Sunday, November 15, 2009

History Repeating

It is very difficult to ignore one's past since our experiences in life tend to shape who we are. I have found that my past, my personality quirks, and even my likes and dislikes, seem to weasel their way into my manuscripts and into my characters.

I tend to write what I know and feel comfortable with, and think this is often the case with most writers. Not that we don't stray off the beaten path! But there is a reason my characters drink whiskey and tea, are slightly claustrophobic, more than a little stubborn, know how to ride a horse and are a half decent shot with a bow and arrow. There will often be something Gaelic, a hint of something pagan, and more than a little mischief and romance to be had. And you guessed it, those are all a part of my history and who I am.

I also find that when adding in something I've actually experienced, the details tend to be more intricate and crisp, and therefore the scene tends to come alive with those details-- details you would not necessarily add or think of if you had not experienced them.

In the next month or two, I'll be sitting down to write a new story, and as I figure it all out in my head, it seems like more than ever, my past is playing a greater influence. In some ways it's a very comfortable feeling, like putting on a favorite comfy sweater. And though my story will still be a completely new world and experience, I take comfort in knowing there will still be a bit of the familiar.

What about you? Do you draw from your own experiences in life? From your own personality? Your likes and dislikes? Do these things influence your writing? Do you find it easier to write what you know or do you feel like you're exposing a part of yourself? Inquiring minds want to know.

And in case anyone is indeed wondering... yes, that is a picture of me and my past. I'm sure it all makes a little more sense now. No?


jmartinlibrary said...

What a cute lass in that picture.

Yes, I tend to pour myself into my writing. Lit bits, here and there. Details from life make the story real to me.

It's a gamble, though. Too much self-history risks boring the reader. (Unless you're a rockstar/international jewel thief) Too little leaves the story sterile.

For example, I love music (especially Rock and Roll). My stories usually have a nod or two (or twenty) to my favorite songs or bands.

Can't wait to hear about your next project...

Cali MacKay said...

I do tend to add in little bits here and there. Obviously, you don't want to write a biography, unless that's your goal, but I do think the little details that you've actually lived can add a certain depth to a story.

I'll keep you posted when I start to write. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I love the pic! :)

I also use "me" in my writing, but only small parts at a time. I don't want any one character being like me - that would be way too creepy :)

I think sometimes my mcs are more like people I would like to be, rather than who I am.

CATE said...

I think faction stories are wonderful - a fiction story with a little bit of fact.... embellished, exaggerated, woven into the tale seamlessly. If I know a story is based on real life experiences and includes something personal from the author it intrigues me just that tiny bit more.
Just make sure the names are changed :)

Cali MacKay said...

Thanks Jemi! I too try not to put too much in, but I think the small things tend to creep in.

Cate, I agree. It does seem more intriguing, doesn't it? Though with fiction, you never really do know. lol. And definitely change the names if you're basing characters on real people. ; )

Just Wendy said...

I've recently discovered I weave a lot of memories into my characters. Quite unintentionally. The scenes, more often than not deal with loss or deep sadness, which funnily enough are the most well written. Odd.

Good post Calista.

Cali MacKay said...

Quillfeather, I really do think the parts we weave into our stories that are from our own experiences do tend to be more detailed and better written because we've actually experienced them. And I think it's those tiny details that add the depth.

Sara {Rhapsody and Chaos} said...

I add bits and parts of myself... But then I also will sometimes add things that are SO totally not me...just to live a little vicariously, ya know... for instance - one of my secondary characters is very snotty. Not that I can't be snotty, mind you, but she's funny when she's snarky - and she has a quick wit that I still don't have today, ha.

But it's always a nice surprise when you can think of something from your past that fits a character - and may even allow them to stand out a little bit.

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

Great post! You're always so insightful.

I think it's natural to put a little bit of ourselves into everything we write. I know I do. And I'm fairly convinced that the witch in the Wizard of Oz who had a house dropped on her was probably based on a real person. Just saying. Hehe.

Seriously, that's the beauty of writing/creating. We can explore not only all the worlds we haven't experienced, but also delve deeply into our own lives, exploring who we are. I've discovered a lot about myself through my writing.

rklewis said...

My past very much informs the world of my characters. My protags are VERY redemption driven, as am I. The milieu I've created for them is heavily based on my experiences. I don't think you can write fiction without your past and experiences informing it on some level. That would be like creating in a vacuum, I would think. I mean, all my protags drink. Heck, that's TOTALLY me! :-)

Elana Johnson said...

I think we defitely insert ourselves in our characters. And the best stories stem from real life.

Cute pic!

Cali MacKay said...

Sara, I love that you're living vicariously through your characters. I often do the same.

Carolina, I love that you discover things about yourself through your writing. That's fantastic.

RK, I totally see you come through in your writing. Get out the scotch! : )

Thanks, Elana! It's no wonder your characters are kick-butt!!

Unknown said...

I think the ingredient that all have stated here, the one you've all described, is life. A character isn't truly that fascinating, or even that interesting, until they have at least a small relatable amount of life, whether or not that life comes from who you are, who you were, who you know, or even who you dream you could be. That's the "alchemical" incredient that makes characters "alive".

Fantastic pic.

Cali MacKay said...

Well said, Doug. Thanks about the pic and for stopping by.

Cat Woods said...

Cali, nice post. Great pic!

I agree that adding small details make our characters more real.

I'm not sure mine are "me" specific for the most part, but certainly they mimic instances that are ingrained in my memory and can be drawn upon to add some punch--even spiked with whiskey!

cleemckenzie said...

I suppose you can't totally escape from writing in bits and pieces of yourself or your friends and family, but I really try to characterize from other sources. I love to people watch and have to be careful not to be taken for a stalker at times, especially if a particularly interesting person is nearby. I have one person I see every week and so many of her mannerisms are in a character I've written that I hope she never reads the book.:D

Cali MacKay said...

Cat and Sliding, I think you're both right that the character's might not be "us" specifically but rather other people we come in contact. Still, these other people end up being our version of them, which is always fun to play with. My Greek grandmother made it into one of my stories. It was hysterical. ; )