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Five Great Quotations about Short Stories

Avoid temptation to create author surrogate

One temptation 240_F_70638913_lFtR5dgwOzcIwADeTuIokkeniu2CjgvL to avoid when creating characters is to use an author surrogate. An author surrogate is a character who the writer models after himself, such as Jubal Harshaw is author Robert A. Heinlein in his novel “Stranger in a Strange Land.”

There are a couple of problems with an author surrogate. One is that such a character dominates the story when it should not, and this is to the detriment of other characters and ultimately the entire tale. After all, if the surrogate is the author, the author isn’t likely to relinquish his time on stage, even when the story calls for him to step aside for a few minutes. Another problem is that the surrogate possesses too many positive traits and too few faults to be considered real. It is a rare human, indeed, who sees himself as having fewer good qualities than faults, and this conceit will make its way into the story.

Of course, there’s a little bit of the author in every character. So how much of the author should be in a character? There’s no simple answer. The character obviously shouldn’t be an idealized version of the author. Instead, the character probably should have unique motivations and personal conflicts, many of which are addressed by the author thinking about how he would solve them rather than being an exact duplicate of how the author did confront them.

And author surrogates can work – as is the case with Jubal Harshaw – when readers also can closely identify with that character. How many science fiction readers, after all, haven’t felt that they were a stranger in a strange land?

Note that the idea of an author surrogate is closely related to authorism. It also is referred to as the author’s persona.

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