As writers we are often asked where we get our ideas. This usually refers to the plot, a major event, or the characters. And that is a whole other question. Sometimes we get asked if we have experienced what we write. If asked with a wink and a nudge it means the intimate moments.
I do put things in my books that I have actually experienced or people close to me have experienced. Not whole scenes, just snippets of real life. It makes it so much more personal somehow when I remember the sight, the sound, the feel, the smell.
Like a mother and daughter make a daisy crown in the middle of a field in The Lady Flees her Lord. My mother did it with me, and I did it with my girls. The fact that I am writing about the 1800’s doesn’t make that memory any different now than it would have been then. The scene is not really about the daisy chain they make together, or the buttercup the little girl holds beneath her mother’s chin, but as I was writing it, it brought back some happy feelings and I hope will come through the reader.
In No Regrets, Lucas my hero uses a dock leaf to ease a rash from a stinging nettle. This herbal remedy has been around since the British wore woad, I suspect. (er.. I haven’t checked) But I did it for my sister. Friends did it for me. And in this way tiny little bits of my history get woven into my novels.
At one time, women wrote a lot of letters. They told their correspondents about ordinary things: shopping, the weather, what they ate, what affected them, their hopes. Recently a whole collection of letters and bills and such were found dating back from the 17th century on to the present day. All collected by one family, including a saucy poem. That collection is an amazing window on a by-gone world. A time capsule, if you will.
Our own lives are boring, but peeking in on other people's can be fascinating.
Most of us don’t write those kinds of letters these days. We don’t need to. The world is a phone call away. We shred our bills, blue box our notes, and email our correspondence. My guess is that the emails will disappear, the same as 8 track tapes did and there won’t be much writing from ordinary people 200 years from now.
Of course there will be memoirs and biographies of famous people, but since I have the chance, I will continue to put snippets of my ordinary life into my books, provided it fits the story, and even though I didn’t live during the period I write about. The sky was blue then and the grass was green and we know there were daisies.
Do you keep old letters? Do you put pieces of your own life into your stories? I’d love to know.