mind of a writer, part 4


Everything you’ve lived through to this point–every moment of pain, joy, confusion, fear, frustration, passion and ecstasy–it’s all fodder for fiction. It’s more than that, of course. It’s your life. But if you’re looking for inspiration, especially of the meaty variety, you need look no further than your own experiences.


I’ve touched on this point before, but usually I’m talking about our quirks as writers. As in, use your quirks. Write them into your characters. It will make them come alive. However, what you use from your personal life doesn’t have to stop there. I’ve used snippets of conversations I’ve been a part of or overheard. I’ve used some of the most gut-wrenching moments of my life, as well as some of the most lighthearted. I’ve plumbed the depths of my own fears and indulged a day-dreamed fantasy or two.

It’s all fair game. And, it makes your stories better in two ways:

  1. It makes your fiction more real. That should go without saying, but it’s so obvious it’s easy to overlook. Even if you’re writing a story about renegade cucumbers on a quest to liberate themselves and the other green veggies from the fridge before being eaten, you can use your own feelings and emotions to make their plight more accessible to the reader. (What about the non-green vegetables? Fuck ’em. They’re on their own.)
  2. It’s therapeutic. Few methods for exploring pain and fear work as well as fiction. Look, if it’s true that there’s a certain brand of darkness lurking in the hearts and minds of writers (see part one of this series), then we need ways to exercise those demons. Use your work.

No one’s going to know that you’re pulling from personal experience as long as you’re not blatantly obvious about it, which is nice, too. It gives you a public venue for sorting through your own past shit that’s still kind of private. It’s like your heart is there (which is good in fiction), but hidden in plain sight.

Don’t shy away from using your own past. Change the names, settings and even specifics of the situations, but use the essence of your own trauma and triumphs. It’s good for your writing and for you.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

5 Responses to mind of a writer, part 4

  1. ad0481 says:

    There’s a kind of therapy in writing from your past. And honestly I’ve always believed you write best what you actually know. I can google things about other places and people, but the characters that have always felt most alive to me are the ones that I have something in common with.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. P. C. Zick says:

    Good advice, Dex. I find that my antagonists are sometimes provide me with the greatest satisfaction. I can dump all my bad stuff there.

    Liked by 1 person

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