1. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    How much 'self' should be injected into a story?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ddavidv, Sep 13, 2013.

    This may have been covered before, and if so, I apologize up front. I couldn't figure out a good way to search the topic.

    The book I'm currently writing has a lot of 'me' in it, either direct of somewhat veiled. My view on religion, relationship with my father, my most heart-breaking loss of someone I loved...I play with it, fictionalize it and so on but for people who know me and read this, it may be either obvious or a rude awakening. However, these life experiences being real are what brings life to the story, because these are things I know a great deal about. At what point does baring one's soul for the world to see become...unwise?

    I'm not at all fearful of total strangers reading the story, but upon completion I know my spouse and several family members will be expecting a read. Has anyone else had experience with this, and what was the result?
     
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  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You can put as much "self" into your book as you want. There's no right or wrong answer. All writers draw from experience, so it doesn't surprise me that you would choose to write about your father or relationships. Go with whatever you're comfortable with.

    Your post reminds me a bit of Kafka's The Metamorphosis. It's one of the strangest and most fantastical stories out there, but it has also been called one of the most autobiographical.
     
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  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hemingway's work was very autobiographical. Thomas Wolfe's novels were basically his own life with the names changed. Plenty of others have written their own lives as fiction. Go ahead and add as much of yourself as you can fit in.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    There should be at least a small part of you in most of your characters. There's no reason you can't have a whole lot of yourself in some of them. There's a reason they say "All fiction is autobiography."
     
  5. BUDDY GORGEOUS
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    BUDDY GORGEOUS Active Member

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    Since whatever you are writing is originating from your head it's going to be pretty impossible not to include yourself in the story in some way shape or form.

    Personal experience: I wrote a very short piece many years ago and my father wanted to read it. Involved a character of mine, Mr Cave. He was a little perturbed, it coming from his son, but he encouraged me. I assured him I'm not so insane I'm going to do an Ed Gein and turn people into flesh-lamps to decorate the house but he always commented on how a good story doesn't need violence. Which I agree. But that story needed it. And I think, at the time, my manager pissed me off something rotten, maybe...

    Anyways, there's no way of dodging that bullet. You'll find yourself in your work no matter what, even if you make a conscious effort to exclude yourself. But you can use it to your advantage, as you said, experience with heart break, religion, father-son relationships, or whatever else can be useful for your writing when those similar situations occur in your story.

    For example: MC has fallen out of love with his dream woman. Bang! you remember when you were breaking out the Mark Lanegan records and emptying a few bottles whilst sorting through stinging memories. You can use that to flesh out a character. It may be recognised by someone you know if they read it but whatever! It makes you human, stick it in your writing and you'll benefit from it.
     
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  6. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    You can't avoid putting "self" in your story in some way. It happens naturally. So, you shouldn't be thinking too much about it while writing.
     
  7. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Disclaimer: The following literature is a work of fiction and may not represent the views of the author.
     
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  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    As someone who has dealt with this issue to some extent, I would say to fictionalise as much as possible. Even to the extent of turning the 'real' situation on its head, and write it as if the opposite had occurred.

    You can also change characters' sex ...if your character is male, make him female, etc.

    Writing an 'opposite' scenario is actually a lot of fun. You can thoroughly explore an issue from a 'what if' perspective, rather than rehashing and reopening the old wounds themselves. The 'real' stuff comes out in the wash, eventually, but it will be harder for readers to pin it to you directly.

    Of course you can write the 'real' and brazen it out, once people you know start reading it. But I'm willing to bet you'll end up with a better story if you twist it out of all recognition! Only you will know what's real and what isn't. Make your soul-searching as fun for yourself as you can.
     
  9. GoodTweetyBird
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    GoodTweetyBird Member

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    The biggest problem I have run into when doing this is that I leave out details that are obvious to me. This happens because I minds fill in the blanks. It can be setting, back fill, dialog, all sorts of history and things in my head that have not been transferred to paper.

    I would have someone unfamiliar with the story proof it to make sure it is logical, makes no assumptions, etc before submitting.
     
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  10. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeh. This.
    There are so many, many facets of any human being. I don't see how you can be a 'good' writer and not put yourself into your characters. The wonder of it is if one can write really well and not see some part of him/herself in each and every character.
     
  11. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have that problem sometimes, too. That's why I always have someone else read to tell me what is missing. Even if you read through specifically looking for those missing bits, because you are so close to the work, it's easy to miss what you already know but have failed to include.
     
