People make assumptions about your own life when you write in the first person, Christine Duval says.
I once read that when you write in first person and there is anything in your story that is familiar to your life, everyone begins making assumptions. And those assumptions are that your book is an autobiography hiding behind the guise of fiction. “What parts of this story are true?” they wonder. And they try to draw lines between what they know about you as a person, a friend, a mother even, and what they’ve read in your book.
Having written a story about an 18-year-old freshman who goes off to college, finds out she is pregnant, and then keeps it a secret for the whole pregnancy, the innuendo gets even more interesting. Not only has an old college boyfriend (and his sister) inquired jokingly if I had kept something from them back in the day, my own teenager pulled me aside to ask if I had some dark secret in my past. “I just don’t understand how you could write a story like this without experiencing something similar.”
There is no denying that life – everyday living – provides a wealth of material for an author. And it was certainly a lot easier to write about a college in the Finger Lakes, an apartment in Manhattan, even a house on Shelter Island, having lived in or near all three. Still, people ask, “If this didn’t actually happen, which character is most like you and who is everyone else based on?”
The truth is, although none of the characters are me or based on any particular person, they are all a part of me because I created them. There is a little bit of me in each of them. There has to be. Even so, anyone who has ever written or tried to write a novel knows, no matter how much control an author thinks she has over her characters and their stories, they all eventually develop minds of their own.
I could never have predicted some of the things that would happen in Positively Mine before they occurred. There were times when I wanted to reach into the computer and slap some sense into my protagonist for being so difficult. I once read an interview with author Claire Messud and something she said really inspired me. “The more accurately one can illuminate a particular human experience, the better the work of art.”
As an author, you can only hope you’ve captured your characters’ experiences in a believable way. If readers think Positively Mine seems too “real” to be fiction, I’m glad. I take it as a compliment. It feels like I’ve done it right. But that is up to the reader to decide.
It four weeks into her freshman year of college, Laurel’s first test was unexpected. Discovering she’s pregnant isn’t exactly what she had planned for her first semester, and while she intends to tell her emotionally-distant father, being away at school makes it all too easy to hide.
An imperfect heroine plagued by bad choices and isolated during what should be the best time of her life, readers are sure to identify with Laurel as she confronts teen pregnancy, in secret.
Christine Duval is an author and freelance writer who lives in New Jersey with her guitar-playing husband and two children. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, New Jersey’s Women Who Write, and the Authors Guild. When not creating fictional characters, she writes for an upscale real estate company and has overseen online content and social media for several well-known magazines.