IWSG 41: Truth In My Fiction

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.




Olga Godim | Chemist Ken | Jennifer Hawes | Tamara Narayan

OPTIONAL Question:  Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

I add personal information all the time. Not personal history. Not family secrets. Not even how I see the world. What I share in my work are my feelings.

I want to tell share truths.

I want to relate to my readers.

We all feel things. I don’t need to say this. We all know this to be true. Sharing my raw emotions is a form of reaching out. What I feel others have felt. I’m not special.

What I do with these feelings is chain them to my character’s life experience. They face a moment of loneliness and I look back at a time I faced being alone. No doubt it has been romanticized and it may be ballooned. I don’t think about that during my first draft and would never suggest or capture the real events that led to my loneliness. That would involve too many people—me included. But I run parallels in my imagination and take advantage of my rollercoaster past as much as possible.

But the one thing I will suggest is if a character goes through an event that brings about a visceral reaction you’ve had—dig deep and get it out. Don’t hold back.

Holding back is not what the reader is looking for. And the feelings aren’t the actual experience.

For example: Someone leaves your life and you know you’d never trade a moment of your time together. There is the loss, the adapting, healing, and the memories. What would you use?

Your main character’s situation will be entirely different.

It’s the moment the MC walks away into the sunset. The moment someone dies in the MC’s arms. The moment they turn down a wedding proposal. Or the MC leaves against their parents’ wishes; they see their sibling watching them go. What emotional road do they land up following? What are the consequences?

The list is endless.

What do you do to make your story real?

104 responses to “IWSG 41: Truth In My Fiction

  1. I’m the same. I don’t put in personal information or family history. But I do include situations and experiences with a little twist for my MCs. And tap into the feelings I had then to realistically write what they’re going through.

  2. I always write fiction that’s close to the bone. So much so, I’ve put fiction aside from now and am solely concentrating on narrative nonfiction.

  3. A lot of my characters share at least a small part of me, whether that be my habits, speech pattern, fears, backstory, or anything really. 🙂

  4. What do I do to make my stories real? I feel. That is my go to. Or I turn them in my head into a movie I am watching and try to think what would really excite me as moviegoer? Great post.

  5. Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

    It’s the emotional truths that make stories resonate with the readers.

  6. I think I’ve just tried to tap into the emotions or think about how particular circumstances shape people and their personalities and reactions.

  7. I also tap into my own emotions. I ask myself: how would I feel if I got into such a situation, and try to convey that feeling through words.

  8. Angela Wooldridge

    I think you have to tap into your own emotions in order to feel real on the page. You can tell if you’re reading something distanced, or if the writer is holding back.

  9. I love the way you expressed this. I tap into my emotions also but I also tap into my beliefs and how I see my own world.
    Thank you for co-hosting today.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

  10. I like the imagery of running emotional parallels in our imagination. And I agree about our readers not wanting us to hold back.

  11. Emotions. The key to writing great middle-grade books!! Can you imagine putting your own family secrets into your writing?? Yikes!

  12. I think tapping into our own emotions and finding similar ones that the characters would be feeling is a great way to add depth into a story.

  13. Stephanie Scott

    Yes! I have been learning to push more on those feelings. Donald Maass’ emotional fiction writing book has been really good for prompts and advice on how to do that.

    Here is my IWSG October post! http://www.stephaniescott.net/2017/10/2512/

  14. I’ve had things in my past that were emotional and helped me when writing. The characters usually experience something different, but it’s similar enough that I can draw on how I had felt back then and put it into the writing.

  15. I think we all put a little of ourselves into our characters whether we know it or not. It does help make it more authentic.

  16. To be relatable I think characters have to have something that we’ve seen in the world, whether that’s something we’ve seen in ourselves, our friends, or just more abstractly observed in general. The trick is to make the character relatable while being their own unique person!

  17. I’ve added personal history a lot, and a couple of family secrets. 😉

  18. Real feelings are definitely something we want to include in our work. I try to imagine how I’d feel in the character’s situation and/or think of the nearest thing tat’s happened to me. Feeling happy, scared, angry or relieved feels much the same whatever the cause, doesn’t it?

  19. tyreanmartinson

    I think understanding and sharing the “heart” kind of truths is important as a writer; it’s something we can use to making our writing compelling and interesting.

  20. Your technique sounds like what we were taught in acting classes: Mine your own most emotional moments to give juice and depth to your acting. My “real life” elements have more to do with details that (I hope) lend authenticity to my fictional people and places.

  21. These emotional truths are what makes a story good. We all feel a lot of the same things, and sometimes seeing them so well-described in fiction really resonates with us.

