Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Literary Characters from One’s Real Life


Question: How many of your story characters are from your real life?

Answer: All of them

Answer: None of them

Answer: All of the above


My late father, a man who lived an astonishingly rich life and also possessed great writing talents, was often urged to write his autobiography. He refused, saying autobiographies are always exercises in self-justification, and in many instances also in self-beautification. He preferred fiction because he thought it more honest.


After penning quite a few fictional stories, I find that I agree with his assessment of fiction. The writer’s truth is in them, though it is not “just as it was in life.”


I trust these truths, and would even go so far as to call them self-evident,* at least in a roundabout way. *(With apologies to the brilliant wording of the United States Declaration of Independence)

Yes, even cute animal picture book stories are really people you know. Think of Aesop’s fables.

Now you got it.


Vijaya said...

Your father is so wise. And yes, those bunnies in my magazine stories are my children :) Real life is messy; in fiction we can make sense of things. I can't remember who said that fiction is the lie that tells the truth.

Kelly Hashway said...

This is why we connect so much with characters on the page.

Janie Junebug said...

All of them. People are fascinating.


Evelyn said...

Your father may have been correct, but I've also found some autobiographies to inspiring and am glad they were written.

MirkaK said...

Autobiographies are sometimes fiction too! while biographies are probably closer to the facts. I enjoy reading both as well as memoirs and fiction, each informative, interesting, and enjoyable in different ways.

Jenni said...

Your father was very wise. I'm often more moved by a truth told in fiction rather than nonfiction. It's partly because you're living vicariously through these characters in a way you don't in nonfiction.

Barbara Etlin said...

My answer is:

d) Some of the above. Many are a mixture. Some are purely imaginative.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

My answer would be like Barbara Etlin's: i.e., some of my characters are inspired by real life, but have so much else mixed in that they're primarily fictional. I agree with you that fiction tells the truth better than pure biography or autobiography would.