Using Real Life Experiences to Create Amazing Fiction


Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Life is filled with all sorts of amazing highs and lows. You’ve got the thrills of your first kiss, your wedding day, the birth of your first child, and the magic of your first big, professional success, but also the gut-wrenching pains of your first break-up, a nasty divorce, the loss of a loved one, or those epic failures we all have to face.
All of those emotions are what go into telling a story, and they are what a writer uses to paint a world that is real, rich, and alive. The best stories often draw on the author’s emotional experiences, and the inclusion of those thoughts and feelings is what makes the characters and situations so amazing.
But I say that any experience can be turned into amazing fiction. You may be surprised to find that even the most mundane, run-of-the-mill experiences can help to produce some fascinating stories!

Experience Comes in All Shapes and Sizes
Before the 1980s, few people could have imagined that the profession of being a lawyer could be so sexy, thrilling, and intoxicating. Lawyers typically served as antagonistic characters due to their cunning nature and ability to use the legal system to their advantage. Though legal thrillers have existed as far back as the 1600s, it wasn’t until a lawyer by the name of John Ray Grisham Jr. came along that they became a truly popular genre. John Grisham turned his experience in law and politics into some of the greatest thriller novels of the 20th century.
Military fiction is one of the oldest and most popular genres of fiction, and its popularity only increased when authors like H.G. Wells, George Chesney, and Robert Heinlein added the Science Fiction twist. But one military fiction writer thought of basing his works on historical battles and military figures. David Weber turned his love of history, particularly military history, into some of the most gripping, addicting military science fiction series anywhere.
Many career military men and women have used their experience in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, SEALs, or other Special Forces teams to write fascinating military thrillers (see this month’s feature interview, for example). But how many of them thought to add a fantastical or supernatural twist? Myke Cole tapped into his love of fantasy and his years of military experience to create some of the best-known military-based Fantasy novels.
These are just three examples of authors who used their real-life experience to create amazing fiction, but the truth is that every author does it to a certain extent.
Some authors use the emotional turmoil from their past (the death of a loved one, divorce, trouble with friends and family, etc.) into gripping emotional turmoil that drives their character’s stories and gives them depth.
Some authors use the things they have learned while studying for their professional career (the understanding of people attained by psychologists, a doctor’s knowledge of the human body, military operations, etc.) to set their stories in real-life contexts that readers will immediately recognize.
Some authors use experiences from their past (breaking up with a first girlfriend, dating a terminally ill patient, being bullied at school) to flesh out their worlds.
From military fiction to crime thrillers to science fiction to fantasy to romance, there are no limits on how real-life experience can be used to create amazing fiction!
Nothing is Too Boring or Mundane
You may be thinking, “But what if I have the world’s most boring job? I punch in and out of the same dull, humdrum routine every day, so how can I turn that into amazing fiction?”
There are two things I want you to take away from this article:
We all have a vast range of emotional experiences. We all have unique insights on things like parenting, friendships, relationships, marriages, families, personal faith and belief, and politics. Our insights are unique simply because no one else in the world has lived the specific combination of emotional experiences we have. Using those emotional experiences can help to create fiction that no one else in the world would ever be able to imagine. It’s all about finding a way to put what you think, feel, and believe into words that readers will be able to connect with on some level.
No job is too boring or mundane. To prove this point, I found a survey that listed the “most boring jobs in the world”. You’d be surprised by how those boring jobs can be turned into fascinating fiction:

Read the entire article in the April 2018 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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