When people ask if Jenny, the main character in my UnFairy Tale series, is like me, I tell them she's the type of person I wish I could have been at her age. She's spunky and brave and independent. Meanwhile, when I was in middle school, I was shy and wimpy and sheltered. Making Jenny all the things I wasn't gives me a lot to play with in the story, and it makes me really admire her character.
In thinking about my other characters, I've realized they're also far more independent than I ever was. My current work-in-progress, for example, is a YA mystery that takes place at a boarding school. Talk about independence! I find myself drawing on my college experiences as I work on the story since that was my first taste of true independence. For the character, Amelia, being on her own is a whole new world, and while it's a little frightening, it also allows her to decide what kind of person she'd like to be.
Ultimately, whether in real life or in stories, I think that's what independence gives us: a chance to figure out who we are and who we want to be. That's something that can only truly emerge when we're on our own. I think that's why I enjoy making characters independent, so I can really get at the core of who they are.
How independent are your characters? Do you find yourself giving them more freedom than you had in your own life?