Saturday, September 4, 2010

Drawing from Life...

Greetings one and all.  I survived my first week of College, got all the classes I wanted and a nasty case of Heat Exhaustion.  Doing better now, but it has been quite an experience.  Which brings me to today's topic...

A lot of people wonder where can they find inspiration, settings, characters to write about.  My answer is, look back on your life.  You may not think you've led a very interesting life or maybe you've been all over the place and have had numerous adventures and wouldn't know where to start.  In either case, you have a wealth of material to draw upon.

For example, in my novel I chose upstate Connecticut.  My grandmother lived there for many years and the place always fascinated me.  She was caretaker for a famous architect who owned a mansion there, that dated back to the 1600's.  Beyond the mansion was a 100 foot hill with a little cottage at the top.  While near the house my grandmother lived in was a large kennel, that housed the architect's numerous cats and dogs.  All of this was surrounded by rambling woods, a stream and some farmland. 

The town my Grandmother's place belonged to, was just a few miles down the road.  It had seen the Revolutionary War and many structures from that time are still standing.  So here was place with a long and colorful history, most of which I still do not know.  But, I can always go back and research it on-line to get more ideas.

I reinvented the town as well as my grandmother's home for my story.  My town is situated some 2 1/2 hours from NYC, and was about 10-15 minutes from either the state of  Massachusetts or New York.  I removed the mansion and the cottage on the hill, so I can use them in another story down the road.  I kept the kennel in the story and had my protagonist convert it into an art studio and workout room.  Then I added a large structure to the grounds, which holds a private ballroom for dancing.  So now I had the setting for my novel.  Not that hard really.

To help make my main character seem more real, I drew upon places other places from my childhood.  I did not change the names because I wanted to have actual locations that readers could recognized if they had ever been to them.  So Wantagh Park with its cement maze, large rockets made of piping (great to climb inside of), and Jones Beach with its brick tower appear in the story. These places were important to me, and I gave my feelings and impressions to my protagonist.

And that's what we want to do.  Make our settings and our characters be as real as possible to our readers.  We want them to feel like they've met these people or someone like them before, for good or for bad.  Remember, you've got other characters in your work who are not going to be likable. Just don't make those characters too easily recognizable because you could be slandering someone and get called on it. 


So be willing to draw upon your own life experiences.  Good or bad.  Even the ones that seemed not very interesting or outright boring.  You can always have something amazing happen during one of those "boring" moments, that suddenly launches your hero/heroine into an amazing or terrifying adventure. 

That's all for now.  Keep writing and take care everyone.