Tips for Bringing Real Experiences Into Your Writing
Guest post by Patrick Bailey (http://patrickbaileys.com/). “I am a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. I attempt to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.”
Authors have always brought powerful storytelling to life using their own lived experiences. Whether creating nonfiction works to document their lives, or bringing aspects of their world into fiction works, real life events are vibrant sources of inspiration. If you are an author with a real experience that is pulling you towards writing a great story, let yourself connect to that place and share it with the world. There are some challenges with any written work derived from real life, such as writing emotions in ways other people can relate to, or being sensitive to painful topics your readers will be influenced by. Follow these easy tips to help you tell your story and bring your real world experiences into a story that matters.
Focus on the Emotions
Writing about your experiences can be done in a way that impacts your readers’ emotions without needing them to have experienced the event themselves. Doing this is most effective by focusing on the emotions behind the story you are trying to tell. Are you writing about a difficult challenge you overcame? Readers can be inspired by your perseverance and underlying motivation to succeed. Are you writing a fiction story based on real life heartbreak? Your readers can relate to their own stories of sadness or love, if you can connect with them on that level. Prizes and accolades are always given to the authors who can truly capture the human condition, so write honestly and descriptively to bond with your readers on an emotional level.
Sensitivity and respect for your readers is a trait all successful authors master over time. Of course, you have the creative agency to describe any story and situation in your own way, but there is an art to writing about sensitive topics if they are inspired by real world experiences. Authors with powerful stories can have a long-lasting impact on cultural views and stigmas, so be intentional with what you’d like your readers to take away from your story. For example, if you are writing about real experiences with death, be intentional about how your readers will leave viewing mortality or their loved ones passing. If your characters have habits such as drinking alcohol or breaking the law, consider young readers who are impressionable. This is not to prevent you from writing on your own terms, but the way you portray events and behaviors can be influential if done right.
Consult with Others
A powerful method to bring depth and inspiration to stories about real events is to consult with other people in your life. Not only does this add value to potential character dialogue and actions, but your story can be strengthened by real opinions and perspectives. For example, if you are writing about your inspiring journey towards health and wellness, consult with your health coach or nutritionist to understand how they perceived your progress from the outside. If you are writing about a heartbreak you’ve experienced, ask your therapist for ways to articulate the feelings you have felt but cannot describe. These outside perspectives can bring depth and description to your own retelling of your life stories.
Bringing your own life experiences into written work can ensure your stories are authentic and relatable. Readers are inspired and respond well to other human experiences, especially if these stories are told with vulnerability and real emotions. Do your own stories justice by taking a step back and understanding the emotions behind your journeys, remaining sensitive to topics that can impact your readers, and consulting with others when you need an objective point of view. By following these easy steps, you can create engaging written works inspired by your own life story.
Note from Molly:
Thank you Patrick! For me, it can be hard to use these great tips while maintaining an active voice. If that’s true for you, check out these links below.
Another example of showing, not telling
Also, as a YA author and young adult, I agree that it’s important to be sensitive about what/how you write about topics. I want to emphasize that this does not mean to stay away from topics “just because it’s YA”. Things happen to teens, teens do things they shouldn’t, and teens are affected by real issues. Be sensitive and try to send the right message (ie don’t encourage unhealthy relationships, etc) but don’t assume teens are naive/dumb/inexperienced with these issues.
If you want to write a guest post, like this, contact me!