What Early Experiences Inform Your Fiction?

early experiences

One of my earliest memories as a child is falling down and busting my forehead open on an enormous (and sharp) landscaping rock. My parents rushed me to the emergency room, where a doctor decided the wound required stitches. I was made to lie down, and a heavy cloth was draped over my entire face. Presumably this was done to ensure I didn’t see any huge needles—and cry or flinch—but I could hardly breathe. The cloth felt like a lead weight, and I kept sucking in the same hot, sweaty air. And then for a brief moment, my father lifted up the cloth and said, “Peekaboo!” and I experienced a moment of cold, fresh air. Then the cloth went back down.

I experienced other weird accidents as a child—getting stung by a nest of wasps, falling into a pool without knowing how to swim—and these moments have held in them the essence of life, before my own self-awareness had time to take shape. In his essay at Glimmer Train, Kurt Rheinheimer mentions these times as rich material for building fiction:

I have long felt that the most precious vein for material is from just before I knew who I was and what was going on. … I still experienced life only as it unfolded—with minimal if any awareness of the processes of living life—both my own and those of my parents and brothers and sister. And somehow those “pure” experiences have translated themselves into fiction better than anything else I’ve found.

Read Kurt’s full essay: Writing About Family.

For more inspiration, check out the latest from Glimmer Train:

I experienced weird accidents as child—getting stung by a nest of wasps, falling into a pool without knowing how to swim—and these moments have held in them the essence of life, before my own self-awareness had time to take shape. In his essay at Glimmer Train, Kurt Rheinheimer mentions these times as rich material for building fiction. Read more here.

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Posted in Creativity + Inspiration and tagged , , , .

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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