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).
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.