When You Are Your Character

They say as people age, they start to look like their dogs. And it seems as if every term at least a few student novel writers come to class confused about novels and memoirs. As in which one is supposed to be fiction. But they also say you should write what you know. So I’m wondering if a novelist’s protagonists ever stop resembling the author?
Even famous authors often write characters who are eerily like themselves. Ann Lamott writes novels about tennis players, and wouldn’t you know, she once was a tennis star. Student novels are often about someone whom has just happened to go through the exact same situation as the main character.
One writer I know always writes a heroine who is a genius, drop-dead gorgeous and well-heeled. I keep saying this sort of protagonist has no real conflict, but apparently writer needs to write her fantasies. In one book her character won the Nobel Prize. Another novelist’s character just happened to sail around the world alone, just as the author had done. His problem? With no one to talk to, his character has a monologue. I keep suggesting the character get a parrot, a dog or even a soccer ball named Wilson.
I’m not sure why these writers feel compelled to disguise their true stories in a novel. But enough writers engage in this behavior to convince me there has to be a reason.
Perhaps it’s because writers feel too self-conscious to write a straightforward memoir. Add to that the sad truth that memoirs are so very hard to sell to a publisher. Maybe it’s not that surprising that so many first novels read like a very boring autobiography, where the character is a tennis-playing St. Bernard. Or maybe there are a lot of writers who deserve a Nobel Prize.

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1 comment on “When You Are Your Character

  1. i am guessing it is all about the whole movement calling out peeps as liars when writing memoirs… what a destructive past time..
    i know sometime when i just tell people in conversation about certain instances in my life people can’t believe it.. so i assume writing it would be a real fight.. unless i made the lead character someone who just resembled myself and called it fiction.. yona

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