The Autobiography in Fiction

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, mainly on writing and science, and came across an interesting insight on the autobiographical elements of writing. In the 12/20/18 episode of Writers on Writing, author Janet Fitch says the following:

Every novel, every piece of fiction is actually in some way deeply autobiographical but not the in the way the reader thinks, which is usually…they think that the surface events are the autobiographical elements. Whereas in fact, it’s the obsession, it’s the concern, the worry; the thematic element is what’s autobiographical. And usually, the events are not.

I think the way Janet Fitch frames the autobiographical nature of fiction writing is spot-on. As a writer, I’m aware of my own obsessions and how they reoccur throughout my writing, but I’ve never quite put it into words. When I think of specific authors and their collective works, I can most certainly see their obsessions coursing through their words. In that sense, it makes sense why sharing your work is such a vulnerable experience.

From Abstract to Concrete

Here’s a passage from The Martian Chronicles that I thought would make an excellent writing exercise. Here, Ray Bradbury describes time using nearly all of the five senses:

“There was a smell of Time in the air tonight. He smiled and turned the fancy in his mind. There was a thought. What did Time smell like? Like dust and clocks and people. And if you wondered what Time sounded like it sounded like water running in a dark cave and voices crying and dirt dropping down upon hollow box lids, and rain. And, going further, what did Time look like? Time looked like snow dropping silently into a black room or it looked like a silent film in an ancient theater, one hundred billion faces falling like those New Year balloons, down and down into nothing. That was how time smelled and looked and sounded. And tonight—Tomás shoved a hand into the wind outside the truck—tonight you could almost touch Time.”

Similarly, pick an abstract idea and try describing it using the five senses. For example, what does Hope smell like? What does Deceit sound like? Does Freedom have a taste? In doing this exercise, you might come across unique ways to represent otherwise abstract concepts.

Writing Warm-Up 3-31-17

Today’s random first line:

“In this hour, we began to change beyond our limits.”

March is coming to a close. As promised, here are my thoughts on my month-long writing challenge.

The wonderful thing about creative writing is that it expands and restricts according to you. In short, it is only limited by you. As a neurotic perfectionist, I’m prone to reigning myself in and drawing boundaries on my own work: “Here’s a line you cannot cross.”

In approaching my writing as something I could shed and throw away, I was able to unshackle myself from the critic inside my head. Don’t get me wrong. This voice comes back when I’m working on a permanent project, but for 15 minutes, I could write with a reckless abandon that did not care. It didn’t have to make sense, be beautiful, or illuminate.

You know how you’re supposed to find love when you’re not looking for it? In a similar fashion, when I stopped looking for beauty in my writing, I found it in unexpected places. If not in a sentence, in a thought, a sound, or an emotion.

So my final thoughts are this:

  • Writing takes practice.
  • Practice can be messy, imperfect, and meaningless.
  • And that’s okay.

Writing Warm-Up 3-30-17

Today’s random first line:

“The manager was puzzled—someone had squeezed his entire stock of toothpaste on the floor.”

And some Twitter writing hashtag games I’ll be participating in next month:

I don’t know if I’ll be able to do all four every day, but I’ll be doing them as often as I can. If you want to see my answers, you can follow me here @essipark. 🙂

Will you be taking part in any of these? Let me know if you are!

Writing Warm-Up 3-24-17

Today’s random first line:

“He could smell the steak and potatoes before he’d even set foot in the house, and it meant a storm was brewing.”

Only a few more of these left! I won’t be posting daily first line prompts in April, but I will post weekly scenario prompts. My Camp Nanowrimo cabin actually suggested this, and I think it’s a great idea. You would use the prompt to write out a scene with your characters, so it’s a great way to get inside their heads, whether you use the scene or not. For example, the camper cited “Christmas party” as one of the prompts she did last year. Sound fun, right?

As for the blog, I guess you’ll be subjected to more random thoughts and musings on writing. It won’t be that bad, I promise. *pats reader’s head*