Carnegie Mellon University

Ian Sears

Ian SearsMajor: Creative Writing
Minor: International Relations and Politics
Adviser: Kevin González

Exploring Narrative Identity Through Fiction

Throughout my time in CMU’s creative writing program I have become increasingly interested in narrative identity: the theory that people form their identity and perception of reality by incorporating their experiences into an evolving story of the self. For my senior thesis I will write a novel based on this concept.

I find myself drawn to characters with inflated and mistaken views of themselves, others and how their work is impacting society. Such characters are ripe for comedic and tragic potential, and my craft tends to improve the most whenever I’m living with them.

To me, a successful novel becomes a part of the reader’s experience and adds color to their life. My aim is to get the reader thinking about how they are constructing their own inner narrative, and to learn more about how I am constructing my own.

While planning this project, I was inspired by the novels "The Orphan Master’s Son" by Adam Johnson and "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert M. Pirsig, the David Lynch film "Mulholland Drive" and the television show "Westworld."

Writing this novel will be instrumental in my growth and in bringing me closer to achieving my goal of publication.


I was born in Manhattan and lived in Darren, Connecticut until I was seven, when my family moved to Australia. Living in Australia while my father pursued his Ph.D. gave me a different perspective on being an American. There, the academic culture was focused on obtaining knowledge and enriching one’s life, placing less emphasis on status and material wealth.

When my family eventually moved to Palo Alto, California, I was—for better or worse—able to retain a more laid-back attitude toward life and school than many of my American peers. In Palo Alto, I attended Gunn High School. I find that the culture at CMU is very similar to Gunn – they’re both home to many intelligent and creative people who are passionate about what they do, but there are also many who feel a lot of pressure to succeed and prioritize academic success above everything else.

I began to pursue music and writing at Gunn, where I played guitar in a rock band and bass in a jazz quartet. During my senior year of high school, I wrote the first 126 pages of a terrible novel that spurred me to major in creative writing. My friends and I also enjoyed—and still enjoy—making short films in our free time, most of which appear on YouTube under the name "We’re Bandits Productions." At first, engaging in these pursuits clashed with my schoolwork, but as I’ve gotten older and my classes have become more tailored to my interests, my hobbies and my work inform each other more and more.

Writing a novel for my thesis is the best and most natural possible outcome of my time at CMU, and I hope it will ultimately lead to a career as a novelist.