How much should a writer reveal? Is good writing merely a writer streaking the world? The old adage says ‘write what you know’ – but what happens when you really do not know yourself? Well, that, I guess, is another topic entirely. If you do write what you know, you write characters that are composites of people you have known, including yourself. One of the great guessing games played by readers and critics [sometimes the same people!] is to uncover the real life origins of fictional characters. Even in writing non-fiction – history, as I do – analysis of an historical character will be predicated on my knowledge of people, garnered from those I know.
All this was prompted by one of my interminable re-jiggings of me – I tend to take to heart the critiques of me offered by friends and family and this causes me to retreat and process and rebuild. It is as though I write ‘me’ in the same way I write character in a novel or a poem, or describe a person in historical context. I doubt I ever really change in essence though – I merely engage in a redecoration of the outer ‘me’. More to the point here then, when I add or subtract traits from a fictional character, is there an essence, an unchanging foundation for that character that does not change?