Some people didn’t like this post. It was about semi-autobiographical novels and how I just wanted people to pick a side. Fiction or memoir.
But what I didn’t mean is that your characters shouldn’t possess some element of you, something that you’re passionate about. Fictional stories should be you, but different. You to the 1000th integer or whatever.
Look at The Simpsons. Many of the original characters were inspired by Matt Groening’s own family, but they’re not his family.
Steven Pressfield in War of Art describes characters this way:
“…Characters might not be interesting to anyone else but they’re absolutely fascinating to us. They are us. Meaner, smarter, sexier versions of ourselves. It’s fun to be with them because they’re wresting with the same issue that has its hooks into us. They’re our soul mates, our lovers, our best friends. Even the villains. Especially the villains.”
In talk about semi-autobiographical fiction, I just think people are mailing it in without really thinking about character development. Some people have fascinating personal lives or can tell anecdotes extremely well, so then just write a memoir. Writing a memoir but then hanging a few little knicknack-y changes and calling it different doesn’t matter.
Characters have power beyond us, taking us to new places that we can’t go. And can challenge us.
Come up with characters that are a part of you. Then write it. Do the work.