I am a fiction writer, a fiction author. The lose translation of that sentence is…I lie a lot and write it all down for others to read. Yes fiction writers are big fat liars, liars with their pants on fire. I’m pretty sure JK Rowling never flew on a broom, nobody is a real vampire, have fought zombies, and I didn’t kill all those women that died in Red Island. I have an alibi. However, a lot of fiction is based on the experiences of the writer.
Without life experiences life and writing can be pretty boring. The top rule in writing has always been “write what you know.” As fiction writers we have to bend this rule. We have to look around the fuzzy edges and bend the truth. I am pretty certain that nobody has been on alien planets, but look around the main events and you will find reality. A writer’s experiences are what they can put within the confines of the fiction.
To write with a grain of truth you have to have life experiences. There is very little I would ever say no to trying once. The other day we were watching Fear Factor on television. The contestants had to spin a wheel and would either have to get a tattoo, get their heads shaved, or be tear gassed. All I could think of was, “cool all the scenes I could write.” I could describe the emotions that go with shaving your head, the way the electric razor vibrates against your skull. I could write about the pain of the tattoo needle going into your skin, whether the pain gets worse or goes numb. And best of all I could find a character to put into a room of tear gas: the fire in the eyes, the taste of the smoke when you can’t hold your breath any more, smoke burns down your throat making you cough and spit. Oh what I could write.
Think of all of the things you have ever done in your lifetime and what you could write about. As I’ve said in other blogs, it is the fine details that makes a story real. Think of all the things you’ve done, make a list, and all that you can write about. I’ll start,
Worked in a federal prison alongside murderers, drug dealers, and abusers
Been lost in the Rocky MountainsBeen lost in the Northwestern Ontario forest
Had search and rescue training
Seen a body pulled from a pond and pulled rapidly to a waiting ambulance
Seen a high speed car chase in Montreal
Been in a high speed car chase
Shoplifted a chocolate bar
Been in a fight
Rolled a car upside down
Been in a plane, on a boat
Taste tested blue cheese dressing every time I made it over one summer (I hate cheese)
Saw a maggot army on the charge
Got married on the ocean floor
Been inside a castle
Been inside a septic tank
Different sexual encounters
Dealing with my children
Stephen King said in On Writing that other peoples jobs can be interesting to people who have never done that job. Think of all the jobs you have ever had. My turn again:
LoggerWorked a beer gardens
Security guard at a hospital, parking lot, construction area, airport, strike area, etc.
Convenience store clerk
Delivered newspapers in the rural area
Worked as a cook/sous chef/chef in different types of restaurants
You can put in all the tiny details that make up a story. Red Island is a suspense thriller so all of those tiny characters that come in and out can somehow have experiences that I once had. Even just taking an experience and writing about it, remembering the smells and sounds and tastes, can be a good exercise to work on your writing.
Have experiences, observe life, get back to writing.