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What Early Experiences Inform Your Fiction? by Jane Friedman

early experiences

One of my earliest memories as a child is falling down and busting my forehead open on an enormous (and sharp) landscaping rock. My parents rushed me to the emergency room, where a doctor decided the wound required stiches. I was made to lie down, and a heavy cloth was draped over my entire face. Presumably this was done to ensure I didn’t see any huge needles—and cry or flinch—but I could hardly breathe. The cloth felt like a lead weight, and I kept sucking in the same hot, sweaty air. And then for a brief moment, my father lifted up the cloth and said, “Peekaboo!” and I experienced a moment of cold, fresh air. Then the cloth went back down.

I experienced other weird accidents as child—getting stung by a nest of wasps, falling into a pool without knowing how to swim—and these moments have held in them the essence of life, before my own self-awareness had time to take shape. In his essay at Glimmer Train, Kurt Rheinheimer mentions these times as rich material for building fiction:

I have long felt that the most precious vein for material is from just before I knew who I was and what was going on. … I still experienced life only as it unfolded—with minimal if any awareness of the processes of living life—both my own and those of my parents and brothers and sister. And somehow those “pure” experiences have translated themselves into fiction better than anything else I’ve found.

Read Kurt’s full essay: Writing About Family.

For more inspiration, check out the latest from Glimmer Train:

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