Real Life vs. Fiction – How much of me is in my books?

As I told my students many times, “write what you know”.  Glancing through the four novels I’ve written so far, I find that there is a LOT of me scattered around.  In Adrianna, for example, the paraplegic main character is nothing like me looks-wise, and she’s a billionairess…of course that doesn’t fit me at all! However, what she says during her recovery from the car accident that killed her father came right out of my memory of what I said twenty-six years ago when I first became paraplegic.


“It will be wonderful riding Thunder again! I bet he has missed me almost as much as I have missed him,” she exclaimed exuberantly.  She ran her fingers through her long, wind-tangled hair and sighed. “I just don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to Thunder! Take whatever you want, but don’t take my Thunder from me!”

I was never horse-crazy, but I had a friend in high school who practically worshipped them. What Adrianna says about anything happening to her horse…now that’s from a statement I made shortly before I became paraplegic.  It turned out to be prophetic and almost like I challenged the powers that be, and in Adrianna’s case, she lost Thunder for a while because she couldn’t ride him.

Wanting to get on her horse and ride with the wind was one of her prime motivations for working hard to overcome her paraplegia.  In my case, I wanted my children to see that one doesn’t have to let life’s surprises stop him from doing whatever he sets his mind to accomplish – something good with his life. I went back to college and became a teacher…and I think that made my kids proud of me.

 I have a feeling that any author, regardless of genre, puts a lot of happenings, characteristics, and thoughts from their actual experiences into their books.  That’s what makes fiction so much fun to write. The author can say things in a book that he or she might have wished to say at some point in real life.

Maybe he or she would have liked to stand up to that bully in elementary school and still remembers how it felt back then. Voila! A mean bully character appears in the book, and sometimes that happens although the writer hadn’t planned on having that particular character. In the novel, by contrast to real life, the main character overcomes the bully in some significant way, and the writer feels vindicated.

I loved my father, and I know that he loved me, but he seldom said it, and he wasn’t the affectionate type. Daniel, one of the main characters in Roller Coaster Ride, is patterned after the father I wish mine had been.  He’s almost the total opposite of what mine was…and I mean no disrespect to my Dad as he had his good qualities, too.  I cried when my father died, and I know that …somewhere in the distant future, if Daniel dies in one of the five remaining books I have waiting in my head to finish the Grisholm County Chronicles, I will have trouble seeing the screen to write his demise.  I’ll need lots of tissues!

I wonder how many authors recognize how much of themselves and their lives appear in some form in the fiction they create.  Is that monstrous alien who threatens the earthlings that visit a faraway planet actually the bully that stole the writer’s lunch money and beat him up after school?  Could that loving, wonderful woman who appears in a dream to encourage or warn a character be like the writer’s mother…or perhaps her opposite?

It would be interesting to read your comments, fellow authors – perhaps you’ll share an instance in one of your books that you know came from your real life experiences, or a character that has the personality of someone in your life. I hope you’ll write one of those experiences in the comment.


4 thoughts on “

  1. fab post thank you for sharing, and yup i do include quite a lot of my real life experiences so much so that one short horror story i wrote a while back and is my first book i actually changed the storyline a little because i scared myself that much ^_^ i think i am a better writer having come to it this late in life because i have more experiences to draw on, i still had more than enough imagination to do it when i was younger but i am glad i didnt because i believe my characters are more developed now as i am able to bring them alive more due to my experiences. great post thank you have a super evening xx

  2. My very first book, Monique’s Wish, had a great deal of real life happenings in it. I believe that is why it flowed so easily. Like you, Eileen, I had parents who did not ‘show’ their love very well. I promised myself to be a more loving parent. Good post!

  3. I think we write about our own experiences in a variety of ways. If not in chronicling specific people and events, then in noting our reactions to and interpretations of events – even if those events are entirely ficticious. Thanks, Eileen.

  4. Wonderful post, Eileen! I take tidbits from myself for my characters. Their love of music is from me. Their dislike of certain types of music is also from me. The snappy dialogue, weird family dynamics and other things strongly reflect not only me, but my family. We don’t communicate like anyone else that I know. We have a very odd sense of humor and joke about strange stuff.

    I think authors sometimes use their writing to build a better world to live in. We can control the elements, satisfy fantasies and make dreams come true.

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