all autobiography

Years ago, a relative of mine announced that she was going to write a novel.

She’d never expressed any interest in writing before, but she had an idea and a writing partner. She said the idea was just something she and her co-writer had developed, that it wasn’t at all autobiographical.

I didn’t say anything, though my then-wife and I had a good chuckle when we were alone later. There were some updates after that, but then we heard through the grapevine that the project had been halted, abruptly, and was not to be mentioned ever again.

The word was that the autobiographical elements had become impossible to ignore or deny.

William Burroughs, whose books included aliens and invented diseases and hallucinations, plus some sections where it was impossible to tell what was going on, if anything, said once that his writing was fundamentally autobiographical. He added, “Everybody’s is.”

In a comment over at Kristan Hoffman’s blog, I spoke somewhat about how 2015 will, no matter what I do, be very different than 2014. I don’t think of this in terms of “better” or “worse” — not every difference is a value difference. But it will be different.

One thing I didn’t talk about over there was how I’m including a lot of elements related to my mother’s death in my current story. I didn’t set out to do this, but I certainly knew it was a possibility and decided to allow it. It may be somewhat “therapeutic,” but I think mostly it’s because I’ve learned a lot and thought about a lot over the last couple of years, and that might as well be put to good use.

The story, which starts here, may seem somewhat ramshackle (no title, some parts have names and some don’t), but it’s quite deliberate. It’s a murder mystery, but it’s a murder mystery that’s concerned almost entirely with the victim and the survivors — the detective and the investigation are basically a subplot.

Autobiographical? Depends on how you define the term. A lot of what the story is about is (I can’t details things exactly — some of them would be pretty big spoilers). None of the actual incidents are.

And this may be why some writers want to deny the autobiographical aspects of their work. They know that, once they open that door, some people will move to rigidly map the fictional characters and events onto real ones. The characters in The Sun Also Rises are all based on real people, but they are fictional characters and the things they do may never have actually happened.

And, of course, some writers may not see the autobiographical elements in their own writing, at least at first…

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2 Responses to all autobiography

  1. Maggie says:

    Most of my writing starts out very autobiographical, and as I go through drafts, I try to make it more and more fictionalized, mostly to give real life events more of a plot. But I do agree that all writing is autobiographical and no matter how farfetched the storyline, the writer always puts a bit of his or her own experience into the writing.

  2. Good point. My current story, though pretty “personal” in its way, has quite a few things in it which are there because I think readers will like them, and I’m always thinking about what’s being revealed and what is still concealed — to try to maximize entertainment value.

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