There was an intangible allure about Cocoa, Florida. The way the ever-present breeze caressed the river, coaxing frothy waves across the surface in a peaceful rhythm. It was different from anything I could ever find here in North Carolina. Something about the setting made your spirit take flight, soaring like gulls in search of sandy beaches and salty shorelines. Every evening the sun made its journey toward the horizon’s edge, its watery canvas becoming a soulful myriad of color so vibrant your fingers begged to touch it. It was the perfect place to fall in love, and that’s exactly what I did. First with the sun’s warm embrace, followed by the river’s gentle lullaby and the village’s eccentric blend of art and culture…
Then with a pair of bold brown eyes, and the man who resided beneath them.
It sounds fantastical, yet this isn’t the beginning of my novel. It’s a journal entry. I share this because I believe our lives are their own stories, par or greater than the ones we create. Yet I’ve heard some people say that books that reflect the author’s life are considered taboo. This, I believe, is debatable. I don’t judge the quality of a story by its source, but rather how its told. Which leads me to the topic of this blog: What happens when you start a story, only to find it becomes your own?
The characters in my novels are their own entities, separate from me and the people I’ve met. But when I look at the storyline and each character’s disposition, I can easily see the inspiration behind them… memories, people, experiences and emotions. Titled Elli & Oliver, the story is about two characters from opposite ends of the spectrum whose paths get tangled together, and the string of entertaining, awkward and sometimes unfortunate events that ensue.
Now I know the title probably threw up a flag that begs the question of whether Elli is based on myself. The truth is this is probably the closest to an autobiography I will ever write. However, Elli isn’t me, nor is her story my own. While autobiographies seem to be making a comeback, there’s just one tiny kink in that genre for me.
I hate writing about myself.
So I did the next best thing. I created a character based off my penname. Her name is Eleanor (or Elli) Campo, 25-year-old hard-headed journalist with a go-getter attitude eager to become the next editor of the Monthly Muse. When I began developing Elli, I decided she had to be different enough for me to view her as a separate individual, yet possesses a knowledge and past that I can relate to. This formula created a woman who holds all of my writing flair and none of my soft-spoken nature.
However, I had to take it further. Elli needed a contrast, and I needed a story. The answer came a few months later when I attended a workshop where an author had us create a character in thirty minutes. The result? Oliver Fitzpatrick, a quirky young spiritualist best understood through the chords of his Gibson six-string.
Together they were the perfect disparity. I’ll be sharing more and more about this duo in the coming months. The goal is to have a new chapter complete by Sunday of every week. Eventually a tab will be made for the story that will map its progression and the process from writing the manuscript to getting it published.
But for now, I have a question. Just out of curiosity…. I’ve shared some of the chapters with a small handful of people, careful not to mention the allusion, and so far the reviews have been positive. What do you think? Are you for or against stories inspired by the author’s actual life?
(*Note: Chapter of the week has been completed. I’m celebrating tonight with a good night’s sleep!*)