Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Your Life in Your Writing

bu Megan Oliphant

Now I'm not talking using an experience verbatim (though that can work sometimes, too). I mean how often do you take some experience from your life, mix it up a little, interject it into the life of one of your characters, and POOF! You have a part of you left in your story.

Example: (and yes, truth is stranger than fiction sometimes) It's April, and cold. A stinging breeze whips over the mourners at the graveside of my grandmother. Someone in the large group of relatives hands out pale blue ballons to all the grandchildren and great grandchildren, to be released after the closing prayer. We stand there, the wind twisting and banging balloons together as we huddle under the warmed tent, the noise of them so loud I can't hear the bishop or my grandfather as they speak.
My one year old thinks it's a game, and even though my husband and I pass him back and forth to keep him out of range, he succeeds time and again in grabbing the strings and squealing his delight. My three year old keeps asking, "Mommy, I can take it home, right? I love balloons. I can take it home, right?"

Eventually the service is over, and we stumble out, tripping on the fake grass carpet laid under the chairs. Shuffling to a clearish spot in the pine tree studded cemetery, we release our balloons in a ragged bunch, as some people don't hear the announcement to let them go.

The balloons bang into the sudden snowflakes that have appeared, and the wind, with a whistling laugh, sweeps the balloons into the waiting arms of the pine trees, popping them and leaving their carcasses like droopy Christmas decorations.

Totally true story. Needless to say, this little scene has made it into one of my novels, changed up a bit.

So here's your question: Do you separate your life from your fiction, or do scenes like this work their way in to writing?


  1. Oooo definately work them into my writing and then of course make them a little better. Like I just worked in something that happened to me. I saw a baseball player from the Dodgers at Cracker Barrell one morning and couldn't keep my eyes off his massive muscles, I really wanted to reach out and touch them to make sure they were real, but of course I didn't even talk to him. So in my story, my MC is a girl that grew up in seclusion, so the first time she sees a man with massive muscles she can't help but reach out and touch them. She gets to fulfill my fantasy!! LOL!!

  2. I always include things from real life. Of course they're tweaked.

    I wrote a cemetery scene from my own life a few months ago. I took what I wish had happened when my cousin died, and put it into a short story. It was powerful for me, but got slaughtered by my teacher. I guess what I'm saying (or rambling), that if it speaks to you from a truth of your past, who cares if no one else gets it.

    To answer your question, I can't separate my life from my fiction. It isn't always a close replica of reality, but my life is there. You just have to know how to look. (Kind of like Picaso...maybe.)

  3. I totally work in experiences, both mine and that of my family.

  4. Yep. I use my experiences and then some. Fiction is harder than real life because fiction has to make sense! Powerful excerpt, by the way. I can picture some character watching the balloon get hung up in the trees and having it be symbolic of maybe having a hard time letting go. Sorry I get carried away.

  5. I thought the same thing at the time. The relative who decided to do the balloons was the one that struggled the most with Grandma's passing. Interesting....

  6. Try as I might, I usually can never get away from my life experiences. And it works out great most of the time. The details might be different, but the emotion is there.

    PS I love your new layout. And the header. Kudos to Elizabeth!

  7. I use my experiences as well. Sometimes I change a few things, tweak some dialogue or what not, but they are definitely from real situations at times. :)

  8. I definitely study my own life, and use snippets in my writing.



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