Using your childhood as fictional fodder


Are there skeletons in your juvenile closet that you would rather keep buried or would you include as a part of a fictional story?  Are you comfortable enough with your past that you feel using these experiences in a helpful way? 

Some writers are cool and comfortable enough to use something traumatic from their pasts in a fictional format in order to help readers or just get it out there. You can change the names of the innocent or even the guilty to disguise that this was a real person. You as a writer need to be in a good spot emotionally to make it work so as it doesn’t cause you trauma as an adult.

I have tried to write a fictional account of the suicides of two friends from my twenties.  I want to tell the story of Fred and his brother Jim in order to state the importance of talking about mental health issues.

That’s just one example but I want I want to be sure I can do it without feeling traumatized. 29 years after the fact this event still gets to me.

Another area of my youth I would talk about as a part of a story is the aspect of being bullied by my peers  and thus causing a raging anxiety disorder that still plagues me.  I am in a much better place to take this on than the suicide story.

I have no clue as to when I will get either of these plots but I think they will be helpful to someone.

On the other hand you may have family trips or just little things that you did as a kid to use in a story that might be funny or enjoyable.

For example I grew up in Northern Ontario for the first six years of my life before the great exodus to the Greater Toronto area. I have some great memories of Winter carnivals and my first crush on a swimming instructor even when I was six. I spent loads of time in the bowling alley harassing the pinsetter while my sister and brother bowled and my parents curled. Our school gymnasium was the movie theatre and we saw a lot of good movies that were borrowed from the cinemas in town.  I might just write that as a part of an autobiography one day.

It’s all up to the particular writer what aspects of real life they want to share with readers. Make the read a cautionary tale of kids don’t try this at home or things they did as a kid written into the characters story.




6 thoughts on “Using your childhood as fictional fodder

  1. Of course we bring a piece of ourselves to our work, I do it all the time. I just gave one of my characters my hatred of cigars.

    I watched the finale of Roseanne and in it, Roseanne narrates explaining she used writing to fix her real life which sucked and that’s why the show was so strange. It made me respect her so much as a writer as well as a comedian. Sometimes we gotta make peace with the past through our fiction because life won’t allow it.

  2. Good point Rachel –everyone says write what you know. Laura is little parts of me throughout the years –I also bring a lot of my sarcastic wit to my characters and the mother daughter angst than a lot of people experience.

  3. Pingback: Using your childhood as fictional fodder | J.D. Holiday

  4. I don’t think i could ever bring the trauma’s of my childhood directly into my writing, but they do influence it. For instance, my family was very disfunctional, and my current fantasy project explores both the meaning of family and the difference between the family we are raised in and the family we choose. not themes many would expect given that this is an erotic fantasy, but it works for me.

    I do see other influences – I grew up in north jersey and spent a lot of time hiking in the corner of the Appalachians that cut through my figurative backyard. Vacations were spent in the heart of the Catskills in upstate NY. And it seems like at least 2 out 3 times my stories end up in an Appalachian-like setting.

  5. I had a lot of wonderful childhood experiences. Fortunately, the traumas were few and very far between. I applaud your attempts to write about the difficult things, but sometimes that is something to write only for yourself until such a time as you can process and make sense of it. Good luck!

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