The thing that makes fiction worth while and dwelling into is that the story is a concept originally hailing from one’s imagination. From plot maneuvers to details and essentials unique to the world created, it’s a skill that never gets boring; the skill of summoning such a narrative, as if by magic. But as many readers and writers know, not everything that makes the story unique is all purely the result of constant brainstorms from the creator. There are outside influences like other authors, real life occurrences and what not that help carve the story into a more thought-provoking, surreal experience that can really touch a number of readers. As I will explore today, another influence that can really shape up a story is when an author adds a little bit from their personal life into the context.
It makes sense why this happens when one really thinks about it. The author has to spend so much time alone with only the lingering thoughts in their mind about what may and may not work in their story; and sometimes, occasionally a memory of a person or an experience may get jumbled up in there. That along with authors being active observers in everyday details, like the way the light touches the surface of water of a pond or the way adrenaline may feel when taking over a body, may also contribute to the notion to turn to the personal. Besides, as mentioned in my previous post, the stories created are ultimately like the offspring of the authors, and like real-life offspring, they’re going to carry tidbits and traits of the parent. It’s only natural that there would be personal elements incorporated into the story, especially when the story alone is already so important to the author, that they need to tell it.
Personal touches can come in various forms. Sometimes, it could be something as simple as naming a minor character after an endearing relative. Other times, it can be more substantiating, such as cases where there may be a subplot that was inspired by something that happened in the author’s life. Details like the way dimples appear when a particular character smiles or an odd habit another one has may trace back to real life people who’ve had an impact on the author.
Of course, this is not always a good thing. There are times where the personal elements can be traced back to negative experiences or not so good people that have made appearances in the author’s life. A moment of ignorance can be straight from something the author has encountered in real life. The nonsense that’s constantly spewing from a character’s mouth or an unexpected death in the family can just as well be directly from the author’s life. Why else then do you think there are parts of books that feel undeniably real? Well, that may be because the source material for those tidbits are real.
When done right, when the personal mixes well with the overall fiction, chances are readers will respond strongly to it. They may rave on about the plot as a whole, the character development of the protagonist, the details of the world it’s set in, and so on, but there will always be those who may resonate with the very elements that were purposely taken from the author’s life. When that happens, when the reader responds so strongly to those details, tidbits and elements, that’s when the author can be rest assured that their life and the people who are a part of it and the experiences they’ve been through can be seen with a certain depth to them… that and, of course, make good source material for storytelling.
People respond to the personal. That’s something they aren’t ignorant of. They may not entirely know that their favorite character was inspired by someone in real life, but they know that there is something profoundly deep that’s present. And oftentimes, people prefer the personal.
That was the case with Sanjay Patel, director of the Academy Award nominated Pixar short film, “Sanjay’s Super Team.” I attended a panel earlier in the week where he and producer Nicole Grindle discussed the making of the short. Already John Lasseter had been encouraging Sanjay to do a short, and so when he pitched his original idea, it was actually very different from how the final product turned out. He explained that while John liked the pitch, he eventually wound up telling him to just tell his story. The story, in his case, was spending Saturday mornings as a youth, watching super hero cartoons like any other American boy in the 80’s, while his immigrant father did his daily meditation before the Hindu shrine set up in their home. It’s because Sanjay wound up fusing his personal narrative as a child of immigrants into a short film that has since been hailed by many.
Including the personal with the fictional is a normal and, I believe, a necessary practice when writing fiction. I most certainly did that when writing A Moment’s Worth, and I’ve definitely done that with my second novel as well. The story is an extension of the author, and so naturally, it makes sense to include essences of the author in the context. That’s what helps make the story come alive and resonating for readers everywhere.
A Moment’s Worth is now available through the following venues: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, iTunes. Please leave a review if you can, for my goal is to get a total of at least 20 reviews on all venues (so far, I’ve gotten 12 reviews so I’m already just past the halfway point to my goal). Check out its Goodreads page, which includes two trivia quizzes for all who’ve completed reading it already.