In the last several months, two of my friends have finished writing fiction novels. One has actually been published and is available on Amazon and in print, while the other is only available online via a free e-novel publishing site. The first one was written by a college friend, who loosely based the novel on her own experiences as a 22-year-old senior in college, unsure of what to do with her life upon her impending graduation, and she ends up in a relationship with someone over 20 years older. The novel walks us through what that relationship looks like, along with all the baggage that comes with being in a relationship with someone that much older (he is in the midst of a divorce with a woman with whom he had three daughters, and this was not one of those amicable breakups). The novel eventually takes us to Italy for Christmas, as well as the house of the older man’s ex-wife’s parents for New Year’s Eve. The second book is a teenage mystery novel-type that explores serial killings in the San Francisco area. Its main character bears a very strong resemblance to my friend who wrote it.
I finished reading the novel of my college friend. While there were entertaining parts to it and characters that I found comical, it didn’t feel quite real to me. At the end, I was left wondering how I was supposed to feel at the end. Usually, there tends to be some sort of sympathy we feel as readers to the protagonist, but in this case, I ended my reading thinking she was just plain pathetic.
I suppose it’s normal that when starting out writing novels that people tend to write about parts of their own lives because that’s what they know the most about. We try to make sense of our lives by writing about it, sharing our writing with others, and then seeing how they respond to it. I once read a quote by a critic that said that memoirs written by anyone under the age of 22 are ridiculous because what do these people know about life being so young? We think at 22 that the problems and dramas that face us are significant, that perhaps we are “more mature” than others our same age, yet 20 years later, we tend to look back and laugh at ourselves for taking our relatively trivial lives so seriously.
I’ve often thought about writing fiction based on my own life. I used to dream about writing a novel loosely based on my own experiences, particularly around my family. But then I get cynical and wonder who would actually read it. I don’t want to write some sob story about my familial dysfunction where people patronizingly think, “Oh, poor her,” or think I’m trying to blame the world for the obstacles and pains that I’ve experienced. What would the theme be? What would I ultimately be trying to convey by the end of sharing that story?
Then my thoughts immediately reverted to this blog and why I choose to write here and make this public. I guess I do write to try to make sense of what is around me, and I write about things so deeply personal like my brother and my family because I’d like to think that maybe it could help someone else who has to face something similar. Maybe for most of my friends who are emotionally removed, they can read this blog and try to understand me better…if they’d like. I’m sure most of them think they already understand me well enough, which I frankly doubt. And for those who do not know me and will never know me, they can read this blog and know that there is someone else out there in the universe that goes through similar pains and confusions and experiences, and similarly is trying to find meaning in life the way I am.