Friday, April 17, 2009

Writing Out of Experience

I am currently working on the final of the Potluck Catering Club novels with Linda Evans Shepherd. This is the third in a three-book series ... which is part of a two-part series of books:

2-a The Potluck Catering Club: The Secret's in the Sauce

2-c The Potluck Catering Club: (No additional title yet)

(There is also The Potluck Club Cookbook, to be released sometime this summer)

So anyway, all that to get back to the point at hand: I am working on the third of the second series of the books.

In this book, someone has died (for our fans, I won't say who) and someone is mourning that loss.

Grief is a personal thing; everyone responds to it in their own way. Some people appear to be handling the loss of a loved one as though their pet goldfish died. Others fall into a stoic day-to-day existence. Everyone, however, will experience the five stages of grief at some point, each in their own way.

The other night I broke down and dusted the master bedroom in our home. Goodness knows it needed it. The room stays clean -- don't get me wrong -- it was just dusty. Antique mahogony furniture gets both dusty and thirsty, so I choose a product for dusting that includes an oil, beneficial for the furniture's longevity. As I set about my task, I found two bottles of after shave that had belonged to my father. Two bottles that, three years ago, previous to his unexpected passing, had been taken with him to the hospital so he'd smell nice for the nurses (I suppose) :).

I picked up one of the bottles -- I'd almost forgotten it was there -- sat on the floor and gingerly twisted the cap. I held it to my nose but I held my breath, unsure if I was really ready to inhale its fragrance. I waved the bottle back and forth, back and forth, until -- when I thought my lungs would explode -- I took in the scent of the after shave.

The scent of my father.

I closed my eyes. For a brief moment, Daddy was in the room. He was still with me. If I had so wanted, I believe I could have spoken and he would have heard me.


I have long come to the fifth stage of grief: acceptance. But my character has not. She is somewhere between three (bargaining) and four (depression). After the dusting of my room was finished, I walked back to my home office and wrote a scene in which "Name Here" (for I will NOT give her name away!) finds a bottle of after shave, opens it, and breathes in his scent. As a writer, I felt every moment of this chapter. I had -- by opening Daddy's after shave bottle -- experienced for myself the emotions of the character. Now, as a writer, I pulled on those emotions. I depended on them totally for expression.

Sometimes we writers can write out of an experience we have not had or have yet to have. But for the most part, I think, this is why we hear that real writers are born after their 40th birthday. We have to have experienced life in order to write about it with any deep sense of emotion.

When we do, we take readers to the deepest part of themselves. They experience -- again and again -- their own life moments as they walk them out with our characters. This is, what I call, bleeding on paper for the sake of our reader. It has to be done. It's rarely easy. In fact, I would have to say that it is never easy.
But it's worth it when we read -- and our readers read -- the end result.


  1. Congrats, Eva, on starting your blog! Good luck with the new book!

  2. Eva you describe beautifully what it's like to write from the experience of having lived life, felt life. The more we live, the more we feel, the richer our words.

    Congrats on your blog!

  3. Congratulations on your blog and on your new novel. I've ordered it and can't wait for it to arrive. I can't wait to read it! Beautiful pictures. I listened to your interview. Great job!


  4. What a beautiful post. Isn't it amazing how, even though our loved ones have gone ahead of them, we can still "experience" their presence?

  5. Love the Potluck Club. I enjoyed speaking with Linda at CCWC and am looking forward to the newest in the series.
    Keep up the God Work.