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Customer Discussions > Literary Fiction forum

Authors: Do you ever feel shame about the exposure you get as an author?

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Showing 1-25 of 28 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 8, 2012 1:27:57 PM PST
I don't know how many of you write from life, I do, I try to change the names of my characters and everything but there is a certain amount of just plain exposure of my self that I didn't realize I would feel embarrassed about till after I published. Am I totally alone on this? It would be nice to know I'm not.

Posted on Mar 8, 2012 2:41:51 PM PST
No, i don't feel shame or embarrassment, but then I'm an old guy that's learned that shame is a self-defeating enterprise-shyness, maybe, but not shame. I know who I am and there is no reason to feel shame about it.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2012 5:24:53 PM PST
I was a little concerned that characters I had very loosely based on real people might cause problems. And . . . some did relate--but always to the WRONG character! :-) One side of my family saw lots of people in there--from the OTHER side of my family! It was hilarious to me, and I guarantee you this will never again be a concern to me!

As far as exposure of myself, I think we as authors have to realize and accept that every character comes from inside our own heads, so there must be parts of us in every one, wicked or saintly or anywhere in between. What can we do, but just marvel in the intricacies of our own minds and let it go at that? No embarrassment required.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2012 6:40:31 PM PST
Thelma Adams says:
Of course you are not alone. I changed many things that I took from life in my novel, scrambled it in the literary frying pan, and still left in the real name of a child's turtle. The mind is a tricky thing. And it leaves breadcrumbs.

Posted on Mar 8, 2012 7:37:38 PM PST
I can't tell you whether the exposure makes me feel embarrassed - because I haven't had enough exposure to find out! But seriously, I would never put a real person known to me into a book, because it might cause them a few sticky moments if they ever realised. I may give a character some element of a real person - they may both have fair hair or a big nose, or a bad temper, for example - but I would never make that character exactly the same as someone I know and love. Or know and hate, although that might be more fun.

However some of my characters do have similar tastes in food to my own . . . baked potatoes feature in one or two of my epics. But that doesn't worry me at all!

Posted on Mar 8, 2012 9:23:17 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 9, 2012 9:30:19 AM PST
H. S. says:
I don't feel exposed. My characters are so far removed from anyone I know. I sometimes wonder where they come from. I think I had many past lives. : )

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2012 2:16:20 PM PST
Jack Apfel says:
I too found some of the fiction I write to be embarrassing when it was published. Not because the characters were taken from actual people, because they aren't, although readers swear they know some of these people. My embarrassment is in what the some of the things the characters say and do. I've had people say they couldn't imagine me coming up with the more vulgar characters and what they do in the book. But eventually when they are reading the story takes over and I disappear. Which is as it should be. but still I worry.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2012 2:26:51 PM PST
Sometimes I've had characters say things that I couldn't even read aloud later! ha But, as in the reading, as you say, Jack, when you're engulfed in the WRITING, the characters take on their own "selves" I once attributed something to a character, and I'll swear, she looked at me and said "I'D never say that! Now, SHE (one of the other characters) would say that, but not me! " She was right . . . I changed it and gave the other character the line. Either way, it certainly wasn't ME talking! That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!

Posted on Mar 11, 2012 2:19:58 PM PDT
John Borg says:
I wrote 2 books using my own name, had to make them a bit tame. The started another name, stories are a lot sexier and sell a bit better.

Posted on Mar 13, 2012 6:27:19 AM PDT
Author says:
I've used a number of real-life events in my books. The people who were involved either (1) never realized the story was about them or (2) realized it and didn't say anything, probably hoping that nobody but the two of us would ever make the connection. In one book, however, I used the character of my grandmother, pretty much as she would have spoken and acted, and I think the book honors her. One of my reviewers said she felt like she was at my grandmother's house when she read the book. I think that's pretty great ;-)

The hard part is using a real-life incident that makes ME feel bad, or that I fear would make others think less of me. Betrayal by others is a very hard thing to write about, but in my case, betrayal by an ex wife led to me being reunited with and happily married to the love of my life.

Maybe the key is to put personal hurts aside until the pain fades, and then bring it into a story when you can profit ($$) from it ;-)

Posted on Mar 26, 2012 9:45:16 AM PDT
Jeff Howe says:

Posted on Mar 26, 2012 9:45:48 AM PDT
Jeff Howe says:
What exposure?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 8, 2012 8:03:21 AM PDT
Anthea Carson:

I am about as well-known as a dirt clod, or otherwise I might draw the ire of others because of the exposure of who I am. A writer cannot divorce himself or herself from the writing. The author is always in the writing somehow. I would never feel shame, though. Be proud of what you have accomplished. Truth is wonderful in writing, even if it is the truth about yourself.

Posted on Apr 8, 2012 5:37:19 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 8, 2012 5:38:11 PM PDT]

Posted on Apr 8, 2012 5:41:14 PM PDT
Lester James says:
My book:No Passage Landward, is about one man's struggle with mental health, depression and thoughts of suicide. Of course there is a lot of me in it - you can only write deeply about what you know - and let's just say that despite my sincerest reassurances as to its fictionality, my lovely and ever-supportive wife cried for days after reading it. None of my other family and friends know about my book - a promise made to my wife. This has meant a slow initial uptake with sales and reviews only now starting to pick up. At least they are all genuine, I suppose, of which I am particularly proud.

To get back to the discussion, never be embarrassed about your writing and never be afraid to dig to the core of your soul in order to express yourself. My book is beautiful, positive and uplifting. It has banished my demons and I am not ashamed for it to be there for all to read and hopefully enjoy.

