A Form Of Petty Revenge (3) Real Life Experiences

Your boss gave you an unfair review.

Your partner embarrassed you by telling complete strangers that you have to go to the bathroom, and then asked them to show you where it was even though you insisted you were fine, because apparently you’re five years-old and can’t make your own decisions when your partner is with you.

Your children were the spawn of Satan for a day.

But you can’t blog about these events, because people close to you read your blog, and people not so close to you. And there are always going to be hindsight detectives out there who know exactly what they would have done in your situation, they know exactly how everything would work out, because of course their solutions always magically work when they’re the ones listening to the story. (Or, not listening, but we’ll touch on that later)

Do you keep the event all to yourself? Do you let it consume you like a tumor, every day, for the rest of your life? Do you drink to forget about it?

Of course not.

You take that real life experience and you make it a scene in your story. But wait! You shared this experience on a writer’s forum and they told you, “You can’t use real life experiences in fiction. They don’t work in a fictional story. I told you not to use it! Don’t you dare use that real life experience! I’m warning you! BANG!”

Okay, it didn’t quite happen like that, but you know how militant some writer’s forums can get, so it’s not such an exaggeration. I assume this will happen at some point. For now, how unreasonable would that be, to take your real life troubles and turn them into a story?

Michael Crichton was fond of using minor characters to spout ignorance and to have the main characters roll their eyes, or deliver a show stopping lecture. He did this in The Lost World, wherein he basically showed everyone what would happen if you actually tried that “Stand still and the T-Rex won’t see you” BS that was perpetuated by the film based on his first book. He even used the framing device for that information by throwing the fictional character of Alan Grant under the bus, since it was his book that spread the theory around in the Jurassic Park/Lost World continuum.

Sherrilyn Kenyon drew very heavily from her real life experiences when depicting a character who was the victim of physical or emotional abuse. So did David Pelzer in his autobiographical series of books. John Edward often talked about the kinds of people he encountered during his medium sessions and in the early stages of his career.

Everyone draws form real life experiences, both good and bad. Writing is a form of escape. It can also be a way of showing people, “Yes. This thing happened to me. These people were jerks. But look at what I made out of the crap they put me through.”

Do it. You’ll feel better. And it will test your mete as an author if you can do it in such a way as to make the events flow smoothly into the narrative.

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