After years of reading scripts, I have come to a stark conclusion. Though we are told again and again to "write what we know," many writers just plain suck at writing themselves. It is easy to spot an autobiographical protagonist, even if you know nothing about the writer. That self-representative protagonist is always the dreariest, least compelling, least appealing and least understandable character in the script. Even when the plot requires drama and difficult choices, somehow the self-representative protagonist sails through with little more than mild angst and a furrowed brow that could be mistaken for peevish indigestion.
Is it because we can't bear to inflict harm upon ourselves and therefore allow the characters that represent us to avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune – even though, dear g*d, that makes them dull?
Is it because we are too close to our own issues to understand that the difficult choices in front of us are difficult – or even choices?
Is it because we are so close to our character's issues and they're so freakin' obvious (to us) that they require no identification or explanation, even though they do? They really do.
Whatever the reason, please take warning. If you get back comments that the protagonist seems unlikeable and you love him, or comments that the arc isn't clear even though to you it's the whole point of the script, be aware that you might not be experiencing the script in the same way as anyone else. You might not think your lead character is all that autobiographical, even though he is a twenty-eight year old former fireman with commitment problems, and hey – so are you. Try the following exercise anyway. Write a sample page as if that fireman were the villain – or at least, someone who absolutely, positively isn't you. Change the race, the sex, the hopes, the dreams, anything, everything. Study that new character's motivations closely. You might find they are stronger – and closer to your own unspoken truth – than anything you could have written for yourself.