Yeah, I write SF/F but that’s not quite what I mean.
Writers get information from a wide variety of sources, the best one of which is their own life and experiences. And from what you’ve done . . . you extrapolate that out and into the fictional world you are creating.
It starts early, as early as your childhood experiences and memories. Family, friends, school, the Bad Kids, Car trips with the parents.
Pets, the dogs and cats you grew up with. Horses you’ve ridden and owned. Horse shows, your favorite trails. Yeah, I use horses a lot, you’ve probably noticed.
The first time you rode in an airplane. Moved to a new neighborhood. A new school. High school (shudder). College. The first job.
I’ve worked for two oil companies, for a total of about ten years. Seeing how a corporation works. As one minor cog, I could watch from the bottom up and see how the whole thing worked, from basic information gathering and analysis, selling it to your boss, and then the next level . . . and the forms, the money trails, getting an “authority for expenditures,” business expense reimbursements, the mix of science, showmanship, and salesmanship it took to get your projects funded.
And interacting with the government. Ooo! The Federal Offshore Lease Sales! Seeing that up close and personal came in really handy when I had a Cross-dimensional Exploration Company bidding on rights to a newly discovered world.
Dating. Especially the disasters. Being a bridesmaid in a couple of weddings, and then getting married yourself. Learning to live with a whole new person, and slowly meshing both your subconscious expectations of married life.
Having children. Boy, is there ever some perspective for you! If anyone had actually convinced me how utterly exhausting, how utterly life consuming . . . fortunately they didn’t.
I think one of the few young-person experiences I sort of wish I’d somehow shoehorned into my life is the military. But I like the way my life has gone, so it’s not a big regret, just a huge hole in my knowledge base.
Overseas travel. School, business, and pleasure. Well, as a tourist you don’t really grasp the culture, but you can see the places, get a feel for that spot, right there! And have a memory to pull out and use that spot for an important scene. Make your readers feel like they’re right there among the rocks, and dry hills, or edging carefully up the cliff . . .
And . . . there are the bad memories as well. When you can remember that horrible moment . . . writers use those as well. And extrapolate to worse. Or better. And sometimes we can break our hearts all over, because the Hero can’t save that particular day.
Not having enough of a particular bad type of experience can result in pretty poor writing. One of my early works, which got firmly declined, was also one of my critical learning experiences, because the editor explained.
Umm, on a re-read, yeah, there was an awful lot of inappropriate smiling and laughing (back when I believed in avoiding the use of “said” and hadn’t a clue how to properly avoid it. I think. Maybe I really was massively insensitive.) It’s much better now, but it still won’t ever be mistaken for actual horror.
So, what life experiences stand out as really useful to you in writing?
And for a real stretch . . . free for a few more days: