Writing Secrets: Don’t be afraid to get creative with life

 In Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Tips for Writers

“Everybody who writes fiction draws from their own life, but if it ended there, it would be very boring,” says writer, Judy Blume.

I came across her advice the other day and it chimed with me because it’s something we always say to our participants. There’s nothing wrong with drawing on the pool of ideas and characters who surround you in life. And, of course, we all do it.

But our caution would be: don’t become stuck in the trap of what really happened. Use what serves you, change what doesn’t.

I once came across a manuscript in which the protagonist’s sister – dealing with her sister’s drug addiction – caused the driving conflict of the book. Halfway through, the sister left the country. Her struggles multiplied, with an unwanted pregnancy, but they multiplied out of sight. Oh, the sister caused worry, but at a great distance, over the telephone. The drama subsided.

“But why have her leave the country?” I asked. “It would add immeasurably to the drama if she stayed put to disrupt our protagonist’s life…

“And while we’re about it, how about our protagonist is struggling with infertility when her sister pops out a baby in so profligate and heedless a manner.”

“But I can’t do that,” she said, rearing back. “It’s not what happened in real life.”

But you’re writing fiction, see? You can change anything you like, in order to raise the stakes and increase the drama. And so you should or, as Judy Blume said, it would be boring.

Read Richards’s latest blog: ‘Monday Motivation: Introduce your characters with flair – and a trumpet solo

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