Once again, I found myself smiling. I obviously write to entertain myself, but I hope my books will entertain others as well. Sometimes, I think to myself, “Did I really write this? Where did this come from?”
But I know where a lot of it comes from. It’s the old “write what you know” mantra, and it sure is helpful to have your own life experiences to scatter throughout your writing.
My first book has so many of my own experiences, I should have used this for a disclaimer: “Oh, who am I kidding? A ton of it really happened, and the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” At one point in the story, Susan is deep-sea fishing on a boat which has a broken radio and one of the engines is out. This happened to me in real life. The conversation in the book is almost identical to the one I had when chatting with the first mate. I don’t want to give away what happens next, but some of it involves a big fish, and the music from Jaws rolls around in Susan’s head – as it did for me in real life.
Part of this fourth book takes place in New Orleans, and once again I wondered how much of my own life I could put into the book. I’ve been to New Orleans, but my experience there was pretty tame.
I started chapter five on a day when I was in a funk. It translated to my writing when Susan was suddenly childish and whining from the back seat of the car, “Are we almost there?” I knew I was writing something which wasn’t in her character, but I kept writing anyway. She was on her way with two of her friends to visit one of the friend’s elderly relatives. They were headed to a plantation home, and had a shock when they pulled up in front of a run-down, weathered house:
Our mouths hung open in astonishment. Nate pulled up in front of the house and turned off the engine. It was so quiet in the car, you could have heard a snail crawl.
I threw myself back against the seat as uncontrollable laughter once again gushed forth.
“Shhh! Shhh!” Darby was shushing me with his finger to his lips. “Susan! They’re going to hear you!”
His words brought another peal of laughter, and I flopped over onto the seat, putting my hand over my mouth in an effort to quell the laughter.
That’s not edited, and I’m uncertain as to the changes to be made, but you get the drift. The fun thing about all of this was I had no intention of sending these three off to visit relatives instead of going directly to their hotel. And I wrote the house to be exactly as my grandparent’s house was in real life.
I have such wonderful childhood memories of being there. You had to drive at least a mile-long lane to reach the house. There were woods, fields, and a pond. The upstairs of the house scared the snot out of me, and Grandma always said of the door which was always closed, “Don’t ever open that door.” The bathroom was huge, but only had a few fixtures – (from the book) “The rest of the room was wide open, and you could easily hold a party here with twenty of your closest friends.”
I tossed in a ghost, who is in my postscript as being real, and the entire chapter was a mess of silly nonsense. I fully intended to throw the chapter out of the book – until I read it again a few days later, and it tickled my funny bone so much, I had to keep every bit of it.
I suppose I wanted to write about this today because the “refresher reading” reminded me again of several things:
~ Writing about what you know really does work.
~ Sometimes writing something you know isn’t right for your book just might surprise you.
~ Putting things from your own life into your writing can bring unexpected joy.
I can’t put into words the emotions I feel when I read about our dog, Joe (especially when he’s so great in the book!), and having Susan and her friends visit my grandparent’s home was really special.
Even though I’ve had some challenging and miserable ups and downs with formatting and editing, this entire writing experience has been amazing and, dare I say, joyful.
If you are so inclined, I’d love to know how much of your life experiences you put into your writing and/or any comments relating to unexpected joy from your writing.