Write what you know.
We’ve all heard this, and while it’s true that it’s fun to explore things you don’t know, I am a firm believer that the closer you can get to your real voice, the better your writing will be. And if you stick to your own experiences, you’re more likely to use your own voice.
I heard a songwriter once say in an interview that the more personal he made his song, the more universally it was accepted. That stuck in my mind and so when I write, I try to make it as personal as possible.
I have a writer friend who lives in Norway and she says there’s a Norwegian word for this kind of writing that can’t really be translated. The closest English word she can find is “skinless.” It’s essentially when a writer exposes his or her inner self.
Anyway, I’m starting to babble now. My apologies. I just wanted to explain a little why I wrote It Seemed Funny at the Time the way I did. It’s fiction, but it’s also personal.
I took real experiences with real people that I had as a young woman and fictionalized the people and some of the experiences. I did this for a number of reasons, the main one being it made a better story. I could skip over the boring parts and condense the time frame and not agonize over the fact that I’m unable to remember every detail perfectly.
I based the main characters on people I knew, but sometimes I combined two or more people into one character, or gave an experience I had with one person to another character. And sometimes I just made stuff up. I wanted the book to be good and a fun read, not just a chronicling of my life. I doubt many would be interested in that no matter how “skinless” it was.
Some of the people in my life at that time—the late 80s—are still in my life, I’m happy to say. I’ve told them about the book and some have read it, or at least one draft of it or another. Several have been extremely helpful in discussing our past together, jogging my memory and adding their perspectives.
One friend said I could write whatever I wanted as long as I made him handsome (easy to do—he was and is very handsome). Another asked that I not make her a gold digger, which I found interesting since I’d never thought of her that way at all. I could see she was nervous though and I made sure there was nothing written that could make her seem gold-diggery.
I understand what it feels like to be written about. I had an ex once who wrote a little TV show about his life—you might have seen it. Sometimes, I’d recognize a scene or an element in a character as mine, just as I’m sure many of his friends and family did. But the story wasn’t about me. It was about him.
And my book is about what happened to me. My intent isn’t to make anyone uncomfortable or look like a gold digger or less handsome. I’m just telling my story in a way that I hope people will enjoy. I just happened to have had some very funny, sexy, amazing people in my life, and they’ve made my personal story interesting. So, I’m sharing it. I hope you’ll like it.