Sunday, 22 April 2012

How To Use Your Own Experiences in Novel Writing

Evening! (if you're on GMT!) Well, I've just tapped out another 1000 words.  Having to do a blog post each day is very motivational for my word count. Please note you can now sign up for the Blog Update by email.  You also have the choice to click the Google +1 button, if you like the blog and want to share it with friends & like-minded individuals. 
Now to today's topics.

How To Use Your Own Experiences When Writing A Novel
It has always been said to write about what you know, but most of us don't think our lives are exciting enough to write a novel about (and we're usually right!). Plus, the people we know probably wouldn't want to be part of a novel, if it was about their real lives, warts & all - although with the celebrity culture the way it is these days, who knows!
Unless you are writing an autobiography, or having a biography written about you, in my opinion, your real life shouldn't be what is carried over to your novel. Fiction is meant to be just that.  Writers are meant to use their imaginations, transporting their readers into a life away from their normal one.  That said, you obviously want your readers to be able to relate to your characters, certainly in my genre of contemporary fiction. Sci-fi and fantasy genres might be a tad different! Yet, there will always be aspects of your personal experiences and your life that are conveyed in your writing subconsciously and sometimes consciously.  Done intentionally this can add to the story, but when your opinions subconsciously influence the text and are conveyed as the opinions of your characters,  you have to exercise caution.  Case in point, if you subconsciously convey your political, religious or any other strong beliefs, particularly if they are very much at odds with the character you have created.
When using your own experiences can work - yesterday I was writing a scene where the main character visits her brother and young nephews, prior to a key moment in the novel.  Her nephews are playing computer games and she has no idea what any of the vocab they are using means, or who the wrestling characters are that they are referring to.  Two of my three nephews do play computer games and the third one is crazy about wrestling, so I merged the knowledge I have of these encounters with my nephews, to help create the scene. I had the idea for the scene from these particular interests of my nephews, but the characters, George and Harry, bear no resemblance to them.  However, to make the scene more realistic, I had to call upon what I do know about children.

Going Off at Tangents
Something I know a lot about!  Sometimes, going off at a tangent can be a good thing, as it can take your story in a new direction, which you previously hadn't planned.  The beauty of being a writer is that nothing needs to be set in stone.  Often these previously unplanned wanderings can become major developments in the plot. Although I set out my chapter outline from the start to the finish of the novel long before starting to write the novel, so many scenes that I previously hadn't envisaged, have popped into my head since then and I have simply had to accommodate them, not least the two potential endings (originally only one.) However, you need to learn to control your tangential wanderings, otherwise it could take an extremely long time to reach the outcome of your tale and could seriously impact your word count. This could be crucial particularly if you are going down the traditional publishing route.  Also, is it valuable to the story, or is it mere rambling?  Some of this can be cut, if required in the edit, but assess its contribution to the novel and remember, be vigilant both in the writing and the edit for continuity errors your tangential meanderings may have caused.

Next time - Creating Chemistry In Your Characters
And remember, many of the topics covered in my blog, should be apparent from the structure of my first novel, Sign of the Times.  At £1.53 in the UK  or $2.99 in the US,  , why don't you take a look. Have a nice evening, Sooz

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