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How Much Do You Draw on Your RL Experience?

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After I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes 6 years ago, I have added it in a few of my characters. I swam off and on growing up so yes I did add that in as well. I did have one who was epileptic but after I grew out of it so did my character.

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I think I add a few characteristics from myself into my characters I write. Most of my characters are introverts and very rarely do I play an extrovert. I have in the past it was really easy for me to write an extrovert character who was super outgoing and great at making friends and such. When I play those characters it makes me sad I am not like them though so that is  probably why I tend to stick to characters who are not outgoing LOL. 

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I like to think that my characters are their own entities to a degree, but some characters I am definitely more relatable to. It's boring to play myself and there aspects of myself that I'm not overly fond of. But there are some experiences that I can relate to that give me a better perspective on characters and how they think/feel on certain things. When I create a character, I like to go through this thing called "The Interview Process" with the character in question and see what comes of it. 

 

But when it comes to writing in general, I like to draw on the sensory angle of experience to better describe things. I used to be a smoker so I know what it feels/smells/tastes like for someone who smokes and what a smoker's habits are. I also stress eat/fitfully sleep so there are those angles of imagery I enjoy pulling from versus experiences from a personal nature that help with creating a character versus writing as the character (gosh, I hope that made sense).

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I think all writers draw from experience. I went to a writing seminar and the first exercise was to write down a list of things we were experienced in and had knowledge in, and we were then to use that list to form a story! It was pretty fun but also made me realize how much I do borrow from my life. (Not just myself but people around me.) 

 

I have a handful of quiet characters, selective mutes (something I struggled with in my childhood), and people who are way socially awkward. I have a lot of eccentric characters who think in strange or bizarre ways, which is apparently a part of my personality disorder. I'd been doing it for long before I was diagnosed so that's a thing. 

 

I've also played a few characters on the autistic spectrum. I'm not, but my brother is and we're very close. 

 

Problems with food.

People who have lots of pets or a pet that is very important to them.

Dealing with addiction.

 

Conversely, I also have characters that are very much the opposite of me, sort of the person I WISH I was. So bold characters, who always have something to say, don't hesitate to say it, are pushy, stubborn, and bold. 

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On 8/18/2019 at 1:51 PM, Zozma said:

I think all writers draw from experience. I went to a writing seminar and the first exercise was to write down a list of things we were experienced in and had knowledge in, and we were then to use that list to form a story! It was pretty fun but also made me realize how much I do borrow from my life. (Not just myself but people around me.)

 

This, absolutely. For me, it's sort of like method acting, where even if you don't have very specific knowledge of a situation, you can infer the emotions a character is feeling and then relate that to something you've personally been through to better pinpoint where the character is coming from. I personally don't choose characters based on my personal experiences; I just decide if they have an interesting story I want to tell and then figure out a way to relate to them. (Along with all. the. research.)  Even the characters that aren't remotely like me, I always find something I can relate to in them somewhere, even if it's buried.

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I’ve always been prone to people-watching and DIY shenanigans – incidentally, that has led to the occasional interest in method acting.

 

I’ll generally throw in tidbits of things I’m interested in to hold my attention on harder topics, but much of the time I am tracing fictional routes of things I have seen the surface of that intrigue, annoy, and/or horrify me enough to go deeper into.

 

That, or I just really like men in uniform. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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I keep my characters as far away from my own experiences as possible, or it gives me the heebie jeebies! XD

 

Sometimes my characters coincidentally end up located in a setting I know well (London is a common one) and I try putting them on streets and in cafes I know like the back of my hand, but it gives me the creeps. I don't know why....... maybe I worry I will encounter my own character IRL........... 😱

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I've done both. I've had characters with similar health issues to mine, and some with the same mental handicaps. I've also played drug addicts when I've never touched a drug. I, personally, think the latter is more fun. I get to do more research than I'd need to do for the former. 


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I have a few characters that I draw pretty heavily on RL for.One because he is twitchy, jumpy, and eager to please (like me), and the other because he has a lot of government bureaucracy in his history (which I deal with every day at work). I also made that character grow up in the town my grandparents live, so that I could use the memories of how the town was decorated around Christmastime as inspiration for a holiday thread.  It made for a fun easter egg, because my sister joined the board later and saw it and gave me a squint. 

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I use personal experience a lot, but mostly only when it comes to little things--like random ticks, observation of tiny details, musical preference, things of that nature. I do have a couple characters with addiction issues or depression, which are also things I'm familiar with both personally and by proxy. As with real people, however, those are small parts of the whole. They don't take over, and I try not to bang on about them too much.

 

I will say the hardest characters I have to play are the archetypal "sociopaths", only because I can't even fathom not treating someone as a person or using them as a stepping stone, so it's hard to me to step into that character's shoes.

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Yes and no. I have characters that are similar, but the stuff I write tends to be a little too... fantastical for me to be really drawing from reality. I lead a boring life, what can I say?

 

I have put in struggles with alcohol, abuse, divorce and mental health issues. As I've recently been discovering bits about myself I had no idea were there (gender + sexuality) until a few years ago I've started really playing with that. It's highly cathartic, and given that I was extremely repressed for the majority of my life, it's nice to feel free.

 

Other than that? I do research. Lots of it, preferably from first-hand experiences/stories. The ones that have given me the most struggle protraying accurately (and respectfully) have been those who deal with PTSD, since anyone in my family who had it did not talk about it, and mental health in general is a subject we do not acknowledge.

 

The second issue I always have is characters who are smarter than me....


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Depends on the topic. If I've done it and experienced it and it fits the character, I'll draw heavily on it. If that's not the case, obviously I'll have to do with reading up on it and talking to friends and family to draw from their experiences. I like reading up on things and exploring new areas though, so often even if I've experienced something myself I'll still read a bit more on it to see if I can make it better.

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There was a time when my character had to leave her love behind and then tried to ignore the memories.  I pulled my experience of a very awful catfish I experienced and then an ex of mine who was a pig, to put it lightly.  It made it feel so real even though she was a dragonic equine whom was a badass Queen.  With her Queen gone, she felt true loneliness for the first time.   We tried to have a reunion with her Queen but sadly real life kicked both of our butts, so I took that chance to have her give up trying to look for her but still have hope.  I would still love to see them have one when the time comes and if it doesn't, oh well, she'll be moving on anyway.

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There are situations that I might not have fully experienced but can write about. I might not know EXACTLY how a certain situation feels, but I can relate to similar feelings and situations to base on RL experiences. I also tend to draw on my own observations and/or stories that I hear from others to give me reference as well. I will do research into situations I have a harder time picturing as well. 


 

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i use my personal experiences all the time. especially as a minority, i don't often see characters like me in the fiction i consume so i make lots and lots of characters that i can relate to in some way in my own writing. but of course i draw upon more than that. i draw on my own experiences and feelings in order to convey what characters think or feel or have gone through too.

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