A short while ago, an earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale rocked the state of Virginia and could be felt 200 miles away. Being on the East Coast, I’m one of those who felt it- not that I realized it at the time. This is a traumatic experience for most of us living here, as earthquakes, to us, are things to be heard about, things that happen in far-off places like Japan and California. Not here, certainly. They are never here.
Today, though, that belief was squished between tectonic plates. Although it was not at all prominent enough to cause damage in my area, this event got me thinking about how much our personal experiences shape our writing. In an earlier post I mentioned that what happens in our own lives, what we know, does not necessarily have to dictate what we can write about. I still hold to that theory. However, when describing something that occurs in real life, I believe that firsthand knowledge can go a long way towards making scenes and settings believable.
For example, I live in an area that usually is safe from natural disasters, except perhaps the occasional storm. Therefore, putting disasters into my writing would not be very plausible, as I have no idea how it feels to be in one. Now, of course, I could MAYBE write about earthquakes, but as I was not in the middle of it that’s still unlikely.
It’s not completely required to have this firsthand knowledge, but I think it just helps everything a lot more than if you were never in a certain setting or event. This is why even fantasy writers put so much of their own lives into creating their worlds. Christopher Paolini based his Alagaesian mountain landscapes off of his home state of Montana. Suzanne Collins could write so fluently about war because of her family’s dealings in the military, and she was brought up discussing the effects of it. It’s no surprise that the authors who do pull from their own lives tend to write more vivid and “real” worlds, at least in my opinion.
That’s it, I suppose. My advice to you is try writing your settings based on places you’ve been personally, or things you’ve witnessed. Maybe you’ll like how it turns out.
My heart and prayers go out to everyone in the middle of that earthquake. I hope they’re all okay.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Lionsgate has announced that the first teaser trailer for The Hunger Games will be shown during the VMA’s this SUNDAY! It’s our first look at actual footage, guys! And it’s arriving a whole lot sooner than I expected. I can feel my fangirl anticipation growing. More on this will DEFINITELY be coming later!