Books, Google, friends, experts…all sit in that great well of information available to writers, ready to be drawn upon and utilized to quench our thirst for knowledge on a subject that we may know little about but need to have in order to add credence to our words, or life to our story. Sadly, our research sometimes stems from a different source…a painful one at times…and can be difficult to draw from without drowning in it first.
I’m talking about the personal experience aspect of research.
When I began writing my current WIP, I wasn’t drawing from any direct personal experience though I had done plenty of research and could imagine perfectly what each event and emotion would feel like. Then life happened. Real life. My story took on a whole new perspective as I began to actually experience the realism of my story. In the last two months I’ve found my research coming to fruition and I’m a little frightened to have it manifested so very near what I had written as to begin wondering whether I had fallen into the movie “Stranger than Fiction.” `I thought the movie was incredibly funny at the time. Funny…strange…sad…and perhaps a little frightening at times. Welcome to my life right now.
I’m living my research as I experience the very real grief from losing a parent, and as I write this…sit in the hospital with my six year old who is being treated to reduce her chances of a heart aneurysm from 25% to 3%. I didn’t want this. I wouldn’t have wished this on anyone. But it does validate my research in a very real way and has added a dimension to the emotions my characters are facing. I’ve also begun to look at the story as a whole and found that it parallels a lot of my life in so many ways that perhaps I have been writing my own story for a long time.
And what better research could I have? I guess if I had to draw from anyone’s personal experiences to help them find their way through the grief and sadness to find hope and courage it might as well be me, myself and I.
What about you? How much have your own real-life experiences influenced your writing? What are the benefits? The drawbacks? And do you find yourself changing the story to fit what you would love to have happen? Or are you true to realism in order to share the true heartache, no matter how painful?