By Fran McNabb/Fran Fisher
“Write what you know.” All writers have heard that statement before. When we write we can’t get away from who we are and what we’ve experienced. Writing what we know doesn’t mean we have to write about our life stories. It simply means that what we have experienced in our real life lends itself to the worlds we create.
In one of my book,FOREVER, MY LOVE by Fran Fisher, I use a pristine island in the Gulf of Mexico and a Civil War fort as part of the setting. The germ for that story was planted when I was a child. My mother’s family ran the ferry boat to the island and worked the concessions on the island. While I was in elementary school, my mom, dad, brother and I lived and worked on the island as well. When an unexpected storm developed, everyone sought shelter in the fort. Lying on a cot in a room where men lived and died hundreds of years ago is as vivid for me today as it was when I was that little girl.
An apparition appears in the story. Do I believe in ghosts? At first, I’d say no, but when I think about that night and the feelings I had as I lay with only the light of a kerosene lantern, I’m not so sure. I felt that story as I wrote it. I knew what I was describing and how my characters must’ve felt.
I used that setting again in one of my Fran McNabb sweet historical romances, ON THE CREST OF A WAVE. This book involves a Union officer stationed on Ship Island and a Confederate girl trying to survive the war. As a child playing along those sandy beaches and in that fort, I was forming images in my mind that I would use in these two books.
Whether authors realize it or not, when they choose a setting, a theme, a character, or a plot, they have the best tools right at their fingertips, their own experiences. An author might not have actually slept in a fort as I did, but they’ve experienced bad weather and a possible electrical outage where darkness surrounded them and the imagination worked overtime. We can take those feelings and transfer them from one instance in our lives to what we’re writing. We can describe them with enough passion to help readers feel what we feel. We want them to be pulled into our writings by emotions and actions that they understand.
Writers should not ignore their past. The beauty of the mountains, the laugh of a child, and the hug of a grandparent—anything can spark an idea for your next story.
Our feelings are universal. Let’s share them.
Fran McNabb, who also writes as Fran Fisher, grew up along the waterways and beaches of the Gulf Coast. She uses these settings in most of her nine published books. As Fran McNabb, she wrote tender romances for Avalon Books, and now for Montlake Publishing. One of her Avalon books, ON THE CREST OF A WAVE, was a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Award.
She and her husband live on a quiet bayou and spend quite a bit of time boating and enjoying the water. She also loves presenting workshops about writing and publishing. Visit Fran at http://www.franfisherauthor.com/ and http://www.FranMcNabb.comTwitter: Fran Fisher: @FranAuthor, Fran Mcnabb: @FranMcNabb Facebook: Fran L. McNabb