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.


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