I got to thinking about characterization this morning after reading the following quote on a blog:
“Everybody’s first novel is autobiographical.”
My response? Yes and no. It all depends on how you define autobiographical.
My first novel manuscript is about a girl who can speak to wolves. (Nope, I can’t do that.) I knew I had nailed the characterization when a critiquer said, “You’re a youngest child, aren’t you? You did such a great job portraying a youngest child having to cope with an overbearing older sibling.”
I thanked her while I smiled like a wild thing inside.
You see — I am the overbearing oldest child. The good news is that I had nailed my characterization. My youngest child character and her relationship with her older sister were believable. Now, my youngest sister would probably scream bloody murder if someone told her I had successfully crawled into the mind of a youngest child, but I did it.
In part, I succeeded because I know what my sister thinks. We are not a subtle pair, she and I. But I also succeeded because I found things in my character’s situation that I could identify with — people trying to tell her what to do and her having to deal with stumbling over a family skeleton or two. Who hasn’t been lied to? Or had to deal with someone who doesn’t understand limits?
While this character isn’t me, I can identify with her situation — in part. So is the story autobiographical. Not really. But that’s also what makes it fiction.