I think all writers do this, although sometimes without realizing it. I know I do.
In memoir, of course personal information is shared. That’s what memoir is all about, allowing your reader to share your experience. But in my fiction, when a critique partner asks why a particular character didn’t do what the partner expected, I answer, “Oh, that’s because he would never do that.”
And my critique partner would say, “No, Vic. It’s YOU who would never do that. Your protagonist must do that so the story can move forward.”
And that’s the point. All writers need to have their stories move forward, no matter if we share a part of ourselves in the story through a character or an event or experience or make things up. Stories must move forward to interest readers.
But writers must also remember that sometimes real life isn’t easy to believe. This happened in a few of my short adventure stories for teens. I usually set my story in a national park my family has visited. When my husband and I camp with five kids, we try to take in as many of the park ranger hikes and talks as possible. That’s where I get my knowledge that’s shared through my YA adventure stories.
In two of my stories published in Cricket Magazine, the editor contacted me about the reality of the situation. Remember that I write contemporary and not sci-fi or fantasy. The first story question was easy. I simply sent him links to prove my point: one to the park webpage and one to a blog post that explained my family’s experience with the park and had a photo of trees and pine cones with people to give perspective. Writers always want to make things as easy as possible for busy editors, right?
The second question the same editor had was in a later story. The only proof I could tell him was that we heard a similar situation from the park ranger on a hike in that particular national park. I gave the editor a link to the park’s website. The editor bought the story.
I wonder if this particular editor thinks I send my own children into all these risky and scary situations alone as I do my protagonist. I hope not. Therein lays the fiction part.
Whether writers use personal experience or beliefs or events in their writing or not, we writers need to be sure those personal experiences sound logical in the stories we tell, even in fantasy and sci-fi. Good luck in your story telling!
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