Life Experiences: 4 Tips for Writing From Your Life - article

Your life is a rich mine of material for your creative works. You will find no greater resource. Here are 4 tips to show you how to leverage personal experiences for writing fiction.

Tip #1

No need for the truth. Many writers are caged in by the facts of their life. Avoid exact retelling and instead use real events or experience to serve as a basic framework. The idea is to use real events or experiences as fodder for your story. Be bold and change places, time frames, personalities involved, point of views, key events, or even the outcome.

It can also be a helpful exercise to write a factual account of an experience and then rewrite it as a fictionalized account. What can you do to stretch the truth to make your story better?

Tip #2

Imaginary experiences are welcome. You don’t have to use real experiences; they just need to be something important to you. You might have a rich daydream world. Try writing something you’ve dreamed about it. Perhaps, you’ve had dreams of traveling to Rome. You open a little trattoria, go on a quest to visit every pizza parlor, throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, and fall in love.

Write about your daydream experience. Expand your research. You can create any experience you want. It doesn't matter if it really happened to you; what’s important is that you can make it feel real to the reader.

Tip #3

Blend multiple experiences into one. Take bits and pieces from various life events. Don’t stick to your life's timeline. Perhaps you might want to use a camp you went to as a kid as a setting and then add your boyfriend from high school as a character, and finally follow a plotline that uncovers the lessons you learned on your first big job.

Be creative and think out-of-the-box when weaving your real world experiences into your fiction. And think about this, you don’t have to just stick with your experiences. Mix in the memories of stories of your family and friends. Perhaps tuck in something from the newspaper. Blend together a compelling mix of the real into your imagined world.

Tip #4

Select the best experiences. Not every event is worth writing about and not every detail is worthy of being included. Does your journal contain day-to-day listings of everything from your daily lunches to your awful divorce? Select the most provocative experiences and cut away the rest. Dig deep into these moments. Did you learn any lessons? Who was hurt or saved? Think about what you might have changed.

It can also help to think about different outcomes. Pare down to the essential. You don't need to include every character, every stop in a journey, or every roadblock along the way. Focus on what moves the story forward.

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  • These are great tips, makes a lot of sense..

  • Hi Molly,  Thanks so much for your "4 tips for writing" from your life!  It is exactly what I want to do next with my life journal (1957-2019) that I am in the process of publishing for my children and grandchildren.  Originally, my intention was just to self-publish this journal, but since joining the Hay House Writer's Community, I have been inspired to keep on writing.  I have only been exposed to "technical writing" during my career in Dental Research, so my journal sounds just as boring on some levels-a bunch of facts with a few stories thrown in.  I thought it would be nice next step, using what I learn here, to expand on some of my experiences to make chapters for a book.  I am truly inspired by your tips, in that I don't have to just stick with facts, but make it a nice fictional book as well, by incorporating boundless ingredients.  Thank you so much Molly!

  • Thank you, Molly Blaisdell. My book follows a timeline of events on my first job in the blue collar world. Your suggestion about not limiting my ideas to the truth, adding some imagination "spice," and narrow my list or search for relevant experiences.

    • Great advice! Thank you!
  • Thank you I need to hear that.