Tell Your Story – The Insider’s View

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA I’ve lost count of how many times people have said to me, “I’d really like to write a book, but…” A list of reasons, some of them quite valid, follows. It certainly takes time. You need toWriting-is-creative be willing to commit at least a couple of hours a day. It also helps to have a certain facility with language, though to a large degree that can be learned through practice. That’s why there so many creative writing courses. Like any art, genius is a gift, but skill can be learned if you have patience and persistence.

Regardless of your literary skill, I truly believe that each of us has a story to tell. I wish I had the artistry of John Steinbeck or Alice Munro; the skill and daring to plumb the depths of the human condition in everyday life. Few of us do. What each of us does have is a unique set of experiences and insights, be it in personal or professional life. In my case it’s firefighting.

woman writer hugging wordsI read for two reasons. The first is to experience someone deftly articulating my own hopes, fears and uncertainties – that feeling of, “yes, yes that’s it!” The second is because I want to experience life beyond the boundaries of my own existence. The best writing captures both of these elements. It uses the warp and weft of our common humanity to weave a magic carpet that carries us beyond our familiar surroundings.

Aside from eight year old boys, and a few girls, not many people really want to be firefighters. I can’t blame them. No sane person wants to run into a burning building. But almost everyone I meet wants to know what it’s like.

creative_writingI decided to write a thriller, so first and foremost, I wanted The Spark to be an exciting and entertaining story. But beyond that I wanted to give the reader an insider’s view of what it’s really like to be a firefighter. I’m not Grisham or Le Carré, but the advantage I have is the first hand experience of 25 years as a firefighter – the insider’s view.

Ideally, using my personal experience puts the reader in my characters’ boots, allowing them to vicariously experience the real physical and emotional stress of firefighting. That in turn creates empathy and understanding for the characters’ motivations as they move through the plot.

All writers strive for that empathy and understanding. My point is that writing from personal experience and using the insider’s view creates that more intuitively and at a deeper level than is possible from pure research alone. The writer who can tap that well and bring the passion of the personal to the page, whether it’s firefighting, medicine, teaching, being a chef or anything else, has something that no library reference can supply.

That’s why I’ve taken to signing books with the following: “Every life tells a story. Tell yours with passion!”Writer copy

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