Monday, March 28, 2011

MFA Monday: Authenticity

“All writing is part memory and part imaginary. To know only one of these is to know the world only by half.” ~ Jack Driscoll, poet and fiction writer 

What role do our own experiences and memories play in the writing of a piece of fiction? According to Driscoll, a great amount. Our memories define for us what is important and what is not; they are the map and blueprint for who we are. And yet, they are more than the event and date on a calendar. They are fluid and changing, colored by the passing of time.

As a writer, it’s often easy to begin at an autobiographical place in which whole scenes of fiction might be written so as to be true to a memory. But Driscoll showed that a story may start in that place, or may start from a place of only imagination, but eventually, in the process, should become part both.  We as writers are to bring ourselves and our memories to the story with us, venturing from the truth in order to make it more honest.

Over at our group blog, Heidi Bailey wrote an interesting post today on how similar characters in our books can be to us. What do you think? Is it bad to have too much of yourself in your fiction, or does that make it more authentic?


  1. For me, bringing more of myself into the characters makes it more authentic for me, but that could change when I get more experience with writing.

  2. I think most of my characters are a mix of lots of people I know including me. Having taught for 17 years, I have a huge number of kiddos that I can pull personalities from. I also have 5 half brothers and sisters.

    Your characters in Some Kind Of Normal could have been relatives of my husbands. I felt so connected to them. They were very real.

  3. Heidi,
    I think I bring way too much of myself into my characters and am striving to add in more fiction. It's hard for me to write about emotions I haven't experienced.

  4. Well, I started using myself (back when I was a teen) with my MC in my YA novel, but now I'm learning more about my character and she is becoming separate from what I started with. I'm liking that.

    Great question!

  5. I've totally written a post on this, and I'll totally write another one.

    Of course I'm in there. I think it's better to embrace that, than ignore it. I also go a step further and put something personal in my books. Something that my friends (who know me really well) will laugh at and say - I know where THAT came from :D

  6. In my current short story, I'm writing from the POV of a male character. What does that say about me?? :)
    Even with a gender change, I'm still in my fiction. With more experience, I hope to have less of me, but still be authentic to the way people just are to connect with readers.

  7. I'm sort of doing that right now with my WIP. The setting is based on a place my hubby grew up and we visit frequently. I'm hoping by integrating portions of my own memory into it, I'm making the whole story more authentic.