Picture credit here.
“I know you well. / You are a part of me. / I know you better than I know myself. / I know you best,
better than anyone. / I know you better than I know myself.” from the song Part of Me by Tool listen here.
Writing, for me, is the ultimate chance to be someone else; to walk a mile in different shoes. As a child, I would fantasize and emulate characters from novels, comic books, and television. These stories provided a much needed escape from the reality of everyday life. It led to a lifetime of reading, Dungeons and Dragons, and playing video games. I still do all of these things, even as an adult well into middle age. I currently hear the sirens call of my latest PlayStation adventure, Monster Hunter World.
There is one thing that trumps all of them, writing. My world grew exponentially once I realized that I could put thoughts to paper. I have a confession to make. I cannot sing, dance, play an instrument, paint, draw, sculpt, and a hundred other things. The only thing I have ever felt comfortable doing was listening to music, talking in front of people (my largest crowd was +3000), and writing.
My first taste of how good the writing life could be came in the form of winning a Young Authors award in the third grade. The poem was no “There was once a man from Nantucket…”, but it provided the spark that would continue to smolder for the rest of my life. I felt a little like Doctor Frankenstein; I had created life!
My first exposure to Dungeons and Dragons happened in the third grade as well. The one friend I had, Rick, invited me over to his house and said, “Hey check this out”. He was my fantasy dealer and we adventured just about every weekend for the next three years. I played and created stories that I still use for inspiration today. Now that I reflect on it, the third grade truly changed my life.
Fast forward many, many years later and you find me developed into a semi-functioning adult. I have a regular job, wife, a kid, animals, bills, responsibilities, blah, blah, blah. I am only now discovering what I really want to do with the rest of my life and my place in this world. I took the path less traveled and hit every bump in that path. I also have had a whole lifetime of experiences done in half the time. Something was building up inside me, wanting to be released. Until one day, the dam broke and everything came pouring out; raw, undefined, passionate.
Every character I put on a page is a part of me. The mess that is me is displayed for all to see through my writing. My fears, my pain, my struggles; my successes, my passions, my heart’s desire all spread across a story. I am lucky that I can channel my thoughts and feelings. There are several people in this world who walk around a miserable mess with no outlets. I don’t know how they can function and stay sane at the same time.
“Underneath the skin and jewelry, / hidden in her words and eyes / is a wall that’s cold and ugly / and she’s scared as hell. / Trembling at the thought of feeling. / Wide awake and keeping distance. /
Nothing seems to penetrate her. / cause She’s scared as hell.” from the song Cold and Ugly by Tool listen here.
My characters take on different aspects of my personality and emotions. Often, due to my vicarious nature, the stars of the show take on aspects of the people I hang out with during the day or the people from my past that have stuck out to me over the years. Everyone I know is well aware that anything they say or do around me can and will be used in a future story. It’s too good not to be!
I fear for those who stay sheltered and do not go experience life. I am not saying that if you have not traveled the world and partied at the pyramids that you don’t have a good story to tell. Stay true to yourself. The people who have come to me with writing struggles (lord help them) often just have a case of not being able to conceptualize what they are trying to write. Something is missing from their story and they can’t put a finger on it. 99% of the time it comes down to just one thing, life experience. There is no shame in writing while living vicariously through others, if you know how to translate that experience in to your own.
For example, I received a comment on a story the other day where I had a character in a hot room covered with blood and I used phrasing along the lines of, “…her mouth tasted like it was full of pennies…” This one detail stuck out to the reader. I was asked how I chose that particular phrasing for the description. My response to them was I have personally been in a hot room filled with blood and burnt bodies. I was a medic deployed to Iraq from 2003-04 in Ramadi and participated in a few mass casualty events. There is no substitute for life experience.
A side note concerning my horror stories, I have never murdered anyone or experienced the supernatural, but I have conversed with murderers and seen things I cannot explain.
Thank you for walking on this journey with me. Until I see you all next week.
Good luck and happy writing!