Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?

The most therapeutic benefit I derived from my first novel was modeling the main character after me, in some ways. At the time, I was recovering from a Ph.D. program that didn’t turn out all that well. By shaping some aspects of my MC on my own life, I allowed myself to step into magical realms, out of my every day life.

Because I was living the scenes I created as if I were she, she carried some of my burdens until I worked through them. I, of course, changed details, but by giving her an essence of me, I could search for what felt right for her from a familiar perspective and, in so doing, gain the benefit of an avatar.

A funny thing I did with modeling characters partially after people I knew was taking those I was slightly irritated with at my job. It might have provided a kind of therapy. It was a creative way of transforming my situation, fictionalizing it and bringing humor to it. Dreamwork can be similar; in my practice of dream interpretation, I try to see honestly what a dream is telling me, but one can diffuse a painful truth by telling a different story, at least for a time.

In my first novel, I played with a mundane job, gave it fabricated edges. As I was still living the job, I could be in it yet transcend the boundaries. For instance, the head of a persnickety accountant, rumored to spy for the owners, one day turns into a bird’s head and shouts a loud bird-cry, right in the walkway between cubicles. I believe she represented how Kay’s time travel was loosening the fibers of reality, at least for her. It might seem childish, yet, as Carl Jung discovered, some attention to the child self makes the psyche more limber (not his words but his idea).



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