IWSG: Am I Putting Too Much of Myself into My WIP?

The ISWG is a blog hop where writers can share their fears and insecurities about the writing life. To learn more, check out their website here.

When I was 19, I went out to dinner with my very best friend in the world, the boy, now a man, I had pictured myself marrying since I was five years old. At the table we were sitting at was an ad: “Tell us your epic love story and win a cruise!” We laughed about it, because we weren’t dating, but we had kissed.

“We would have one heck of a story,” my friend told me.

And, well, I think he was right. So I’m writing it. Sort of.

My WIP, which I’m now nearly 60k words into, is a conglomerate of both experiences that happened to me and complete and utter fiction. My MC is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Mexico. She has issues with her family and friends that I’ve never faced. But in so many ways… she’s me. And writing this rough draft has forced me to confront so many things about the person I was in high school, things that make me uncomfortable.

I have a feeling Blanca will get categorized as an “unlikeable protagonist,” and that hurts, when so much of her is me. I’m struggling to answer questions like, “what would lead someone to be ‘the other woman’ in a relationship?” and how ideals can be shattered. Part of my main research for this book is reading through my old journals. (For full disclosure and a bit of my dignity back: I wasn’t ever “the other woman,” but I was willing to flirt with taken boys I liked, hoping they would “realize their mistake” and date me instead. I also once kissed someone I didn’t know had a girlfriend. Blanca does the same.)

The justifications I wrote down for my flirtation, the way I would manipulate people into getting what I wanted, my absolute reliance on romantic/sensual touch (my love language)… it’s all going in this book. I was reading my 11th grade journal last night, and I had to stop and do yoga because it unsettled me so much to remember the kind of person I was. The kinds of things I was proud of. The kinds of things I would pray for.

I’m scared to death to publish this book one day, even if it is the best I’ve written. Too many people will see themselves in my characters. I wonder if the three exes that make up the antagonistic love interest will read it and know they inspired him–and not necessarily in a good way. I wonder if my old friends will read it and see me in Blanca.

More than anything, I worry about the things people will say about Blanca. Easily, her actions could be called unjustifiable, and she could be considered unlikeable. I’m okay with this, on an intellectual level. But I know from experience how badly it hurts when I get reviews and someone shames a character I wrote based on my own experiences.

I guess I could lie and say she’s nothing like me, but too many people would know better. More importantly, would know better. Anything people say about her, they’ll say about me. And that scares me.

But I’m writing it anyway, and I guess that’s really all I can do.

Comments

  1. I understand your concerns about revealing yourself to others. I’m working on a memoir and I take great comfort in realizing I am in control of the details I put into it. It doesn’t have to include ever experience I ever had–it only needs those that support the message.

    Do you have a synopsis or outline for your WIP? Have you visualized the change your main character will go through in the novel? If not, consider putting those together before working further or worrying. All writers include some of themselves in nearly every character, but what’s important is how you share what your character does, how your character changes. Those details are unlikely to match your story. So let the readers enjoy watching your character change.

    If you still worry about people comparing your character to you, put your character into a situation you’ve never been in and have her respond in a way that is totally unlike what you would do. Then point to that scene as proof she isn’t you.

    • My WIP is almost finished, and I’ve been writing from an outline. I know the changes she’ll go through and why. It will be fairly obvious to people who know me where my inspiration is from. It will be equally obvious that it is fiction. 🙂 I will still worry about how people react to her, but I definitely have ways I can prove she isn’t me.

  2. Hi, I am a Wordplayer and you posted your NaNo link from there I found your website. I am also a member of IWSG have been for almost 2 years. How cool is that? That is 3 connections, places we both have been/participated in.

    You are brave WIP. I have one I wrote based on something I lived through fiction & real half and half and yes she was me. Then I turned around broke it down changed into a short using bits and pieces of real and fiction made it a scary story and submitted to a Horror anthology but the rejected it. That may have been a good thing. I have plans to go back and rewrite the original again and turn into a book, so I get some of what you are talking about.

    Great IWSG for April. Happy NaNa too.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  3. What’s so wonderful is strangers will read your book. Readers who know nothing about you. People who won’t stop to think if the book’s about you, they’ll be too enthralled with the story. And that’s a very good thing. Happy IWSG. I’m #43.

  4. Your experience sounds exceptionally similar to my WIP.

    My main character is me. His love interest is a combination of several women and events, then and more recently. Many things in the story, especially early on, actually happened, but they’ve been rewoven with a lot of fiction into a new story.

    As an INTP personality, I was shy and introverted then, but always analytical. It’s been an opportunity to write a teen romance by looking back at how I was then and what I’ve learned about life since.

    There are a few unlikeable things I’ve never told anyone about that are in the story. I’m proud of the work and what I’ve learned about writing, but I’m afraid that anyone I know would read it – hence a pseudonym.

    • I’m an INFJ, but my F/T is like 55/45. And yes, your book sounds like mine. The MC is very much like me and the two love interests are a conglomerate of people I’ve dated and fiction. Some of the threads in my story actually happened, many did not. But I won’t publish under a pseudonym because I like my name too much. 🙂

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