Writing real life

I've been thinking lately about how people use real life in writing. There seem to be so many different ways to approach the old standard "write what you know." But, really, how do you do that when it involves people and real situations?

I can see so many reasons to write a particular story. The catharsis of getting it out of your mind and onto the page. The opportunity to craft the ending you wish the story had in the first place. Using a character to perfect in personality that you just have to use them.

How do you go about it, though? You could write it as it is and let the chips fall where they may. You could write it as an exercise and never let it see the light of day. You could take the best pieces and craft them into something new, a practice that is used ad nauseam with varying degrees of disguise and success. Or do you just let it go, rolling around in your mind, until you can see the person or situation for what it is and then take the lesson from it?

I imagine it depends on how long you can wait and not write it. Or why you're writing it in the first place. It feels tricky to write what you know when you're starting out. I imagine it's still tricky years down the line, just easier to filter out the extra and use the good bits. I don't think it ever gets easy to pass on what you know could be a really good story, even if you do have to change the majority of it.


I'd be interested to hear how other writers have handled the real life things they've used for material or inspiration.


  1. Once Lindi wrote a script for her play writing class about the first time she met her stepmother. It was a pretty outrageous situation, but completely true. She presented it as a fictional scene and during her writing critique the other students told her it just wasn't believable. :P

    1. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. I can't imagine how frustrating that must have been for her, though!

  2. I write a lot from my personal experience so I struggle with this as well. So far most of the stories sit on my computer never to be heard by anyone but that may change in the future. They may become more fictionalized, not sure. We'll see...

    1. It's hard when family is involved. Especially family that's alive!


Thanks for stopping by to chat!