It’s the first Wednesday of the month, and you know what that means. Or, well, maybe you don’t. It’s #IWSG Day! The question this month is…
Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?
I sure have, but first, allow me to drop a plug for IWSG. The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by the esteemed Alex J. Cavanaugh, is an online space where writers (insecure and otherwise) can come together to share stories, successes, struggles, and all the rest of it. The website is chock-o-block full of great stuff. There’s a Twitter Pitch, which I haven’t checked out yet, contests, books, swag, conferences, and more. Be sure to jump over there and check them out!
Okay, back to the question. I often work personal information into my writing on purpose, but sometimes I do it unintentionally, too.
Here’s an example of when personal stuff just sort of slips in there when I’m not paying attention. This past winter, during one of my critique sessions for my Lesley University Low-Residency master’s program, someone pointed out that my main character sounded like she was from the Midwest. The story being workshopped was something I’d discovery written. I hadn’t generated any character dossiers and hadn’t fleshed out a background for anyone.
The comment left me agape. You see, despite the fact that was born and raised in Massachusetts and am surrounded by Bostonians with the classically difficult to imitate accent, I’ve been told multiple times that I don’t sound like I’m from the area. In fact, people often tell me I’ve got a midwestern accent and drop midwestern slang. I chalk that up to the my father’s influence. He was born and raised on a farm in Iowa, and we visited his family often when I was a kid.
Who knew my father had shaped my psyche so deeply that it was affecting my writing! In any case, I decided to have my main character be a girl who grew up on a farm in… you guessed it, Iowa. Why not just roll with it, right? So now my dad is a teenage girl fighting for her life in the Canadian wilderness. Fabulous!
More often, personal information makes its way into my stories on purpose. I’ve written stories that take place in my hometown, at my place of work, or that involve events I’ve lived directly. All fictionalized to varying degrees, mind you.
My current WIP is a young adult SciFi horror story about a group of youths trying to survive the elements (and other things) in the backcountry of Canada. As a teen, I was a wilderness backpacking enthusiast, and a couple of times I and my group members found ourselves in genuinely dangerous situations. I’ve incorporated fictionalized versions of those events in my WIP.
So, yeah, I draw on my life experiences to add authenticity to everything I write.
What about you? Do you slip personal details into your writing? How do you feel about it?