Questions 3: The Author Vessel/Surrogate/Avatar

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Many authors insert either themselves or a version of themselves into a story.  It could be a realistic version or even an idealistic.  Maybe you’re a side character or a cameo, but other times the author may be the protagonist.  For example, I always thought of Luke Callindor and Clyde as my vessels.  I jumped into other characters, but these were the two I put my mind into with more ease.

Avatars, surrogates, or vessels aren’t easy.  We can be too nice or too mean to ourselves when we’re the characters.  That’s why it doesn’t hurt to share wisdom with some questions.

  1. Have you ever written a story with a version of you in it?
  2. What’s one piece of advice you would give an author if they were going to use a vessel?
  3. Do you think authors should reveal a character is a vessel or keep it a secret?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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16 Responses to Questions 3: The Author Vessel/Surrogate/Avatar

  1. I’d be lying if I said Will Diaz wasn’t me. The things he’s gone through in at least one form or the other are the very things I’ve gone through. Since most of them were rather traumatic, I have to admit writing them and having someone else run through them and look at them afterwards has proven to be healing.

    Is he a better version of me? Yes? He managed to avoid some of the stupid stuff I’ve done in life (Mostly because I have them happen to a different character, who guess what, represents the worst in me).

    The biggest piece of advice I’d give is to be afraid of what get’s revealed. You reach a point where your character takes on a life of their own. An example is in a blog I wrote called “The Gospel According to Mash – A Letter to Melanie.” I describe how in the course of writing my first novel, one of my characters asked a question that demanded an answer from me. Call it crazy, but it helped me work out something ugly I’d grappled with for years.

    I don’t care if people know Will Diaz is an alter Ego, a thinly disguised version of yours’s truly. The issues he faces are real Life and Death problems. There’s nothing whitewashed about his world. He faces the worst humanity has to offer head on, and thanks to God, he’s still stands.

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    • I can see how a surrogate helps with trauma. It can help bring some clarity in a safer environment than simply taking it on as yourself. Authors tend to live through their characters in general, so I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this method of healing is common. Now, I’m trying to figure out if I’ve done it to some extent.

      Interesting piece of advice. Never thought to be afraid of the revelations. Kind of ‘funny’ how these subconscious entities that we put on paper can catch us off-guard and have us think things through.

      Love your answer to #3.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dang, Charles. I hope there’s a piece of me in all my characters. I’ve never been tempted to put myself, or a disguised version of myself into a book. I suppose the blog interactions with Lisa Burton could be something like you’re indicating. I don’t think I’d ever point it out if I ever decided to insert myself in a story.

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  3. C.E.Robinson says:

    Charles, in my historical fiction book, I am Elizabeth, the main character. Most of the story content is true, with some imaginary enhancements. It’s in the third person limited POV. I never thought not to write about my life. At a certain age (I’m in my 80s) it’s more about leaving a legacy, in part true. And to stretch my imagination with the what ifs that happened or could have happened. The theme is based on love, trust and family racism. Was my famous Grandfather a Jew or not. If he was, did he hide it to fit in? And what effect did it have on me? I stood up to the family bigotry—in surprising ways.

    If you have a personal message to covey in a story, I’d say do it. You never know who you will help. Just do it with strong convictions. 📚🎶 Christine

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  4. L. Marie says:

    1. Yes. An older character in a novel is sort of like me but not totally, since she has magical ability. But she’s pretty mean, so she is a lot like me. 😄
    2. Allow the character to go through things—like facing death. Don’t try to insulate the character because he or she is your surrogate. Otherwise, the character will seem too much like fantasy fulfilment (unless that’s what you’re going for)
    3. I would say don’t reveal, especially if you treat the character like fine china.

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    • Wish fulfillment is an easy way to ruin a story. It means the whole thing is for the author with not much concern for reader desires. You also end up leaving details out because you know them instinctively. Doesn’t work that way with the readers who aren’t in your head.

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  5. I have written a story with a version of me in it. Circumstances of Childhood is a fictional biography.
    One piece of advice I would give an author if they were going to use a vessel is to make sure the vessel doesn’t reveal anything about the author that the author wanted to keep secret.
    I think authors should not reveal a character is a vessel. All that does is take the character out of the story (Figuratively speaking) since character believability is pretty much taken away in favor of the author’s personality reality.

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    • Excellent advice about keeping secrets. The vessel being too close to the source could result in some secret slipping.

      I’m finding it interesting how everyone assumes a vessel is a perfect or near perfect match to the author. I’m sitting here with risk-taking Luke Callindor, arrogant powerhouse Clyde, and unpredictable Darwin Slepsnor as my vessels. None of them are close to being me, but I know they possess a huge chunk of my psychology.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve never consciously done this, though I’m sure bits of me have snuck into some of my characters.

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  7. >Have you ever written a story with a version of you in it?
    No, and I wouldn’t. The point for me is to explore other viewpoints, so putting myself in there would defeat the purpose. There might be pieces of me, or maybe my main characters have a “type,” but I don’t put whole people in.
    That part is a privacy issue, also. Real people aren’t puppets for us to use in storytelling.

    >What’s one piece of advice you would give an author if they were going to use a vessel?
    Don’t do it. (Probably not the advice a writer wants to hear, when they already have their avatar planned out.)

    >Do you think authors should reveal a character is a vessel or keep it a secret?
    You don’t have to reveal it, because it will be evident. The character that never fails, that is all-knowing, that gives smirking asides… That is the author’s vessel.
    I give more leeway to authors like yourself, Charles, who make it clear Luke began as their D&D character. But I can still tell.

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    • I’m really thinking people are mistaking author vessels as perfect beings. This is the wrong way to do it because it’s just wish fulfillment. Vessels aren’t supposed to be exact or idealized versions. They’re the characters the author sees themselves in the most along with flaws. At least if it isn’t fan fiction taking place in another person’s world like the original Mary Sue.

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