Spot the Differences – Writer vs Main Character

I posted an excerpt from A Study of Ash & Smoke over on Instagram yesterday, and wrote a bit about the anxieties that Cara and I share. Which got me thinking.

People often assume that authors base protagonists on their own personalities. While I suspect there are loads of authors out there who do just that, in my experience, almost every character carries a little bit of the author who created them.

A little, but not all.

This is true in my own writing. Though I’ve never written a Yolandie clone, I’ve shared experiences with almost every character I’ve created. Even the ones who are nothing like me, and have completely different beliefs and ideals from my own. The wonderful thing about humanity is that we all feel, and there’s definitely a shared bond in that.

Having said that, I once wrote a character who was an idealised version of myself. She was what I wished I could be. Where I tend to hold my tongue in the name of the peace, Arrow will say exactly what’s on her mind, any time, anywhere. I hate and avoid conflict, but Arrow never backs away from disputes, quarrels, or even open warfare. For my anxiety, she is fearless. For my shyness, she needs a crowd.

As these things go, of course, Arrow’s personality moved away from the intended plan, and became larger than life. Eventually, despite even the few traits we shared, she turned into something that is altogether not like me at all.

In Cara, however, it seems I’ve written a kindred spirit. Since people who know me well have asked about this in the past, I want to make it abundantly clear that she’s in no way based on my own life. Cara is not a Yolandie clone on the page. But I’ll freely admit I’ve used her as an outlet to write about my own issues and hardships. At the same token, though, I’ve used Nathan, Sera, Lance, and Varda (and others) as the same outlet.

Still, Miss Cara and I are quite similar. Here’s how.

Emotions and Mental Issues

I mentioned this on Instagram, as I said at the beginning of this post. But I thought I’d elaborate.

Cara feels trapped. She often fails to notice her own self-worth, and plays down her achievements all the time. I didn’t even realise it when I wrote these traits for her, but this is a direct mirror of my own anxieties. I’ve been open about my impostor syndrome, but even then, I don’t think I’ve begun to scratch the surface of how I really feel in any post I’ve made about it. It’s hard.

I’m not writing this to gain sympathy, please don’t misunderstand. I think we’re stronger, more understanding, and so much more tolerant of others when we talk about the things that scare us.

Anyway. Cara and I are both major suppressors. If we don’t have to deal with an emotion right away, we’re more than happy to lock it up for later.

As for the panic attacks, my experiences apply directly to Cara. The breathing exercises and compulsive cleaning when upset are shared coping mechanisms.


Though her history is infinitely more complicated than mine, we both grew up sheltered. Of course, the level of shelteredness is completely different, but still. I understand some of the issues she has to deal with.

I started dating later in my life than many of my friends. Not as late as Cara, for sure, but still. I also fell in love hard, and tended to fixate on one relationship for a long time.

Like Cara, I never travelled until I reached my twenties. Of course, I wasn’t trapped underneath a force field. 😛

We’re both immigrants. Sure, Cara is a second-generation immigrant, while I’m first-generation, and actually have something to which I can compare life as it is now. I still believe our not-native status might be an attributing factor to our constant feelings of not fitting in and wanting to be invisible.

Personality Traits

Cara and I are introverts. I hate being the centre of attention, and I can barely function in a crowd. Standing out? Not for me. Cara gets what it feels like to want to be invisible.

We’re both caring. I don’t think I’d be able to enter the medical field, like Cara, but I like helping people. Like me, Cara tends to mother those she cares about. If she has to sing (badly or not) to soothe someone, she’s willing. I think this trait is especially obvious after some events in A Trial of Sparks & Kindling, so look out for that.

Cara loves to study and research things she’d passionate about, and she so gets this from me. Who spends months at a time researching the most bizarre Dragon Age theory? This girl. Luckily the things Cara research actually make an impact on her world. 😛

To go with the above, we’re both hard workers, especially if we’re passionate about something. Cara isn’t afraid to work deep into the night, and neither am I. And when she’s not actively working on something, she’s thinking about it, just like me.

I’m much more trusting than Cara (detrimentally so) but once she trusts a person, she’s all in. Friends for life, loyal to the death. And, you guessed it, so am I.


The most obvious is our shared love of the colour grey. Sure, Cara loves it because it’s a medical colour in her world, the colour of her dream job, and I just love it because it’s wonderfully versatile. Grey can be both a stormy and moody colour, or a hue of great tranquillity. It goes with everything, and can match my every mood. I love me some grey.

Cara tends to befriend the same kinds of people I’m drawn to, and finds people to mentor her through most situations. I wouldn’t be here without the wisdom of my mentors and support of my friends either. And neither of us need a million friends. Deep, meaningful relationships with a handful of people are more than enough.

We share a love of coffee. I mean, need I say more about this?

Like me, Cara likes simple things. She doesn’t need fancy clothes or loads of decor, but feels best when she’s comfortable, surrounded by things she picked. And, we don’t like heels.

On that note, I’m going to end this post. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little comparison. Maybe I’ll explore the ways in which we differ next.

If this post has made you curious to know more about Cara, check out A Study of Ash & Smoke at these stores. You can also read some reviews on Goodreads.

Until next time.



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A Study of Ash & Smoke
A Trial of Sparks & Kindling


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