Most of us have mercifully little experience of murder, espionage and so on, not to mention the lives of people who lived hundred of years ago, but the characters we write about in such stories can still be built from ourselves and people we know and it’s inevitable our life experiences will affect our writing.
What about using our own experiences deliberately? I taught creative writing at a community college a few years ago and the first exercise I set the students was to write about an episode in their own lives. The next step was to turn that into a story, which they could do by simply changing the point of view or they could choose to make it more fiction, retaining just some elements of the initial story, which is what they all did. It’s a good exercise for anyone who wants to write but doesn’t quite know how to get started. We all have a story to tell–even if you think your life is boring and nothing ever happens, to someone else with a very different life it might be riveting!
One of my short stories, ‘Brown Dog’, while not at all about me, includes lots of my life experiences. When we were very young newlyweds my husband and I went from our home town in Victoria to Queensland, two states away and around 2,000 kilometres. Our first destination was Munduberra, a tiny inland town where we already had work and accommodation lined up on a citrus orchard. We stuck it out for a few weeks but, to cut a long story short, it didn’t meet our expectations and we headed for the coast. We spent a couple of years living around the Sunshine Coast, including Marcoola Beach, which is not only the basis of ‘Brown Dog’. but also a large part of ‘The Road to Karinya’, the second book of my Red Dust rural romance series, as is Mundubbera itself.
In ‘Brown Dog’ Luke is broke, living in his car and almost suicidal when he comes across a stray dog on the beach and his life is turned around. After a cyclone wiped out our tent we also slept in our car for a while, but I don’t recall being particularly depressed–we had friends and work wasn’t that hard to find. We did pick up a stray dog during that time though and we did have to let him go after a few days and we also spent some time beachcombing; I remember well the joy of finding a glass ball amongst the driftwood!
You can read ‘Brown Dog’ and my other short stories free from 23rd to 25th June and ‘Dark Innocence’ on 29th June to the 1st July. ‘Dark Innocence’ is another story where I used some of my own memories, growing up in a country town and hitchhiking down to the river at weekends. And having seances with Vegemite glasses and cut out scraps with letters and numbers written on them!