One could argue that all fiction is autofiction, to a degree. After all, we can only experience the world through our own senses, our own reactions, background. Even if you’re writing from the point of view of a dog, you’re going to give it thoughts you believe a dog might have based on your own experiences with dogs and, ultimately, your own experiences.

But what is it?

Simply put, autofiction is memoir(ish), but fictionalized. The same way that historical fiction might take a real historical event and, you know, fictionalize it. Give it some extra characters, get into those characters’ heads, maybe add an event or two that didn’t really happen.

Current society is obsessed with it

The modern trend toward introspection, self-actualization, sharing and over-sharing on social media, turned out to be the perfect fertilizer for the new fascination with this kind of novel. I’ve read some excellent examples, but I find that I can’t go there myself. Maybe if I could, my writing would be better. Or more resonant. Or more REAL. But whenever I try, the result is god awful. The more painful an event in my life, the more I need to hide it, dress it up, turn it around, turn it into something else altogether, and then I can write it and have it be something good.

It’s not just for the literary world

Although mostly in the domain of what is considered literary, autofiction has been popping up in the crime and suspense genres lately.

The Shards by Brett Easton Ellis.

Actually, pretty much anything by Brett Easton Ellis is autofiction, and it’s got blood and gore enough to qualify as crime or suspense or even horror

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Although she went further to hide herself than BEE, Donna Tartt’s novel spawned the dark academia sub-genre, and had enough real people and real experiences that some of the very real teachers she discusses in the novel got into trouble.

Baby Reindeer

On Netflix

Okay, this is not a book, but boy is it a compelling watch. Pure autofiction, and absolutely pitch perfect.

Yes, I cheated with that last one, but it’s the one that got me thinking about this trend to begin with. There are many, many more wonderful examples, and you can read about them here and here.

But mostly, I want to know: would you write about yourself so openly? Could you? Is it not scary? I know many people write memoirs, but this feels different. This is a fictionalized version of your story and that seems both more naked and somehow sly. More sensationalized.

Thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Emilya Naymark

Emilya Naymark is the author of the novels Hide in Place and Behind the Lie.
Her short stories appear in the Bouchercon 2023 Anthology, A Stranger Comes to Town: edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.

When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.


  1. After our house burned down 24 years ago, I wrote about in an essay that compared my feelings to Colonial poet Anne Bradstreet, using lines from her poem that describe her living through a similar event in her life. It was enough to convince me I’m far happier in my imagination.

    But I think as a writer you do draw on describing a character’s feelings in a certain situation if you’ve been there—it’s inevitable.

    When I wrote the first Trudy Genova, I briefly touched in her backstory on her misgivings about the death of her father being an accident, setting up book 3, which is all about her returning home to track down his killer. But a cousin of mine read that first book, and told me, “I see you’re still working out your issues with your father.” That hadn’t been my intention but she seemed to think it was!

    1. Oh boy…yeah. I definitely didn’t realize I was working through some things until after my books were already published. And then I re-reread them with fresh eyes and thought…yikes! haha….

  2. It’s something I struggle with because I’m drawn to writing about families. But I don’t want to write about MY family and especially my children. So I contort myself to make the characters as different from them as I can, though the mother is essentially me. And I’m sure my kids will see themselves in it regardless.

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