Is there nothing sacred for #writers?
I’ve written nine novels so far, and in the search for new plotlines, I’ve not yet really struggled. I seek inspiration from things that happen in the news, or situations that I’ve seen other people caught up in. In addition to this, I have been known to weave some of my own life experiences into my novels too, although usually much altered and significantly exaggerated.
As I continue to produce more work, I do delve into my own personal history more frequently. Although, I am acutely aware that I must be careful not to upset anyone with my storylines. It wouldn’t do to dredge up too many painful instances from the past.
But to a certain extent, that is what writers do, isn’t it? They use their own observations to create narratives, tweaking it here and there for dramatic effect. At some point, a friend or relative is undoubtedly going to recognise themselves in a novel written by someone close to them. It could even be viewed as a privilege to be immortalized in such a way.
I can definitely admit that several of my characters are based on real life individuals although never in their entirety. My brother-in-law once suggested, very astutely, that he believed I’m not always aware of when I’m using parallels from my own life in my books. I would agree with him whole-heartedly, as I never set out consciously to recreate scenes from my own experience.
In fact, I would venture that most writers have topics which remain ‘sacred’ to them. This may be a difficult childhood relationship with a parent or a painful divorce for example. There will be some aspects of their lives that remain strictly off-limits in their quest for plots.
There are authors who have made a niche for themselves out of exploring the most anguishing experiences of their lives. These types of frank, semi-autobiographical pieces of writing can be extremely popular. But for me, I like to hide behind my role as the author. I wouldn’t like to reveal too much of myself on the page, although the clues to everything that makes me tick are certainly within the lines of my books, even if they are not glaringly obvious.
Writing is not therapy or catharsis for me. I use the creative process to escape into an imaginary world. If it resembles my own life too closely then I wouldn’t enjoy the experience as much. At the same time, I would be naive to think that I wasn’t revealing a great deal of myself through the process of being a novelist. But for me, some topics certainly are sacred. I know that resurrecting certain issues and events would hurt the people closest to me and I’m not in the business of doing that. But I wonder how much other authors feel the same. Are some subjects sacred? Or does the writer, by taking on the job, agreed to open themselves up entirely to their readership? I’d certainly be interested to know.