Monday, September 24, 2012

Are You Really the Character You’re Writing About?

by Bill Johnson

When people decide to start writing, most of them start with their own lives. Some draw inspiration from the places and people around them, while others decide to write about real life as it happened … or so they think.
It’s okay to embellish or change the truth in fiction — it is fiction, after all — but if you’re writing nonfiction, you’ll fall flat if you don’t make an accurate, honest assessment about who you are. Make sure you can tell the 
difference between what actually happened and what you think happened.

You’re Being Honest If…

One sign of a goodwriter is the ability to see things objectively. These clues tell you if you’re doing the same for your own characterization:

You’re not perfect:  If you have flaws and you’ve done bad things, then you’ve written honestly. If, however, you’re always the good guy put upon by bad guys, then you’re writing an ego trip.
Your life is sometimes dull:  Like everyone else, your life has some interesting stories in it. But not every story is interesting to others, and hopefully you’re perceptive enough to distinguish those that make good reading and those that don’t.

Other people play a role:  Your story isn’t all about you. If you’re good, you know who helped make your life what it is today, from the wise kindergarten teacher to the first person who broke your heart.

If Not, You’re Doing This:

If you’re in a writing workshop where students sit in old classroom desks sharing their roughest drafts, a good writing teacher will advise you to avoid these autobiographical pitfalls:

Everyone loves you:  No one is beloved by everyone, and your work will ring false if everyone in your life idolizes you, falls in love with you, or asks your advice about all the challenges they’re facing.

Life’s a non-stop adventure:  That funny incident at your first job might have been hilarious to the people in the room, but probably not to the people reading about it 20 years later.

You learned nothing:  Seinfeld was about nothing, but your life can’t be. If you’re going to write about your life, be sure you learned something along the way.

If you’re the subject of your own story, be as honest and objective as possible to make your story uplifting, compelling, and, most of all, interesting to readers.


Byline:  Michelle Rebecca is an aspiring writer with a passion for blogging. She enjoys writing about a vast variety of topics and loves that blogging gives her the opportunity to publically voice her thoughts and share advice with an unlimited audience.