Can’t write nice characters because you are not nice as a person? How do you keep your personal flaws from seeping into your writing? Is this a common thing?

So a while ago, I finished my first full manuscript (at least the first one that I wrote with the intention of sharing it publicly), which I knew had many flaws and, like any manuscript, would require substantial rewrites. Some beta readers reviewed the draft. And there was one thing in particular that everyone had very strong negative reactions to, the characters, especially the main character. Even though there were many other fundamentally wrong things in the story (so much so that I ultimately decided to discard it entirely and pursue a more questionable concept), this utterly visceral and rant-inducing reception of the characters really hurt me because I legitimately thought That was in actually one of my few strengths, and aside from one exception, I really managed to make the main cast likeable, or at least neutral (since in the second half of the draft I was just running on smoke and I was focusing more on getting done, rather than embodying character traits). But the character who was supposed to be a sad and sympathetic villain only elicited a shrug, the funny old eccentric mentor seemed childish and annoying, and the protagonist … the first beta reader I had, who once seemed to genuinely like him a lot. main character and was committed to the story, he contacted me after they finished with the most scathing comments I have ever received. The MC was supposed to be a common man, a bit pathetic and underdog, a naive dreamer who gets the shorter end of the stick. But he ended up as a self-absorbed undercover narcissist and user, who continues to take advantage of everyone around him, learning nothing or suffering any consequences. And when I was reading this review, I could no longer tell if the beta reader was talking about the story or about me. And that’s a problem that I don’t know what to do with, because I know it will come back when I start some future projects. I can ditch this and start over, but I’m still the same dysfunctional insecure depressed person who has a big problem interacting with people without talking about myself. I used to see writing as a way to escape from that and grow as a person, to develop greater social sensitivity and understand other people’s perspectives, but it only seems to reaffirm my flaws. I can’t completely separate my characters from myself, which will continue to be a huge hurdle. So I need to ask you, is it even possible to completely separate yourself from your writing? Can you apply the death of the author to yourself and write a story without your life problems and personal flaws seeping into it? Do any of you struggle with something similar with your work?

So a while ago, I finished my first full manuscript (at least the first one that I wrote with the intention of sharing it publicly), which I knew had many flaws and, like any manuscript, would require substantial rewrites. Some beta readers reviewed the draft. And there was one thing in particular that everyone had very strong negative reactions to, the characters, especially the main character. Even though there were many other fundamentally wrong things in the story (so much so that I ultimately decided to discard it entirely and pursue a more questionable concept), this utterly visceral and rant-inducing reception of the characters really hurt me because I legitimately thought That was in actually one of my few strengths, and aside from one exception, I really managed to make the main cast likeable, or at least neutral (since in the second half of the draft I was just running on smoke and I was focusing more on getting done, rather than embodying character traits). But the character who was supposed to be a sad and sympathetic villain only elicited a shrug, the funny old eccentric mentor seemed childish and annoying, and the protagonist … the first beta reader I had, who once seemed to genuinely like him a lot. main character and was committed to the story, he contacted me after they finished with the most scathing comments I have ever received. The MC was supposed to be a common man, a bit pathetic and underdog, a naive dreamer who gets the shorter end of the stick. But he ended up as a self-absorbed undercover narcissist and user, who continues to take advantage of everyone around him, learning nothing or suffering any consequences. And when I was reading this review, I could no longer tell if the beta reader was talking about the story or about me. And that’s a problem that I don’t know what to do with, because I know it will come back when I start some future projects. I can ditch this and start over, but I’m still the same dysfunctional insecure depressed person who has a big problem interacting with people without talking about myself. I used to see writing as a way to escape from that and grow as a person, to develop greater social sensitivity and understand other people’s perspectives, but it only seems to reaffirm my flaws. I can’t completely separate my characters from myself, which will continue to be a huge hurdle. So I need to ask you, is it even possible to completely separate yourself from your writing? Can you apply the death of the author to yourself and write a story without your life problems and personal flaws seeping into it? Do any of you struggle with something similar with your work?

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