One friend really got me thinking: "Do you feel like there's a difference in how creatively you can write when you write outside of your own experience?" Now that is a good question.
In some ways embellishing on a true story is harder than making one up. When I write about things I know, people I know, experiences I have had, I am always fighting the urge to tell it like it really happened. Also I worry about people recognizing the original event, saying "That's not what happened," or "I know where you got that idea." It can be inhibiting.
Here are some other random thoughts:
- I've noticed that for fiction, true happenings do not always make the richest and most interesting stories. It's necessary to intensify drama and change dilemmas to get a good story arc where characters learn and grow. That's probably true for some non-fiction also.
- When I make up stories about people I don't know, having experiences I never had, in places I haven't been, I have to find a hook back to what I do know. But love is love, anger is anger, fear is fear, whether it is being felt by me or a big brawny man or a child. Hearts pound, throats close, hands shake. A jungle in Brazil is different from the rain forest in Costa Rica, but I can imagine the smells and sounds of one, having been in the other. So with research and delving deeply I can make connections.
- Good writing always goes back to detail, particulars, honesty. When I write from experience the details that really hit the mark are already there. When I write from imagination I have to push myself more to pick the right ones.
The process of writing is fascinating. Writing this blog has made me look more carefully at what I am doing and why. I'm really glad I started doing it.