Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Letting things slip

"Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?"


I don't think it's possible, nor desirable, to avoid putting a little of ourselves into our writing. We wouldn't, for example, give a character views we strongly disagreed with. Or rather we might, but then they'd be the bad guy, or someone who later realised the error of their ways, or got their comeuppance.

Allowing readers to get a glimpse of my personality and opinions doesn't bother me. Writing is all about sharing what's inside our hearts and heads, isn't it? 

I write about subjects which interest me and I research the places and activities featured in my stories, wherever possible. That often means using our campervan (aka the mobile writing retreat) to work 'on location' and taking photographs to jog my memory later. (The nearest I have to a day job is acting as my photographer husband's assistant.)

What does concern me a little is that readers may think more of my work is based on reality than is actually the case. That has happened in the past and as my latest novel Leave Nothing But Footprints is a romance about photographers in a campervan, I can't help thinking it might happen again.

Being familiar with living in a campervan, having a professional photographer to advise on technical aspects, and setting the story in one of my favourite areas helped a lot with the writing. And I confess, just a few of the small incidents may have happened to me.

But the storyline isn't autobiographical. The van isn't even the same model as ours (well, not the current one anyway). I'm not Jess and Eliot isn't my husband. You do believe me, don't you?


This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group monthly blog hop. If you're a writer, or would like to support writers, then do consider joining.


56 comments:

  1. I believe you!
    You have a good point about character views lining up with our own. That I have done.

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  2. Hi,
    I too don't think it is possible to write a book without including yourself. We writers want to influence the world or the people who read our books positively. And that's happens when a breath of life comes out of our books.
    All the best.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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    1. I do indeed want to influence the world in a positive way, Pat.

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  3. The thing that jumps out at me...all of my characters have the same types of quirks...and are jerks to some extent (but have hearts of gold they hide well). That's all I'm going to say.

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    1. Easily explained, Mac - it's complete fiction!

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  4. Hi Patsy - vaguely!! But it's great that you have so much to draw on and a professional to take some advice from ... while the mobile writing area is divine ... so great to be able to travel so easily - cheers Hilary

    PS I've loved your books - they are a very English way of life and one can easily visualise the setting and the people - it's our culture in the countryside with a dash of unsophisticated city living - cheers H

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    1. 'Very English' hmm, another way I put myself in my books, perhaps?

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  5. Looks like you're living the perfect "writerly life"...moving around in a camper van to various locations...clicking away as you capture wonderful moments!
    Happy IWSG Day!

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    1. It is a jolly fine way to work, Michelle.

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  6. I think it's impossible not to use some of ourselves in novels but we all know fiction is not autobiographical... is it?!

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    1. I'll believe you if you'll believe me, Rosemary.

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  7. Of course I believe you. What your work proved is that your research was spot on. Be proud.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. Thank you. I shall use that answer if anyone disbelieves me!

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  8. I believe you :-) Love the idea of a novel set in a campervan, especially one involving romance. Living with another person in such a tiny space can have it's challenges which could play out well in a romantic story

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  9. I think a lot of non-writers want to hear authors say their work is autobiographical. I don't know why, but I've seen that question asked of authors a lot. Your romance premise sounds really cute!

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    1. It is odd, isn't it? Maybe they're judging by what they'd do?

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  10. I hear ya! For my humorous women's fiction novel I've clearly stated - this is a work of fiction...not an autobiography.

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  11. It never occurred to me that people would read more of me into my characters than I intended, but then I write mostly YA and since I'm well beyond that angsty age, I guess it only logical.

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    1. That probably makes a difference ... unles you're reliving your childhood? :-)

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  12. A mobile office - how cool! I put bits and pieces of my own experiences in all of my characters but always in a fictional setting unlike the actual experience.

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  13. I've been asked before if a character is me, as well as if other characters are other people from real life. The answer has always been no, but that doesn't stop people from thinking it.

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    1. People tend to think whatever they want to think, no matter what we say.

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  14. You're right, I believe it's impossible not to let our own views, opinions, beliefs seep into our writing. And as for real life incidents - at least we can change the names to protect the innocent!

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  15. I like what you say about sharing what's in our hearts and heads.
    I haven't had anyone confuse me with one of my characters yet, but I see your concern... Oh, and I totally believe you. ;)

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  16. Traveling in a caravan sounds like a grand adventure. Love the photo peek. Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

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  17. The camper van is a complete coincidence!

    I've been a professional photographer for years and yes, one of my characters was a photographer and went into journalism.

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  18. I like the fact that characters revealing a bit of you doesn't bother you. Good on you for that! Me, I'm so private and lacking in confidence, it bothers me a lot.

    Also, I believe that a lot of authors struggle with readers thinking that book content is autobiography. You are not alone.

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    1. I'm hoping people will think it's the good bits which come from me, Rosemary.

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  19. That sounds so cool, living in a campervan. Call it deep research! And I do think writers must have a kernel into our characters or else why are we writing them?

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    1. It is cool, Michelle. (But not cold - we have heating!)

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  20. I love the idea of the mobile writing retreat. Sounds idyllic and a great way to undergo research!

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    1. It's a brilliant way to write, Debbie. I'm so lucky.

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  21. “Write what you know.” Isn’t that what they always say? I totally wish I had a camoervan to explore new settings.

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    1. Including some stuff we know about makes sense to me, Joey.

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  22. I take the bad parts of my personality and put them into the antagonist where they belong!

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    1. That's a good plan – one I hadn't thought of.

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  23. Wonderful points. For a while, I tried desperately to avoid anything 'that could be used against me' (was raised to be perfectly paranoid and still have trouble escaping that bubble). However, the more I worked, the more I connected, the more I realized the soul behind my writing, the more I realized it was a ridiculous premise. Some of the best stuff I've found is using that reality in my work.

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    1. I suppose the trick is to give something of ourselves, but not so much we feel vulnerable and exposed.

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  24. So true: Writing is all about sharing what's inside our hearts and heads.

    I love that photo :)

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    1. It's always good to see a writer working REALLY hard, isn't it?

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  25. This would be a good opportunity to remind everyone of Anne Lamott's sage advice: if you're writing about someone you know, and you don't want to be sued for libel, give him a tiny penis.

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    1. Hah! Not easy to work into every genre, but perhaps it could be implied?

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  26. Well, I'm betting your novel reads very real! I love the premise. Whether or not it your book is based on it, your life sounds pretty, darn cool!

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    1. I am very lucky to have the lifestyle I do, Liza.

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  27. It's always tricky to write about subjects that are similar to your own life and avoid having people assume you're writing about yourself.

    Good luck with the new release!

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    1. It is. I don't know why I worry about it really - as I made it up in some ways it's my alternative life.

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Thanks so much for commenting!