How Autobiographical Are Your Stories?

Are my stories autobiographical?

Man Thinking at Computer

I’ve been asked this question on several occasions. For many authors, their stories, especially their first ones, are autobiographical.

So I pondered this question and compared myself to the hero of my first novel, Michael Archer. Michael used to drink, so we have that in common.

But Michael lied, cheated, stole, assaulted and may have killed in his past. Some of that applied to me but not all of it.

I could see parts of me in Michael and in the other characters in the book. And my life experiences influenced the story. So did my research.

Businessman Using Computer But in no way is Journey to Riverbend as the story of my life.

On the other hand, one of my other stories (unpublished so far), about a man who helps his son deal with the sudden disappearance of the son’s wife, is very personal. For the longest time I could not identify why.

The writing of the story flowed smoothly. Characters came to life and shared their stories. Settings had a realism

that enhanced the characters and the plot. The twists and turns came at the right times and with the right tension and emotion. Several re-writes improved it immensely.


The problem came when I had to read it aloud at critique groups or when I read chunks of it to my self in the edit

ing process. I couldn’t read without choking up and fighting tears. In groups, others would take over the reading.

I struggled and prayed, asking God why this story, of all my stories, affected me this intensely.



Finally, a couple of months ago, the answer came. The reason this story slams me the way it does, and the reason I had towrite it, is I had never finished the grieving process over the loss of our son nearly twenty years ago. I thought I
This story completed God’s healing process for me.had. But this story digs deeper into my heart than any other and shows the wounds and hurts I’d never dealt with.

In this sense, it is the most autobiographical of my stories because it reveals more of me than any other.

How about you? How autobiographical are your stories? 

4 Responses to How Autobiographical Are Your Stories?

  1. J.A. Marx April 24, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    I can relate, Henry. My husband is searching for himself in the story w/a strange certainty he’s in it. He’s not. LOL

    I do tear up in critique group when reading the parts that cause a throb in my core and scratch my passion that motivates me to write the strange stories I write.

  2. Diane April 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    I totally agree that stories grow from our own experiences or like you said, research. But some of the best stories are the ones we have lived through or close to it. Thank you for sharing, Henry!

  3. Henry April 24, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    Thanks, Julie. Sometimes, I think our deepest emotions, the ones we haven’t faced yet, drive the passion that comes across in our stories.

    p.s. As long as your husband doesn’t see himself as Lord Vetis I think you’re OK.

  4. Henry April 24, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    Thanks, Diane. I think we’ll find our most passionate stories are the ones where we touch our deepest, strongest emotions. Sometimes without realizing it.

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