I have about twenty Hi Susan e-mails waiting for me so thought I’d get to at least one this week.
Chloe writes- Is it true that a fiction authors should only write about an experience they’ve gone through themselves?
When I started writing, I’d heard that too. My first book was based on my own experience growing up as an only child and hating it. After I was done with that I couldn’t find anything else to write about based on my own experiences. It sent me into a panic. One day, I thought about all the authors and their books and the odds that every single one of them had experience with everything in their books was far-fetched at best.
So, Chloe, and everyone else who thinks you need some experience before you can tackle a topic or theme in your story. You don’t and I figured this out not from a fellow author but one of my psychology professors.
He told us that most people head into therapy because they think they have different thoughts than anyone else or they feel different things. He said it was up to us as counselors to convince the person that we’re more alike than we are different and we experience life in very much the same way as other people.
You can have your character be stood up for a date. Have a car accident, lose a job, get arrested,or lose a spouse. Some of us might experience those things, some might not but that doesn’t matter. The only thing you need to worry about as a writer is getting across to your reader how that characters feels and thinks about what’s happening to them.
In the case of say losing someone, even if you haven’t, you know what it’s like to feel sad. All you need to do is remember how you felt mentally and physically, what you did and what you thought and have your character do the same. Maybe they don’t want to get out of bed, maybe they eat a whole pint of ice cream or watch sad movies all day.
Lack of experience should never prevent you from writing any story or any topic or theme, so go for it!