Sunday, August 5, 2012


By Alex Raley

From time to time, most of us have been drawn to write a something based on our own experiences. I have often been so tempted. The results are usually disastrous. What you get, one might title “bio-fiction,” which is a beast to handle. I am not talking about a memoir or historical fiction. Those are totally different with their own problems.

Early in my writing I tried a story that I hoped would become a novel. I was actually writing my own history. As I wrote, facts were pouring onto the page. Conflict was nonexistent and there was no story line to guide the reader, just a series of events. “Boring” does not begin to describe the results. Fortunately, the effort never saw the light of day. In moving everything from an old to a new computer the bio-fiction piece flew into space to await an alien to decipher it. Even with her three eyes, she will not find anything there.

Sometimes a real event does click, but you do need a thought line that gives substance to your writing. My wife and I sat in the garden reading the morning paper. My wife said, “Look at that little creature.” There was something smaller than a midge moving across the paper. I took that situation and wrote a poem in which I posed a series of thoughts that interested me. The poem won an award. Who would think that a small creature could become a poem?

Bio-fiction should not be confused with non-fiction which usually is a well-organized telling of an interesting event or an essay in which personal thoughts are presented and developed. I like to read essays by good writers, because you can learn so much about writing, Essays need the same intensity of focus found in good fiction. Good essays are highly organized and have the climax of good fiction.

When my son and his wife had their first child (an adorable girl), I chose to write a non-fiction piece to remind him of many things I wanted him to hear once more. All the events in the piece are true, but they are organized to lead to the final paragraph (not unlike fiction). I began by opening a box in the garage which had been there since he was nineteen. All the items in the box led to an expansion of the story. That piece was published in a literary journal.

At the beginning of this blog I related how poorly my early writing dealt with personal stuff. I even coined a word to describe those efforts, “bio-fiction.” I still have massive failures writing stories from personal experiences, but sometimes I seem to be successful. How does that happen? I read. So much can be learned from reading.

Read. Help stamp out bio-fiction.

1 comment:

Moseriah said...

It's always interesting to me to hear the origin of stories. There seems to be no formula for what "works" and what doesn't. I would love to read what you wrote to your son. It seems you should not abandon your Bio-Fiction altogether!