Since I had anticipated answering questions today and didn't write out a post, I'm going to share another post that I wrote on Randomosity Writers awhile back. This was written a while back, and who knows... I may do a newer version sometime, but... Hope you enjoy!
Writing From Experience
I’m sure we’ve all heard the old saying that you should write what you know. And it’s very true. If we write about our hometown, add in the characteristics of your best friend to another character, maybe just stick in a family tradition. If you’ve been somewhere or done something, you can write about it in a much clearer way then if you were just reading about it. Of course, as writers we know that’s not always the case. At least, it’s nice to have something to write about that we know, but (to fantasy writers especially) this can sometimes be impossible. But even if you’re writing a Sci-Fi masterpiece, or a fantasy epic you can still write from experience, and make your story much more realistic.
Last Tuesday, I had my wisdom teeth taken out. It wasn’t a boatload of fun, but I did learn a few things. And now, if I ever need a character to have surgery- almost any surgery- I can relay it more realistically because I’ve been through it. I’ve been prepped. I’ve had heart and lung monitors strapped to my chest, I’ve had a machine beeping in the background, I’ve tasted the sickly sweet scent that is general anesthetic filling my nose, and causing my arms and legs to tingle and feel almost weightless. It’s an interesting feeling, not one that I enjoy. I also know what it’s like for the doctor’s to be worried, and to check your monitors to be sure everything is how it should be. But what if your story doesn’t have surgery? Well, Allison pointed something out to me. This knowledge can also be used in the case of your character being knocked out with drugs, because, well, that happens sometimes!
But we can’t always write from experience. What if your main character is in France? Or South Korea? What if you’ve never been there, but are writing from what you’ve read? That’s okay. Some things you have to write from what you read in books or online. Or perhaps you know someone who HAS been to France or South Korea, and can interview them on THEIR experience. Most people will be very friendly about this, especially if you know them well. If you want to know about where someone has been, or about what they’ve went through, all you have to do is ask. Remember to be respectful about it- especially if you’re writing a war story and speaking to a veteran, or something of this nature. If you are respectful to someone, and show true interest in their story, they’ll be more then willing to open up and listen to what you have to say. In fact, most people want to tell someone about things they’ve done, or been through, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Finally, here are a few suggestions of things that you can use for experience. I’m sure there are many more that you could choose, but these are my two cents on the matter.
Riding – This is a pretty simple thing. Most everyone rides in cars, don’t they? Some people even have the pleasure of riding a horse. Some people don’t know what it’s like to ride a horse, believe it or not. Some people have only ridden one that’s been led around, and hasn’t been trained properly. If you can describe the way a car skims along the highway, or a horse trots, you can use that. And furthermore, you can take a horse, and change it into something else. If you’re writing fantasy, there are normally fantasy animals to go into it, made up by you. You can give your animal some of the characteristics of a horse, perhaps just the way it rides. You can apply this to other animals as well.
Places you’ve been – I know we talked about this above, but even the few places you HAVE been can be used for your story, especially for contemporary writers, or just stories set in this world. If you’ve been to this next town over, and see some tradition practiced there. You can use that!
People you know – This one can be tricky. I wouldn’t recommend making carbon copies of people and changing them into characters, but perhaps you can take a characteristic here, a habit there. You can always ask a person, but that might bring up an awkward conversation. If it’s a villainous or embarrassing character, it might be best to just make it up. Hurting someone’s feelings is not worth it.
Things you’ve done – You know that rock climbing wall they brought to your camp last year? Well, I don’t know for sure if they brought one to yours, but they brought one to mine. It took everything in me to get to the top of the beginner’s wall, while all my friends were climbing the medium or hard one. (I’m not very sports-oriented.) I can remember the way my arms were screaming as I nearly hung from a rock, and tried hard to keep my footing. You can use the little things you’ve done for a story. In this instance, it could be for characters climbing a rock cliff to sneak into an enemy’s castle. Or something of the sort. But it doesn’t have to be something like this, you can use almost any instance or experience you’ve had for a story. Swimming, riding bikes, playing the piano, ice skating… All of these things and more can be used in a story.
The world – If you look outside, God has made a beautiful creation for us. And that creation can be added into your story. I’m sure most stories have the singing of wind in them, or at least the soft kiss of a light breeze. What about the flowers you see? The sound of the bees buzzing by… There’s so much out there that we KNOW about, because it was made for us. Use it. I’m pretty sure most stories, no matter what genre, have some sort of out of doors scene.
So you see, experience doesn’t have to be some amazing thing you’ve done, like swimming away from a shark, or base jumping. Experience is life. And when we add life into our stories, they grow so much, and become much more three dimensional. They breathe. So keep writing, and don’t forget to add in your experiences to give your story a nice rounded, finished feel.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post, and I can’t wait to see you next week!
What are some ways you write from experience?