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kherezae

They do say to write what you know...

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When you think back, do any of your past experiences stick out as things that have or will impact your writing? Are there any that you thought at the time or right after the experience "Wow this is going (to help) in a book someday"? Any that you didn't think much of at the time, but in retrospect have had an influence on your writing?

Some examples for me:

  • Taekwondo. I didn't really think about it at the time, but practicing taekwondo or another combat sport can help with understanding things like combat fatigue, adrenaline, etc.
  • That time I as an atheist (more of an agnostic now) fell for a Christian guy, and though it never really mattered in my case I wondered what it would be like for a devout Christian and staunch atheist to fall in love, and wanted to write that story.
  • Military basic training. I went in knowing it would be an experience that could help me understand characters with a military background, military organizations, etc.
  • Learning Korean, visiting Korea on language immersion; I actually thought these would be more influential than they have been so far, although I'm sure they've helped with my grasp on foreign cultures in worldbuilding.
  • Horseback riding over Thanksgiving break, for sure. Nothing like experiencing it for real to help with writing about characters on horseback.
  • I got polygraphed Monday and just... that experience is going to help in a story someday, I know it xD

And I'm sure every relationship I've had, every job I've had, everything will contribute in some way, but those are the things that stand out to me at the moment!

You?

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  • Taekwondo to yellow belt, boo yeah? I remember how to tie the belt, and a couple of the moves, but its all pretty blurring. I was like 10 soooo...
  • I did synchronized swimming for a couple years but I can't see how that would be very useful, it is super specific
  • Lived in a teeny tiny town for summer jobs, out in the wilderness. So some experience being more disconnected and isolated, getting to know your neighbors.
  • That same tiny town was also an old gold rush town, so I learned a lot about pioneers and living rough and carving homes out of wilderness, which I think is useful for a fantasy setting. Oh! And last time I visited I went on a stagecoach ride, which was super educational. Got a video on my up on it, from the drivers perspective.
  • Hotel front desk and exposure to how shitty tired people can be.
  • Editing to add - Helped my mom through a manic episode caused by drug interactions, was very educational experience to see how a person's personality can just be flipped because the dosage of a pill was incorrect
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That's such an interesting question - in fact I think I just learned a few things about me while I was thinking about an answer, so thanks for the thought-prpvoking impulse! Since I have never thought about this before, most of these are thing I realized just now, I can't recall ever having thought "This will help with a book".

Becoming a biophysicist and working in research for a couple of years. It has changed me in so many ways it deserves a bullet list of its own.

  • Since biophysics crosslinks biology, biochemisty and physics, I was trained in all of these and in crosslinking information from different sources that seems unrelated at first sight - I think that helps a lot when it comes to combining ideas or looking at things from a different angle.
  • Analytic thinking. I've always been a rational person, but studying sciences has definitely trained my analytic thinking skills. It helps a lot when it comes to figuring out what doesn't work in a story and why it doesn't work. It's probably also the reason why I am a hardcore planner.
  • Physicists are trained in dissecting an unmanagable problem into smaller, managable ones. Helps with a lot of things in life, but when it comes to writing, it helps me to structure stuff and approach things strategically - connecting the details with the bigger picture, and figuring out which details the bigger picture is made of in the first place.
  • Working in research labs has tought me how to figure out patterns in huge masses of data. That helps a lot when it comes to figuring out story structure.
  • It has also taught me that you have to be critical about your own theories - if you want to publish a paper, you have to be one step ahead to survive the peer review process, you have to ask yourself what weaknesses sceptics will find in your data and design experiments to prove them wrong even before you start writing the paper. Helped a lot with figuring out logic stuff and avoiding or killing plotholes. Also helps with designing magic systems or worldbuilding.
  • Scientific writing. It has shaped my writing a lot, both in positive and negative ways. I have difficulties with embellishing a scene, but I am great at delivering relevant information in the correct order.

