Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How to Keep Fiction from Being Autobiographical

Astrid has had three careers in the time I've been writing her story. It's not because she can't keep a job or can't decide what she wants to do. It's because I had to try a few careers on her before one stuck. And the one that stuck developed as her back story and her mom's story took shape. I'm much more comfortable with these changes in story and plot now, but I wasn't sure about it when I started in January. Fiction is completely new to me. I've never studied how to write fiction, only creative non-fiction. I didn't know what I was doing. 

I texted Dan in a panic one day early into writing Astrid's story exclusively. “How do I keep her from being me?” I was stuck at the intersection of “write what you know” and “these characters are fictional.” 

“You don't. The guy who wrote the movie Rounders was a law student who played poker. Just write.”

Dan's movie example clicked with me. Of course who we are and what we do would naturally weave its way into our stories. This coaching session helped me to worry less about not knowing what I was doing and just let whatever comes to mind find its way to the page. 

Our local library recently hosted an evening with Jan Karon, author of the beloved At Home at Mitford series. When asked about why she writes about her Christian faith, she said, “if you poured bourbon (I think she said bourbon) into your coffee, there's no way to get the flavor out of the coffee. It's in there. It's that way with my Christian faith. There's no way for me to keep it out of my writing.”

That analogy has stuck with me. Our writing is going to be indelibly marked by who we are. That's the cool part, actually. That's why it's so important that when we feel drawn to writing that we must do it. No one else has our voice or our perspective--even on the same subject. 

“I can't wait to read the ways you make Astrid like you and different from you all at the same time,” Dan said once.

“I feel the same way,” I responded. “Astrid's calling the shots. She's the one telling me what she's like. I can't wait to see who she becomes.”

1 comment:

  1. I loved this! I have been fiddling with the idea of writing a fictional story. I have the plot drafted, and wonder if I have what it takes to do it. I think I will follow along with you on your journey and see if I find something I simply can't live without. My favorite part of this piece was this statement: "Our writing is going to be indelibly marked by who we are." I'm going to tweet that right now!