Friday, March 14, 2014

The Non-Autobiographical You

by Jemi Fraser

Confused by the title? Stay with me!

  • How much of you is in your main character?
  • Is your story autobiographical?
  • Did you ever do that?
  • How personal are those love scenes?
  • Do you really want to kill off your spouse/mother/brother/sister/friend/...

Writers often face these questions - beginning writers more so. A lot of people assume that our first books are about us. I don't know about any other writers, but I'm WAY too boring to be the main character of any story!

My main characters are NOT based on me, their experiences are their own and no, I've never done THAT!

However I do think many writers appear in their stories. Not as characters, but as a tone, an attitude, a belief system or even a moral code.

  • If you're a goofball in real life, your stories are probably full of fun twists and turns no matter the genre.
  • If you think deep thoughts and wonder about the serious 'what ifs' in our world, your stories will likely have a darker tone and explore those questions
  • If you're an optimist with a soft & gooey centre, you'll probably have Happy Ever Afters or Happy For Nows for all your books (romance or not!)
  • If you like to challenge the status quo and make people think, your stories are likely to have more questions than answers with endings that stay with the reader long after the story is done

So for me it's not the characters, but the underlying message that gives me insights into the author.

What do you think? How much of you shows up in your stories?
Do you have another 'If... then...' to add?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance with one of those gooey centres. She blogs  and tweets while searching for those HEAs.

25 comments:

Medeia Sharif said...

There's a little bit of me in my manuscripts, but usually my characters are either lighter, darker, or more interesting than I am.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Usually I tell people that I'm not in my stories at all...that my life is too boring to include. But there is a bit of me in my protagonists' attitudes and habits, I have to admit!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good point, Jemi. Like Elizabeth, I'm not in my stories either. I think my beliefs and my faith come through, even though those elements aren't mentioned in my books.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

There is some of me in most of my characters. My second book even had a couple real events. (Funny ones, of course.)

Jemi Fraser said...

Medeia - love that! I think we all probably show up somehow!

Elizabeth - I think that's kind of true for me as well! :)

Alex - I think that's how it works for me as well!

Diane - that's awesome! I haven't done that yet!

JeffO said...

I do believe autobiography of a sort is present in most writing, whether it's via adapted characters and events, or 'tone' and outlook. However, I don't necessarily agree with the "if...then..." scenarios. Lots of authors, I think, use writing as a way to explore things that are not part of their 'normal' personality or outlook.

Jane Jazz said...

Interesting post and comments here. I think writing is drawing threads from the darkest and brightest corners of your mind, and those threads will be woven through the tapestry of your novel... whether or not you want them to be :-)

Mason Canyon said...

As a reader I can't help but wonderful how much a writer puts of themselves in their books, especially some of the zany parts that make you laugh out loud. It takes a vivid imagination to come up with some of that.

Laura Pauling said...

Great point! My quirky sense of humor and point of view toward life is definitely in my work. But also my desire to find meaning in life without taking anything too seriously. :) But beyond that my characters are not me. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Jeff - great point! I'll have to rethink that! :)

Jane - so true - our brains take us down so many interesting paths!

Mason - it really does! I remember reading Erma Bombeck for the 1st time and being amazed at her zest - lots of laugh out louds there!

Laura - yup - that kind of sums it up for me too. My pov is there, but no 'me' :)

Carol Kilgore said...

I usually find myself showing up the most in one of my supporting characters. I'm nothing like my leads - they are all much braver than I am. I do think our attitudes show up in our writing, though.

Jemi Fraser said...

Carol - I agree - and my leads are always braver than I am as well! :)

SC Author said...

In my first MS, there was a lot of me in the main character. I think, in general, there's a lot of my problems in the books I write, not myself.

Jemi Fraser said...

SC - I think that's actually pretty common - we know ourselves best and we're told to write what we know. :)

Leslie S. Rose said...

I'd say there are shadings of me in my MC's. I usually swing outside my comfort zone with their choices. I do shamelessly use family members and friends as characters.

Jemi Fraser said...

Leslie - that's awesome! One of these days maybe I'll throw in a family member or 2! :)

Beth said...

Yes, I agree with you. Thinking about my own writing, I'd say the second point is mostly true (deep thoughts about the world) … although there's generally a happy ending (#3)!

Jemi Fraser said...

Beth - I do like those HEAs! :)

Susan Chambers said...

Frequently, my main characters are necessarily "me" currently but a "me" that I have been. Not in action or deed, but in personality. For example, my current character I'm working with is very soft-spoken and a little bit of a doormat. I'm not that person anymore, but I have been and so I can write very honestly about what that is like. I think a lot of people put pieces of their personality into their protagonists.

That said, I definitely agree that you get a lot more about the author from the tone and narrative voice. That's where I live!

Jemi Fraser said...

Susan - great point! I think by the ends of the stories my main characters often end up as who I'd like to be! :)

Jamie Burch said...

Interesting post! There's definitely a lot of me at the heart of my first book, but not so much in what I'm working on at the moment. It's a lot edgier and more adventurous than I am.

Jemi Fraser said...

Jamie - that's usually the way it works for me too - my characters are much stronger/braver/edgier/whatever-ier than me!

Clarissa Snepplin said...

Unique post, Jemi! I actually dislike one of my characters simply because she's everything I wish I could be. She's open, carefree, unafraid to take risks regarding love, friendships, and life's little changes. I didn't realize my envy of her until she was fully developed though, lol. --p.s., I miss interacting with you guys! I've been gone too long!

Jemi Fraser said...

Rissa - thank you and welcome back! I think my characters are often more like who I'd like to be than who I am :)

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