Writing From Experience

Where authors find their stories always amazes me. For so long, people asked me where I got my story ideas, and I’d sometimes shrug or sometimes laugh and say, “I don’t know.” But that’s not really true. The more I thought about my stories, the more I realized my ideas came from who I am and what I’ve experienced in my life. I’d always heard you should write what you know and I guess in a way, that’s what we all do.

In my last book, FOREVER, MY LOVE, my setting uses a pristine island in the Gulf of Mexico and a Civil War fort. The story develops both a love story from the Civil War Period as well as one in the Twenty First Century. The germ for that story was planted when I was a child. My mother’s family ran the ferry boat and the concessions on the island. My family helped for an entire summer and we lived and worked on the island. When an unexpected storm developed, everyone sought shelter in the fort. Lying on a cot in a room where men lived and died hundreds of years ago is as vivid for me today as it was when I was that little girl.

An apparition appears in the story. Do I believe in ghosts? At first, I’d say no, but when I think about that night and the feelings I had as I lay with only the light of a kerosene lantern, I’m not so sure. I felt that story as I wrote it. I knew what I was describing and how my characters must’ve felt. The setting also involves New Orleans and a plantation on the Mississippi River. Those, too, were easy to write because I’d been to these places as well.

When authors choose a setting, a theme, characters, or a plot, they rely on their past lives. Our stories might not be about us, but as authors we can’t ignore what we’ve seen and heard and experienced.

So if you’re a reader, I hope what we describe can relate to something you’ve done. If you’re a writer, don’t ignore your past. The beauty of the mountains, the laugh of a child, the hug of a grandparent—anything can spark an idea for your next story. Our feelings are universal. Let’s share them.

Bio: Fran Fisher grew up along the waterways and beaches of the Gulf Coast. She uses these settings in most of her books, including her two e-books, PLAYING WITH FEELING and FOREVER, MY LOVE.

As Fran McNabb, she writes tender romances for Avalon Books. Her last book, ON THE CREST OF A WAVE, was a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Award. Avalon will release her next book in June 2012.