My Book Is Not My Story

Private Life

This morning I read Essay Shy, a post about Jodi Webb’s family being exposure-shy. She writes personal essays and so writes about her life. I can sympathize with her family as I am reserved about my private life. When I wrote a post about surprises, I asked my boyfriend’s permission to include a story about us. The story was as much mine as it was his. While I was willing to share it, I did not assume that he would be. “As long as you don’t use my full name,” he said. I didn’t use his name at all. I didn’t need to.


Often, I’ve been asked if my novella Masks was about me. No, it’s not. I was not Rebecca or any of the other characters in the novel. My mother and father were not Rebecca’s parents or anyone else’s parents in the story. Were any characters based on the people I knew? Of course. “They” say write what you know. As a writer, I have no choice but to base myself on what is familiar. However, from that point of reference, I have the ability to create. I’m not interested in writing fictional stories based on myself or people I know. Yet events or certain character traits might inspire me to create a story.


A movie about suicidal teens (Tout est parfait/Everything Is Fine) reminded so much of being a teenager that it inspired Rebecca and David, the main characters in Masks. Once the idea formed, the teenage characters were not hard to imagine. We’ve all been there. We were inexperienced, confused, dramatic and reckless. How many times did I say “If I don’t get [concert tickets/clothing/party/an A], I’m going to die!” It was such an emotionally turbulent time in life that it’s easy to recall and dramatize in a story. In other words, it was easy to take such an important life stage as adolescence and create a story about a teenager dealing with abusive parents.

How much of your personal are you willing to include in your stories? I love to hear from you. Leave a comment.


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