It’s FICTION, damnit, not a thinly disguised autobiography!

I’m not my characters. (Loyal Reader did say, not long ago, that he was half-convinced that JG’s background is based closely on my own.  I tried to assure him that, all joking aside, I’m human.  Really.)  I have things in common with some of them, true, but I have things in common with random strangers, too.  I mean, one human in fifty has green eyes, but no one thinks we’re all based on the same template or that we think alike just because of our similar eye color.  (Well, I assume no one thinks that; I’ve never asked.  On the other hand, Grace has had problems with people thinking all redheads are alike, and treating her accordingly, so you never know.)

Maybe the over-adherence to “Write What You Know!!!” is partly responsible for so many readers making the wrongheaded assumption that an author must have the same interests/personality/opinions/traits as his or her characters.  After all, no one can write a story with a protagonist who isn’t just like them.  (Weekly sarcasm quota, remember?)  If an author was an only child, he cannot possibly write about a protagonist with an overabundance of siblings and have a plot that runs mostly on their various rivalries. If the main character is male, you can be sure that so is the author; ditto for female characters and authors.  If the main character has a military background, you can be sure the author does, too.  Right?

It’s hard to come up with more to say about this.  I mean, it seems so damn obvious to me:  Fiction writers make stuff up.  We base some of that stuff on things we have personally experienced or observed, but we also base it on the opposites of what we know directly.  Maybe the author who was an only child wonders what it would have been like to have several brothers, so he thinks about it and imagines a character who comes from a large and rowdy family.  (*weird fanboy grin*)  Larry Niven wrote a lot of sci-fi war stories; he was never in the military.  Lois McMaster Bujold is best known for her male protagonist Miles Vorkosigan.  Sometimes an author needs a major character who has specific traits that the author doesn’t share and would never want to — the character who’s totally hateful and selfish until events make him or her reevaluate what’s important.  It would be wrong (and stupid, and insane) to assume that the author is also hateful and selfish just because he/she wrote a character like that.

Besides, serial killers.  Chances are, most authors have never killed anyone, brutally or otherwise.

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About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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