Monday, June 15, 2009

Real Scenes From Your Life

I listen to a lot of podcasts. Podcasts about science, podcasts about technology, and podcasts about writing. Writers on Writing features authors, agents, and editors talking about the process of writing. Barbara DeMarco Barrett is great at getting useful tidbits other authors use to write great books.

The other podcast that I have found recently is the Odyssey Writing Workshop. It is a series of presentations to select authors about how to get their work from almost ready to publish, to ready to publish.

It is that podcast that gave me the idea for this post.

Do you ever use events that have happened to you in your work? I have. Although I changed some of the details, it's an interesting exercise to take a scenario that you are very familiar with and modify it to fit a scene in your work.

In the workshop they suggested to take a scenario from your life, and write it for a fantasy, or science fiction, or horror novel. Add your characters to the mix and see how the scene comes alive.

Here's a scene from my aviation thriller, Lost in the Sky.

As much as I hate to admit it, this was very similar to a discussion that I had with my ex-wife, before she was ex. By the way, the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

“I told you, you need to call first.” Karen said when she answered the door.

“Why do I have to call to see my wife?”

“Because you don’t live here anymore.”

“Wasn’t my idea. I just went along with it so we would have some time to work things out.” Bill said.

A scowl crossed her face.

“I don’t think things are going to work out.”

“Yeah, that’s what you always say.”

“How many times are we going to try the same things over and over?”

“What do you mean?” Bill asked.

“How many times have we tried to work things out over the last year?” she asked.

“A few” Bill admitted “but we are learning something new each time, and I thought it was helping.”

“Seems to me we’ve been learning new ways to piss each other off.”

“Maybe,” Bill paused “but we also learn what the other expects. Don’t you think?”

“I’m not sure, it just seems like the same issues again and again, but with a different twist.”

“Well the only issue seems to be that you don’t want me around anymore.”

“I don’t like to be around you when you’re angry.”

“I’m not always angry.” Bill said.

“If feels that way to me.”

Bill paused and shuffled his feet for a moment. He looked up at her.

“I don’t know why we just can’t go back to the way things used to be.”

Karen turned away and didn’t speak for a few moments.

“Because I love you, but I’m not IN love with you.” she said.

“What? What kind of Hollywood crap is that?” Bill said, his blood starting to boil a little.

“That sounds like some stupid Hollywood chick flick where the knight in shining armor and the princess live happily ever after. Well guess what, that’s a fairy tale. That’s not real life. In the real world two people have to work hard at a relationship. It’s full of compromises and a whole lot of work, but billions of people do it everyday. Why can’t you?”

“I just don’t have that feeling for you anymore.”

“That in love feeling you’re looking for, that’s not real, that’s a writers’ fantasy, that’s not real life.”

Karen paused before speaking.

“I know that you’d like to snap your fingers and have everything the way that it used to be when we first met, but I don’t know how I lost it, and I don’t know how or even if I can get it back.”

“You’re right, I would love to snap my fingers and get it all back. I’d love to have a wife that loved me as much as I love her, a job where I felt fulfilled at the end of the day, and the satisfaction that I was making a difference in the world.”

“I don’t see that happening and I think it starts with your job.”

FYI, I am pleased to announce that my aviation thriller got a mention in the Indie Book Awards.

It's not the New York Times Bestseller List, but I'll take it.

OK, so now it's your turn. What scenes have you used from your life?


  1. I use scenes from my real life all the time. In many instances, those scenes are jumping off points - real event, play the 'what if' game, and just see what happens. In other instances, I have taken the raw emotion of certain life events and infused them into a chapter or two.

    I think the interesting thing to do is take a real life event and have the character do the opposite of what I did (or rather, have the character do what I should have done). It's quite fun and has provided lots of material for my current project.

  2. Congratulations on the finalist award. I think that is very cool.

    However you were inspired, I would say that the dialogue works. Pain is a truthful, and meaningful, source of inspiration.

  3. Congrats on the nod! you're headed in the right direction.

  4. Just in case you were wondering... I did get remarried, and she is AWESOME. She's the number one critic of my work, doesn't let me get away with anything that's not good, and loves it when I write stuff that works.

  5. Hi guys,

    If you like strong fiction, in a mingle with the surreal, with adept psychological twists and full of the unexpected, you can try my novel, "A Diary of Wasted Years," just published by Eloquent Books. I welcome any potential reader who might enjoy it. Yes, it's full of incidents I have personally experienced, although reading the book, will seem higly unlikely - and yet it's true. It will come to grab you by the throat, and be sure that it's worth it.


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