  22. I think I still hold back too much with the emotional moments. I’m getting better, but it’s still hard for me to put those feelings on paper, so I avoid it.

  23. They say that the deeper you dig within yourself, the stronger and more authentic is the writing… exciting and scary at the same time.
    Happy IWSG Day! 🙂

  24. I know I pull in parts of me and those around me into my characters lives. My sister told me when she read my first book she could tell I used some of her traits for the BFF in the book. She loved it!

    Readers want to connect with the characters. They want to feel and understand the characters, thoughts, actions, reactions. Pulling in your own experiences on some level is what allows for that connection.

  25. I think I find it hardest to describe the emotions in a way that would make a person relate. Words seem to pale in the face of the sheer emotional terror.

  26. Tapping into your own emotions does help to make your characters come alive. And at times its difficult to write exactly how you feel about a situation, but I tend to write it better than verbalizing it. Good Post.

  27. Emotion is necessary to give a character authenticity. The challenge for me is writing from a different emotional perspective that I don’t or won’t ever have.

  28. So true, Em. We should never hold back. We owe it to our readers to be as authentic as humanly possible. Especially emotions.

  29. Great way to describe it! Writing is all about the emotions we’ve lived & experienced – and imagined! 🙂

  30. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I like how you focus on sharing emotions and feelings. I think that’s important in any story. That’s what the reader really cares about, whether they know it or not.

  31. My 5-book series starts in high school and goes just beyond college. I had plenty of school angst from my past to draw upon.

  32. I really like your tip on placing a character in a setting where the emotional experience is similiar to the one you have been through. Great post Anna. 🙂

  33. Well said, Anna. Putting in one’s own raw emotion is challenging. But at the same time it ups the ante and the payoff for the reader.

  34. Debbie Johansson

    I completely agree Anna. I think digging deep and putting more emotion into our characters, the more ‘real’ they become. A win-win for both writer and reader. 🙂

  35. Sharing the emotional truths is far more interesting than the facts of my life fo sure. @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  36. mlouisebarbourfundyblue

    I definitely tap into my emotions, Anna, and sometimes I play music that pulls out certain emotions to help me connect more deeply. People often comment when I speak or write that I write or speak from my heart, and I think that that comes from expressing emotional truth. Have a happy month of writing in October!

  37. Wow, you dug in deep for this post.

  38. I’ve held back on the emotions in the past, because I do that in real life, too, but have been working at overcoming that (at least in writing, LOL).

  39. Great advice. I try to put myself in my characters shoes when I’m writing and drawing on my emotions or emotions of others sometimes helps add depth to the scene.

  40. This is so true >>Holding back is not what the reader is looking for.<< As a reader, I really want to know the emotions the characters are experiencing. It makes for a much richer experience.

  41. This is what makes me love or hate a book. Whether it’s real. thanks for sharing these thoughts.

  42. And all of us have been through enough ‘crap’ that we know what a character will feel even if we haven’t been in the exact situation.

  43. Anna, I love where you go with this question. It’s one of those things I keep reminding myself – that sometimes I need to really feel the feels and not hold back. This is so true!

  44. I like your advice to dig deep and don’t hold back.

  45. Yes. I totally agree. One of the hardest things for me to do is to get that emotion into my writing, and I think I’ve figured out why. I’m too concerned about what other people think. I’ve got to get over that! Thanks for dropping by!

  46. I did write on a topic once where I had to dig deep into my own personal experience. That book has never seen the light of day, but it was cathartic to write about it.

  47. What a thought-provoking post. We’re always trying to evoke feelings in our readers and it’s easier said than done. I guess there can be no more convincing way than tapping into what we’ve been through ourselves.

  48. Great advice on not holding back. I think that it is the fear of visiting those emotions and reactions that is the real writer’s block.

  49. There are so many ways to use real life stuff and people. I see you agree. 😉 I’m a IWSG member, and I’m glad I got to return your visit. 😉

  50. I can always tell when a writer is holding back, keeping a wall between themselves and the story, and you’re right–it definitely lessens the story’s impact. Writing isn’t a painless act, or it shouldn’t be.

    Thanks for your kind words on my post. They meant a lot. xo

  51. Not real information but some of the characters are representing me. Actually, they all represent me in one way or the other. I wrote a short story about an elder woman who is celebrating her 73rd birthday and is looking back at her dad who went missing. After writing it, I figured that it was all about my experience and how I felt with my dad. He never went missing, but in a way , he was never really there. So I think our life and experiences do contribute to our stories even when unintentional.

    /thumbs up

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