Good morning fellow readers who love to write,
My name is Wendy Laharnar. I'm Australian. My novel The Unhewn Stone, due to be released by MuseItUp in August, is historical fantasy, for young adults. Whether you write contemporary romance or cosy mysteries or delve into alien realms like I do, it helps to draw on what you know.
So, in this workshop, Write About What You Know , we will transform your everyday reality into the core of fascinating fiction; a story that only you can write.
What do you know that is unique to you? Pretty much everything, I'll bet, and this knowledge comes from your personal experience:- your social conditioning or culture; upbringing; environment; education including reading choices; relationships; employment; travel; morals; values; observations; memories; dreams and aspirations; traumas etc. The emotional and sensual baggage this entails ensures your life's experience is unique.
The example often used is of a crowd describing a circus where no two descriptions are entirely the same because of what we bring to the experience. It was the same with the Royal Wedding. Most people had an opinion or observation about the occasion and/or the dress sense of particular guests. I noticed the groom didn't receive a wedding ring and wondered why. I have an opinion about that based on my own experience. One exception – I suspect we all had the same reaction to Princess Beatrice's hat. :)
Let's get to work.
In Part A we'll look at three aspects of writing what you know: Places, People, and Situations unique to your life's experience. For the moment we'll put aside our imagination (until Part B) and concentrate on facts. The stronger the impression we bring to mind, the better.
Which real places have had a profound affect on you?
For example: dark holiday hotels or campsites that scared you? Do you have fond memories of the beach, caves, or serene cathedrals? Did the playhouse in your back garden give you a sense of ownership? Have you been to somewhere most people could never imagine going to? A haunted house? A deserted museum at night? An oasis?
Perhaps the place affected you because of its awe-inspiring beauty; or was it somewhere you couldn't set foot inside and now wish you had; or did you enter a submarine and now dread the thought of it; was it a place where you could spend more time?
Have you travelled and lived in different locations, or is your experience one that soundly grounded you in your community?
With the following exercises it is often best to go with the first things that come to mind.
On paper, preferably a notebook or journal for future reference and expansion:
1a) Describe 3 places vivid to you.
1b) try to recall your sensory perception of each place, (using sight, smell, sound, touch and taste.)
1c) How did each place affect you emotionally? There are plenty of emotions to choose from, not just love, joy, hate, anger, fear etc. so be true to yourself and really think about each place.
Who immediately came to mind? Yes that person! Write down their traits that bother/delight you. Most importantly what is it about him/her that intrigues or angers you, above all others at this moment.
Think of three more people who have unusual traits or interests - something appealing or odd about their habits and appearance that makes them stand out from the crowd, to you.
Do you know three others who could be their opposite? You don't have to love them or hate them but you should feel strongly about them.
Do you approve of their traits and behaviour, or disapprove?
Do they make you happy to be near them? Do you cringe and back away? Do you want to know more about them? Are you able to ask them questions?
What do they say? Elderly people use different verbal and facial expressions from the young. Have you noticed modern speech trends are picked more easily by some groups than others? Some are clever mimics and make us laugh or use particular phrases common to them. Have you heard unusual conversations or expressions from people in public places or on public transport? Does there conversation tell more about them than they realize?
On paper, notebook or journal, where you can add more traits as they occur to you over time – List their
2a) distinguishing physical features – pleasant and unpleasant.
2b) the traits of the likeable people
2c) the traits of the not so likeable.
2d) your reactions to the sight, sound, smell, touch, (?taste) of these people and to their attitudes and behaviour.
2e) favourite phrases you remember - from earlier times and the present day.
These sayings are priceless, so keep adding them to your journal as soon as you hear them.
Holly Lisle lists 447 character traits and emotions that might remind you of people you know. http://www.fiction-writers-mentor.com/list-of-character-traits.html
These are limitless.
The Primary Situation is when you have first hand knowledge from a personal experience or dream/nightmare. These cover birth, marriage, death and every day in between. Accidents, chance meetings, unexpected pleasure, anticipated delights or problems. Dates, falling in love etc.
The Secondary Situation. A friend or family member tells you of their experience. You can usually verify the facts or sympathize with their private joys and despair.
The Third Hand Situation. You read news articles written by a journalist about someone else's experience or you listen to the radio or TV and make up your own mind to the validity of the facts. You may or may not believe everything you read, hear or see. This also applies to overheard conversations – the speaker may be embellishing the truth for effect.
Earth shattering experiences like earthquakes and tsunami's, war and famine etc., belong here, as well as the report of an individual's trouble and torment or good fortune.
For this exercise choose one of your situations from each group and write them in your journal.
If you'd like to put a couple of places, people and situations as an example of your endeavour in the comments, I'd love to see them. Let our creative Muse feeds off each other, just for a day.
Now on to Part B.