Bringing Tales to Life

(C) 2019 JJ Shaun

Life has a way of redirecting us when we least expect it. The loss of a job, a home, or a loved one can change life as we know it. The same applies to your characters.

I reached a place in my novel where one of my characters is injured but can’t get to a hospital immediately. I’ve been trying to figure out an injury that is serious but not critical. She needs to be able to recover without medical care, but not be so hurt that she can’t recover. This last week has given me ideas that are now rolling around in my subconscious. My task is to rewrite the applicable sections to use this experience while it is still fresh.

If you’ve read the stories I’ve posted, you have already read some of my life experiences. I’m not telling which events really happened, but rest assured I have written pieces of my story. Some of that truth is written in my fanfiction [https://www.ddo.com/forums/showthread.php/439023-Stormreach-Investigations].

An injury in my novel is not the only idea I had this week. My main characters need allies, and this experience emphasized how many friends and like-minded people exist in the world. The trio doesn’t need to rely only on themselves. They will find fellow dissenters and make new friends along the way, much of the time in unexpected places. We required a little reminder that the assumptions we make don’t always hold water.

Another way to use your travels and experience to enhance your writing is to listen to people as they talk around you. As we traveled through the Midwest, not only did the accents change, but the way speakers constructed their sentences changed. Word choices in different regions of the United States, and in other languages, are unique to those areas. Regional accents really exist. One of the reasons I prefer to drive when I travel is that I get to meet and listen to people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite the introvert. I don’t go searching for people out to have conversations, but I do listen to others when I’m out and about.

I have an ear for accents, and I think growing up with a parent whose first language was not English helped me develop an ear for regional speech. The strange thing is, I never could hear my mother’s accent. Anyone who met my mom always asked me where she was from (she was born and raised in Europe), but I never heard it.

The music First Reader and I listened to as we drove cross-country inspired ideas for not just the main story, but also the sub-plots that I need to flesh out. It’s not like I’ll remember the names of all the songs we listened to, but I do know what satellite radio stations I have programmed in my car. Some songs and titles stick to my brain, and I search them out when I’m on the Internet. I’ll also Like the songs that really speak to me. I have an eclectic playlist and like to set it to “surprise me.”

One final “benefit” is the emotional component of the last couple of weeks. I’m one of those people who push the emotions back until I rage, then I (sort of) calm down, but it’s easy for me to lose my cool. Writing, along with music, is how I process my feels. (Even now, it’s hard for me to put my emotions into words.)

Use the world around you and your own experiences to enhance your stories. You don’t have to give a faithful account of those experiences, but they can be the core of a scene or a chapter.

How about you? What methods do you use to bring your stories to life?

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