Thursday, April 24, 2008

Life Creeps In to Stories

I read this PW Q&A with Kevin Henkes today. Henkes briefly talks about using life experiences in his stories, saying, "Whenever I’m writing a book, small details from my life always creep in."

I know that's true for me — and I believe that it's true for every writer, whether you write for kids or adults, focus on fiction or nonfiction, create ad copy or textbooks. I'm not talking about always literally dropping your experiences into your work (although, certainly, writers successfully do that every day), but about the myriad emotions, colors, dialogues, people, thoughts, relationships, perceptions, and mundane activities that inform the ability to describe ANYTHING. No place else to get all that but from life.

I guess my reaction hinged on the fact that people constantly ask writers the "Does your life show up in your stories?" question. Which is natural. I'm as interested as everyone else in each writer's answer. But I can't even think of a circumstance in which it wouldn't.

Thoughts?

1 comment:

Joy said...

Heh. It doesn't take writing for details from my life to creep in. That happens even when I read other people's writing. For instance:

When I was in elementary school, my aunt and uncle and three older cousins had a house with a finished basement and a "mother-in-law apartment" on the ground floor. The property abutted a golf course, with lots of trees at the border.

For some reason, this house has long served as the mental template for many, many of the houses I've read about, especially in books where a house is an integral component of the story, particularly a house near the woods. I just subconsciously adjust the house's layout-in-my-mind to fit the story. I also dream of this house a lot. I always figured it was because I found the house intriguing as a child.

Funny thing. I just found out recently that my parents and I lived in the the MIL apartment for a few months when I was just an infant. I wonder now if the house was somehow imprinted on my brain in that short time.

Sorry, got kinda far afield there... :-)
Joy