Fiction Writing: All About ME!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012
When I first started out with fiction, I had a bio joke that went like this: “If you’ve ever worked or lived with Cathy, or even said hello to her in the grocery store, you’ll probably end up in her writing. Cleverly disguised, of course.”

You know I wasn’t joking, right? That’s what we fiction writers do. We’re always observing the world around us, collecting little gems of human nature to throw into our stories.

Though honestly, I probably don’t need to bother with cleverly disguising anyone. People rarely see themselves in a story. And when I say people, I’m including myself.

Sometimes, I’ll have no idea that all those lovely (or terrifying or funny or gut-wrenching) paragraphs are about me. I stumble through a plot, trying to work through holes and gaps and goofs, when all the while, I’m trying to work out something deep, deep in the psyche of Cathy. (Okay, fine. My psyche’s not that deep.)

Anyway, most of the time, I know better. I’m writing about me, in some way or another. I’ll pull up a feeling, a memory, a wish or a want, whatever I need to make connections. And that can make the difference between a so-so story that’s flat and boring—or a good story that’s powerful and grabs an audience.

I mean, how often have we heard “write what you know”? What or who do we know better than ourselves? It just makes sense to go to our own emotional well.

And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my best fiction (also known as the “fiction that I manage to sell”) comes from the writing where I manage to tap into my emotions and experiences. It can be a fun exercise, but it can also be like a day on the therapist’s couch.

Still, it’s worth it. If you want to connect with readers, connect your story to you. That’s what makes it real.

Even if it’s fiction.

Check out Cathy’s blog to find where her latest story sold!


Anonymous said...

Especially when we are writing about characters who are unlike us in some way (career, gender, age), tapping into familiar emotion can be the first step to connecting with that character.

Laura W. said...

I know what you mean about the day on the therapist's couch. :P Sometimes writing from personal experience is easy because it's so familiar; other times it's hard and I have to take a break from it because -- well, because it's hard.

Anonymous said...

In reality most writings...fiction, and/or poetry has aspects of our lives, our experiences. Good post.

Val said...

I've got to check out that "cleverly disguised" concept. Then maybe I could learn to write fiction.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Cathy, I love that bit about "our emotional well." So true! Great post!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Thanks, y'all! It's not always easy getting to the heart of a story (or a poem, or a play), but so sweet when you manage it!

(And Val, you've got a goldmine of material for fiction--I've read your blog-;-)

Holly said...

Nicely stated. I started with the braids I had in childhood and a Saturday morning game I played with my sister. Next thing I knew I had a character and a novel. But I gave her freckles. Kind of mean of me, wasn't it? LOL

LuAnn Schindler said...

I remember one of my fiction writing professors saying writers should never write about their own lives because, well, they are typically boring and wouldn't make a good story. To an extent, he may have been correct. BUT, how can you NOT draw from personal experience and include bits and pieces of memories and elements of individuals you know. It's about balance...and covering up so you don't get sued for libel. HA!! :)

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