Don’t Be Afraid To Write About Your Best Self By Rick Badman
If you don’t feel writing about yourself is proper or you feel uncomfortable doing it, you should ask yourself, why should anyone be interested in my writing or in me? Some of the favorite characters writers write about are themselves. Or I should say, they write about their best selves.
Writers present their stories in various points of views. Sometimes they write in first person. That can be restricting because the attention is mainly on the writer as the narrator. They become part of the story. They have to be careful that readers don’t think they are vain. Worst yet, readers must not be bored.
Reading a book is an investment of one’s time, attention, and imagination. Is the writer’s story worth reading? If someone were to open a book and start reading anywhere, would they want to continue reading the story or go back to the beginning and start the journey of discovery about characters, situations, and locations?
In my book “The Madhouse Projects” the main character is an automotive engineer that builds flywheel-powered electric cars. He drives one to victory at the 2037 Indy 500. I would love to be Dick Thurman. You could say he is one of my alter egos. He does what I would love to do and is married to a wonderful and capable woman. I’ve never been married or had children and he is both married and has children that are successful. I wrote about my best self and hope that readers like “me.” Better yet, I want readers to want to be Dick Thurman. Writers can consider themselves successful if readers want to identify with the characters in their narratives.
Some of the most popular writers of all time had the ability to become a myriad of characters. Take Mark Twain, for instance. His most famous characters are Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He used them to tell readers what he felt and had them live out his fantasies. They did what he didn’t have the chance to do when he was their age. For nearly a century and a half, readers have read about his beloved “bad boys” and wished they could live their lives.
Writers find it easy to be observers and relate to readers what they see. Many use an outline to organize their thoughts and plot the course of the story. Others do rewrite after rewrite to polish their stories. I like to write what I see in my mind. I know approximately what is supposed to happen to my characters. But I won’t know until I write about it. Neil Simons wrote his plays like that. He looked forward each day to spending time at the typewriter finding out what happens to his characters.
If I knew what was going to happen to me in October 1974, I might have done things differently. I would have paid more attention to oncoming traffic and not run in front of a car and gotten hit. It litterally changed my life and future. I might have finished college, gotten into radio, married, had children, and lived a much different life.
Reality has the nasty habit of butting in and destroying our best laid plans. Conflict is used to hold readers’ attention. If life were easy and all our plans fell into place, it might be boring. Who wants to read about a boxer sleeping eight hours. People would rather read about him boxing and find out if he wins or loses. The conflict holds readers’ attention; not the eight hours of snoozing. Sleep is something we all plan for. But would you pay money to watch a movie that has someone sleeping eight hours? A person would rather pay money to watch a boxer box several rounds.
Life is many times a series of unplanned circumstances and actions. Writers are like God. They control what happens in a story, move their characters often like puppet masters, and know what is going to happen all the time. The only book I know about that had God as its author is the Holy Bible. It’s far from boring to millions. But most people don’t read it even though its author created the universe. He definitely presents his best self.
I try to write as if I don’t know what is going to happen next. Readers don’t know what is going to happen until they read about it. I try to write as if I’m also a reader. I can shock myself at times. It might look like something is going to happen a certain way or a character is going to do something. But as I write it, things can change. Often it’s better than I first planned and can take a story down an uncharted path to a different destination. If I create a character that is fulfilling my desires and doing what I want to do, he is subject to “life” as it happens as I write it. He might surprise me. Hopefully the readers will enjoy what happens too. As long as the readers keep flipping the pages, I’ll keep presenting my best selves for them to want to identify with.