It’s not enough to simply have life experience by itself. The ability to observe and make inferences on that experience is a vital tool in the writer’s toolkit.
Life experience tells you how something happens, how it is and how you feel as it happens, which you can incorporate in descriptions and action. But very often we, as human beings, seem to experience similar challenges repeatedly. Many spiritual teachers will tell you that this is because you didn’t learn from it the first time and the universe is giving you opportunities to learn it again.
I also believe this.
Taking a life experience and actually learning a lesson from it is essential for any story. Even if you are writing a tragic hero who fails to learn the lesson, you need to know what lesson your character is supposed to be learning. This is very closely related to the threads and theme of your story, which I am not going to go into on this A-Z challenge post in the interests of brevity.
Many writers and bloggers already talk about the importance of observation and offer suggestions on how to develop this skill. The typical exercise goes something like this:
Sit in a coffee shop and observe the patrons. Write physical descriptions of their appearance and clothing. Do they have any distinguishing features?
Listen in to what they are saying, how do they speak what is the gist of their conversation? Why are they in the coffee shop who are they with?
Then you can take the next step and make assumptions or ask what if questions.
Imagine where they might go after their coffee and what their life might be like. Where might they work? What might their ‘raison d’être’ be?
This is a fabulous exercise to learn how to relate to other real people by fictionalising them, one that I have done numerous times over the years.
I would argue though, that observation of people is not enough. We are all living with a similar cultural background. We must also observe universal nature not just human nature.
Universal Nature can be explained in many ways. It is the understanding of the fabric of reality and in this way can be comparable to Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology: the separate disciplines of Science. However, these separate disciplines do not account for the interplay of Universal Nature.
‘Science!’ I hear you cry in incredulity, “What has science to do with creativity and imagination?’
The answer is this, ‘Everything!’
We are currently in the process of moving away from niche science and back to an interdisciplinary approach. Science historically was a highly creative, imaginative and speculative endeavour. All the laws of our reality can be understood with science and these can be recreated in the worlds you paint in your stories.
Science is not just for Science Fiction writers, it is for anyone.
Universal Nature can also be explained in anthropological and sociological terms by how people and cultures interact. It can also be seen in such idioms as: ‘it’s a dog eat dog world’ or ‘survival of the fittest’.
What do you think of Universal Nature? What valuable life lessons about universal nature have you or your characters learned?