Novels should tap into emotions. If a reader doesn’t react to your book, she’s likely to put it aside in favor of another book that touches her heart and mind. One-star book reviews hurt; but at least if a reviewer passionately hates your book, you’ve evoked emotion. In some ways, a three-star review calling the book bland is worse.
This time last year, I was happy in the knowledge that both of my parents enjoyed vibrant lives. Years ago, I witnessed the decline and passing of all four of my grandparents and how my parents responded, so I possessed secondhand knowledge of the reality of losing a parent. I knew the passing of a parent is beyond awful. But the depth of pain was still in the abstract for me.
When Daddy passed away in August, that abstract knowledge became all too real. Everything everyone had warned about and talked about turned out to be true, only worse. But I have been blessed to be loved by friends and family.
When you write characters, it’s unlikely you’ve experienced firsthand everything you want to convey. Considering most novels focus on high drama, that’s a good thing! But of course, sometimes we reach into the well of firsthand experience to write.
I never want to write about the death of a parent; but if I do, I know the book I would write today would be utterly different than the book I would have written two years ago.
How about you? Will you share your experiences?
In your writing, when have you needed to write from the abstract?
When have you written from firsthand experience?
How were those two writing experiences different from each other?
Do you feel your writing was more effective when you wrote from firsthand experience? Or not? Why?
In your next novel, what primary-experience emotions will you write about? Why?