New Experiences

My best writing to date has been those stories that contain flavours of my own personal experiences. Those are the tales that resonate best with both my readers and myself. At least, so I’ve been told by my readers.

But how can that be? I write Science Fiction, Fantasy, Comedy and Adventure. Surely I have never been into space or had super powers.

The answer to that question, of course, is no, I haven’t been into space and as much as I would like to lay claim to superhuman abilities, the best I can do is know that I can add sales tax up in my head before cashiers can calculate it on their tills.

So how can my experiences be used to write the above genres?

Simple. Every genre involves characters that are experiencing things themselves. Those characters have thoughts and feelings (usually) of their own and ways of relating to their surroundings. My personal experiences help me to understand just how my characters might react in their situations.

Take for example my current podcast ‘GalaxyBillies’. In simplest terms it is a fish out of water story. The humans are ripped away from their homes and taken out in the big, bad universe where they must swim or sink.

Does that mean I’ve been kidnapped from my home and forced to survive too? Not at all. But my family did move a lot when I was young (four times in six years) and I had to adapt to every new town we lived in. None were even remotely the same so I was always struggling to find my place and make new friends. I used some of that to relate to my characters.

Then there is my story ‘Apprentice’ which appeared in the first issue of Flying Island Press’ e-magazine ‘Flagship’. It tells the story of an apprentice wizard who is faced with losing his place. Again, I’ve never been a wizard, but I have been in similar situations and needed to draw on my own understanding of them to put myself into the character’s head.

That is why experiences, and more to the point, new experiences are so important. We as writers must be prepared to leave our comfort zones to get out into the wide world and try new things. If not for ourselves, for our craft. Those experiences and how we weave them into our stories are important in how we connect with our readers.

The story, ‘Apprentice’ is again, a good example of using my personal experience to connect with a reader. A Facebook friend of mine is a High School teacher. After she read the story she sent me a note telling me how much the character reminded her of some of her students. She didn’t like the character at first but when she experienced his struggles through the story she saw real value to him. She is now having her students listen to the audio form of the story hoping they will get the same appreciation she did.

I can’t think of a better compliment than that.

It makes me want to get out there and try more new things. It has made me more aware of how to include myself in my stories to give them a better resonance with my readers. Hopefully I will be a better writer because of it.

It’s scary, leaving one’s comfort zone, but necessary. It gives us a more complete picture of the world and people around us. I heartily encourage you all to try it at least once every week (or day if you’re really adventurous).

Personal Update

I’ve been giving most of my attention to my holiday the past while, but my muse has been kicking me in the butt, telling me it’s time to get writing again. I heartily concur and have been thinking of ‘what next’ for ‘GalaxyBillies’ and future stories. I have a couple short stories I need to write soon, so it’s time to get back on the horse.



  1. Hey Michell,

    Great post! I heartily agree that our experiences of growth from trials is how we can write good stories about places and people we’ve never been. Character growth should be the focus anyway, so writing in an unknown becomes simply research and application of what we’ve learned from our own life.

    Mike Stackpole’s advice on character arcs has really helped my current short story. It’s about a proud leader who must realize that giving his all for a less glorious task, when that is his calling, is better than giving up because he didn’t get the great task he thought he’d have.

    Learning about space travel and foreign planets is something I can learn about, but like you said, it will be my experience learning the necessity of working just as hard at “smaller tasks” that will propel the story.

    An example of a “smaller task” would be writing the first draft. It won’t be what gets you fame and praise, but it has to be done. Learning to enjoy that, will help you eventually get to the more glorious tasks, but it can’t be skipped. Just an application that came to mind to encourage writing prose we know isn’t the greatest 😉 -not that I’m saying yours isn’t 😉

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