You know the disclaimer you see at the beginning of books:

This story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this novel are entirely fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, or things should be inferred.

It’s bullshit.

If you show up in my books, I’m sorry. But I’m pretty sure most writers make use of people, places, and things from their own life. When I write, my characters are filled with parts of me, parts of my husband, parts of other people I know. So one character might have some of my husband’s characteristics or several characters might be an amalgamation of him.

A lot of writers walk around with little notebooks to jot down funny little incidents they see taking place in their lives. They might write down the way the sunset on the lake makes them feel. Or they might write down how some lady sitting next to them at their son’s ballgame was using numerology to plan birthday parties—random things like that. Those scenes make it into books. We are, after all, part of the human experience. In order to make characters seem like actual human beings, writers sprinkle them with characteristics of people we may know or the stranger who did something shocking, funny, or weird.

When I wrote my first book, No Turning Back, which is still on Amazon I wrote about my past. I wrote about a relationship that hurt me and continues to plague me today. People who are/were close to me who read the book probably knew that. My sisters figured it out anyway. They say an author’s first book is always about herself. I’d say that most authors’ books are probably about themselves, the things they’ve seen or felt, or the people we know. Authors write for various reasons.

Here are the reasons I write:

  1. To Try to Answer Existential Questions
  2. To Deal with a Dilemma I’m currently facing
  3. To Deal with a Trauma or Pain from the Past
  4. To Deal with Depression – put the pain on the characters or have them solve the problems.
  5. To Try to Describe my Human Experience
  6. To Connect with Other People in a Meaningful, Deliberate Way

The more I get to know other writers, the more I think this is what writers do. They use their characters to deal with their life. It’s no wonder that writers often get described as tortured souls. The very thing that drives them can be torturous. The very thing that nurtures their creativity often threatens to suffocate them or pull them down into the darkness, the depression, the alcoholism—whatever the vice.

I find in myself, and you can see it in my pattern of writing, that I am driven by my restlessness. I write better and more often when I’m searching for an answer, when I feel unfulfilled, when I feel like the whole world might come crashing down at any moment. But at the same time, that work starts to provide meaning. It starts to provide a light. It starts to create hopefulness inside of me. It shows me my purpose, and aren’t we all striving for purpose in our lives? Ironically, the very thing that makes me feel better, creativity, often disappears once it has done its job. The plight of a writer.

Perhaps the hardest part of being a writer is feeling misunderstood. I’ve lived my whole life thinking too much, and writing eases that to a certain extent. All writers want their work to resonate with people. When the writing comes from a place of emotion, the characters often reflect that. And sometimes those characters come from real life, no matter what the disclaimer at the beginning of the book says.

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The Writing Process

Yesterday, I posted about the inspiration behind The Devil Within. So what happens after inspiration hits? I think the question I get the most as an author is: where do your ideas come from? And honestly, objects, things, sayings all inspire the ideas, but when I sit down to write it’s like magic. Here’s where the magic happens, in my writing space:

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I write in a La-Z-Boy recliner in the middle of our living room (excuse the mess on the floor). The chair I sit in was handed down from my Gipop after Gigi passed away. I remember when I was little and would go over to their house, my grandfather would sit in this chair and read all the time. I have an emotional attachment to this chair, because it reminds me of him.

The kids are often running around, talking to me, or watching TV while I write away. I like being in the center of it all instead of locked in a room away from everyone. When I start writing, I put on my pink headphones, hit shuffle on Pandora, and then my fingers start walking across the keyboard. I’m a pantser (write from the seat of my pants), but I do research and I make character sketches. Not so much a written sketch, as I put descriptions, personality quirks, etc. into an excel spreadsheet. This is specifically useful if you have a lot of characters or if halfway through the book you mention blonde hair on your protagonist when she really has brown.

Earlier I mentioned magic, and I do believe that’s what writing is. There’s no way to describe what it’s like when I’m in the zone. It’s a feeling of being only semi-present. The music falls into the background, and I don’t even really hear it. The words come out and sometimes I’m surprised by the similes and metaphors that appear on the page. Most writers I know have had this experience of being bodily present but their mind being in a higher realm. I’m not a religious person, but there is something spiritual about the writing process.

Stay tuned for more about the writing of The Devil Within.