For a long time I thought I couldn’t write, that I lacked the imagination. I really could never write a whole separate world like the fantasy works I love so much. Creating something from scratch is just SO BIG. I have incredible admiration for those uber-creative types who can do it.
Eventually though, I learned to pull pieces of reality from different places and combine them in different ways… create something fresh from a reconfiguration of things we already know.
CONFLUENCE takes part in a fictional town (Clear Springs) which is a combination of Ann Arbor and Moscow, Idaho, though the surrounding geography is all Idaho panhandle, even though it is never called such. But because it was a fictional town, I had to make maps and decisions, and work hard to keep thing things I was saying consistent with some plan. LEGACY on the other hand, takes place in Portland, so that was EASY. I lived there for twelve years. I could use memory and real maps (plus a little google—for instance I had to change my timeframe by a few years because I use Pioneer Square which wasn’t completed until spring of 1984)
So here I am… using a location crutch to speed things along, since writing speed is fairly critical…
Some people borrow from real life for plot, whether it is news events they see, things that happened to people they know, or real life. My own real life, plotted as fiction, would yield a sort of angsty, oddly inspirational ‘Chick Lit,’ I think. My romances have been non-conventional and sometimes questionable (probably I couldn't pass as a heroine in most of them, anyway). My worldly experiences have been mostly frantically gleaned in an attempt to have a more interesting life. And my career has been scattered. I think the ONLY thing I have that is all that interesting is a scrappy perseverance… a stubbornness that survives, regardless of obstacles. But to write that story, I have to dish dirt on people I still care about, so it’s not happening, at least not until I can do it honestly, as a memoir, which means acquiring fame first.
I have another plot that is ALMOST mine I intend to write, but not while my aunts are still living. My grandfather had a very tragic life, considering he lived to 91, and the skeleton of the story is absolutely gripping--triple hanky stuff. The family dynamic though is difficult, and I will not be the person to make it more so. Another one for my golden years.
All those 'real life as plot' things though, have a limitation that is HUGE for somebody who wants a career as a writer... you only get to do it once. Poof, bye bye, plot used...
What I LOVE to use real life for is details. I like small exchanges that give a sense that things really happened that way. They give an authenticity to scenes that would feel forced if a person used something similar but that was fictional. I’m not saying they can’t be altered to be more plot appropriate, but life offers some wonderful scenes.
But I see young writers, or writers early in their development, drawing whole characters that are themselves, or maybe themselves as they would like to be. I’ve never gone that far. I think I am too odd a bird and everyone would identify me for the nudist that I am. I also think it is only good for a book or two, and then the personalities need to shift up a little or people will read it as more of the same (maybe not in a series genre, like mysteries, though I prefer someone quirkier to be the M.C. in those than nearly anybody I’ve met). Mostly though, it seems like life should be a cabinet of raw materials, mixed and matched in new and unexpected ways, rather than counting too heavily on the pre-made chocolate frog that really only has one good jump in it.
Note: to the left is a link to Coffee Rings Everywhere. I haven't read today's because I had a plan and didn't want to be influenced, but it looks to me as if my Thursday Twin and I are on the same brainwave... I hear that happens frequently with twins. *winks at Natasha*