Attributes of Your Real and Fictional Character

Image courtesy of Jo Zimny at Flickr

I don’t know about you, but I always try to put my best foot forward.

I try to dress appropriate for an occasion, try to act like a perfectly reasonable person, try to say things that are polite and in accordance with the situation.

It’s possible everybody does, humans conforming to social structures. Yet somehow, these attempts result in different outcomes. Some of us are jolly, some of us are charming, and some of us are glum. It’s what makes the world so interesting, right?

Well based on my actions, people can see that I’m an introvert. Not a gambling man, and if I actually do make a bet it’s always with the most minimum amount possible. One lotto/lottery ticket and I’m sweating already. Some say I’m stubborn in my ways, some call me overachiever (never seen a million dollars yet but ok), determined, patience near infinite, with all the expressions of a stone wall.

Overall, I’ve been told that I’m serious and cynical. I don’t see myself that way. I’ve always thought of myself as being very funny, intellectual to the point of irresistible (haha irresistible as four-eyed nerds go, anyway) but I can relate to why people see me as cynical.

Fictional Characters I Relate To

“It’s the Matrix, Neo! I’m telling you, the Matrix.” Morpheus from the Matrix

I suppose there was a time I was a lot less cynical, seeing things on the lighter side. But then growing up in this world of people who are supposed to be friends and brothers’ keepers has resulted in disappointment time and time again.

Now somewhat of a pessimist, glass half-empty, I constantly doubt the side people present themselves with (celebrities and politicians even more so), always observing for that hint of underlying character, and usually I find it in the words not said.

And I’m not excluded. I used to think of myself as honourable and humane, someone who would never scheme, never steal, never make a wrong turn in life. Experience has opened my eyes on that. Greed, rage, abuse, lust, self-preservation – everyone has a breaking point, and I’ve seen the respectable break. Think you know someone, you have no idea what they’re truly capable of.

But I’m judging no one (haven’t in a long time).

Combined with an unending thirst for knowledge, and being close to less people than the fingers on one hand, over the years precise logic and cold facts have piled over me no different than tons of packed earth. Doubtless all this logic is what inevitably led me to a career involving database programming.

Often I think to myself that I’ve become too logical, too calculated, too cold. Fortunately my son came along and anchored my diminishing emotions. Without him I’m not sure how far this logic would have grown.

And that’s the kind of characters I relate to in stories, either the logical intellect who annoys everyone with nerdy calculations (you know the guy who everyone always interrupts his explanations with the phrase “in English please!”), or the cynical commander who spends his time silently frowning at the world. Here are some great examples:

Morpheus from the Matrix – a cold monotone who seems to have all the answers and a firm belief in the One that will stop the war against machines; Doc Emmett Brown from Back to the Future – a mad scientist who broke the future by inventing a machine capable of travelling through time; Prince Kaden from Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne series – after the murder of his father and an ambush on his life he returns from studying with the Shin monks as a man of mental clarity and goes on to master the emotionless state of the Vaniate; Father Yarvi from the Shattered Sea series – first a prince, then a slave, now a minister, he relinquishes family to chart the course of a nation with a cunning mind while keeping his sun oath and moon oath for revenge.

Not all of them can fight – Yarvi barely touches his sword, Kaden never at all, and the Doc missed his only chance by drinking a shot of whiskey – but they all use their mind to overcome dire situations. And there’s always an unwavering determination to accomplish a goal, even if it seems like madness to the uninitiated.

And Those are the Traits I Write About

“Don’t worry, Marty! 88 miles per hour.” The Doc from Back to the Future

Unless I really want to get into the head of someone whimsical, charming, or emotional (which I do with a great effort).

It was actually my editor Jesse who pointed it out, in a comment little over half-way through my novel, that he was disappointed in a decision of the protagonist Larsen and expected more from a logical strategist. I had to pause, looking away in thought, wondering “when did I ever say Larsen was like that?”

I didn’t, except maybe that one moment Larsen was presented a solution so simple that it never would have occurred to a calculated man of siege engines and city defences.

Without actually saying it out loud, writing it down in my notes, or describing it in an info dump paragraph, I realized that Larsen had developed his own attributes, and they were very similar to me. Well, except for the whole sword fighting thing, and being the former king of a country and all.


So that’s the kind of person people see me as, and that’s the kind of person I relate to in stories, and write about.

If you think my cynical, serious attitude sounds hopeless, don’t worry (too much), for I know there are people and groups out there who commit selfless acts of charity, people who defy logical odds and succeed. I love reading about people like this, I love meeting people like this, and I love writing stories where the protagonist encounters people like this.

And you, dear reader, I know are one of them. Why else would you have read all the way to the end haha.

Who would you choose as your fictional character? Let me know in the comments.

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