Writing about yourself is an exercise in both honesty and storytelling. You are narrating your own life or experience, but you are also the hero of a story. So the question is, how do you create this hero when it is YOU? How do you elevate yourself above being an ordinary person and into the realm of a literary character that people are inspired to read about? What if your story is not gripping enough to make you into this ‘hero’? What if you don’t want to be in your story at all? How will you hold their attention for 250 pages? How much of yourself should you really reveal?
The key to this is to see yourself as the hero of the book, and devise a character that is gripping and entertaining so that readers are willing to spend some time with you. Even if you are writing a non-fiction, the readers are buying into you as the expert, who has lessons to share.
Show your dark side
A lot of writers start off thinking they are going to impart wisdom in a book. But no!
Nobody wants to read about a goodie-two-shoes. The key to a strong lead character is that you show more of your flaws than of your strengths. That means you need to be bad, angry, vindictive and preferably all of those. You need to make big mistakes.
Are you trying to paint yourself in a good light? Why? Readers relate to characters who struggle, get stuff wrong, make bad judgement calls and stuff it all up. Make sure you are NOT putting your best foot forward.
Readers want to read the real trials. The real hardships. They want to read about the moments when you were at your lowest ebb. Your worst behaviour. This is the popularity of a memoir or the transformation of a non-fiction book. The reader wants to live out their worst fears, but through someone else. They don’t need to be a crack addict; they can read your story. Show your arrogance, the pain you caused others, your abominable behaviour and your deep questioning of life.
Get out your records
Memoirs need to be written with visual cues. Get out your photos of key events, client records, doctors reports, letter, lawyers’ communications, texts, and Facebook posts.
Can you include these actual documents?
What source material needs a place in your book?
You must talk
Talk to other people, talk to yourself, talk to the reader. Reveal yourself through your dialogue – not only your thoughts.
Highlight a quirk
Choose something you habitually do and make more of it – perhaps it’s an annoying habit, an amusing quirk, an obsession or a personality style. Don't share everything about yourself, just unique aspects. Jason Bourne is an obsessive map reader. Jack Reacher lives on the road with only a toothbrush as his constant. Find a small thing you do and develop it into a character trait. You may be OCD, an exercise fanatic, like to do stand-up comedy, pound the pavement and run late at night, bake when you are stressed, slug down tequila with your mates, secretly work as a vigilante, carry a Glock. The point is, choose one vivid detail and make it part of your character build.