writing from life
March 18, 2009
From the Deborah Bouziden interview:
DB: In October, there was an incident involving a pair of hiking shoes. Writers know that everything that happens to them is fodder for the written page some day. Please relate the story and do you see it showing up in a book later down the road? Do you suggest writers keep a notebook/journal to record incidents like this? Why?
I won’t relate the story because it’s routine (I am routinely klutzy). It’s “dog bites man” rather than “man bites dog.” Digest version–slippery shoes+wet grass+dog tugging at lead=dislocated elbow. Now, the part that might be of use are the details a writer absorbs from incidents like this–the expression on a stranger’s face when he saw the grotesque angle of the arm. Pain so intense I thought the top of my head would come off. The stranger’s kindness and swiftness as he dialed 911, crated the dog, secured the house, found my purse and mobile phone…all the time keeping his eyes averted from the arm. My feeling of dismay as the EMT cut off my brand new, expensive Patagonia hoodie. The interesting apparatus filled with styrofoam beads, which they used to immobilize the arm. A busload of school kids on the ferry (had to take the ferry to the ER in Seattle), lining up to peer into the ambulance to see if there was any blood and guts. Little details, like the meth addict screaming obscenities. Oh, wait, that was me! The doc’s name: Milkman. A nurse rushing in, saying, “I have your diagnosis! #1, you have a severely dislocated elbow. #2, you’re famous, I love your books!”
A writer should pay attention when strange things happen. I wasn’t taking notes because it was my left arm and I’m left handed. Generally, if they’re dramatic enough, you remember the important bits. Some things, you don’t need a journal for.
How do you put life into your fiction?