Monday, September 24, 2012

Writing Thoughts: Pouring yourself into your stories

Wow, three posts in one day! That's a new record I probably won't break anytime soon.

So, I had to read an article for my creative writing program that talked about some very interesting ideas.  The article was "Autographobia: Writing the Secret Life" by David Jauss, from his book Alone With All That Could Happen, and it touched on a few points, most about how an author writes themselves into their work. Now, I know what you're thinking. "Not everyone writes about themselves! I've written (or read) loads of stories that obviously didn't happen to me (or the author) or that couldn't even happen in real life!" Don't worry, that's what Jauss' point was, though with a few additions.

First off, he talked about how, as a writer, he has had people call him and talk about how they connected with his stories, thinking that the stories were autobiographical. Just as a side note, I found this very amusing that people actually do this sort of thing but that's just me. Anyway, Jauss then went on to explain how most writers do not write autobiographical stories, but that this doesn't mean that writers don't put a part of themselves in the stories they write. Now, I used to oppose this kind of idea. For a long time, I thought, "No, I NEVER put myself into my characters. They're not real, they're nothing like me!" I think I held onto this idea partially because my mum (who reads everything I write, the good and bad) kept comparing me to my main characters. This annoyed me a lot. I don't really know why it annoyed me as much as it did but I guess I went out to prove that, no I am not in disguise as my characters, thank you very much. Then, sometime last year, I was thinking back on some of my stories, bot recent and older pieces, and I realised something. All these characters seem to encompass qualities that I can relate to, maybe even some circumstances that are at least a teeny bit similar to ones I've experienced. My mind kind of imploded at that. Could I have really been wrong all this time? Could I really have been writing myself into my stories, all the while pretending not to?

The thing is, there's a slight difference between autobiographical writing and "writing" oneself into a story. The former is basically a diary entry, written down formally, maybe in third person, maybe not. The latter is incorporating one's own personality quirks, ideas, circumstance, etc. and changing them slightly as they are mixed with the other ingredients making up the story. Jauss called this the "secret self" and it is a way of gaining insight into the deeper layers of a person and holds more meaning than just recounting the facts of an event that happened ten years ago.

Wow, this has become a heavily intellectual post, hasn't it. I'm sure all of you can take it ;) Now, I'd love to hear any comments, thoughts, questions, etc. you may have.

What do you think about this "secret self" Jauss is on about? Is he right? Wrong? Missing something?

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