Continuing the idea from my previous blog about using your thoughts and emotions for your characters, I want to remind you not to miss the opportunity to use your own experiences and memories, too.
For one of my (currently half-finished) novels, a young girl reminiscences about her childhood, and every single one of her memories of growing up are my own childhood memories. It was a lot of fun giving my character the memories that I hold dear.
I also let my experiences aid me in my writing. Nothing is more truthful or helpful than a first-hand experience.
When I was nine, I came home from school to find fire surrounding my home. It was the most terrifying moment of my life, and to this day I still fear fire. If I smell the unmistakable stench of burning brush in the air, or see dark plumes of smoke close by, my heart starts to hammer inside my chest. I looked fire in its flaming eyes that day, and it looked back at me. Thanks to this horror-filled day in my past, I am able to intimately write scenes with fire. And I did in Flaming Crimes.
You may be able to watch movies about firefighters like Ladder 49 and look at real-life pictures of fire to write a convincing scene in your novel. Obviously, I do not recommend starting a fire or searching for one to get up close and personal with it.
Another experience that has greatly contributed to my writing is the spine surgery I had when I was fifteen because of scoliosis. The surgery and recovery were a difficult time in my life, but all the pain I felt, my scar, and the steel in my back, has (strangely) influenced my creativity.
After feeling the pain accompanied with this surgery, I am now able to describe pain well in my writing, and I happen to mention spines quite a lot. Once I even said that my main character had a steel spine. (That’s also how I came up with my tagline: Thrilling and Romantic with Heroines of Steel.)
In conclusion: Any experience that you’ve had in your life can be used in your writing. If you have given birth to a child and one of your characters is in labor, think back on what it felt like, pretend you’re going through it again, and write through those imaginary contractions. Have you ever been punched in the face? Think back on what it felt like and use your way with words to make the readers grimace when one of your characters gets sacked.
TIP: Make a list of memories (good and bad) as well as experiences that you’ve had throughout your life. One day, you may be able to use them in your writing.