I never realized how judgmental I am until I was scrolling through stock photos, trying to find one who looks like my romance-writing alter ego so I have something to use for my forthcoming fake author profile picture.
"Not pretty enough. Not edgy enough. Too pretty. Too edgy. Too boring. Too fakey-looking. Not enough tattoos. Too many tattoos. Too skinny. Not skinny enough."
In real life, I am not as pretty as any of the photos I looked at (hello, they are models) and am definitely skinnier. I have some tattoos but nothing outrageous; my ears aren't even pierced. (Also, I mostly wear jeans and the majority of these girls are wearing almost nothing.) But none of these things should matter, because Alter Ego doesn't exist. I'm making her up. She can look however I want her to look.
Okay. So what how do I want her to look?
Fun, spunky, and creative, but so much of any of these things that she alienates potential readers. She has to stay relatable. I want her to look older than 18, but not too old. Maybe mid-to-young thirties. Hip, but not hipster. And I don't want her to look too posed, because I want her to feel, you know, spontaneous. Free-spirited, yet committed. Not flaky. And she can't be blonde. Maybe a redhead. Probably a brunette.
It's funny that putting my best face forward is an instinct that kicks in even when it's someone I made up. And all the personality attributes I'm ascribing to imaginary-her pretty well describe the actual-me, which is also kind of funny.
You'd think, as a writer, I'd have more imagination, but it turns out that in spite of total carte blanche to create whatever personality I could possibly come up with, Alter Ego is, in fact, pretty much exactly like me.
Which is kind of cool.