Thursday, October 11, 2018

What We Think We Don't Show (Maryanne Fantalis)

People frequently ask how much of me is in my books, especially because I tend to write in first person. "Is Kate, the main character in Finding Kate, a lot like you?" (Actually, she and I are quite different, which made her hard to write sometimes.) And then there's the follow up: "Are the other characters in the book based on the people in your life?" This seems to be a common belief among readers, and apparently it's a common practice among writers. How many times have you seen a coffee mug or a tee shirt like this:

Funny Author Novel Meme Square Car Magnet 3" x 3"
Car Magnet from

I literally have no idea how I would do that. I mean, I get the concept, but to base a character on a real person seems impossible to me. My characters are real people with goals and needs of their own. How could I make someone in a book a version of someone who was real? Maybe there's an echo of something in my real life in my characters, but I never set out to put my real life in my books. To me, there's a definite line between the two.


Sometimes we reveal more than we think.

My second completed manuscript was a YA fantasy about a young woman who discovers some pretty surprising truths about herself, truths that redefine who she believes she is and who she can become. While my editor and I were working through revisions, she said to me on a call one day, "Did you realize that you have three wicked step-mothers in this book?"

Huh. Do I?

Now, I don't have a step-mother myself, and my own mother was by no means wicked, but I definitely had my problems with her. And while I didn't set out to explore those problems in my novel, there they were, clear as day to anyone who was paying attention. Not to me, of course, because I was too close to see. It took someone else, someone outside the story, to observe what my subconscious mind had snuck in behind my back.

Do we authors disguise ourselves in our writing? Do we reveal elements of our lives, our beliefs, our personalities? Of course. All our ideas and inspirations come from somewhere, consciously or subconsciously, and who we are informs our characters and our stories. Should you look for an author's literal life story in their fiction? Probably not (sorry, Shakespeare scholars). But are there hints, intended or unintended? Are we there, disguised in our characters and hiding behind the scenery? Absolutely.

1 comment:

  1. I think we all get these questions. And I totally agree with you--we reveal far more than we intend.