Other things that have influenced my writing:

  • Roleplaying. It helps with worldbuilding, and also with figuring out coherent character actions (because I was GM most of the time, and had to figure out what the players would/could do in a scene and how to react to that)
  • Mental illness. I know what it means to struggle, and I think that helps with making a character's struggles authentic.
  • Time spent in psychiatric hospital. It was a tough time back then, but retrospectively, it has broadened my mind in so many ways. I met people from all societal classes, who I would have never met otherwise. I gained insight in other people's ways of thinking during group therapy sessions, in a way you rarely get the chance to outside of therapy settings. I learned to analyze and question my own behavioral patterns, and reflected on the events in my life that have made me the person I am today. So many experiences, and I'm sure all of them help when it comes to characterization.
  • Not proud of it, but: Growing up in a dysfunctional family. "Write what you know" implies for me that none of my characters have normal, happy families. I simply don't know how to write one.
  • Rock climbing. I've written a character who is good at climbing before, and I probably wouldn't have without my own experiences.
  • Having a small garden and grwoing my own vegetables. Gives me an idea of how much work it is to feed yourself, and how devastating it can be if something destroys your harvest (I had a rabbit in my garden once - just a sinlge one, but it was very hungry. In another year, it rained so much that the plants grew poorly, and 2018 was incredibly hot and dry. I'm so grateful my survival doesn't depend on my harvest!).

Oh, and does saving a cat qualify? My cat is s former stray that I rescued 😛

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@Penguinball, you've got some real neat ones on your list, like the stagecoach ride! Also, I'm sure the experience with your mom was challenging and awful while you were going through it 😞 It's cool that you got something out of it beyond the hard memories.

@Manu that's a lot of things, and such a cool analysis of how so many different things in you life have impacted your writing! It's so interesting that you never really thought of it before, but that in investigating the question you were able to recognize so many different ways your life experiences have influenced you as a writer. Also, like I mentioned in mine, I learned Korean, so I'm keenly aware of the challenges of using a non-native language, and can I just say that I'm super impressed that I doubt I'd have any idea your native language isn't English without the little note in your signature?! 

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  • I've been into dinosaurs since I was age 4. My parents attribute it to Barney at the very beginning, although Jurassic Park certainly helped contribute to it (I saw the latter when I was between four or five years old).
  • I spent six years of my childhood as an expat in Singapore, and I remember the tropical flora and the muggy equatorial climate very vividly. If you're wondering why so many of my stories have tropical settings, that's a big reason why. Also, the multicultural population of Singapore (as well as Hong Kong, where I spent my high school years) made me used to ethnic diversity.
  • We studied ancient Egypt when I was in second grade, which is what sparked my interest in ancient history. Playing games like Age of Empires and Pharaoh a lot as a kid further kindled that interest. Hence why influences from ancient Egypt and other historical civilizations are also commonplace in my stories.
  • Studying biological anthropology at uni has come in handy for world-building, especially when designing human ethnic groups and their cultures.
  • During my grade school years, I had a few unpleasant confrontations with teachers and fellow students who wanted to impress their fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity onto me. I was already an atheist before then, but those experiences didn't exactly endear me to the Abrahamic religions. I'm not exactly a militant anti-religious type, but I'm generally not fond of worlds (e.g. C.S. Lewis's Narnia) that show a strong Judeo-Christian influence.
  • I've left this for last since it deals with sensitive subject matter. But I'll never forget the day I first stumbled onto neo-Nazi and white supremacist websites while browsing the Internet in my early adolescence. It was a shocking experience to discover whole communities of people who not only embraced racist worldviews, but who went out of their way to justify their prejudices using pseudoscience and historical revisionism. Not only did that shape my personal politics, but it also led to my increased interest in African history and anthropology, since so many of these scumbags would insist that Africans were naturally incapable of civilization or cultural sophistication. As I said before, I was already into history even before this event happened, but it was probably what made me more focused on Africa.
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4 hours ago, kherezae said:

Also, like I mentioned in mine, I learned Korean, so I'm keenly aware of the challenges of using a non-native language, and can I just say that I'm super impressed that I doubt I'd have any idea your native language isn't English without the little note in your signature?! 

Thanks 🙂 I am pretty impressed that you learned Korean, it must be such a difficult language to learn! Learnig English is actually not that hard as a native German speaker, since both languages are related and English is the one with the easier grammar 🙂

@Tyrannohotep I wasn't aware you have spent that much time in other countries, I'm impressed and a little jealous 😉

 

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Wow, everyone’s got so many unique experiences!!

