Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.–Virginia Woolf
I read this gorgeous post by Molly of Molly’s Daily Kiss, and loved the beginning where she writes that she had never written in detail about the experience she began the post with. She notes however that this experience has spilled into her fiction.
Years ago when I was in college, a guy asked me if he would show up in one of my stories? I said maybe–his arm, his leg or some other part of him. He looked at me like I was a witch, and I gave him a Mona Lisa smile. Another guy talked to me with restraint, because he said I was a writer and made up stuff. That I had to be a good liar. He made me feel like a witch at Salem.
We writers are magical people, we write the world–real or imagined–with our slant. Everything that I write is not about me, and may not be my experience but it is my slant, my take. My fiction is usually either something that I am curious about, so I create a circumstance that I have to research to make it ring true. The other times, it is my life experience to the exponential. So if I felt or experienced ABC, I would write ABC to the second power. For me it would be far too boring to write verbatim about my life, so I make it more extraordinary and sparkly!
When I studied writing in school, I learned two things that I apply to anything I write: a) write about what I know (or research it to know it) and b) the problem with writing about things that really happened to you is that you try to recreate it exactly. I do not know anyone who has a photographic memory, and trying to write something to become like an old photograph? Exactly that way it was? It means nothing gets written at all.
Even if you write about something that is completely outside of your experience, you still season the piece–with you. The reason why someone is always in Paris in Wicked Wednesday, is because I am a Francophile! The office that Nichy and Gavin work in for Masturbation Monday, is remarkably like the one I currently work in. There is always a piece of me in my writing, whether I plan it or not. Reoccurring themes, scenes, things always seem to occur. Sometimes I write something and get a sense of dejá-vü because I have written something like that before, and I might write it again. My writing is not different from my dreams, which are filled with reoccurring events as well. I use my dreams as fodder for fiction too.
So what I told the first guy was true, anyone I know might appear in one of my stories. Most likely, a mannerism of theirs, or some other small or large detail. And the other guy was right too, I do make up stuff I hope in a convincing fashion, and I cherish my ability to do so.
Frederic Leighton’s Flaming June on view now at the Frick