Tuesday, February 6

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, February 06, 2018 1 comment
Photo by Heather Cannon. Used with permission.
How to Use Your Life in Your Fiction

By guest author Lila Diller

Can I write about what happened to me? What should I keep in mind when including a personal story in fiction? If you’ve ever wondered this, there are three actions you can take.

Last year I published my first Christian romance novel. Though it is definitely fiction, much came from my own personal experiences. I had a friend ask how I got around some obstacles she was facing. She had written a memoir about her marriage, but the few friends she showed it to told her it would ruin her and her husband’s reputations. When I told her how I used my life as a springboard for a fictional story, the light bulb went off.

You can use your personal life as raw material for your fiction stories, too. Here are the most important things you want to keep in mind.

You’ll be kissing that writer’s block goodbye much more often when you use your memories as raw material for certain scenes.

1. Get the Legal Stuff out of the Way First

Include a paragraph on your copyright page. You’ll want to cover your tracks to protect you from being sued for libel, defamation, or a cut of royalties. Consider copying and pasting this notice or something like it to your copyright page:

Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.

2. Change a Few Details in Each Scenario

Protect the Identity of Your Loved Ones. It’s not just for legal reasons that nonfiction writers will say, “Names and details have been altered to protect identities.” You can capture the essence of a good story, an interesting dialogue, or a characterization without revealing so much that when your mother reads the story, she says, “Oh, that must have been so-and-so.”

If possible, change either the gender of the character, the time frame, surrounding circumstances, and/or the setting it happened in. Always change the name of a person, a place, or a landmark, unless it’s absolutely integral to the plot to leave the original.

3. Try Free-Writing about a Memory that Inspires You

Start with the nonfiction version of the truth; then you can change later. If you’re having trouble getting words on the page, sift through your memories until you find one that matches the flavor or inspires some aspect of your current story. Just free-write every detail of that memory down that you can think of. Don’t edit yourself; don’t worry about possible incriminating clues that might shed light on what really happened.

Once you have the memory down on paper (or computer screen), then go back and highlight the important parts. What details are absolutely necessary to make a good story? Then you can start changing non-essentials.

Let me give you a few examples from my first novel, Love is Not Arrogant or Rude. My readers have asked if this was taken from my life. My answer is “yes, but no.”

  • Though the three main characters are based on my husband, my former guy friend, and myself, I never worked with or under my husband. I didn’t meet him while on staff at our alma mater but before as students. And I have never been chased by two men at the same time. 😉
  • The dogs mentioned are based on real dogs, but Sasha was a purebred Collie of my husband’s when he was growing up. I only saw pictures and heard stories about her; I never met her as she had died before then. Esme is a real dappled dachshund that my in-laws currently own (15 years after we were first married).
  • My sister really did try to commit suicide; but I changed her name, changed the reasons why, and shortened the time it took for Morgan to realize how complicated depression is. It took me much longer to come to some conclusions.


You can definitely use your personal life as inspiration for a story. Sometimes the most realistic details come from experiencing those feelings, taking those actions, or saying those words yourself. Don’t be afraid to use them. Just keep in mind that you want to protect yourself and your loved ones.

About the author

Lila Diller is outnumbered by a houseful of males: husband of 15 years, two energetic boys, and a hyper dog. When not homeschooling her boys, you can find her studying the Bible, reading, singing, scrapbooking, or binge-watching Netflix. You will only find her cooking or cleaning when she can’t put it off any longer. She loves to help readers not only to escape from stress in an entertaining and believable story but also to fill their minds with the truth and hope of Jesus.

You can visit Lila's website at liladiller.com. You can also find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/loveisseries and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/liladiller.

If you love Christian romance, check out Lila's “Love is…” series on Amazon! You can also get a free digital copy if you sign up for her FB group Beta Reading for Lila Diller Author.  

Have you ever included autobiographical scenes in your fiction? Any questions for Lila?


  1. Thank you! This is great advice! I'm supposed to be working on writing a fiction short story, but I'm a non-fiction writer and a copywriter and I'm finding fiction difficult. This is great advice! I'm going to try it! Thank you!