A few of my own…

  • As someone who struggles with mental health—depression and anxiety—and is surrounded by people who struggle with similar and different things, it means that I feel a little more confident in handling those kinds of characters.
  • Being in counseling has helped me get an idea of what my character’s recovery period might look like—though their issues are more severe than mine it’ll be nice to have a starting point.
  • This one is. Really negative, but thinking about it in a way that helps my writing makes it a little easier to bear. But, two years ago, my mom died in a car accident. Her death was very sudden and unexpected, and while it still effects me I also look at it as something that can fuel my writing.
  • Without getting into too many specifics, I had a dysfunctional home life as a child. I don’t speak to my dad much, if ever, any more, but that’s another thing that can help! 
  • I have a very close relationship with my brother but a strained one with my sister, so I can write both kinds of sibling relationships.
  • I went horseback riding once as a kid and remember the experience pretty well!
  • My physical health is not great, so describing that kind of thing is pretty easy. 
  • I took World Religion last year and Sociology this year, and those things are definitely helping my worldbuilding to be more comprehensive!!
  • I’ve lived in both the city and the country (though not the deep country) so that helps. 
  • Roleplaying. I played a bit of Dungeons and Dragons. Unfortunately due to moving and schedule conflicts I couldn’t keep playing, but I’d like to get back into it one day! Once things calm down a bit 😄
  • My mom used to take us to all kinds of places. We went to Land Between the Lakes (actually very close to where I live) in Kentucky. We got to see Elk and Buffalo, as well as go to a place set up to look like an old colonial town with lots of info boards.
  • We also went to a science museum with a bunch of educational stuff!
  • Ive been branching out my reading. Buying history books, and history magazines. (A few National Geographic, but mainly a British magazine called All About History.) I’ve also been picking up Adult fantasy books. (I read the Sword of Truth series a long time ago. Probably when I was too young for it but. I’m now on the third book of A Song of Ice and Fire.) Those have definitely influenced my writing.
  • i read a lot of books on writing this year!! I’m working on reviews for them to put in the resource library 😄

i think that more or less takes care of it! Sorry for any typos—I’m on mobile while my laptop charges 🙂 

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2 hours ago, LivvyMoore said:
  • i read a lot of books on writing this year!! I’m working on reviews for them to put in the resource library 😄

First of all, as with your 2018 accomplishments post, you've done a lot here of translating very difficult, heart-breaking things into something more productive, and I think that's amazing. I think you're a brilliantly resilient person! And so kind and positive. ❤️

Secondly I'm quoting that particular bit because YAY! I can't wait! 🙂 

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2 hours ago, kherezae said:

First of all, as with your 2018 accomplishments post, you've done a lot here of translating very difficult, heart-breaking things into something more productive, and I think that's amazing. I think you're a brilliantly resilient person! And so kind and positive. ❤️

Secondly I'm quoting that particular bit because YAY! I can't wait! 🙂 

Thank you!! ❤️ I like to try and look on the brighter side of things whenever I can!! I  wouldn’t call myself an optimist but I do try 😄 Makes things easier!! 

😄 

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I honestly can't think of a single thing. 🙁 I mean, I, too, did Taekwando as a kid, and I took horseback riding lessons, but I did those things so long ago that I can barely remember anything about them. I didn't get very far with Taekwando...maybe white with a yellow stripe or something? Or maybe yellow with a white stripe? I have no idea. I didn't get very far into it, and I barely remember anything about it, other than I think I was a bit behind the other students so I had to do one-on-one practicing or whatever with the...master? Lol I don't remember what I had to call him. I can't really imagine that helping a whole heck of a lot since I can barely remember anything I learned from it.

I mean, I guess the biggest thing would be role playing. I started out with Star Wars RP, and then I eventually started doing fantasy role playing, too, but looking back on it I'm not sure if it actually helped with my world building skills or not, especially since a lot of the time I was starting role plays with others where they would help with the world building of whatever settings we were creating, so it wasn't all 100% me that was doing the creating. If anything, though, I'm definitely more aware of how Mary-Sue-y my characters were back then. Hopefully I've managed to make them a little less Mary-Sue-y in more recent years.

I can't really think of anything else. Most of my more impactful experiences have been real world things that I wouldn't necessarily ever use in a story setting - i.e. finding out I had a tumor near my aorta, having surgery to remove it and then recover from it. If I wrote modern fantasy, maybe, but I don't. I know things about divorces, mixed families...I suppose I grew up in a bit of a dysfunctional family (mainly because of my parents fighting a lot), but it's probably nothing compared to most people's experiences with that.

