Writing From Experience
By Rowena Portch
(Photo of Greg and Rowena Portch Right)
When I explored writing over 30 years ago, a speaker I had listened to mentioned something about writing from experience. At that time, during my younger years, his profound bit of knowledge didn’t really stick. Years later, however, I decided to write about the odd set of circumstances that culminated my life. My memoir, “This is Not the Life I Ordered!” was born.
It was a two-year project comprised of anecdotes, and quotes I had conjured over the years. Though the stories were good, there was nothing to really tie them together; nothing to entice anyone to want to read them. My imagination kicked into high gear, and in three months, my memoir turned into a three-book series about a race of gifted beings called Spirians.
The challenge came with writing from the perspective of a blind massage therapist. Skye Taylor, the woman portraying me, was legally blind. Like me, she was not completely blind. She could still see shapes and some detail providing there was enough light. To keep the story interesting and descriptive, I had to draw upon my memories of what things looked like when I had good vision. Like Skye, most of what I see is in the form of energy, or vibrations that radiate from everything, even rocks and furniture. Describing objects the way that I actually see them would confuse the reader. Hence, I had to translate my experience to match those that a sighted person would recognize.
Many of the events that happen to Skye, happened to me in one form or another. For example, when Skye is in the hospital, she is visited by a mysterious man that leaves her with the gift to heal. This is an actual event. The part where the Shadow woman injects her with a tracking chip was fiction. It was a necessary element to stimulate a sense of danger. This is what keeps readers hooked.
Too many writers try to write about something that they have researched, or have written a story that they have always wanted to read but could never find. All of this is good, but if the personal experience is lacking, it will show in the story. To demonstrate this point, try writing about something you have heard about but have never experienced. Now, write about something that you have experienced. If you put full effort into this exercise, you will notice that one piece of writing lacks passion. The other shows emotion and heart, because the experience is a part of you.
Try this—the next time you go to a coffee shop, write about the people you observe, their displayed emotions, their body language, tone of voice, and appearance. Don’t forget to include your senses. What do you smell, hear, taste, feel? Now, take that short segment and see how you can weave your experience into a fascinating story. Make it short and sweet as if you were recounting your experience to a friend. The more you practice this, the more observant you will become to your surroundings. As a result, your writing will be stronger and much more believable to your readers.
By combining real-life experiences, and weaving them in with a good measure of fiction, what is revealed is a believable story that will keep your readers’ attention and make them yearn for more.