Posted on May 12, 2012 11:54:31 AM PDT
Quinton Blue says:
Non-readers (often relatives or friends), who pick up your novel, sometimes make very basic mistakes when reading. For example, they confuse the narrator "I" with the author. This can cause problems. I don't mention my novel to kin unless I think they can handle it. The Sun Tea Chronicles

In reply to an earlier post on May 12, 2012 12:24:01 PM PDT
Quinton Blue says:
Anthea, is "The Dark Lake" part one, two or three of the trilogy?

Posted on May 12, 2012 1:01:38 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on May 12, 2012 6:46:19 PM PDT]

Posted on May 16, 2012 8:27:18 AM PDT
I teach a course at the Writer's Center, Bethesda, called "Writing From Life"; several of my students and I were lucky enough to have our personal narratives published in the WASHINGTON POST. In mine, I wrote the truth about my father's drunk driving record (he was never in an accident in which anyone was hurt) and my own reckless driving as a teenager. My narrative was published for Father's Day. This was the first time I wrote something, put it out there, and got instant feedback. The comments were brutal. I ran back to writing fiction as fast as I could.

In reply to an earlier post on May 16, 2012 8:34:31 PM PDT
Quinton Blue says:
Ellen, I admire your courage.

Posted on May 22, 2012 8:33:13 AM PDT
Bill Morris says:
I was once asked by a therapist to keep a diary. That seemed boring writing about myself and childhood experiences. So I decided I would do it (I needed to retrieve some old things) but I drew the characters of my childhood as monkeys playing in an ancient ruin in India, with real incidents, just played by rock-throwing monkeys (who eventually live as Astral beings in a zoo). When I read the book, it can bring deep uneasiness, nearing shame for ignorance and blundering. But no one else who reads it usually sees it as my childhood, it's just an animal fantasy. So yes, that kind of exposure makes me feel ill at ease. When people thank me for writing a book, I feel that I've slightly manipulated them, small shamefulness there.

Posted on Jul 11, 2012 11:14:56 AM PDT
Steven Lloyd says:
When I wrote my short story The Wooden Box, I poured everything I had into it. When I finished I knew I could never let my brother n law read it. He received a devastating blow two years ago that we all watched progress until the final conclusion. Perhaps one day when it's not so fresh in his mind I'll let him read it. Neither he nor his wife knows what the story contains. It is our job as writers to evoke emotions. And if we can do that then we have accomplished our goal.


Posted on Jul 13, 2012 8:38:18 AM PDT
Frank Mundo says:
I write what I know. So if I'm not absolutely terrified to share a short story I've written with family and friends, then I know it's not my best work.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 13, 2013 7:49:48 AM PST
GGG says:
Someone asked me that about a novel I just published (not shame so much as self-exposure) and my sense of it was this: even with a fictional character, and one who is also historical, there's going to be aspects to them that are personal. But that, I think, is one of the points of writing fiction. A writer is also someone who talks about character - and by that I mean psychology, revealing things about oneself that are ultimately going to contribute to a reader's self-understanding.

This is related to the question and another one of my posts.
I decided to become a novelist because of a novel I read.
Herman Hesse, in Steppenwolf, talked about himself in such a way that made me realize
there are other people in the world, and not just artists and novelists, who experience life,
themselves, others in a unique way. Writing establishes a relationship for someone else; and that always
means writing personally, about the things we sometimes hide from ourselves.

No shame in that.

Posted on Jan 20, 2013 8:51:30 AM PST
Author says:
It is very clear from TV and movies that people are trying to write stories without having lived long enough to know about things that are interesting. That's why we see remakes of old stories over and over.

Sex. Okay, at some level, everybody knows about sex. Young people who are just finding out about it think they are the ones who discovered it, but in reality, those of us who have lived long enough to have had sex thousands of times just don't find that much entertainment in juvenile humor regarding the subject. Young people who write stories don't understand that living long enough to lose the love of your life, and looking for someone else to fill that gap, is a much more empathetic subject for people over 30.

Adventure. The age of discovery is pretty much over, and it's really hard to find a job exploring for a living. You need a Ph.D. and a grant, or to be very rich, to fund such an occupation. Everybody else has to settle for selling insurance or working in Wal-Mart, etc.

Drama. Okay, WHAT intimate subject is still open for discovery? When we see young men kissing on network TV shows, and it's possible to click on the internet and see them doing every other possible thing, and serial killers and mass murderers are on television every day, how do you find something interesting to anyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the past 20 years?

Medical issues. On TV, the show "Parenthood" is dealing with one of the main characters going through treatment for breast cancer. As the spouse of a breast cancer survivor, I can tell you there's really no way for a TV show to do justice to the subject. Since it's not possible to run someone through with a sword just before shoving them into a falling elevator for their entertainment, any attempt to convey the real feelings that go along with it are inadequate.

The way to learn enough about new and interesting things to write about them effectively is to go out and do them. You cannot learn enough from watching TV and movies, or from reading someone else's book. Unfortunately, that fact seems to be lost to a lot of people, especially most of those who are in the business of selling entertainment to the rest of us.

The great literary works of the past were written by people who, for the most part, went out and lived an exciting life before daring to sit down and try to write an interesting story. By the time you've survived the "interesting life" part of the process, you probably won't worry any more about what your friends and family will think of you.

But, in answer to the question, yeah, there are some things that I will not write about because I don't want my family to know the details. In the meantime, I do what I can with the parts of myself that I'm not afraid for my mother to read :-)
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Discussion in:  Literary Fiction forum
Participants:  23
Total posts:  28
Initial post:  Mar 8, 2012
Latest post:  Apr 6, 2013

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