You’re more interesting than you think.
Yesterday while attending the opening party of the Portland, Oregon NaNoWriMo region (that’s National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated), I was talking to a friend from a former writers’ group I belonged to while writing my first novel By A Thread. He had confessed to the group minutes earlier that he was heading into the NaNo whirlwind without any idea of what he would be writing about. I, meanwhile, had been complaining about the paucity of reality-based themes expressed by the authors in the room. Of nearly 80 who mentioned their NaNo projects, over 60 of them involved vampires, zombies, aliens, or some other sort of paranormal, fantasy, or science fiction themes.
I encouraged my friend, whose previous work—at least that with which I was familiar—took place in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future, to consider using some facet of his own life as inspiration for his next project. “It’s not only original, it’s rife with possibilities,” I told him.
“But I have a boring job,” he objected. “I sit in a cubicle all day monitoring and troubleshooting computer systems.”
“Great,” I assured him. “Now just imagine you walk in one day and find something going on in the computer that isn’t supposed to be there. Or even something mysterious in your desk drawer. That can be the basis of your whole story. An ordinary guy in an ordinary job on an ordinary day stumbles on something extraordinary. Boom! Your off!”
As we talked I pointed out to him that our lives are full of moments, places, and people that we take for granted, but which others might find unusual or interesting. Even the mundane, if told in the right way, can be made suspenseful and mysterious. By the time the conversation ended, my friend was excited about the possibilities, brimming with ideas based in the reality of his own life. Add a little hyperbole, throw in some colorful people you’ve met, and then run with a what-if scenario—you can be writing fiction in no time! And without the difficulty of creating new worlds, new creatures, and new rules from scratch. Why invent a new world when tweaking this one a bit will do just fine?
In light of that advice, I’m inviting you, my fellow writers, to share five of the most fiction-worthy moments of your life. I’m sure you can think of at least that many. It’s easy! To get you started, I’ll share five of mine in the first comment below. Then it’s your turn.