Have you run into a reader who thought that because you wrote a story, it must be true? Or worse, it must be about you?
It doesn’t matter in what genre a writer chooses to write, unless it’s non-fiction, it isn’t true. I know this is going to sound weird, but that means the story was created as a flight of fantasy for the author. Some of the might be more nightmare than daydream, but it’s still something made-up.
Sometimes part of it is true, but that doesn’t mean a reader can figure out which parts are borrowed from reality by reading. At least, not by a good writer.
I had a story I wrote where the original version had three characters based on real-life people. The first draft had the main character looking through ‘my’ eyes, but I shifted the viewpoint to a different character in the next draft. It became a better story because of it. To further confound people, none of the events that happened in the story were true. I just borrowed the characters to illustrate something I wanted to show in a story. I ended up changing quite a bit about each of them as I went, too. I don’t think the other people I borrowed would recognize themselves. I didn’t recognize myself in there when I was done.
I’m not sure I’m actually done with that story, or it might not be done with me. It’s such a fine line to say who’s steering these things sometimes.
Next time you pick up a book, stop yourself from wondering what happened in the author’s life to make her write that way. A writer’s mind is rich with things that could happen, if this and that changed, or if something else had been different. Subjects may be researched and not from personal experience. It might be because a story in the newspaper seemed too good to pass up for fiction. Imagination will fill in gaps where research leaves a writer wanting for information.
The question that remains in my mind is whether to look askance about any writer who poses that question about me. It makes me think more that he can’t imagine as many things as I do, and maybe his writing is about something true about him.