossible. There’s only one brain, and it belongs to me. The snarkiness was mine first. The courage was mine first. All of these traits were mine first, and I loan them out to my characters as and when they need them. So I’m not crazy at all, I’m just an incurable philanthropist.
At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Keira Michelle Telford is an award winning dystopian SF author from British Columbia, Canada.