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Mine will seem dull in comparison with all those, but here goes:

  • Alongside my secretarial training, I also trained as a translator and interpreter.  I never worked in that field professionally, but I have done the odd translation job for friends or acquaintances and I've also done a bit of interpreting when travelling abroad.  Interpreting is far harder than written translation due to having to remember what has been said while simultaneously translating it, then attempting to convey it in the other language.  (One time when drunk on vacation, I ended up speaking Portuguese to my mother and English to my Brasilian friends.  It all got a bit confusing, but it was a great laugh).  I love to include linguistic mix-ups and "lost in translation" moments in my novels.
  • I worked as a legal secretary for around 20 years, dealing in personal injury law, property law, probate law, employment law and a little divorce law.  I once represented myself in court and managed far better than I'd expected. As a consequence, I include many lawyers and paralegals amongst my characters.  I've also written several courtroom drama scenes.
  • Several of my previous partners worked in the construction trade.  I learned about some of the unsafe practices that go on, as well as the bad pay and conditions that many workers have to put up with.  That really helped with my novel "Carrying A Torch" in which one of the MCs gets a job on a construction site.
  • I also did rock-climbing as a hobby for several years.  Climbing has featured in several of my novels.
  • I've been a home-based carer for my disabled husband since 2007.  I've learned so much, including disability issues.  Several of my novels feature disabled characters.
  • I once worked as an electoral assistant.  Although that's a very specific thing, it's helped with certain aspects of my writing, especially to do with my gangster families and some of my secret societies conducting ballots.
  • I've worked as a waitress and kitchen assistant.  Those trades can also be found in my novels.
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On 12/13/2018 at 1:31 PM, Tyrannohotep said:
  • During my grade school years, I had a few unpleasant confrontations with teachers and fellow students who wanted to impress their fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity onto me. I was already an atheist before then, but those experiences didn't exactly endear me to the Abrahamic religions. I'm not exactly a militant anti-religious type, but I'm generally not fond of worlds (e.g. C.S. Lewis's Narnia) that show a strong Judeo-Christian influence.

Ah, I had that as well in the form of Catholic Fundamentalist cousins.  It just drove me more firmly into studying polytheistic religions before finally landing on a semi-atheist/pagan perspective of knowing there are higher beings or deities out there but treating them like salesman: don't look them directly in the eye and go about your business so they go about theirs.

Here are some of my experiences that have played heavily into my current works:

  • Homesteading:  My parents bought some land outside of town and we spent nearly every day out there from the time I turned 11/12 through high school building barns and trying to get it ready to move to.  The moving part never happened, but I learned a lot on the building aspects, and a lot more with the animals and gardening.  In town we had two lots on a block and had a garden on it every year.  The garden was usually five or six large sections and filled with a variety of herbs and veggies we could eat, cook, and can.  In the winter when the snow came the garden plots looked like graves, which I always found cool and funny because my humor has always been a bit morbid.  Out on our land (which we dubbed "The Place") we built barns, cleared mesquite and brush, rotated grazing pastures, raised hogs, and studied nature.
  • Animal husbandry:  We raised goats for milk, meat, fiber, and as pack animals.  From age 11 until 19 we had a herd of goats that ranged at any given time from four to nearly thirty.  We rotated breeding seasons so we always had at least two does producing milk.  I was there for most of the births and hand raised two angora/boer crosses who were rejected or sick and they became excellent pack animals as adults (though, as with most animals I end up with, they had epic attitudes).  We hiked with those goats nearly every day and I became attuned to not only the herd dynamics and their psychology, but took on the herd scent so much that I was able to (unintentionally) sneak up on a herd of deer while with the herd.  We had a short Mexican standoff, all of us quite shocked, while both the deer and the goats tried to figure out why the others looked so strange.  I also raised rabbits for sale, meat, and fur.  We practiced tanning the hides, which gave me a whole new appreciation for cultures who wore leather as their dominant fabric.  We had ducks, geese, and chickens.  We tried guineas once and only once.  I trained a horse from the ground up after receiving her as a gift (no training knowledge, no trailer, little riding experience). She was the best and most challenging creature I ever had.  We also raised pigs for meat, and they were the best tasting pork I've had in my life.  We also had dogs and a kingdom of cats.
  • Homeschooling:  My mom pulled me and my brother out of school at 5th and 3rd grade, respectively.  I was being held back due to overcrowding and he was being shoved ahead and punished when he couldn't understand the lessons he wasn't ready for.  We tried several curriculums that didn't fit before unschooling.  My mom had us pick out our school books and put us in charge of what we did with them so long as we did a little bit each day, which gave us freedom while teaching us self discipline at the same time, though she was always there when we needed help.  With the my brother found subjects that interested him and went from not reading anything to devouring books about guns, machinery, and WW2.  I expanded into archaeology, anthropology, mythology, and world history and we both used the library to order long lists of books every couple of weeks. 
  • Volunteering at the library: Since we used it so often I ended up volunteering there for years as a teenager year round and especially in the summer for the summer reading program.  I learned the Dewey decimal system, the card catalogue system (before it became obsolete and they brought computers in), and got to meet and socialize with people of all ages.  My favorite were the elderly patrons and library volunteers who shared my love of history and told me all kinds of stories about life when they were young, back to the start of our local towns and through the Depression.
  • Hiking and nature studies:  The hiking really was extensive.  On good days we would hike for maybe four hours down goat, deer, and rabbit trails.  We'd stay in one spot for the longest time to learn about the bugs, vegetation, and wild animals in a particular area.  We collected flint rocks, fossils, and petrified wood that littered the hills.  We immersed ourselves so much in the environment that we learned to pick up on what and who was around us.  Several times we were stalked by predators and could tell, not even seeing what was out there, what animal it was by observing the goats and expanding our awareness.
  • Survival arts:  I can start a fire with flint and steel but I never got as good as my brother.  We studied tracking from Tom Brown's books, practiced with the bow and arrow, the slingshot, the sling, pistols, and rifles.  We learned which wild plants were okay to eat and which ones to avoid.  We camped quite a bit, enough to inform my opinion that it's all right but I'd rather have a good bed or a camper.  I learned to repel bugs with the red clay I found in the creek beds, which was hell on clothing but provided tons of relief for my horse.  

