Whenever I talk about my novels, I always get asked the same things: “Is this inspired by your life?” “Are you this character?” “Did this actually happen?” I get the feeling that other authors experience the same thing. Most of the time we roll our eyes and tell you through a grumble, “No!” Well, that’s not entirely true.
“Write what you know.” I’ve heard that piece of advice again and again. It makes sense too. That’s why we all do it. I don’t know anything about sailing, so I never write about it. I know about human behavior, though. That’s why I always pay special attention to how characters stand, how they say what they say, and what motions they make. If I wanted to write about sailing, though, I could simply read enough about it until I knew about sailing. I just did that for the current novel I’m working on. Well, actually I researched about starting fire and living in the wild, not sailing. Maybe I’ll research sailing for later, though.
Whatever. I’m getting sidetracked. Point is that writers often incorporate parts of their own lives because it’s easier to write about something you’re familiar with. If you notice, some of my characters are quiet and socially awkward because I am quiet and socially awkward.
But don’t get caught up on that idea. Don’t look at my characters and assume they’re me. Don’t look at the plot and assume it’s my life. It’s not.
Return to the sailing example. I don’t know anything about it now. Sailing has nothing to do with my life. But what if sailing interested me? Maybe I’d write about it to force myself to do research. Thus, each time I talked about sailing, I would talk about something foreign to me and my life. Sailing would simply be something I’d like to know more about.
Yes, writers write what they know, but perhaps more important is what writers don’t know. In fact, that’s what my second novel Becoming God is based on. I’ve always dreamed of having super powers, but I never knew whether or not I’d become a superhero. I thought more of all the tricks I could play and the personal adventures I could have. Maintaining a peaceful, crimeless world never really interested me that much. “So,” I thought, “What would happen if I actually had super powers?”
Like I said, don’t assume. I’m not Bogdan. I’m not Vladimir. And that doesn’t mean Vladimir is my brother, Mom! God damn. Bogdan and Vladimir are experiments so to speak. Purely good characters are boring. I didn’t want some goody two shoes guy like Superman. Instead I created a more neutral character like Bogdan and a character like Vladimir who gives into his urges. I just wondered what would happen if someone with super powers went about his life like normal and what would happen if someone did whatever they liked because they could.
Writing is an adventure for the writer and the reader. Yes, we write about what we know, but what we know is often boring. So sometimes we write about what we don’t know. What if? Writers love “what ifs.” “What if” is the greatest question if you ask me.
Oh, and if you wanted to take a look at Becoming God now that I explained it a little deeper, here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0147FX71M?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
2 thoughts on “Authors in Their Novels”
This is so true. I hate when people ask me that and I tell them that of course the characters have a part of me in it, it’s impossible not to. But none of this is really based off my life. Why would I do that? My life’s boring. I want to write something exciting that my readers will enjoy, not dull.
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I really enjoyed this post and you make some great points. It is obviously a great starting point to write about what we know but I have just discovered myself, how rewarding it can be to research and to challenge and push the boundaries. I see you just published a book. Good luck! I shall look forward to reading more of your posts and hearing how your novel does. 🙂
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