Thursday, May 18, 2017

Merging Your Fiction Writing With Real Life Experiences

From Writerslife.org:

Merging Your Fiction Writing With Real Life Experiences - Writer's Life.org


We are always told to ‘write what we know’ but what does that really mean? If you don’t have any desire to write an autobiography or can’t see how a book about your everyday experiences or the past is going to knock the socks off your reader, how do you use what you know, what you have experienced, and what you are passionate about, in your writing work?

I was told this many times, and was almost certain I was going to choose to write a novel based on my experiences with depression. But as I began writing notes, it began to sound more like memoir, so that is why I went with that.  Having been influenced by another person's memoir on the same subject may have been why I found myself writing my notes that way.

Whether I had chosen to write fiction or a memoir, I was apprehensive of using other people's real names or using their characteristics to define a fictional character.  I've seen this used as a gag on TV shows: Someone is trying to write a story and someone else tells that person to "Write what you know." The would-be writer takes this advice and ends up penning something that leads the other characters to say "This story is about us!" Now I wonder how many real-life writers have had this happen to them. 


Keep your eyes open
Magical, unusual, beautiful and horrifying things happen all around us all the time. Keep your eyes and ears open to them and soon you’ll start to notice things that you can use in your writing to make it more believable, exciting and unique. Next time you go for a walk or sit on a bus, really look at everything, immerse yourself in the moment - and make sure you bring a notebook so you can capture everything that strikes you there and then.
Say yes to more things
It’s hard to have real life experiences worth writing about if you never do anything or go anywhere. Sitting inside on your sofa or staring for hours on end on your computer screen will get you nowhere. So make a real effort to be a yes person and you’ll find your life becomes richer, more exciting and more unusual - all of which are excellent fuel for a great story.

I'm not sure how, if at all,  either of these two above have worked into my memoir writing. 

Be brave
Doing things that push you, that take you outside your comfort zone and that scare you a little will help you find inspiration in your real life experiences. Those things that make us nervous, make our palms a little sweaty, make us get butterflies are usually the things that make for good stories. So the more you are willing to take a leap of faith and to have the courage to simply go for it, the more fuel you will have to merge these experiences into your work.

I guess I was brave to have looked in my old journals (see below) to find out something I wanted to add. There were somethings I didn't want to be reminded of and many of these I already remembered even without looking at the journals. But there was something I wanted to know for sure, so I had to look the journals to know. I now also think some of the things might have worked for a fictional novel.

Talk to people
OK so you might not have a great many stories of your own, but the more you talk to people the more you will learn about them, their lives and the tales they have to tell. You never know when someone might tell you something beautiful, interesting or hilarious so always open yourself up to people of all ages and from all backgrounds. Learn what you can from the. Gather stories and use them to influence your work. The more people you meet the more likely you are to find those with great stories and can use them as the basis for many of your rich and interesting characters too.

The closest I came to this one as far as memoir writing goes is when I recently asked my mom if she thought I could have been considered a precocious child. She told me some thing I was too little to remember for sure--I taught myself to read and was drawing perspective at a young age.  And she reminded me of an ability I had a child--if she or another adult asked me what day of the week a date in the past fell on, I mostly could answer this correctly. I seemingly memorized the calendars that was in the back pages of the old telephone directory (anyone remember seeing that calendar?)  I now think these characteristics would work well for a fictional character. 

Research your past
Talk to your relatives about your history, ask them to share their stories and really explore your memories of what it was like growing up. The places you’ve lived in, the holidays you went on as a child, how you felt on your first day at school. You have a whole life’s worth of experiences in your past, so take your time to think of them and see how they could influence your writing.
I've been doing this one, well sort of. My current treatment on antidepressants wasn't my first.  It had been years since I first did so, then left suddenly. During that time, I'd been asked to keep a journal and had three of them. The other day, I went to find them in my storage shed to see what info contained in these journals I could use. 

There was one thing I remembered before evoking at the journals. Turns out I remembered the date incorrectly (according to the date of this detail in the journal), but decided not to try to correct it. I'm probably the only one who remembers this one particular incident and if no one else knows for sure, then I see no reason to be too factual. In this way, I'm kind of fictionalizing some facts. It has seemed to work better this way. I have noted in my prologue that some events have been jumbled or combined, but are true and accurate for the most part. This, I presume is what a "fictionalized memoir" is.

Immersing your real life experiences in with your creative writing can be a wonderful way to explore your past, to really get in tune with the world, and to create some meaningful, beautiful, real writing that feels true to you and will connect deeply with your readers.

So next time you sit down to write, think about how you can use your past, your present and the people you meet each day to help make your writing even more special and unique!
I'm definitely taking all of these ideas into consideration if I ever should write a novel.

1 comment:

  1. Intriguing.
    I suspect everything becomes grist for a writer's mill. And will sometimes emerge in a very different format, but the seeds are based on reality.

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