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How Much of Myself is in My Writing — #MFRWauthor

Write what you know. Don’t make your characters a reflection of you. Find your voice. Stick to the rules.

The list of dos and don’ts for writers is a long and contradictory one. Some encourage creativity while others seem to stifle it. How much of the writer can go into a piece of work?

For myself, I consider the first draft the “me” draft. I write for myself.  I write what I would want to read and make it unfold the way I want it to go. I own it. All of it. Style, tone, voice, story.

Something strange happens during the writing process, though. The characters take over, and, while some of them might share certain beliefs or values with me, they are all individuals. They have histories that differ from mine. The heroes are tougher and more courageous. The villains, of course, are nastier. My characters all grew up in different families and each has a unique history. Yes, I know I made them up, but to write the truth, I have to understand who my fake people are and what shaped them.

Daniela in Injury had an abusive childhood. She grew up believing her father abandoned her, leaving her with a mother who resented her. This helped shape her. It also trashed her self-esteem. When the truth comes out, it shakes her to the core but forces her to reevaluate everything she’s ever believed about herself.

Like me, Gillian in Gillian’s Island is an introvert, but unlike me, she grew up in a small town. Her parents were both killed in an accident. She’s been burned by love so badly she’s afraid to give her heart again to anyone. This is the fear that isolates her.

Carolyn in The Valiant Chronicles has an interesting career as a psychic medium. I drew on my training and experience to write about what she does and how she does it. That’s where writing what you know comes in handy. She looks down and to the right when she does mediumship because that’s what I do, and she receives messages through the traditional channels (for an explanation of that, read my article on psychic communication.) Her gift, however, is far stronger and more readily available than mine.

When I write scenes that include the paranormal or have a supernatural flavour, I write from first-hand experience. I’ve done paranormal investigations, studied the paranormal, and once woke up to see the spirit of a man standing next to my bed. Of course, I fictionalize and exaggerate for my stories. A walk-in isn’t the way I portray it in the novel Walk-In. The concept, in new age circles, describes a new soul taking over a person’s body so the original soul can vacate. To make a suspenseful story, I had to evil it up a great deal.

As a former software and web developer with ten years in the industry, I have that to draw on as well. Much of what I write pulls from skills, knowledge, and experience I already have. For the rest, I do research (write what you know; research to write what you don’t know) and even that’s coloured by who I am.

While the first draft is all for my reading pleasure, once I launch into revisions, it’s all for the readers. The final draft retains my essence, but I want it to be a pleasure for others to read. That means weeding out the purple prose, wordiness, or whatever else is wrong with it. It takes a team, which includes beta readers and editors, to accomplish all that.

Of course, not everyone will enjoy what I write, just as I don’t always enjoy everything others write. Sometimes, the style doesn’t suit or the genre isn’t to taste or the themes don’t resonate. There’s a lot that can turn a novel that’s a hit for one reader into a miss for another reader. I can only hope that those who would enjoy reading my work will find it.

For more posts from other writers on this subject, check out the MFRW 52-Week Challenge post for week 3.




7 Responses

  1. Paranormal investigations? Wow, that can sure add to the story! I enjoyed your post.

  2. “The characters take over, and, while some of them might share certain beliefs or values with me, they are all individuals. They have histories that differ from mine…”

    So true! Most recently, I created a rebellious fairy, who, as she ‘told’ me as the story developed, came from a family in crisis, and as a result, adopted the ‘bully’ persona in order to cover up what she perceived as her ‘weaker’ side. She was so much fun to write, because I was a rule-follower growing up, and she wasn’t:)

  3. All too often, my first drafts are stabs in the dark that contains a plot, but characters who are unformed.

  4. I do find it interesting that my characters will often do something unexpected. Since I’m making them up, you’d think I’d have control, lol. Your paranormal investigations sound very cool.

  5. I’m writing a series at the moment that will have a paranormal investigator in one of the later stories – I’ve bookmarked your website so I can read about your experiences later 🙂

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