Every once in a while I’ll be editing a scene and discover that my characters are experiencing things from my childhood. When I realize this, I generally end up rereading the scene numerous times, wondering if that’s really how it happened.
Of course, I’m writing fiction, so the scene can go however I want, but still. It makes me wonder. Ya know?
At that point, I have a few choices. I could ignore my curiosity and just write the scene the way I see it in my head, or I could dig into my memory and rewrite it fifteen or a hundred times trying to figure out which way it really happened, or…
I could call my mom and ask her how it happened. If she was there. And if she remembers. Which she probably doesn’t.
Why do I do this to myself? Honestly, I think all writers inadvertently use certain scenes from our lives—be it childhood or adulthood—in our writing. If we didn’t, we’d probably have nothing whatsoever to write about. Granted, we do hope to come up with original stories and characters, but on some level even those things come from a box of storage buried deep inside our brains. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not the most organized person. All my boxes are mixed up and muddled together.
Real life and fiction sometimes share the same box. And even though I know the difference, my characters don’t always get it. I guess I’m trying to say that the best way to be a good writer is to live life and experience lots of stuff. Let your characters borrow some of your roots and branches.
You can be sure that at some point, that helicopter ride over Lake Mead you took on a whim will come in handy for more than just the ability to say you did it. You’ll use it. I know I will.