Fiction as Autobiography

The Troth
You don’t create fiction out of nothing — ex nihilo, like God creating the universe. Rather, you use the stuff of life, mostly the life you know best –your own life.

I’m not saying authors never write about things they disagree with or that every scene is somehow a mirror of an author’s soul. I’m merely saying that authors, to a greater or lesser extent, reveal themselves in their work.

At a basic level an author of fiction reveals his story telling skill: use of plot, character, suspense, etc. But at a deeper level he reveals what he cares about — what he loves enough to work at communicating — usually for months and years, often alone and overlooked — and if noticed at all — puzzled over — like a strange bug unearthed by a shovel.

So where is the author in the story? Can we spot him like we can spot Alfred Hitchcock in a cameo in North by Northwest or Vertigo? No. I think the whole work — the entire story — is the revelation. Moby Dick reveals a Melville bereft of faith, despairing and bitter. Metamorphosis shows a Kafka full of self-loathing and suicidal.

A question worth asking is — does the work tell a truth, even an unwelcome truth? If so, it’s worth reading.


Explore posts in the same categories: Mortimus on Writing and Books

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