Telling Our Own Stories

No, I’m not planning a memoir. I like memoirs and have read many, but I don’t think that a memoir (or autobiography) is the only way a writer tells her story. The mixing & melding of fiction & fact, memory & dream, daydreams & nightmares, aspirations & fears, that find their way into fiction have to start someplace and THAT is inside the writer’s imagination, stored away in a library of story ideas.

My library does not have a Dewey Decimal System. The stories are jumbled up, shaking loose like the paper snowflakes in a souvenir globe, and falling in new arrangements, with new connections and new conclusions, all the time. I draw from this messy collection when telling the stories of fictional characters. They are part of me, but not me.

I think that this is my way of telling my story.

For about a year—since right before my mother died—I’ve been scribbling a series of strange stories about death. Not about the act of dying or about where we go—or don’t go—when we die, but about what and who death leaves behind.

As the year has rolled by, the stories have accumulated. They are not all done. They are not all brilliant, either, but… some are poignant, some are dark, some are funny, some contain elements of magic, some are mysterious, some are simply shaggy dog stories about the STUFF that remains after a loved one is gone and how those piles of things—and piles of important papers—can bury the living, complicate relationships, and carry strange legacies into succeeding generations.

The dead are gone, but not forgotten and sometimes their choices echo in death’s wake. I hope that by the end of this year, I’ll be able to look at the mishmash of stories and find a thread that pulls them together into a coherent book worth sharing. Are the stories about me? No, but yes, too because this is how I tell my story—in the voices of the characters I’ve created.

Authors, are you the characters you create? Are they pieces of you? Readers, do you believe you are meeting the writer in the characters? Please share your ideas right here!

A new building is going up and changing the view from the rooftop, building upon what is already there…


  1. When I do write fiction, it’s usually pretty close to home in many ways. More and more though, I’ve gravitated toward nonfiction writing. I’d say there are always elements of an author in the work they produce, and it can be fun to wonder about the whys and hows those influences are manipulated and fictionalized. It’s interesting too when reading the creative writing and more formal work of students a teacher sees on a daily basis. I knew students in the glimpses of personality and their lives one could learn when seeing them on a limited basis, and their writing always told me scores about them. When I taught college comp, part of the training in how to give feedback was about how to read between the lines and use a line of questioning to help the writer dig deeper into the topic.

    • Candy Korman

      A teacher is a particular kind of reader! I think it’s an interesting perspective as you’re invested in the writer (and writing) in a different way.

      I know that I am NOT my characters, nor are they me, but… there are elements of me in them and elements of what I’d like to be, or fear becoming, in them. My late father was often disturbed by the choices some of my characters made and I had to keep reminding him that they were NOT ME. Of course, his best work as a writer closely adhered to his life. Both in his memoir of growing up in the family bakery and in a fantasy novel—which he adapted as a play—featuring a version of his father and two uncles visiting him as ghosts. It was sweet and funny, but definitely a fanciful version of reality. He believed in ‘write what you know.’ Kind of hard for a mystery writer. I’m not planning any murders… LOL

  2. Definitely parts of me, but sometimes more aspirational than real…and jumbled up with bits and pieces from every person I’ve ever spent more than five minutes with. I don’t consciously plan any character, and I absolutely do not model them on specific people, but I did know one person who was a lot like Stanley Fitzgerald, the annoying part rather than the nasty part. 🙂
    I suspect a psychoanalyst would have a field day with all us writers…

    • Candy Korman

      I think a good psychoanalyst would describe writing as healthy! It’s certainly a saner way address our darker instincts. We explore all sorts of pieces of what it is to be human—and sometimes inhumane—without actually doing anything wrong. LOL…