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Can that character be you?

March 15, 2024
Posted by:
Ron Seybold

Autofiction is one way that writers mine their lives for a novel's story. Classic novels have been disguised as autobiographies. There's David Copperfield, Look Homeward Angel, On the Road, and The Things They Carried. Yes, you can write that sort of book, presenting your life as fiction.

Frankly, many readers will assume a novel is really about the author's life anyway. Anne R. Allen says that "a lot of readers think all fiction is based on the author’s life. Especially if it’s written in the first person. Even more readers expect authors to be like their protagonists."

The writing that's acknowledged to be about the author is memoir or autobiography. Memoirs are hard to sell and difficult to structure, though. Many beginning writers have memoirs in progress.

It can be easier to write a novel than a memoir. The memoir's advantage over the novel is also its curse: the facts from real life are a guidepost that must the followed.

The differences between autofiction and memoir can be comic. In a LitHub piece about 10 new definitions of autofiction, one stands out as funny and true. "When you write about something bad you’ve done, that’s autofiction. When you write about something bad done to you, that’s memoir."

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