About this series: I revisited my journals from my first year as a freelance writer and found they told a story of their own. In this series I get the rare opportunity to give myself and other writers career advice with nearly 50 years of hindsight. Enjoy!
Here’s another excerpt from my journals as a young writer, this time about a character study that I never wrote down:
The trip back home was uneventful, although I did create a character and story based on B’s former fiancee, Jerry — mostly to show myself how easy it is to create interesting characters outside of my immediate experience. In fact, such characters might be more interesting!Journal, Volume II
11 January 1979
Thank you, Captain Obvious!
OF COURSE characters unlike yourself and the people you’ve known will be more interesting! New writers are often told to “write what you know,” and that’s what I had done so far. But it was so much more interesting to meet Jerry, a farmer, and try to get inside his head.
Four decades later, that seems self-evident. I’ve taken to trying to write about people and situations far from my own experiences. Today’s literature dwells in the world of identities. As a writer, I must put myself into many other people’s shoes.
But most of my characters, like Fred in “He Said, She Said,” still have common threads with my own life. I think you’ll be able to pick them out when you do finally meet them.