Wanted: Life Experience
Without a doubt when we require a medical procedure or maintenance to our homes or cars, most of us would immediately choose the most qualified person to help us. Fresh enthusiasm and youthful optimism are wonderful, but not substitutes for wisdom garnered from real life experience. And yet, every trusted professional started out as a beginner at some point in his career. These future experts had to learn their craft, perhaps from books or from other mentors, but also through skill acquired over time.
As writers, we need personal experience to draw on to describe a scene, an activity, an emotion to our readers, but for those of us especially who write fantasy or sci-fi, it is sometimes impossible to gain true familiarity with our subjects. So how do we achieve necessary experience in our field? While we can and do use our imaginations to fuel our work, we need to do more than dream life, we must also live it.
While we cannot interview elves or fly around the galaxy, we can apply other skills to our writing to lend realism to the pages. We can allow a character to demonstrate our expertise in the kitchen, the garden, or under the hood of a car. We can study fencing or martial arts and let our characters show their knowledge in what we’ve learned.
If our characters are not quite human, we can still use our daily interactions with people around us to fuel emotions in scenes with aliens or fairies. We can take scenery from our favorite locale and tweak it to give an otherworldly experience. The more detail about anything and everything, from situations to settings, from physical traits to emotions that we include enriches the world of our characters and makes them more real for our audiences.
Sometimes in order to write we have to go out into nature, or to a shopping mall, or to a party, or any situation where we can observe, interact with, feel or live something other than the keyboard or notebook. It doesn’t matter if what goes on the page actually resembles our everyday lives or just includes thoughts inspired by our activities, so long as we apply our observations and interactions.
I hope you all live something this week that is worth writing about.