#IWSG: “Writer: Proceed with Caution”
Updated: Oct 12, 2022
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!
Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG
The awesome co-hosts for the October 4 posting of the IWSG are Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Jennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan!
Click here to view everyone in the Blog Hop.
October 4 question – Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?
All writers slip personal information into characters, whether it’s information about themselves or something they have an interest in or information about someone else. If a writer tells you otherwise, they’re in denial. Although I suppose it’s possible they did it on accident and haven’t yet made the correlation. However, there’s a reason that t-shirts like the following one exist.
“I am a writer. Anything you say or do could end up in my novel.”
Some of the personal information I transfer onto my characters is done with intent, but some of it is not recognizable until reading through the work at a later date. Some of the information is superficial and some of it runs into deep-seated psychological issues that manifest in my characters. I might share a favorite color or food or place with a character. I might name a character after someone I’ve met or fashion them in the likeness of that person. A character and I might have a shared experience. All of these things are possible in my writing.
Let’s delve into some examples, shall we?
Take my thriller WiP Alias. The MC–Jane–and I don’t have much in common by way of looks (except for our shared green eyes) or profession, but we do have other things in common. I made Jane a singer and songwriter. It’s not only something that Jane, an undercover agent, uses as a cover but something that she enjoys doing. Singing takes her away from the responsibilities of her job and serves as an emotional outlet. In Book 2, Jane has assumed a new identity and works as a jazz singer in a lounge. At this point, music pervades her life, much like it pervades mine. I am a classically trained vocalist, pianist, guitarist, choral junkie, and music teacher. It was not an accident that I gave Jane this hobby turned profession. It’s also not an accident that I have a song that “Jane” writes during the book ready to record and go on the future book soundtrack. (Big Dreams)
In my other WiP Phoenix Rising, an urban fantasy that takes place mainly in the Southeast United States, a few of the correlations are more subtle, while others are obvious. I grew up in East Tennessee. I spent four years in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, NC, and have lived in South Carolina since 2009. These places play a huge role in this novel that jumps from a Virginia mountain town loosely based on Roanoke to the midst of the Appalachian Mountains to Columbia, SC, to Chattanooga, TN, and back again. The MC, Liz, almost does a geographical tour of the last 10 years of my life.
Other bits of information are more personal, and I didn’t fully realize until some revelations happened in my life (that I won’t go into in depth here), and when I re-read the WiPs–most notably Phoenix Rising–the information jumped off of the page at me. If a reader didn’t know me or my life story, they might not think a thing about it, but the parallels are too strong for me to dismiss at this point. There are also some similarities in Alias as well with the MC Jane.
Neither Jane nor Liz have family to speak of. Jane is estranged from her parents. Liz’s parents **SPOILER ALERT** die tragically before the first chapter of the book. While I have living parents I am not estranged from, it oftentimes feels that I am. I am much closer to my friends than I am my family. I am adopted and that’s a point of contention with my adoptive parents. As is my desire to find my biological parents. I’ve projected that desire onto my characters in a way, especially Liz. I don’t want to give away too much of the story here, but Liz discovers that the father she buried was not her real father. Her birth father has a part to play in the path that lays ahead of her and one of her motivations becomes finding him. My own personal search didn’t come to the surface until last year, long after I first wrote this draft. When I re-read the draft a few weeks ago, the projection of those emotions I’d held subconsciously at the time was obvious.
These are only a couple of the more prominent examples in my WiPs. I think that it’s impossible to write something that is completely void of nods to the author. It doesn’t seem authentic. Part of being a writer is being empathetic and being able to connect to feelings and experiences, and turn those experiences into beautiful words that fly off the page and pull the reader along with them. If we don’t reach down inside ourselves and use those experiences to form our characters, they’ll be flat, lifeless, two-dimensional. Even if we try our best to change the obvious bits so the characters don’t seem like a self-insert, there are still going to be pieces left behind.
And, in my opinion, that’s okay. Writing is cathartic for most of us. Let it out. Leave that trail of breadcrumbs. That authentic piece of the author may be the very thing that reaches a reader.
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