Probably the most common piece of advice a new writer learns is “write what you know.”
I was thinking about that recently while working on my twentieth revision of a novel manuscript called Impractically Yours. It’s a love story about a middle aged man and woman who become best friends but are afraid of spoiling their friendship by actually falling in love. They both have trust issues, and Robbie nearly wrecks his relationship with Maria by playing an unfortunate practical joke she has promised to take well but fails to do.
Many non-writers are familiar with “write what you know” as well. No wonder they sometimes ask whether I’m the protagonist in my novels.
The answer is no. Not really. Or at least not completely. But Robbie and I do have some characteristics in common:
- Robbie is a Christian–and a Baptist; me, too
- He’s middle-aged; I was middle-aged when I wrote the original version of this novel
- Robbie considers himself average-looking, and even Maria describes him as nondescript; that’s how I see myself
- Robbie has played guitar for many years and has at least a passing familiarity with some other instruments; me, too
- Robbie has a beautiful old Martin guitar; I have a lesser, more recent one
- Robbie’s musical style dates back to the folk fad of the 1960s and he’s never outgrown it; boy, is that me!
- Robbie writes Christian songs; I do, too
- Robbie is big on home recording and happy to make the move from analog to digital recording; that’s me to a T
- Robbie is a practical joker, a joker, and a punster; I’m a punster and joker, but definitely not a practical joker
- Robbie had a very limited social life in high school; ditto!
- Robbie and I prefer for a woman to have long, straight, naturally colored hair and almost no makeup–especially not the heavy eye makeup that he and I describe as “the raccoon look”
- Robbie overcomes his fear of old people and visits a local nursing home regularly; I’m part of a weekly nursing home ministry
I could probably go on for pages, but no need to bore you unnecessarily. The point is Robbie and I are similar in many ways, but we’re not the same person at all.
There are similarities in my other novels as well. Several are about Preacher’s Kids who would rather have fathers with “normal” vocations. Several take place in Virginia and at least one is in an actual Richmond suburb. One is about fighting a weight problem and part of it takes place in a Target store. All of those relate in some way to my background.
If anything, I hope this blog post will make you curious about the next novel you pick up. Is it totally autobiographical or at least partially so? Or does it bare no resemblance to the author’s life circumstances?
Is it fact or is it fiction?
What do you think? How about leaving a comment.
Links you might be interested in:
- Sign up for Roger’s quarterly newsletter
- Check out Roger’s other blog, As I Come Singing
- Visit Roger’s website, RogerBruner.com
- Check out Roger’s free Christian lead sheets
- Shop for Roger’s books on Amazon
I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.