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Life Embellished

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Calvin: Well, you know what historical fiction is? This is sort of like that. I'm writing a fictional autobiography. It's the story of my life, but with a lot of parts completely made up.
Hobbes: Why would you make up your own life?
Calvin: Because in my book I have a flamethrower!

Webcomics are pretty informal. All you need is an idea, a modicum of artistic talent, and somewhere on the internet to host it. And hey, there are plenty of sites to help you with the latter. And all the expanses of popular culture to inspire you with the rest.

The result is that an author is often pretty laid back about where exactly the line between Real Life and The 'Verse lies. We're talking about things past Author Avatar here. Way, way, past Reality Subtext. We're talking a protagonist whose name is the same as the author's Screen Name, and who has the same attitudes and interests (except that he also has Impossibly Cool Hair). We're talking a supporting cast that strikingly resembles the author's friends, except that they're always funny and one of them is probably a talking animal or something. We're talking about how they attend a Wacky College that seems identical to the one the author attends, except that the unpopular teacher is some kind of Orc or Robot and there's a portal to another universe in the basement.

If the comic gains an audience, the creator may attempt to remake the story to something that won't attract libel lawsuits. On the other hand, many don't bother: only a privileged few webcomics succeed well enough to make money, and... we are all pretty informal around here.

If Life isn't actually Embellished in the comic, then it's simply a Journal Comic. Can also overlap with Slice of Life. Might include a Con Recap, when the creator devotes an episode to recounting their experiences in a fandom convention.

In Literature it is also known by the phrase "creative nonfiction."


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    Comic Books 
  • The comic Rocky is autobiographical, but is often fictionalized for laughs.
  • Jhonen Vasquez once did a three-page backup in a issue of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, where he described an average day in his life, and how it was unlike Johnny C's. At the end, he begrudgingly admits that it was embellished, confessing that the scene wherein he flies out of his castle to buy a slushie from the devil didn't actually happen during a full moon.
  • Be Prepared is about Vera Brosgol's experiences at a summer camp for Russian-American kids, with some things embellished or simplified for the sake of the narrative. She makes note of the biggest differences in her author's notes. For example, the graphic novel covers one summer, when Vera actually went to the camp for two. She also admits that one character, the nice, picked-on Gregor, was based on a real kid who really was bullied and faced all kinds of bad luck the same way Gregor does in the story, but unlike his comic counterpart, the real boy never got any karmic justice on his tormentors.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Film meta-example: In Big Fish, Will Bloom grows up thinking that his father's stories about his life are absolutely true. As an adult, he comes to believe they're a complete fiction, based on the sheer number of improbabilities and impossibilities contained therein. While his father is on his deathbed, he comes to discover that the truth is somewhere in between — that they're simply his life embellished.
  • Give My Regards to Broad Street has this In-Universe and may have had it absolutely.
  • A Hard Day's Night was Life Embellished; only a few bits of absurdity kept it from being a Journal Film.
  • Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a satire on the inaccuracies of Hollywood biopics; while there are bits of truth in the story, Weird Al's career wasn't nearly so dramatic as depicted here. For instance, the movie opens with Al being assassinated in 1985 and being resurrected as a zombie.

  • Don Quixote: Ruy Pérez de Viedma relates all his biography in “The story of the Captive Captain”. He was a handsome captive captain who wanted to escape the Moors and was helped by a Zoraida, a beautiful moor princess who wanted to convert to Christianity, organized a successful evasion to Spain, was well received by his powerful and rich relatives and married Zoraida. Cervantes (the author) was a captive who failed all his evasion intents, his family paid his rescue and always was an Impoverished Patrician.
  • Look At The Harlequins! by Vladimir Nabokov.
  • Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis.
  • Bill Bryson's apocryphal friend "Stephen Katz" is an example of this, to the extent that the "real" or at least, "real person generally regarded as the inspiration" is reported not to be too happy about the portrayal.
  • The writings of James Herriot, televised as All Creatures Great and Small (1978), are based on his own experiences as a veterinary surgeon in rural Yorkshire but with enough details changed to obscure the identities of everyone who appears in them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue, the husband-and-wife team behind Coupling, have said that the relationship of Steve and Susan (ahem) in the show is loosely based on the early stages of their own relationship. Similarly, Moffat's earlier sitcom Joking Apart is based of the fallout of his first marriage. He has described Coupling as "my life as told by a drunk". Parts of Joking Apart were clearly recycled for Coupling (and Moffat's Doctor Who episode "The Doctor Dances", oddly).
  • The Van de Kamps on Desperate Housewives are based on creator Marc Cherry's family, with Cherry taking the comparison so far as to kill off Rex at the end of the first season despite him being one of the most popular characters, entirely because Cherry's father died at the same age. Another incident taken straight from real life are Bree's first words to Andrew (Cherry's own counterpart) upon his coming out of the closet: "I'd love you even if you were a murderer!" Though given some of the things that have happened since that first season, including Andrew becoming pretty much pure evil for a while, one would hope not everything is true to life.
  • Seinfeld has elements of this; many of the episodes were based on personal stories of the writers, and the title character is a fictionalized version of the actor who plays him.
    • It's even more prevalent in Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Seinfeld's co-creator, Larry David plays himself, and the supporting cast also includes several celebrities playing themselves.

