My husband repeatedly jokes around, telling me he’s the inspiration for my writing and that he is obviously the model for the protagonist of my first book (even though he neither looks, nor acts, anything like the character). He even goes so far as to describe specific scenes that he maintains he had a part in creating to our friends. When he says this, I generally give him a condescending tap on the back and a wink and say something like, “Of course, honey”, though we both know it isn’t true.
It does make me think though. How much of what I write is purely from my imagination, versus bits and pieces I’ve taken with me throughout my life? It seems like even when the plot might have nothing to do with anything I’ve ever experienced, parts of my life still creep in.
They say write what you know. Admittedly, there are no similarities between either of the main characters’ lives in At This Stage and mine. (There’s my imagination piece.) However, when I look back at the story, naturally I find links. The setting is where I’m from, I’ve taken the trips to the places I mentioned and have taken part, to some extent, in the different activities my characters engage in. (My inspiration.)
I recently read an amazing book in which a major part of the story was an impossible circumstance which kept the two lead characters apart. While I was reading it, I wondered if the author was using this circumstance as a code for something she’d really been through, a prejudice she’d encountered in her life. If it was, it was disguised in an incredible story and very well done. It might also be that I’d known people in parallel situations, and it made me think of them.
Maybe that’s the key. Maybe it doesn’t matter how much of a story is from the author’s imagination or inspiration, so long as the reader finds his/her own imagination and inspiration while reading it.
All this wondering has made me take a different look into the draft of my next book, searching for pieces of myself. Once again, my life is not reflected in either of my protagonists’ lives (and my husband’s is certainly not either, although I’m sure he’ll disagree when he reaches some parts he likes). Be that as it may, I have no doubt that, while experiences may be completely different, some emotions are universal. And I think those come from the best parts of inspiration and imagination combined.