What makes the best stories are ones with elements from your own life. It's much easier to accurately explain something that you have done before, as opposed to something with which you have no experience. To avoid making it autobiographic, I make a list of what I want in each part of the story and I write character sketches. Don't use complete sentences. It's okay to use things from your life, but a list will help you limit similarities. The more you know, the less you will draw from your life.
How do you escape from what always ends up being autobiographical? Do you ever? :p
Everything you write is always going to be somewhat autobiographical because everything you write comes from you, and your brain! One time this pretty famous author, who I won’t name, came and did a talk at UNC and said that he never took anything from his own life and put it into his stories. Afterwards, my whole class agreed that was total bs. Your life will influence your writing in ways that you don’t even realize—and this guy’s stories mostly took place in the neighborhood of the city where he grew up!
Even if you’re writing about an alternate universe a million years in the future, some of your life is going to pervade the characters or the events that take place or which themes you decide to focus on. I’m sure tons of characters in LOTR are similar to people Tolkien knew in real life (actually, does anyone know anything about this, specifically?), and that a lot of the themes in those books are based somewhat on things Tolkien felt passionate about outside of his writing, too.
What I find happens to me is that I take elements from my life and shake them up—so I’ll combine the traits of two or three people I know into one character, or an event that happened to me when I was seven will happen to one of my characters when he’s thirteen. It’s like I take all of my memories and opinions and the people I know and put them in a blender and out comes a story.
Woof I’m having a hard time articulating myself this morning, so does anyone else have any more advice for findingakindoflife on separating your writing from the events of your own life?