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Reflection - Use What You Know

Writing is such a great outlet, a fun way to create adventure, romance, tragedy, or drama in a story that you hope will entertain others. But where do these ideas and details come from? The obvious answer is you, they come from you; from your dreams, your imagination, your creativity, and your lifetime of experiences.

When I wrote my first novel, I plugged in little details that were taken from my life. It was fun to put these hidden little nuggets into the story. No stranger reading the story would ever know how much of my life was incorporated into the story. Some of those I grew up with or family members might catch a few. As I did this, I realized how important these little nuggets were to help make my story come to life. These were true, real-life experiences I was integrating into my story so how could it not make it more realistic? I feel it kicks up the realism for me but part of that might be because I have lived these experiences. I know them firsthand.

As I wrote more novels, more of myself & my life has been incorporated into my work. Little details, including birthdays or addresses or nicknames or names of real places from my childhood. Many of these things are taken from when I was growing up. My family and close lifelong friends will point out little details, that would mean nothing to a stranger, and smile while talking about how it was put into my story. There are people and things that are no longer in my life but by placing them into my stories, it immortalizes them in a way. By doing this, it keeps some of these little things in my life through my stories.

At times I will use an address from my childhood, either mine, a good friends or a neighbor’s and then use a different street name from the area where I grew up. Some of the stories are crazy experiences when I was younger and others are things that are part of life, like weddings, funerals, births, vacations and past or current relationships with anyone in your life, not necessarily a romantic relationship. If I can picture an event, it makes it easier for me to write about the scene in my story. In writing the detail, my hope is that the reader will have a clearer picture of the unfolding scene and setting.

Some famous advice amongst writers is, “Write what you know.” There are opposing views to this but I believe it is great advice. Using your experiences makes writing easier and more enjoyable to tie your life into the fictitious story of made up characters and plot lines. Not just your experiences but your emotions, your personality type, the characteristics of those you know and the places you are intimate with in some aspect or another. It does not have to be an exact reproduction of your experience. Use your experience as a base and then make it come to life in any way you want. Embellish it or leave it true to its history.

We all know many different people and many different personality types. Some of those are very interesting personalities and it can be fun to write a character with a personality like that quirky or angry or jovial someone you know. Who better to write about a place, a time or a person than someone who is passionate about that subject or has actually lived it?

Another viewpoint is to “write what you want to know.” This leads into another discussion about researching for a story but it is a great way to learn about other subjects, things that have always been intriguing to you. Do your homework, learn about something you want to know and write to it with as much passion as that subject stirs within you.

Pull those experiences in if you feel they add value. Sometimes it can get you out of a place you're stalled at as you can always write about what you have experienced, no matter how big or small. Try it out and see, it might just be a good fit for your style of writing.

Happy reading, happy writing!


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