One might title this article “Autobiographical versus Imagined”.
Which type of writer are you? Nearly all writers fall into one of two categories. Those whose writing style almost always stems from their own experience (subjective), and those who construct entirely imaginary scenarios (objective).
The former uses his or her own backgrounds, emotional involvements, social circles, lifetime events, to inform the writing, even though using an unfamiliar or fictional setting. The latter constructs stories almost exclusively from imagined circumstances, although these may be based on real or historical events.
Of course all writing styles are conditioned by one’s own personal beliefs and instincts. Nevertheless not many authors straddle both sides of this divide. I will stick my neck out, and say that the majority of women writers fall into the autobiographical category. Women tend to write about domestic situations, family dramas, romantic relationships. Their own experiences are inevitably what inspires them.
However, the paradox is that many completely objective writing styles are also written by women. I’m thinking of historical novels (Hilary Mantel, Paula McLain, Alison Weir), and detective stories (many of the most popular police chiefs and murder mysteries are invented by female authors). However, even these succeed on the whole because they contain intimate emotional dimensions of which the writers have experience.
Men, on the other hand, tend to write much more detached fiction, derived from professional or intellectual interests. One thinks of political or legal thrillers (John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer, James Patterson), spy thrillers (John le Carré, Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum), and most science fiction.
Occasionally male writers stray from the objective to the subjective. John Fowles moved from to the objective writing of ‘The Magus’, ‘The Collector’, and ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman to the intricately personal exploration of ‘Daniel Martin’. Perhaps he was undergoing, in later life, his own private appraisal of his relationships and experiences.
Likewise women writers can do the same. Joanna Trollope was the author of several historical novels, before finding her mark as a recorder of middle England domestic life and drama.
So, as a writer, it is worth deciding which genre you prefer – Subjective v Objective writing styles – or rather, which aspect you wish to condition your next oeuvre. It is quite a crucial factor.
If you are writing from personal experience, then you must delve deep into your own emotional life, and your own observations of the effects of events, in order to create as intimate and unique a narrative as possible.
If you are inventing a completely fictitious tale, then it requires great imagination combined with extensive research, to create an original and authentic-seeming scenario.
The first presents a highly personalised and emotional insight into life, the second an invented world whose horizons and elaborations are unlimited.