  • Flight of the Conchords is a television show starring the band Flight Of The Conchords. The main characters are pretty much what the guys are actually like. About the only really fantastic elements of the show are all in the music videos, and those are usually symbolic.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Scott Adams began writing Dilbert when he was employed at Pacific Bell, and some of the early strips are not-so-embellished portrayals of his own encounters with his bosses.
  • In newspaper comics, the original four main characters of For Better or for Worse were based on creator Lynn Johnston, her husband, her son and her daughter, and were all named after the middle names of their real-life counterparts. April, the last child, is the embellishment and possibly the third child Johnston wanted.
    • It starts getting even more embellished when the eldest children gets married and has kids of his own (which Johnston was hoping her own children would do), and in recent days this is combined with Accentuate the Negative in the 'new-runs' to make John as unlikeable as possible in the wake of her real life husband cheating on and then divorcing her.

  • This is the setting of the A Prairie Home Companion segment "News From Lake Wobegon" - the narrator Garrison Keillor making up exaggerated tales about his (fictional) hometown and the Eccentric Townsfolk that live there. There's no sci-fi or fantasy elements, but it has the same "not quite real" feeling.

  • tick, tick... BOOM!, according to creator Jonathan Larson's father, was a semi-autobiographical depiction of Larson's struggles to establish himself as a composer in New York in the early 1990s, told by the character of Jon. The 2021 film adaptation uses Larson's full name for the character of Jon.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • Eddsworld played straight, including animated shorts based off the comics featuring the main characters voiced by their real-life counterparts.

