Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Novella Update: Me, Myself, & Worm

Writing Myself Into My Story

Fiction isn't all fiction. Writers have to put some of themselves into their stories, otherwise it wouldn't be realistic. The story itself doesn't have to be autobiographical, of course, but something in the story has to come straight from real life. Could be the setting, a protag's personality, or simply a few details from the writer's past that add verisimilitude to the plot.

As I'm writing Worm it's surprising how many personal memories surface and find their way into the text. Setting (1980s, small California farming town), personality (swimmer, big feet), details (playground fights, monkey bars). And although I never lived this story's theme of abuse and recovery, I find that writing about such issues taps my own reservoir of inadequacy, relational pain, and self-discovery.

So while I'm not Worm by any means, I'm finding glimpses of who he is in the mirror. Or maybe vice versa. Has this happened to you?


  1. I find this happens most often for me with settings, and I'll often pull places that were emotionally resonant for me into a story, because they're easy to describe both in physical detail and the POV character's impression of the place. A ceramics shop where my mother worked plays a prominent role in two of my novels, and in one of my short stories, there's a little Southern community where the railroad tracks literally separate the town's black and white communities, and that's a place I saw when I was living in Alabama.

    I try to avoid putting too much of myself or people I've known into my characters, as I'm deathly afraid of the "Mary Sue" syndrome, which is embarassingly obvious to everybody but the writer. I will use personality traits and mannerisms I've observed, but usually as part of a composite picture.

  2. Thanks for the comments, Fred. Yeah, I think setting and details get the most play from my past as the emotional connection, as you mentioned, is strong (young Jedi :).

    And I haven't written anything longer than flash, really, to be guilty of a Mary Sue. But you know, who cares about that? People can complain about a writer using him or herself as the protag, but how do they know? And why does it matter or why is it embarrassing? Frodo and Bilbo were probably stand ins for Tolkien. So what, right? :)


Keep it clean and positive. (And sorry about the word verification, but the spmb*ts are out in full force!)