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Why I cry at fictional funerals.

Inevitably, on every author interview I agree to do, a familiar question always pops up. Although the interviewer may word it in different lengths, tones, and bluntness, they usually ask the same question

Are your stories based on people you know or real events?

Since I’ve been an author for a while and know my answer, I sought out other authors and researched to discover if this really was a common occurrence. The question: are all novels, especially debut novels, based on an author’s or a close friend or relative’s experience.

I actually heard a quote that all debut novels were in a sense ‘autobiographies’. I couldn’t find the actual quote, but the question was valid enough to make me search for answers.

Of course, we could come back to the famous quote... 

“Write what you know.” -- Although sometimes attributed to Mark Twain, this quote is untraceable.

I’ve heard the quote hundreds of times in college, on book writing blogs, just about any time I’m discussing books. So is it possible that hundreds of thousands of authors have taken it literally. I assume the original concept meant to write what you can see, hear, touch, observe. To dig deep into your emotions. Spend time ‘people watching’, which is most authors favorite past time, I think. It could also mean that if you plan to write a series with a forensic scientist as the lead protagonist, you’d better research your butt off.

But back to my point, yes, I think there’s a reason I cry over fictional funerals. If the author gets me to cry, I believe it’s because the author drew from personal experience or their inner circle of friends and family. I believe if the character has witnessed a horrific event or a tragedy as a child that the story is realsomewhere.

Now you’re probably asking yourself… 

Is that what you did, Carmen? Are your characters real?

Sorry, I’ll never tell.

But I’ll say this… I’m married to a retired police detectiveand I’ve lived an interesting life. At forty-two, I could no longer hold back the stories in my head. Four years later, I’ve published eight books. And I still have more to say…

So, let's hear it. Any authors want to come out and confess? You can speak anonymously on my site if you want. I leave it open. :)

Wanna delve into my imaginary worlds, try to figure out what's fact or fiction? My stories are available in print and eBook formats at your favorite retailer. And hey, I’ll even give you a FREE book, just for stopping by. From there, all my stories are always priced 'less than a latte', so READ UP and enjoy! 

Until next time, happy reading and writing!


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  1. My characters are based on people I know, especially the aliens. I have a wacky family. What can I say. Always enjoy your articles, Carmen.

  2. Great article! Thanks for sharing.

    "Write what you know."
    I've always thought the distinction is that nobody said write ONLY what you know. If you studied 20 years of kung fu, writing about it can add some real depth and grit to your story, but that doesn't mean you can't mix in some Muay Thai or, better yet, soccer, just because you're not a pro.

    I also think this was a much more relevant thing to say when Wikipedia and YouTube couldn't shore any knowledge gap.

    The modern world is a bit closer to The Matrix regarding knowledge: "Can you fly that thing? Not yet. Tank, I need a pilot program for a V-212 helicopter. Hurry... [ELECTRONIC BUZZ] Let's go."

  3. Thanks for commenting, Michael. Funny that you mention martial arts, because that's exactly what I do--did. Not all martial arts are suitable for all characters. For instance, I know more about Isshinryu karate, so in my first novel, I mentioned it. But in my WIP, the young girl I'm teaching self-defense probably wouldn't be able to use Isshinryu techniques, as my 6' 220-lb husband can, so I'm teaching her Krav Maga. I have enough basic knowledge, and the rest I you wrote...research. I watched five YouTube videos yesterday. LOL! Hey, actors live in their character's shoes, so I research and act out my scenes in my home. It's a lot cheaper, as it doesn't require travel expenses.

    So, yes...writing what you know is good, but nowadays, just knowing how to be a great researcher works.

    Inquiring minds want to mind... Did you write an autobiography? :)



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