Writers On Writing / Reshaping Life Into Fiction with Kavita Bedford

“… a distinction must be made between the artform of fiction or writing for oneself or journaling. Both are important, but they serve different purposes.”

What are the biggest challenges in shaping fiction and characters based on personal perspective?

There are the inherent ethics that come from drawing from people and life situations and wanting to be both honest and not sever ties. But I believe one of the greatest challenges lies in the form, and I think a distinction must be made between the artform of fiction or writing for oneself or journaling. Both are important, but they serve different purposes. And when dealing with personal subject matter, it can be difficult to be ruthless with the material or critique the work, but it is essential. I do believe once you have spent time honing, crafting, editing, and morphing and carefully curating what was once a real-life event, you have reshaped it into a work of fiction and hopefully into something that transcends the self, which allows it to exist as art.

What is the difference between compelling and uncompelling fiction inspired by real-life events and relationships?

The work must speak to something more universal than the self. While grounding the writing in detail is important, often uncompelling works can feel too self-referential and claustrophobic as a result – I know this because my early drafts had this quality! There needs to be a generosity and expansiveness offered in literature. Editing my novel during Covid highlighted to me again how important it can be to shift the personal narrative into the more collective. I was looking at different forms of loss and grief in this book, the narrator’s personal story, but also what happens in a city when everyone has lost something and we are all looking for both connection and someone to blame. We all draw from our lives in so many ways, but making those words speak to a wider universe is important.

Who are your favourite writers when it comes to personal voice, and why?

Some writers that have been highly influential in my recent work and that I love reading include Natalia Ginzburg, Tove Jansson, Valeria Luiselli, Jenny Offill and Deborah Levy


Kavita Bedford is an Australian-Indian writer with a background in journalism, anthropology and literature. Her writing has appeared in Guernica, The Guardian, The Saturday Paper and she was a recent Churchill Fellow exploring migrant narratives. Her first novel, Friends & Dark Shapes, was published in 2021 and was Shortlisted for The University of Queensland Fiction Book Award, Queensland Literary Awards, 2021.

Join Kavita’s workshop, Writing Fiction From Life, Saturday 14 May 2022, 10am – 4pm. Enrol here >>

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