Creative writing advice: What you know is magic
Where do ideas for your writing come from? Emma Glass, author of acclaimed debut Peach, has inspiring thoughts on writing what you know
When people ask me where I get my ideas for writing from, I tell them I simply write what I know. A strange look appears across the person’s face. They will often look perturbed and for a moment I am confused. And then I remember that I’ve written a story about a piece of fruit who is sexually assaulted by a sausage and then I think about how best to explain what I mean.
If I literally wrote what ‘I know’ the reader could expect a very slim volume of ordinariness. But if I write about what I know as an individual human being, my experiences of the everyday could in fact be unique and interesting. If I were to write about what damp leaves smell like, the sensation of a segment of clementine bursting open in my mouth, the sound of radio static sticking and ticking in my ears, then the writing becomes far richer because those sensory experiences are mine and I will express them in my own particular way.
If, like me, you don’t think in plot lines and struggle to begin writing when a story isn’t mapped out yet, these little nuggets of knowledge can set you off in directions you may not have previously considered. It is easy to take advantage of the everyday instances of our lives. Objects become extensions of our physical beings, food can be forgotten fuel, rooms are commonplace comfort.
When I began writing my novel, I had little more than my own feelings of emptiness and frustration, I started drumming my desk to the beat of song that was playing loudly in my headphones and with that repetitive drumming sound, I felt the footsteps of Peach in those first dark scenes. The footsteps didn’t take me far. But far enough to know that the feelings of emptiness and frustration were significant and that I wanted, more than anything to create a sensory experience and for those feelings to be understood. I looked to what I had, what I authentically and instinctively knew.
I had food and I had nature.
I was vegetarian and I couldn’t stomach the thought of consuming meat. I wanted to explore where the aversion came from, so I bought some sausages. I took one and dissected it with a knife. I unwrapped the meat from the case, touched the film and flesh, smelt it, looked at it under a bright light with a magnifying glass. Without reaching, without thinking about it, I wrote down the raw words that came to my mind. These words formed the basis for the detestable character in my story.
None of this is rocket science, but I believe its good advice. Take time every day for the everyday. There is hidden magic in what you know.
Peach is published by Bloomsbury on 11 January.
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