By the time you’re older than dirt you’ll probably have enough material in your mind’s memory banks to write a shelf full of novels. Unfortunately, you’ve probably also forgotten enough stuff that could have turned into another shelf full of novels. Write it before you forget it.
My memorites of time served in the navy, working as a seasonal employee in Glacier National Park, Boy Scout camping trips, various jobs and all kinds of hobbies and avocation have provided the inspiration behind a lot of my work. The danger here is that when you’re almost older than dirt, the fictional version of those memories used in your novels and stories gets mixed up with what really happened. (I should have kept a diary.)
Some memories are almost universal and capture readers who’ve gone through similar experiences:
- Young love. The first time you got dumped by the person you thought you were going to marry.
- The cops: The various times you were caught for shop lifting, speeding, trespassing, or running guns or booze across a border.
- Jobs: How you got fired from a job for something you didn’t do.
- Travel: Crazy and wonderful things happen when we travel. Is there a story there? Probably.
- Family: Maybe you were the black sheep in your family. Maybe it was Aunt Flossie or cousin Jimmy. There’s probably more stuff in this category than you can shake a stick at. You can always change the names to protect the guilty.
- Daily life: Weird stuff (or wonderful stuff) happens every day. Sometimes there’s a story there even though your life might seem fairly normal to you.
I’ve used a lot of this in my stories, though I cannot tell you when and where because, well, the truth behind the stories is rather confidential. Sure, there may be awkward questions from friends and family, such as “How did you write about these bar girls so realistically” and “You really did a good job with those drunk tank scenes; how did you know about all that?”
Imagination and research. That answers all questions even if your memories were part of the research.
Of course a lot of stuff in this novel really happened. That’s the beauty of having been there. You have an infinite amount of material. The ship in the cover picture is the ship I served on during the Vietnam War. There were hundreds of stories there because it was a large ship and had a large crew.