On Writing Alex and Sienna

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SO Kaydacupcake from Wattpad asked me this question that I would very much like to share with all of you:

"How do writers, such as yourself, manage to separate your character from yourself? Look at Alex and Sienna, two completely different characters. Every time I try to develop or create a character even a story, they all end up the same, a slightly different version of myself or my life. How can you develop such a unique and complicated character like Sienna out of thin air and not from someone you know and criticize so well, like yourself?"

I have never gotten this question before, so I'll try to answer it the best I can. Honestly, I don't know myself. The thing with Alex and Sienna is that they are both different versions of myself. Alex is who I think represents myself the most— she's sarcastic, funny (or so she tries to be) and she doesn't take shit from no one. A part of my personality represents her.

So, when I write, I have to channel that part of my personality.

It's much easier than writing Sienna, I would say.

Sienna is a really complex character. She has been hardened by anger ever since her parents divorce and because of that, she let that anger determine her actions and define herself. She doesn't know how to live without that feeling inside of her.

She is a badass, a bitch, but she is also stubborn at times—unwilling to let that feeling she had known her whole life go. She is me—the darker part of me, the part that not a lot of people know about and the part that nobody ever sees.

Her story is much like my own. I only realized it a few weeks ago what actually inspired Perfect Addiction. My best friend for many years had betrayed me by choosing her boyfriend over me. She cut off her friendship with me so that she could be with him.

And boy, it hurt like hell.

The guy was the definition of an asshole. He was overprotective, clingy and he used his words like a weapon. He fought with me for spending time with her. He was poison. And I hated him. But what made it worse is the fact that she thought he was an angel.

And she thought that I was in the wrong.

Maybe I was—I wouldn't know. After all, this is from my point of view. But nevertheless, she did betray me. And I thought our friendship would overcome all obstacles but I thought wrong. I guess this part of my life did have a significant impact on Perfect Addiction.

I channeled my anger towards my best friend and her boyfriend, and gave it to Sienna. My anger isn't as bad as Sienna's was, but the foundation of her anger was built from mine. Which is why I find myself relating to Sienna. Nobody understands how she feels but herself.

So the answer to your question is: I don't. I don't separate myself from my characters. Both of them are basically different versions of me. But that may not be the case for other authors. I tend to have characters that have a little part of me inside them.

So note this, every character you will write will definitely have qualities you possess. It's inevitable because they're your characters. They got to start from somewhere, right? But if you really do want to separate yourself from your characters, my advice would be this: you just have to plan from the start. 

Make a character draft. Figure out what he/she likes, their background, how their backgrounds define who they are today. I don't really do this because it isn't a problem for me but if you do struggle with characterization, I really suggest you do this.

But take note that all characters don't have to be too different. Both Sienna and Alex have my sarcasm and my wit. Both of them at times have the same voice—my voice—when they speak. They sound similar to each other, but that doesn't mean they're the same. Their thoughts, feelings and how they react to certain situations are what make them different.

So when you write, you have to be careful with that. You need to be able to really get into your story and your characters. If you feel disconnected, then the character isn't for you.

When I wrote Sienna, I struggled getting her character right. First, she was a bitch, a soulless, heartless bitch. I couldn't understand her, couldn't relate to her. She was empty and had no personality. So I tried again. Next, she was kind. She was sweet. A little bit badass, but nothing much. So I couldn't understand why she would want revenge because she was not that kind of person.

That's when I started to dig deep into the deepest, darkest depths of my mind. I understood her now because she was me.

I just didn't want admit it to myself back then.

I guess that's also where Sienna's stubbornness came from.

Good luck with your story! I hope my advice helped.

Love, Claudia.

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