Monday, March 22, 2010

Where Life and Fiction Merge and Diverge

The first piece of writing most of us receives is, "Write what you know."   That's how Shards started out, for instance. It contains some of my own experiences losing my father to cancer, the first terrible time I fell in love and the wonderful second time, my sense of having a charmed life broken up by the occasional, truly tragic experience.

But stories, even if there's a grain of autobiography in them, take on their own logic and progress differently from our reality. April is partially me, but also very different. The secondary characters in Shards all contain a trace of someone close to me - my best friend, my first love, my own parents - and then change into completely unfamiliar shapes.

And, of course, the characters determine the story.  So, while we may write sometimes while exploring an unresolved portion of our lives, the resolution of those stories can be completely different between real life and the created life.

I had a great reminder of this recently. Nick in my novel is based on a real-life guy (we can call him Mark).  In my novel, April and Nick had a terrible relationship, that she has never really quite gotten over. In the end, April finally gets over Nick and leaves him in the past, with the two at their final meeting agreeing to never see each other again.

In real life? Well, ditto with the terrible relationship.  It took me forever to get over Mark. The first time he and MJ met was terribly awkward.  But we've got a lovely platonic friendship now, I adore his wife, and we all enjoy hanging out. Mark and I went to get coffee and see Repo Men recently, and it was not weird.

That ending wouldn't work in Shards, at all. But it works in real life.


Jen said...

I think it's great that you and "Mark" were able to work it out in real life even though it isn't perfect for the book.

Mine is along the same lines of having a few characters that resemble people around me, though the more I write the more different they become, the more the story evolves and the more I evolve as a writer, it's truly amazing!

Ellen B said...

It's nice to hear there's life after a bad relationship, Guinevere - and just because a relationship is terrible doesn't mean either person is!

Well done to you and 'Mark' for making a great friendship happen :)

Piedmont Writer said...

I think no matter what we write there are always going to be some elements of "us" is them, whether it truly is us or someone from our own little world. You can't help it. It's what we "know".

Great post.

E. Elle said...

My WIP is based heavily on experience, especially in Part One. And though I've tried to stay as true as I can to the "truth" in honor of one of the "characters," I've found that they do have their own personalities and what happens to them isn't quite exactly what happened to me. It was irritating at first but I think it's proving to be better for the story this way.

Yea for the characters knowing more than I do! I think that's yea-worthy....

Kittie Howard said...

Guinevere, it's great that you and "Mark" worked it out and have gotten on with your lives, still friends, but with different goals. It's good that life's endings don't always work in a sometimes needs the least dramatic, most sensible option... we can turn to books for more involved endings (and why writers need to continually evolve)....

E. Elle said...

Me again. Just stopping by to let you know I have something for you at my blog. :o)

Shelley Sly said...

I'm with the others -- that's awesome that you and "Mark" are able to be friends! And I completely agree about the how stories based on real life can diverge. That's happened to me a lot, usually without me noticing. Like E. Elle said, the characters just kind of take control.

Guinevere said...

Jen, it really is amazing! I love that! Of course, it's hard to explain to people who recognize a bit of themselves that the character really has become completely different!

Thanks Ellen! I just realized that I used "terrible" at least four or five types in that one post. lol. I guess that word did sum up first love!

Thanks, Piedmont! I think so, too.

E. Elle, I think it's yea worthy too! A little disconcerting, at times, but it's good to diverge from reality at some point.

Kittie, that's a good point. I like my drama in my novels, not in my life!

So true, Shelley. :)