Poet William Stafford wrote, “So the world happens twice—once as we see it as is; second, it legends itself deep, the way it is.” So, the writer first experiences the event, then processes details, and retells the story, teasing out the subtleties to make a point. She holds up the magnifying glass. See, this is how we are! We’ve all been hurt this way.
To have lived an experience is not enough. Writers are led by an urge to re-examine, find meaning, dig deeper. We are forever looking forward, forecasting, reflecting, being present, watching for those fire flies of an idea.
We populate stories with ordinary relatable people whose likes, peeves, pasts, needs, desires and delusions are excruciatingly familiar or unjustifiable. The incidents that characters would rather sweep under the rug—memories painful to unearth, past deeds that gnaw at our conscience, regrets and unrealized ambitions—are the things we must write about. They are what matters.
Sounds a bit like therapy, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s what we writers are doing all along. Come along, character, Have a lie down on couch. Let’s dredge up what hurts and see what we can learn together about being human.