  • The main premise of Framed!!! was that a character which Damonk had created had gotten out of control and had trapped Damonk in his own comic along with several of his friends.
  • Mae Dean's Real Life Comics indulged in this more in its early years, such as a strip where Mae goes on a date with Belldandy; its absolute peak was probably Tony and his then-girlfriend's dispute about Western vs. Eastern Humongous Mecha turning into an actual fight between fight between a Battletech 'Mech and Eva Unit-00. Over time this element has faded away a good deal and it's mostly just autobiographical, but when it comes to Tony all bets are off.
  • The Green Avenger is an autobiographical / superhero comic.
  • Kismetropolis is a self-admitted, sometimes autobiographical webcomic.
  • Overcompensating calls itself "a 100% true journal comic about things that actually happen". According to his, the average day in Jeffrey Rowland's life involves meeting God, complaining about internet slang to "The GØd of the Internets", fighting a T-Rex (or daring Jesus to do it for him) and chatting with fellow webcomic-author John Allison, who is apparently a stuffy British superhero.
  • The first year of Something*Positive was this kind of strip, with Davan being a stand-in for R.K. Milholland and most of the other characters based on people he knew. As the comic progressed it's become more of its own thing. The general tone is still "satirical version of real life embellished by a few surreal elements."
    • There are also strips (sometimes called "Life With Rippy") that are embellished versions of R.K. Milholland's real life—as in, they discuss the fact that he makes the webcomic, feature his actual family members, etc. But they also feature Rippy, an anthropomorphic razor blade who serves as his snarky Foil.
  • Penny Arcade's authors admit that Gabe and Tycho's adventures are sometimes extremely embellished versions of their own lives, but that they weren't originally intended to be literal Author Avatars until their fandom grew huge and began referring to them that way.
  • Loserz. Mostly Slice of Life, but then suddenly the characters watch movies together with Yoda, or do something else you don't see in Real Life.
  • Mac Hall, named after the dorm Ian lived in at the time.
  • In Millennials nobody has superpowers, but when the author is the protagonist of the episode often something crazy happens, like Kim Jon Un being killed and replaced by a hard avocado that she threw.
  • In The Slacker Handbook,a guide for the motivationally-challenged,a slacker's writing is inevitably described as "thinly-disguised autobiographical content littered with obscenities". Ooh,controversial.
  • Jayden and Crusader is a good example, as the main character started as a self insert and otherwise bears no relation to the real life of the artist. Despite a strong grounding to reality, it has also included a war between Gods over computers, an evil slime monster intent on world destruction and a cannon that can bring the recently deceased to life, similar to a defibrillator.
  • Comedity: It veers off into the wild blue yonder on occasion, but has a certain amount of grounding in its creator's life. One of the most notable changes? Alice, the Robot Girl, is his computer in real life. Well, she's his computer in the comic, too. Just, y'know, anthropomorphic. And sentient.
  • Shin Goji from Twisted Kaiju Theater Every of the Toxic Pirates are based off of his friends. He also admits that Shin in the comic is what he'd be like if he could get away with the same stuff without going to jail. Though sometimes, they get too embellished for humor. Like when Space Hojo is revealed to be Nyarlothotep.
  • Union of Heroes presents interludes between the end and the beginning of a new episode. The main character of most of these interludes is the photographed creator of the photocomic. Some interludes are only like a Journal Comic. But then there are interludes where he switches into a drawn version of himself and travels to the webcomic planet with a spaceship.
  • Everyday Heroes is set in Indianapolis. Mr. Mighty drives down Keystone Avenue to his job in the "Vonnegut Building" (Regions Bank Building); his daughter attends "Washington Central" (North Central) High School, home of the "WildCats" (Panthers); the characters go to lunch at a deli suspiciously like Shapiro's, etc.
  • Simply put, Sonichu shows how this trope isn't always a good idea if the author lacks the necessary maturity and restraint. It's essentially pure Wish-Fulfillment, with the characters either being stand-ins for the author, being the author, satellite love interests, or Straw Man versions of the author's real-life enemies.
  • Megatokyo basically started off as "Author Avatars visit Japan and get stuck" but very soon began moving further and further from reality, even before the Cerebus Syndrome took hold. Many of the characters are based on the two original creators and their friends. However, that's about where the similarities of the creators' lives ends, but Piro still uses the character designs for his character and his wife's character as Author Avatars for them in omake.
  • The sideplots in Kit N Kay Boodle involve the artist and his girlfriend engaging in disturbing sexual activities with their parents. (No actual Parental Incest has happened as such, but the girlfriend's mother watched the couple have sex and then had cybersex with the artist's father in front of them and their friends.) A lot of critics sincerely hope that the emphasis is on the "Embellished".
  • Enjuhneer subscribes heavily to this trope.
  • Terrifying Monsters is mostly autobiographical, but the author and his friends are all represented as giant monsters.
  • Arthur's strip-within-a-strip in Arthur, King of Time and Space, with the embellishments based on Paul Gadzikowski's old Infinity Labs Life Embellished strip.
  • The Devil's Panties: Mostly about the author's life, though her Author Avatar gets away with saying or doing things she couldn't in the real situation. Early strips include her talking to Jesus and the Devil and other bits of Magical Realism.
  • AceroTiburon's comics are based on Antonia's real life experiences as part of the anime fandom, except with catgirls, cameos from Naruto characters, a few OCs and Mundane Fantastic elements.
  • Curtailed walks the line between this an journal comic. Every strip is either something that actually happened, based on something that actually happened, based on something that could have happened, or based on something they would like to happen.
  • Wes Molebash, creator of MOLEBASHED, is pretty forthright about the embellishment in his comic strip. According to the About page on the comic's website, "The Cartoon Version of Wes is about 10% thinner and 20% more interesting than Real Life Wes."
  • Hang in There, Kogasa-san by Mizuki Hitoshi chronicles the misadventures of married doujin artists Kogasa Tatara and Sanae Kochiya from Touhou and their lives during jobs, conventions and lots and lots of eating. The Web Comic is also Mizuki's diary, with lots of Rule of Funny added to make the stories more interesting.
  • Uh-Oh, It’s a Dinosaur: Paul's (torturous) work experience in retail, aspirations, need to budget and mete out a schedule? Very realistically grounded. Kyra's whole existence? Insane adventures with bounty hunters, mad scientists, and so forth? Not so much.
  • Johnny Wander is mostly journal comics based on the authors' lives. Then Yuko accidentally loses an arm to a closing subway door and has it subsequently stolen by some kind of arm-collecting goblin.
  • The Redacverse's early years had random events inspired by moments in the author's life, with a lot of fantastic things thrown in the mix. Characters can be avatars of the author and other people, completely fictional characters, and anything in between. The way early pages were made is described as "a big drawing of whatever happened and whatever didn't really happen, and a written summary that went in weird tangents."
  • Mr. Boop: Claimed to be based on Alec's real life being married to Betty Boop.
  • A lot of situations in College Catastrophe and it sequel Nine to Nine are loosely based on the author's misadventures Played for Laughs.