As writers we try to collect interesting settings, complex characters and intriguing plots. Our eyes and ears are open to anything that might make a story or pull people into it so deeply that they can’t stop reading
Sometimes we forget the closest place to look. Not, perhaps, the easiest but the closest. Ourselves.
It’s easy enough to look at the people we know or have known with their conflicting and puzzling characteristics. Or looking at places we have known and tweaking them into a setting full of atmosphere and interest. Or remembering strange stories we have been told and devising ways to use them.
The part that is not easy is remembering our own stories and the emotion we felt at the time they happened. It might be a mistake we made. The feeling of embarrassment or humiliation is all too real when we recall it.
Or perhaps your puppy or kitten died. The memory of grief, maybe even guilt, is hard to face. We’d rather brush it aside and think about something less disturbing.
But the memory of that feeling – in addition to the event itself – has enriched your experience as a person and as a writer. Your feelings become part of you. Hiding them, burying them is neither healthy nor useful. Facing those deep feelings and even mining them validates your life experience and uses it to guide others.
Think back to the depths of the sadness – the tears that wouldn’t stop, the sick or sore feeling in your stomach. This needs to be part of your writing when you are showing your story character feeling his or her own sadness.
Painful as it is, you need to feel again your own sadness. If this sounds too depressing, remember that the feeling of happiness works the same way. Recall a time when you felt the height and depth of joy. Bring that to the story.
Whatever feeling you are expressing in your story you need to recall it at a gut level as you are writing it. Every feeling – fear, guilt, excitement – has its own sensations physically and mentally. Each is completely different and needs to be expressed as fully as you can.
Take time to re-visit in your mind the moments of action and drama in your life, recall the times when you felt happiness or laughter bubbling up in your chest.
You inner research is as important as the trip to the library. Only courageous inner research will bring honesty and true life experience to your stories.