Should all my characters be different from me?

Your question strikes at the very heart of the writing experience.... Do we only ever write ourselves into our creations or do we consciously choose an alternative route and try to write something other than ourselves and our own experience?  Now, many people will argue that no matter how hard you try to write outside yourself, you are present in every single manuscript that you write.  And I sincerely hope so, because it is your creative energy that makes a piece or character ‘live and breathe’ on its own.  In fact, I’m still wondering which character in my novel Freefall is most like me.

But to answer your question, it doesn’t matter.  You can actively choose to write characters whose emotional toolbox or psychological makeup is radically different than yours.  Or you may write every single one of your emotional ticks and quirks into every screenplay you write (Woody Allen is a good example of this).   You may write incredibly intense but self-contained characters that really challenge actors to dig deep to express all that these characters are with just a few small gestures – because that’s who you are.  Or you may study minutely the mannerisms of people you meet that you want to recreate in fiction.  You might bring to life a character on the page that mirrors those mannerisms, even though they are not your own.

You don’t have to be a wildly emotional person to create that kind of character on the page.  But your character’s emotions need to come from a real place inside of you that allows you to project all of the nuances of that feeling.  So, you make a study of people you meet that are like your character... and build on that, starting first and foremost with actual emotions – love, hate, anger, jealousy.  But I want to reiterate: Whether your characters are wildly emotional or intensely withheld doesn’t matter.  Write what suits the character you’re creating.

And if you choose to focus on a particular type of character – say you create several movies about people who are bright, articulate and very conservative with their emotional displays – actors and audiences will still love them if they are well drawn and bring us stories that illuminate something of our own lives.

I hope this helps.  And best of luck with your writing.