written by David James | February 10, 2016

On Writing a Fictional Memoir

I’ve been asked what goes into writing a fictional memoir. People naturally are curious about how my experiences influence the choices in my story and the characters in it. They want to know what connection I feel with Issac, the protagonist in Steps.

For me, writing a fictional memoir is less about fiction than it is about the truths we see in our daily lives. It is about how each of us can relate as those truths present themselves. So the bond between writer and reader is built not around a particular person or event but around an ideal that takes hold and rings true. In accomplishing this fiction has more power than any other genre. That’s because in fiction there is freedom to express emotions in ways that are unbound by fact or law. In Steps, you meet Mia:

“Mia was the girl, the one I was crazier than hell about during high school. More than anything, it was the way she looked at me that kept my undying attention. Her physical attributes, in reality, were no more than any other high school girl’s. However, her brightness, imagination and the heat she exuded intrigued me to no end.”

Truth comes from life

The most compelling fiction comes from truths, and the most compelling truths come through the living of life. Of course there is a point at which authors must mask actual characters and events, and even more importantly, choose characters that fulfill the mission of the writing about that particular character or event.

But as you can see from my writing, all kinds of things stimulate my mind, even in the passing of a beautiful bird. Of course women have been a strong influence with my life. My mother, my wives, and the women in between have influenced me greatly. The same is true of my children, even more so now with my youngest son. This comes in a chapter of Steps titled Love Personified:

“Anthony, at four, is a wheat-colored blonde with corn blue eyes whose looks are somewhere between Sophia and me, perhaps a bit more towards her. His personality is strong, much like mine, yet in the mornings he enjoys his leisure, the same as Sophia.”

Maintaining honesty, embracing differences

In Steps, I create in Issac the David James who is most honest, one unafraid to be in the moment. Unlike Issac, I must live in the real world, one in which we must concern ourselves with trying to stay within certain acceptable boundaries. When they have not been, I have dealt with them the best I could. Sometimes great lengths of time have passed before something had a potential to be good, or what I considered good at the time. Now though, I can see that what I considered to be good did not always turn out that way. Sometimes what I considered bad was actually quite good for me in ways I did not understand for years to come.

In writing about the characters, events and truths sometimes lifted from my own life, I sometimes have trouble maintaining my honesty. When I show someone what I am doing those who know a lot about my life or where I am headed in dealing with a particular character, they sometimes disagree. It’s like when there is an accident and each person’s version is slightly different. Each has a different truth and sees it as the only one. Our stories are different, and so then are our truths. But in those differences lies the beauty of life.


The most compelling fiction comes from truths. Discover, Steps.

Written by David James, Steps is the story of Issac, a country boy who leaves West Texas in search of hope, love and meaning. At every turn, however, he is met with insurmountable obstacles. Will he be able to overcome his internal and external demons?

Download a free excerpt from Steps today: