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To make an otherwise long winded story short, I have an uncommon tale of survivorship.

Context: From child runaway, to kidnapping victim, to an escape ten years, ten months, and 23 days later.

For the last two years, I’ve had a willingness to talk it through and answer questions people may have, only elusive to specific happenings to spare them grisly details. Each time, I’m told I should write a book about it, or that they would like to read the full story. I’ve never taken it as a compliment with bias because these were complete strangers. (I’ve told my story here and there anonymously online.)

The thing is, I associate autobiographies as a whole to people who had prior fame. Although I suppose Albert Woodfox, or Aran Ralston were both regular men prior to what they were subjected to, I have a hard time believing I am on that “scale,” so to speak.

While I do think it would be nice to put it all down beyond my regular journaling, and while I have considered that this may help other people who have been through, or are presently going through, similar circumstance - I feel a lot of hesitance. It’s hard to see it beyond being narcissistic.

I’m afraid there is no true conclusion, as it wouldn’t end with “and then she bought a home, got married, had children.”

Likewise, I recall how it felt to read a lot of “You are not alone,” motivational hooplah when I was still in my ache, and how little it does for someone in their present situation.

So. What determines the value or worthiness of an autobiography? When it has its happy ending? When it offers subtle tips and tricks should the situation arise? Motivation? Solely to get it off of my chest? Or just to satiate someone’s need to read a true crime?

I am okay with working on this for years to come, and I am okay with publicizing it, but I am otherwise not sure what “my point,” would be outside of wanting to comfort others who have faced what I have.

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  • I can't answer your actual question, but wanting to comfort others seems like a pretty good reason to write. Jan 28, 2023 at 19:40
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    Elusive is not the word you want - I think you mean 'alluding to specific happenings'. An autobiography doesn't have to be that of a famous person. If people have suggested that you write a book about your experiences, there is obviously a certain level of interest in the story. Jan 29, 2023 at 15:41
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    Very related: My autobiography is exciting, but I'm an unknown. Should I make it a novel instead?(The question of how to end your book isn't germane here and could be asked as another question.)
    – Laurel
    Jan 29, 2023 at 16:53
  • There seems to be some market for stories of people who suffer horrible experiences and survive; you should research that, look at publishers, agents, blogs, common features found in the stories, what they provide to the reader (e.g. messages of hope, advice); often called "misery literature" or other even less flattering terms.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 2, 2023 at 14:52

3 Answers 3

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The book "Hey, Kiddo" by Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a good example. Before writing books, he wasn't famous, but his story is interesting and a bunch of people read it.

Honestly, I would definitely read your story! It seems really interesting, and I'm sure readers care more about the content of the book than the person writing it (unless they did something controversial or terrible).

If you still have concerns, turning it into a story/novel is another option, but the choice is yours! It doesn't necessarily have to have a storybook, happy ending.

Comforting others is a great purpose! You don't have to include tips, but I'm sure it'll be a nice, helpful addition if it's folded into the story!

An autobiography doesn't have to be a standard story, and there's no way to determine the value of it. A good book is a good book nonetheless!

Hope this helped!

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You would not be the first survivor of this who has done outreach like this, and your own personal experience having survived this is definitely valuable to a lot of people from a lot of different walks of life.

The sad fact of reality is that the kind of kidnapping you experienced is rare. Almost all kidnapping victims knew their attacker prior to the attack. If it's a child kidnapping, it's almost always the non-custodial parent or someone working for them, who are taking the kid to hurt the custodial parent. In adult kidnappings, it's usually someone they knew how is obsessed with them. In all Stranger Kidnappings and all adult kidnappings, the chances of finding the victim alive and well drop in a matter of hours following the initial disappearance. They are lucky if they live the next 10 hours... let alone 10 years. Surivivors of 10 years of being held against your will are exceedingly rare, to the point that I've only heard of maybe two different cases of it happening within the past 30 years in the U.S.

As such, the experience is something that has a wide range of appeal. First and for most, as I'm sure your aware, therapists need all the help they can get on working with clients that have gone through this trauma. Again, it doesn't come up, so there's no real understanding of what techniques work and don't work. It's a young field for the general population, let alone for a rare case like this.

Secondly, this can be immensely helpful for police as it can provide insight into the offender's thinking which can help them understand the offender better. Again, because a surviving kidnapping victim is rare, knowing patterns to look for is difficult compared to the usual cases and can help develop a behavior profile that can help investigators in identifying suspects.

Finally, as you mentioned, while it's probably not on the approved reading material that the kidnapper gives their victim, if a victim did read about your own experiences, they can rely on your own coping techniques to keep their spirits up and power through to

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I don't think the "value or worthiness" of your story depends on whether you're famous or unknown, but rather on whether (and how) it impacts on your target audience. Does it move or inspire them? Does it offer a lesson or example that a reader finds instructive or reassuring? Does it resonate with those readers who've shared a similar life experience? For some, its value might be measured more simply: was it an entertaining or rewarding read?

It's also important to consider the value to you of writing your story. Whether it's catharsis, vindication, getting the facts straight, finding new personal insights, presenting your story to loved ones (and perhaps revealing deeply personal things you want them to know about you and haven't been able to tell them face-to-face), just wanting to feel that you've been heard, or even believing your story having an intrinsic value regardless of whether anyone ends up reading it – these aspects are all part of the very subjective assessment of value.

If assessing your story's value to a broader audience, a further consideration will be your ability to tell your story well and the extent that you can get it distributed in published form, since its external value is lessened if it reaches few people or if your readers struggle with your style, structure, etc. If your writing skills are poor, you might consider looking for a professional writer (perhaps through your state or national writers' centre) to "ghost-write" your autobiography with you, either on a fee basis or in a publishing arrangement. Or if you have modest writing skills, write your first draft and get it assessed (or edited) by a professional editor, especially if they have good industry connections that might lead to interest by a significant publishing house.

No story has value if it remains untold. The most basic advice I can give is the mantra all writers live by: just start writing!

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