Is It Autobiographical?
Years ago, hearing that I was writing fiction, a friend asked if it was autobiographical.
“Not exactly,” I said. “It’s about Gypsies in eastern Europe in the early 1400s.”
My friend laughed. “Guess not.”
In fact my narrative of a girl’s childhood with her big brother, her encounter with new environments, and her growth into womanhood was replete with autobiography. So is my current late medieval mystery, shaped by memories of sojourns in a predominantly male milieu and an expatriate community far from home.
How but through experience do we know the workings of the human heart? The incongruous behaviors that erupt out of fear, resentment, loneliness, or grief? The relationships of lovers, friends, and rivals? The smell of wet soil, the taste of salted fish, the sensation of wind on the face? Isn’t it all autobiographical?
5/8/2017 02:01:52 pm
Beautifully put, Sarah. The traditional advice to writers is to write what you know. Of course, other advice is to travel widely, meet people, experience new things, read widely, and observe, observe, observe! Doing these things expands "what you know."
Points well taken, Rhonda. My Sept. 26 blog post, "Writing What You Know," took issue with that traditional advice and proposed, as you do, expanding what you know. One can know a lot at second hand. Recently I've consulted friends with relevant expertise to construct a horse theft and describe a childbirth gone wrong.
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.