Why Every Novel You Love is About You


One of the hallmarks of the amateur writer is the self-insert.  Hey, it's fun!  We've all been there/are there/wonder if it's so bad to go back there.(..?)  My very first story was a portal-fiction self-insert (I also abducted real members of my life without their consent I'm sorry I will never do that again) and it was LOADS OF FUN.  And also terrible.  But that's just because I was a terrible writer, not because the story was a self-insert.

THEY WANT YOU TO BE A SNOB

Stick it to the man!  I grew up(ish) and learned more ABOUT writing, and I developed a disdain for self-insert fiction.  Pfft.  Amateur writers.  Can't distance themselves from their writing.  PFFT.  How pedestrian.  All their characters must be flat reproductions of themselves and their own opinions.  PFFFFFT.  I can do better than that.  I can create unique, stand-alone characters and numerous different story-arcs that have no connection to my own life experiences because I AM A GOOD WRITER.

THE GHOST IN THE SHELL

And then I grew up some more.  You know that awful adolescent stage when you think you know everything but in reality you know zilch about anything?  Yeah...  Recently the common sense of storytelling struck me and I realized,  EVERY STORY YOU LOVE IS ABOUT YOU.

It's true!  If you are emotionally invested in your story, if you have a creative connection with the characters and the plot, YOU ARE THERE.  This is YOU.  Perhaps the early days of ACTUALLY being a character in the story are gone (and that's a good thing), but if you care, if you are writing this from your heart, you are the ghost-character within the novel.  Shh!  Don't speak of them too loudly or they will get shy, but EVERY author of EVERY story they have ever written with love and investment is within that story, through and through.

THE BENEVOLENT HAUNT

Don't be afraid of the concept of self-insert fiction.  In its mature form, it strengthens the story immensely.  Every novel is haunted.  The ghost of every author is taking you through their story, unspoken and unseen, like the ghosts of Christmas.  So be YOU.  Write your stories.  Get in the muck.  Dig deep.  Open your heart.  This is your time to grow something beautiful from your soul.  Be there.  It's the best thing you can do for your story.





Welcome to The Penslayer! I'm Jenny Freitag.  Sorry for the mess. Order will be forthcoming. Meanwhile, add me to your list of blogs you love for more short + sweet, writing-related posts to help you on your way! Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest + Twitter. <3

image via pinterest (shocker)

12 ripostes:

  1. I always felt so terribly guilty for including things that mattered to me in stories. They were often recurring themes, and I thought if I always included a piece of myself it would get boring and repetitive. Now I'm starting to think differently, like your article explains. You HAVE to put a piece of your heart in your story for it to matter to you and come alive on the page. It becomes your "brand" so to speak. The reason that you alone have to write that book.

    I'm writing an article on Friday about how to do that with protagonists. :) Thanks for the encouragement, Jenny!

    ~Schuyler

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    1. You are welcome! I am so very, very glad it was able to give you a sense of freedom + release. Guilt and self-doubt are killers to the creative spirit. I look forward to the Friday post!

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  2. I wholeheartedly agree with and endorse this post.

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    1. HURRAH + HUZZAH WITH BRIGHTLY-POLISHED BRASS KNOBS ON.

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  3. It makes sense though, doesn't it. Self insertion- done well- makes the story that much more meaningful, for both writer and reader.


    C.S. Lewis inserted himself into his science fiction trilogy (in Perelandra/ Voyage to Venus). I thought it was fun. Author cameo!

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    1. That's one of the aspects I love so much about Perelandra. He never really outright //says// "THIS IS C.S. LEWIS," but it's so subtly mentioned, just as a matter of course without any shyness, that he pulls it off beautifully.

      While it's often a stepping-stone for those just getting starting with writing, self-insert does NOT equal poor literature!

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  4. This makes so much sense, really. If you want the READER to invest in your book and really insert themselves into your characters' world, it only makes sense that the author should set the example. Otherwise, it's not unlike sitting down with a stranger and expecting them to tell you their life story when you've only told them your name.

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    1. Also, I overuse the word 'really' like, really a lot. *sigh*

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    2. I don't remember who said it, but I heard someone say, "You can't fake passion." If you love the story, your readers will be able to tell. :)

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  5. Possibly my favourite thing you've ever written! (Although I loved that post you wrote regarding dressing as consideration for others at Adonis Ephemeral.)

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  6. Yes! That's so true.. I guess it scares me a bit too, because you can gain such a picture of an author through their work, and I'm the type that'd rather not let everyone get an inside look at me.

    Also, every time I come across your blog, I'm impressed - keep up the good work! :)

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