  12. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    Clearly, there is no mandated minimum/maximum amount. As much "self" as you desire can be included.

    I've done the same thing myself, and I believe it's quite common. The question is, do you want to do this? Or is this just a by-product of your writing?

    I would say, when you hurt other people's feelings, to the point where you may be regarded as slandering them. There was one funny case in Germany a few years ago when an author wrote a novel that so barely veiled the identity of the villain in his novel (his ex-girlfriend or was it wife?) that he was sued over the contents of the book and the claims it made regarding her. She won the lawsuit.

    A bit closer to home - consider how fictionalized your world really is and whether you are hurting feelings. Literature may hurt feelings, in fact it may be claimed that some of the greatest literary advances were only possible by hurting feelings, but if your work is doing nothing but (and on a personal level to boot, rather than ideological!), you could stop to reconsider what you're doing and what your motive is. ;)
     
  13. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    double post?!
     
  14. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    The trick is, I find, to start off with a lot of yourself, but then go deeper into the character. Make them come alive and be an independent person. You'll know when a character stops being thinly veiled you, it feels really liberating and exciting. And also, it stops being embarrassing in front of people who know you.
     
  15. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    From experience I can tell you that no matter what you write, family and friends are going to personalize it. At least some - if not most. When I released mine I was flooded with people believing that they were the inspiration for this or that, I put part of their life in here or there, and/or EVERYONE who read it would know that it was them and I had made them look them bad, lol. It sucks when you have to point out to people that it says 'fiction' for a reason and then explain that if there are pieces that they relate to it's a good thing. With some of them I literally had to point out other books they had read with similar 'issues' and that they never thought that with them. Only mine, because OF COURSE it's about them, lol.

    On the bright side - you only have to do it once and they at least stop saying it - whether they believe it or not. Just write what you need to write. There will be pieces of you and your experiences with others littered through it, but you aren't responsible for their reactions. Only your reaction to their reactions. Stand firm - they'll stop. Best of luck :D
     
  16. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    Good responses, all. I hadn't thought about painting a picture of other people I know and possibly insulting them. I don't see any of that in this book, unless my wife wildly tries to connect the dumped female character with herself (really no similarities that I see) instead of the female goddess pursued by the MC. There are some distinctive real life occurrences I use as a basis for the story and the things that drive my characters to do what they do. There's also a not-very-veiled view I have on religion that is a foundation for some of the story. This part will dismay some family members who I'm not sure know how close to atheism I really am, but I don't see them making an issue of it. I'm trying hard to keep that aspect as a background 'fact' to the plot only and not come off being preachy or derogatory about religion.

    A very key scene in the book involves the death of a dog, based upon my own very real and painful experience. Everyone who knows me that reads the book will instantly connect to that as 'me'. However, the MC's level of pain over it is wildly amplified for purposes of the story. I just know I'll be getting hugs of pity from some of the female family once they read it.
     
  17. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's inevitable, as others have pointed out, and I think it's quite sweet too. Sometimes I get uncomfortable if the self-inserts or some kind of wish-fullfilment comes off too strong, but I try to ignore it cos I feel like a right dick judging the writer in that regard. And yeah, sometimes these incidents we draw from our own experiences lead to weird confrontations with the family and friends...

    Another weird thing:
    My hubby, @T.Trian, and I have written quite a lot together, many of the stories are still in the drawer and only one is about to be pitched (working on the query/cover letters now), but I've noticed that in this manuscript about to be pitched, one character goes through similar things T does, has similar family issues and principles as he had at that age. Then the character falls in love with this super choosy, beautiful, bad-ass, Afro-French-space-born tattooed hothead juvie delinquent mechanic with the perfect buttocks-- wbo couldn't be further away from me, and it is definitely not some kind of a secret fantasy of mine to undergo an ethnic makeover or something and be like that. But it's kind of weird, watching such strong elements of my hubbie exist in that novel and the character that carries them is totally in love with my very opposite :D

    But yeah, I think it's nice you've put bits of your life in your novel. It probably contributes to the level of realism and, in a way, it can be therapeutic to upend that bucket of experiences and pour them into the story.
     
  18. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    Oh-so-close to my MC's love interest, lol. She shunned the tattoos ("such a cliche" she scolds him), but is a dark haired vixen who rides and wrenches on motorcycles, has an intellect, and isn't afraid to use it. And of course her buttocks are fabulous! So yeah, she's pretty much the polar opposite of my lovely spouse, because if I had fallen for a gal like I created, I'd probably have been murdered by her in my sleep by now. :)
     

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