I got derailed this weekend.
When a friend asked me to be a beta reader for some chapters he wrote, and I said yes, I didn’t know it was going to derail me from my own writing.
Except, it didn’t really.
Allow me to explain.
The request to read the chapters wasn’t to complete a grammatical analysis, but rather, to establish whether the chapters evoked an emotional response in me.
It was only a couple of chapters. It didn’t take long to get through the actual reading part.
Reading those chapters resulted in an immediate unleashing of a deeply buried autobiographical story within me. And that’s when my derailment began.
So yes, the chapters evoked an emotional response.
This is a good thing. A story should make readers feel things; if it doesn’t, then it failed at hooking the reader.
We write to be read.
We want our words to connect with others, to solicit emotional responses, to find others who can relate, maybe commiserate, to events and circumstances we experience.
That’s what his chapters did to me. I ended up on my own path down memory lane…
Instead of picking up my own WIP, and finish getting it ready for self-publishing, I read my friend’s chapters and then…I went searching for something I wrote years (months?) ago myself.
The story I wrote back then was about an unpleasant event that happened to me when I was a young adult. At the time, I chose the third person narrative to tell my story. I figured, by choosing to write ‘about her‘ rather than ‘about me‘ I allowed for a degree of separation.
Why do I continually do this?
It’s a rather conniving way to hide behind the truth.
Do you understand what I mean? When I take a personal experience and wrap it up in fiction, I can write about my protagonist as her. Her may be me, but you (the reader) doesn’t know that. You (the reader) either identify, and like, my protagonist, or not. The relationship of the protagonist (her) to the writer (me) does not need to be spelled out.
In fiction, you want the reader to relate to the protagonist, and the characters, and the plot, and the story line, and all the rest of it. You want the reader to like the story.
How is this different in autobiographical writing?
Well, it’s trickier.
When you write about “I” or “me”, you are opening yourself up, displaying yourself to your readers, allowing, even inviting them to analyze you, criticize you, judge you. It makes you vulnerable, and uncomfortable.
For some people, that’s enough to stop writing (or never begin).
But it’s exactly that vulnerability, that discomfort, that also brings out the kindhearted, compassionate people into your peripherals. I have *met* many such people online, through this blog especially, who have become a part of my circle of friends for this very reason. Their feedback encourages me to shed my third person narrative persona, look inward, and face my demons. And begin writing in the first person narrative.
If you write an essay, you are talking about you.
If you write a memoir, you write about you.
When you write about you, you should say so. Admit it to yourself. (And by you and yourself, I mean me and myself.) Ha.
I am slowly learning that this is how I will find, and experience, catharsis with writing.