All of us who care about writing will probably at some point read Ernest Hemingway. So let's start with some advice from "Papa."
In Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway's book about bullfighting where he describes what he calls "the emotional and spiritual intensity and pure classic beauty that can be produced by a man, an animal, and a piece of scarlet serge draped on a stick," he says, "People in a novel, not skillfully constructed characters, must be projected from the writer's assimilated experience, from his knowledge, from his head, from his heart and from all there is of him. ... A great enough writer seems to be born with knowledge. But really he is not ... ."
So what do we make of this when we begin on our own journey of writing? We often hear this advice, "Write what you know." But we all know that great fantasy has little to do with that advice—or does it?
I argue that the greatest fantasy writes from what a writer does in fact know and has lived. Here's what I mean: All great fantasy feels real because the greatest fantasy writers understand the importance of their own lived experience, what they learned while at home, wherever that home might be. The greatest, say Tolkien, make you at home in the worlds they create.
So, how to do this?
First, start with your literal home in a guided imagery writing experiment. I'll out line it here, but be sure to do the experiment as a free write.
What is a "free write"? Get yourself a pad of paper and write for 10 to 15 minutes without letting your pen off the page and without worrying about grammar, spelling, punctuation. Just write! Remember that editing is always a secondary task.
We are looking for invention and invention needs fodder—stuff you'll type up, put in your journal and use when you need it. You are preparing for the invention.
So here's our first writing experiment. Let me know how yours comes out, and I'll tell you how, when I did this experiment, it ended up in work you may read right here on Wattpad and that has been previously published as well.
So get your pad and pen ready—and go home. If you are able, have someone quietly and slowly read this experiment to you while you do the free write. If not, read all the way through and then do the free write without taking you pen off the page.
Go in your head to the place where you grew up. What does the street look like? The door of the house, apartment, trailer, tent?
Go in. What do you see first, Go through the first room. What do you see, smell?
The second room if there is one. What do you see on the right, on the left?
Go in the kitchen. Is there a table? What does it look like? What's on it?
Open the refrigerator and write about everything you see, smell. In the freezer? Or freezer compartment, what's there? What do you see?
Is there a window in the kitchen? What do you see?
Are there stairs? What are they like, how do they sound when you walk on them?
Go in your parents' room, your mother, father, stepparents', guardian's room. What do you see, want to touch, not want to touch? Open the closet. What do you see, smell?
Go in your bedroom. What is the bed like? Lie down on the bed. What's on the ceiling? What's under your bed?
Write until your hand feels as if it won't move anymore. Then write a last sentence. Type all this up and save it in your computer journal.
If you don't have one, start one now.
You will be surprised by how much detail you've just created on paper, from your heart and mind and memory.
The writing has begun.
Photo of Ernest Hemingway in the common domain
Quote from Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway, Scribner: New York 1932, 1960, p. 191
photo of fantasy ship by zano on deviantart.com
photo of pad, cup and pen, "office" from Pixabay
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Writing Tips in a continuing series of essays. This is copyrighted work. #NonFicSpotlight I'll open with the essay "How Autobiography Works in Fiction" and move on from there. Your comments and questions are welcome. I want to help writers emerge, b...