Writing Notes: Stories from Real Life

A while ago I was asked if a specific incident that happened to me would ever make it into one of my books. At the time, my answer was a resounding “probably not”, as I was still pretty close to the situation and frankly, I couldn’t imagine how I’d twist it into something acceptably entertaining. I’ve been trying to think of any other situation from my own life that may have worked its way into one of my books, and honestly, I can’t think of even one. My books are mostly daydreams (sometimes night-dreams) – I live a pretty mundane life, all things considered. And while I do have a few “real life” stories to dress up and write someday, I’m not even close to ready to tackle them yet.

And then I was making dog food a couple weeks later, and this incredible idea (all of my ideas are incredible until I’m in the middle of writing them) formed around that original real life situation the aforementioned person was asking about. It rolled itself into a topsy-turvy romantic suspense story that I’ll be working on sometime next year. Which sort of surprised me, because given the choice, I would have picked the thriller/horror genre for that particular incident. Although now that I’ve got some distance, perhaps someday I’ll twist it into something entirely different yet again. That’s the beautiful thing about ideas – they never go stale, and much like silly putty, you can shape them into anything you want.

Even though many of my stories are pure imagination, I do normally get inspiration from real life. The incident I’m referring to above will never make it into one of my books as it happened (or even close to how it really happened), mainly because that would expose more of “me” (and others involved) far more than I’m personally comfortable with. But when it comes to twisting a situation I see into something suitably dramatic and entertaining for fiction, I rather enjoy that particular process.

Do you ever wonder how much of a book you’re reading comes from real life, or something the author experienced? Writers, how much of your real life experiences make it onto the page, and how far do you go to disguise them?

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