When personal struggles make for good story

For the past five days I’ve been with a friend who really needed someone to help her through a difficult time.  When I leave her on Monday, I am confident I will leave a renewed person behind, someone who has taken the necessary steps to become well again, both physically, emotionally and mentally.  I am glad I had the chance to be with her and help her through this trying time. It has also been very beneficial to me, both as a friend and a writer.

As an author, I was not surprised to find I was jotting down notes before I went to bed, noting places we went, people we met.  I have character notes out the whazoo.  Even the reason I am here has added great fodder to my writing.  Experiencing someone else’s personal struggles…seeing the way they handle grief and pain and how they endure to make their world right…is sure to add dimension to fictional characters.  Sure, pulling from your own experiences can add depth to characters, too, but sometimes inspiration comes from what’s around you, not from within you.

A view from the outside provides a different perspective.  You’re not blinded by your own emotions.  In fact, you’re emotions have to be more than rational to help the person who needs to lean on you like a rock.  You can witness the tears, the fear of the unknown, the anger, the loss and the desperation for a better future from a completely different angle.

Writers need both internal and external perspectives to write well.  The struggles my friend was and is facing are new to me as they are to her. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived.  It’s like a character arriving on the pages of your manuscript for the first time.  I submersed myself in the setting, the surrounding, the emotions.  This experience has shown me a different way to approach character development, settings and the conveyance of feelings.

I have three more days here, more places to go, more events to experience.  While not all fun and games, the writer in me is thrilled I stepped outside my comfort zone.  In turn, life has made me a better friend and hopefully a better writer.  Only time will tell, but the experience certainly can’t hurt.

What about you?  Do you use personal experiences or experiences of others to feed that element into your stories?

8 thoughts on “When personal struggles make for good story

  1. Your friend is lucky to have you to get through her troubles.

    I have used elements of reality in my fiction – kernel of truth covered in a tasty coating before being popped. 🙂


  2. Wow. I don’t think I could write that stuff down. I would want to distance myself from it. As a writer, I use writing time for personal escape. What I write about is complete fantasy, and I’ve never drawn a parallel to my real life. In fact, whenever I start to, I stray away, just for my own emotional well-being.

    If you are able to draw on ths, though, I am sure it will make you stronger.

    Hugs all around, and positive energy shooting from up north, zig zagging along a freeze ray to bring you both happiness and understanding.


  3. Very often I’ll bring the core of a personal experience into a story, but I’ll exaggerate something about it to emphasize one element. Whenever I sit down to write, I always think to myself “fiction has a grain of truth nestled inside.” The grain element of this is what I like to play with because it gives what is essentially fake and makes it believable. 🙂


  4. Wow. What a courageous thing to write. You’ve really laid yourself bare here, being so deeply forthcoming about your process and how you go about learning. I’m humbled by this. I see that I have a great deal of growing and learning still to do.


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