by Sally Ember, Ed.D.
For me, writing fiction and poetry always involves digging up artifacts and dirt. My own and others’ buried treasures, junk, secrets and lies are uncovered, examined, deemed worthy “as is” or refurbished, cleaned up and presented within the text.
Writing Clara Branon, as her and about her, is the most autobiographical fiction I’ve ever written. I decided to gift Clara with most of my own “stories” and history, to see what would happen when a version of me is involved in the circumstances and relationships Clara encounters. It’s a roller-coaster for me, delving into my own life to pull up people, events, emotions, reactions, wishes, fears, griefs and successes and foist them onto Clara.
Usually, she does a lot better than I do or I already have with these events and has a much higher “success” rate with Clara’s conversations and intimacies than I can claim. In many ways, I feel envious of her. I also do not want her life, especially the public part. But, I do sometimes wish I had her personal strength and courage.
Oh, wait; I do. I must. I also have Clara’s creativity, the fire that burns within her, since I gave it to her. Of course I do.
Then, why is it so much easier to see this in Clara than in myself? I believe I make a character in my own image and deliberately make her better than I am only to discover that she can’t be better than I am because I made her. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the whole “God-made-humans-in-’His’-own’-image” story has similar issues, yes?
As a fiction and poetry creator, as a Buddhist well aware of the illusory nature of all phenomena, as a fabricator and dreamer, I am well aware of the fantasies I make into a semblance of reality with each paragraph or stanza I put into words. I paint pictures of scenes, drawing upon deep emotional bonds and reactions in order to do it, but we all know none of this is “real.” Right? Except for the parts that are true, that is.
The exhilarating, terrifying ride of writing one’s own stories in whatever forms is that others are going to read them and get to know things about me and my inner world I would never tell them, otherwise. My best defense, then, is to mix these true tales with pure fiction.
Sometimes serving up this admixture seems to be a cop-out move on my part, as I feel a taunting voice within me saying: “Na, na, na, na, na: you can’t know me! You don’t know what parts of this are ‘mine’ and which are completely made up. So there! Try and figure it out. I’ll never tell!”
This is the gauntlet every writer throws down to one’s readers: “Catch me, if you can!”
I do leave breadcrumbs for your journey, especially on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/sallyember and here in my blog posts. Happy treasure hunting, readers! Please let me know what you find and what labels you decide to put on each trinket. We can compare later.
Next, if you’re an author, review your own fiction and put it to the same tests: are these siblings yours? Those parents? That spouse or significant other? What about the children? Which one of the characters is most like you? I invite readers to do the same when reading books by authors you know.
The renowned Carl Jung posited that everyone in our dreams, human or not, is actually an aspect of ourselves. That probably applies to we authors’ fictional characters as well?
Links for my website and ebooks:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HFELTG8 Vol I, now PermaFree