Pulling from Life

There is a constant stream of real-life inspiration thrown into my face from all around. I can talk to anyone and draw a portion of their lives into my stories. I see situations in my daily interactions with others and these situations become the stages for some of my tales. While I’ll freely use a portion of another person’s life to build a character or a scene, I’m somewhat reluctant to openly use my own.

Most of my life experiences are cloaked in layers and disguised before they’re set down on paper. Some, however, are close to the bone. In one story, the character saw a news helicopter repeatedly circling the high-rise hotel as she watched sans robe from her 11th story room. Only later, as she walked back to the hotel from the convention she’d been attending, did she realize none of the hotel rooms had tinted privacy glass.

How strange and funny that even as I write this short confession of a real-life event, I feel my face flush in embarrassment and have to resist the urge to backspace and erase. I mean, seriously, how much of an invasion of my privacy is an event that happened thirteen, fourteen years ago? Is confessing this tiny thing going to adversely effect my relationship with my kids, my friends, my life?

Still, as I continue to write I feel the warmth of rising blood in my head. Several people who know me tell me I should write about my own life. While I don’t really see the “hook” needed to draw an audience in my own personal tale, some others do. To me, my life is somewhat mundane. Others see the adversities I’ve overcome throughout my life as a somewhat interesting tale. Well, that and the wacky events that seem to pop out of nowhere and land in my lap.

The question is: do I really want to share? How much do I want others, those I know and those I don’t, how much do I want them to know about me? The crazy answer to this question is a confession. A lot of me is already in my writing; I pull from the closest source.

Now, at this very moment, I’m in the midst of another life-changing event as I help my mother decide her future after a serious accident three weeks ago. This is the third major event in less than a year for me. Life changing, life altering, life enhancing – they all mean the same. The real question is, will I incorporate this event into my stories as fiction or fact?

I will probably do both. As my mother prepares for a change in her life situation, I also prepare for one in mine. It is neither better nor worse; it simply is.

How far do you openly incorporate your own life in your stories? First, second, third base or do you have no shame and hit the home run (and if you do, oh, how I envy you)? Or, are you like me and layer it so much that even those closest to you can’t separate fact from the fiction you’ve created?

When you’re reading the rendition of a true-life event wrapped as fiction, is this a plus or minus? How far do you feel a writer should go?

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch


Filed under life, musings, writing

5 responses to “Pulling from Life

  1. That’s all we’ve got, really, is our own past or stories we’ve heard. Family seems to provide most of my supply of narrative. As to the confessional aspect–I have a suspicion that a lot of what writers write, they’ve experienced. Anyhow, an interesting post! As for your own experience–just think–you were the highlight of someone idiot male’s day! 🙂

  2. I write fantasy and, though my life isn’t incredibly fantastic, sometimes little things are seeds that can grow to be fantastic when put on paper. I went to Peru once with a group for a humanitarian trip and a celebration they held for us made it’s way into my story. Just today my friend invited me to go ghost hunting. That, too, I’m sure, will make its way into my story.


  3. The usual response I get is someone reads a passage and says:
    “No way, that’s so insane maybe you need to rewrite it so people will believe it.”
    and then I say, “Um, well, actually, it happened.”

  4. Ah yes–the “stranger than life” incident. Let’s face it, almost everyone can come up with a host of these–

  5. christinehusom

    I’m with Mickey on people not believing the parts that actually happened. I use a fair number of my own experiences–some fairly close to my heart, but they are altered in some way. It helps to get some emotions out of those hidden places from time to time.

    I hope your mom is okay!

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