Those Experiences

Authors are asked over and over, "Are your characters based on anyone you know?" Usually the answer is no. Sometimes I wonder if the question should be altered slightly to get a different answer. What if they were asked, "Are any of the scenes in your book based off real-life experiences?"

While it would be quite impossible for, say, a girl to meet a boy who sparkles in the sun, it is not impossible for her to fall in love with a boy in biology class. Granted, authors are people with wild imaginations. But sometimes I do find myself wondering if anything in their writing is the slightest bit personal. Does the author truly know what heartbreak feels like, based off this dark description? Does the author really know how to play a piano with such melancholy that the listener is tempted to weep?

There have been a couple instances during my writing that I have, in fact, drawn off my own memories to make a scene more vivid. To give you an example, I'm going to tell you a short, embarrassing story.

In my small town, there aren't many bookstores. So when I first moved here I selected my favorite and frequent it quite often. Over time I noticed a man who works there... well, let's just say that he's easy on the eyes. Very, very easy. When I'm not immersed in finding that next riveting book, I catch myself sneaking sideways glances at him. (Hmm. That sounds a little stalker-y. But I promise, I have no idea where he lives. And I've only snuck one picture of him on my cell phone... kidding.) Anyway, I have never learned anything more about him besides the fact that he is efficient at running my credit card through the register. I never wanted to learn anything more, really. He was a part of my bookstore experience. So much so that I associated him with only with the store, as if he didn't exist anywhere else.

One day I was running errands. It was a wet, windy day, and I was muttering under my breath everything I needed to get done. (What? You don't do that?) Eventually I ran into the post office, and I imagine I looked like an asylum escapee with my rat's nest hair and wild eyes. I ran smack into someone, scattering the contents of my purse everywhere. Before the boulder could offer help I scooped everything up and shot a quick apology their way. Then I happened to raise my gaze.

The Greek god was staring down at me. My heart stuttered in shock. "You work at the bookstore!" I heard myself blurt.

Poor guy. Clearly startled, he blinked. "Uh, yeah..." he began after a moment. Flustered, embarrassed, I gave him a quick nod and promptly left. Forgetting that I had gone to the post office in the first place to actually mail something.

It occurs to me, dear readers, that I sound pretty crazy. Understand that normally I'm not so... strange. I hope. Maybe. You might have to ask my friends. There was just so much to do that day, and my mind was somewhere else, and how had my Greek god left Book Olympus? The idea of it sounds stupid, perhaps, but I'm hoping it makes sense to someone out there.

Is there a point to telling you this? Why, yes, there is. The point is, I returned to the manuscript I was working on and discovered an opportunity to recreate the scene in the post office. My poor character found herself face-to-face with someone she hadn't been expecting, and she proceeded to spout the most obvious statement in the history of obvious statements. Mortifying but lively, no? It was still so painfully present in my mind that when my betas later read it, they laughed.

Don't be afraid to put a little of yourself in the story, sometimes! Don't hesitate to incorporate your own emotions when the opportunity arises. Because once in a while, you may be pleasantly surprised.