Elements of Reality

I’m late posting this week because I’ve been busy writing my latest story concept, which I hope to post next week. I’ve been pulling idle ideas out of my writer’s notebook and bringing them to life on the page for the first time to see if the stories have legs. I have far more ideas than I currently have time to write. I’m averaging about 1-2 novels per year at the rate I’m going (I only have about an hour to write each day).

My latest story concept has captivated my imagination the way all my novels do in the beginning. It’s fun bringing long-dormant characters to life for readers. I love the creation process and how it produces seemingly real people from nothing. These characters become real to me over the course of writing a novel, and I love stepping into their shoes and experiencing the world from their point of view. It’s both refreshing and eye-opening, but none of my characters can escape the reality that’s around me while I write.

All of my stories have some real-life elements in them, some are as contemporaneous as how I feel at the moment I’m writing. One morning, when I was writing my latest novel, I gave one of the characters a pounding headache because I had just recovered from one the night before. My love of coffee is sprinkled throughout many of my novels, and in some scenes characters react how I had reacted to a similar situation in my life. Last week’s concept, My Father’s Daughter, liberally used many of the feelings that I felt when I went to visit my father at the hospital before he died.

Writing a novel is an intensely personal experience. I don’t know many professions that isolate you and put you in a position to determine how all the players in the room experience the world you’ve created. It’s inevitable that elements from your real world will seep into the fictional one you’re creating. I find it entertaining like the Easter eggs you see in movies – relics from the creators that are a nod to something real or imagined.

Some stories lend themselves to the parallels in the real world. My novel, All Things Certain, begins in a bar as the main character watches the fantastic and unbelievable ending to a game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks a few years ago, in which the Seahawks stole the game on a controversial touchdown. I had watched the game and used it as the starting point for the novel I begun shortly thereafter because nothing captures macho bravado (in the U.S. at least) more than men watching a football game, and I needed something that set the tone for the story.

While it’s true that fiction writers live in a make-believe world, we often bring in bits and pieces of the real world both out of necessity and habit. We can’t help but be affected by what’s happening around us and if there is something to be gained by bringing in elements of the real world, then why not do it. It’s all part of the craft and makes for interesting stories in their own right, so the next time you’re reading a story on these web pages, see if you can find these artifacts. Heck, make it a drinking game if you wish (or maybe not).

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