That's all I can recall at the moment that's directly influenced or informed my current work.  We did a lot of things from scratch each day and it's strange thinking back to it now because I don't even do a fraction of it anymore.  I miss it, which is why it probably found its way into my work so I could use and relive it again.

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I use everything I can for my writing, any past experiences, anything I have watched, listened to, seen, imagined... I watch and love documentaries, I've done multiple online courses in all sorts of random things from anatomy (including Liver transplants) to criminology things. I've always had this need to know things, to learn things I find interesting which has always been down the science route, with a few leanings towards geography, history, and palaeontology.

So nothing in particular has stood out to me to be useful in my writing, because I treat everything I am learning, feeling, etc, as something I can incorporate.

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On 1/3/2019 at 4:49 PM, Sheepy-Pie said:

I use everything I can for my writing, any past experiences, anything I have watched, listened to, seen, imagined... I watch and love documentaries, I've done multiple online courses in all sorts of random things from anatomy (including Liver transplants) to criminology things. I've always had this need to know things, to learn things I find interesting which has always been down the science route, with a few leanings towards geography, history, and palaeontology.

So nothing in particular has stood out to me to be useful in my writing, because I treat everything I am learning, feeling, etc, as something I can incorporate.

This is my opinion too. And what I don't know yet, I research it if I need it for a story!

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  • My experience in law is one of the biggest and most obvious one. Any legal topic is something I could research and apply. My legal education also provides a decent knowledge of the sociology of crime, policing, and governments.
  • Because of my work and my extracurricular interests, I know an alarmingly large amount about sexual assault and domestic abuse. I know the hows, the whys, and the ways that it interacts with social biases.
  • I know about disability. I know a big chunk of medical information and how to find more. I've read a few hundred medical records in my job and know how those records translate to my client's experiences. I also know the internal experience of multiple types of disabilities I've experienced. Relatedly, I was hospitalized in a medically induced coma a few years ago, and that's an experience I can mine for writing purposes.
  • On a lighter note, I love sewing and embroidery and that's a great field of information.
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On 1/24/2019 at 8:58 AM, fenn said:
  • On a lighter note, I love sewing and embroidery and that's a great field of information.

I learned to tat specifically as research for a book... and now my tatting patterns have been pinned on pinterest hundreds of times... (I wish I had that much interest in my books.)

Which I guess is the opposite of what was asked.  What research I did for writing ended up being useful in real life?  ;)

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