Using Life Experiences In Your Writing

(C) 2020, JJ Shaun

Many of the stories I write contain events or feelings from real-life experiences I’ve had throughout my life.

For example, some of what my character, Aeryn Mateyus, feels on the slave ship comes directly from my experiences as a sailor while serving in the U.S. Navy. The rolling deck, the wind, the cold, and the salt spray are all things I’ve lived through while out to sea. I’ve been on a ship when we were slammed by a Northern Pacific storm and couldn’t turn into the wind for … official reasons. To say I have never been so scared is an understatement.

I recently wrote a 1000-word story in response to a prompt on in which I blended two events. The prompt was as follows:

  1. Title your static item – Road Trip
  2. Include the following phrases in any order – all must be bolded:
    the GPS was wrong
    Petrified Forest
    she left her shoes at the motel
    license plate Bingo
    Are we there yet?
  3. Choose Travel as one of your genres.

Most times, I’ll read the prompt, and a story begins to form. This was no different. I took the dog for a walk, and by the time we got back to the house, I had the following story written in my head.

Road Trip

Are we there yet?” came Jody’s voice over the intercom.

“We’ve gone all of twenty miles since the last time you asked,” replied Dani from the lead bike. “So, no. We still have a hundred miles or more before we reach Holbrook. With all the twisty-turnies, it’ll be a good two hours or so.” Sometimes Jody was worse than a kid when they traveled. Still, Dani was glad they had invested in the Bluetooth headsets. It made these long rides much easier to tolerate.

“I’ll find a place to pull over,” Dani radioed a few minutes later. “Be ready, though, they pop up pretty quick.”

Indeed, two miles later, she found a paved turnout, so they didn’t have to take the heavy bikes off the pavement.

A month prior, the pair had begun their great motorcycle adventure. They had started their excursion with the annual motorcycle mecca of the west, Sturgis, South Dakota. After a few days of riding the Black Hills, they pointed their steel ponies into the sunset and headed for Washington.

The most tedious part of the ride so far had been the stretch of Interstate 90 from Sheridan, Wyoming, to Butte, Montana. The two passed those miles playing license plate Bingo.

Now, they rode the twisting ribbon of the back roads from the Navajo Trail as they wove their way toward their destination. This was the last National Park on their itinerary. Their intent had been to ride south toward the historic Route 66 and get a few souvenirs. Instead, they ended up in Tuba City. It hadn’t been the first time on this journey that the GPS was wrong. That was what made this whole trip an adventure. The first time they had gotten off the beaten path was when they dropped off of Interstate 90 and rode the mountains of Idaho toward Washington state. Somehow, they had gotten so far off the grid that they had no signal and had to stop and ask for directions to Yakima.

This time, the pair anticipated the signal loss and bought a state map. Dani had highlighted the route and folded the map to fit in the clear pocket affixed to the gas tank. She made sure to jot down the highway numbers so she could see them at a glance.

The miles melted away with the desert heat. Dani would be glad when they reached the hotel; she looked forward to a cool shower to wash the desert from her skin. Trying to ignore the stifling heat and enjoy the ride, she imagined she was a hawk flying along with the black ribbon that led her onward. She glided through the turn with a twitch of her tail and a slight lean to the right, catching a little air when the surface dipped underneath her tires. Her stomach dropped with the bike, sending a thrill along her nerves. She loved this part of riding.

The sun sucked the moisture from her skin, even through the mesh riding jacket she wore. The air was so hot that sweat evaporated before it reached the surface of her skin. Three times along that stretch, they stopped to refill their water bottles. Each time, the heat kept the break short. Even though they couldn’t drink enough to sweat, the motion of the air that relieved the heat was better than sitting still.

By the time Dani led her partner into the parking lot at their hotel, they were close to heat exhaustion. If they didn’t get out of the sun soon, they would be in trouble. Dragging themselves into the lobby, Jody found an ice machine and dumped a handful of the cold cubes down the front of her shirt, gasping with a combination of relief and shock. Dani followed suit, then grabbed another handful to press to the back of her neck.

The desk clerk watched as they recovered.

“Welcome to Holbrook,” he said after a few moments. “Can I help you?”

“We have a reservation,” said Jody, walking to the counter and pulling out her wallet. “Jody Saunders.”

“Ah yes,” replied the young man. “Here you are,” Dani quit listening as her partner secured their lodging.

For the thirty-seventh time that trip, they trudged back and forth from the room to the parking lot, bringing their bags in from the motorcycles.

They had unloaded the bikes, returned from dinner, and soaked in cool showers two hours later. That was when Dani realized she left her shoes at the motel they’d stayed in the previous night.

“Well, boogers,” she said, “what time is it? Looks like I need to go shopping.”


“I left my hikers in the hotel at the Grand Canyon.”


Off to the store she went, not wanting to go but knowing she couldn’t hike in her riding boots. Thankfully, she found a shoe store that hadn’t yet closed. As comfortable as her old hikers had been, they were wearing out, and she’d needed new hiking shoes anyway. After a bit, the two were ready for an evening soaking up the air conditioning. Watching the weather that evening, they were relieved to see that cloud cover was forecast for the next day. At least they wouldn’t be touring the Petrified Forest in the blazing heat.

This trip taught them not to ride motorcycles through the desert in high summer if nothing else. Dani hated those “live and learn” situations. Still, she couldn’t wait to check one more park off her bucket list.

One thought on “Using Life Experiences In Your Writing

  1. I keep asking for either a motorcycle, or a pony for birthdays, Christmas, Father’s Day, etc…I keep getting told I’m 75 years old, and a definitive “NO WAY, DADDY!” So…I do enjoy these tales for my own escape! Thank you muchly, M’Lady!



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