How to Get Writing Material From Your Life

by Guest Blogger | 11 comments

This guest post is by Jacqueline Richardson. Jacqueline is currently finishing her first novella and book of short stories. Check out Jacqueline's blog, where she shares her short stories, and follow her on Twitter (@JackieLiLei).

You can milk the extraordinary out of the ordinary— the details of everyday life are a gold mine waiting to be harvested for your writing. All you need to do is pay attention and put your life under a microscope and express it.

Sunrise in London

Photo by Dom Crossley


Here are just a few ways to get started.

1. Pay Attention

Anyone can say that someone sighed. Or that they groaned. When you talk to people, really pay attention. What she doing while she complains about her mother? What does his face look like? How many extra words is he using? It’s these tiny, specific details that will spice up your writing.

2. Experience It

Do you think Fitzgerald wrote about parties by sitting around and reading about them? No, he experienced it. Now, that’s not saying that if you’re writing about a deserted island go to one! But just spend some time in the hot summer sun, or buy a coconut from the grocery store. Describe all the sensations you feel, the sweetness and the sweatiness.

3. Bottle Up Your Emotions

When you’re shocked, sad, happy, scared, or resentful, write down exactly what you feel. Not just that one word; but also all the physical sensations that come along with it. What’s your natural reaction? Do you cry? Laugh? Smile? Write it all down and put it into a metaphorical bottle on your shelf.

How do you capture your everyday life in your writing?


Go out and experience something, writing down all the different sensations and emotions you felt, using specific details. Then, try to incorporate those into a passage of a story you’re working on. Share it in the comments section.

Good Luck!

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  1. Davide Aleo

    Hi! After too much time, finally I come back to write again.. I’m very out of practice!!
    This hot day in Verona inspired me this piece..hope you enjoy;)

    “Everyone, more or less, knows Italy as home of good food, fine wine and beautiful landscapes . But I am afraid that if he were speaking today with Paul, writer of the Mid West in search of his muse in the Bel Paese, you would have a different view.

    You would find him sitting on the terrace, in shorts and T-shirt bought in some tacky stall center, drenched in sweat and with no decent idea.
    September has already kicked in August, but the deadly hot weather doesn’t want to decrease. Paul’s beaded forehead testifies it.

    The hot flushes no viable a positive impact on thirty-four years old man, that the shooting gets up looking cool in his apartment, ten minutes walk from the Arena and its tourists. Needless to say , the room is hot and humid like a mouth that receives it, ready to gobble up even the last bit of inspiration that he has left.

    Impatient and nervous, tanned not better than a farmer returning from the harvest, takes his keys and leaves the house. Soon becomes clear he did not have a brilliant idea: the wall of heat and sultriness that awaits him as a shoulder blocks him as a rugby player. He runs a hand on the stubble, drying the rivulets on his bristly beard. Lucia, the dried-up neighbor, looks at him with suspicion and wrong, continuing to move in the time her Venetian range. Not that it works, mind you, but it is now a habitual gesture .

    Without deigning a greeting, Paul turns fast the corner of the house, hiding the wary glances of the old lookout. The smell that hits him is very different from what he has read in the guidebook of the city: the scent of Italian dishes have given way to something stale and
    uninviting. He wrinkles his nose hooked, avoiding some of exploding in colorful expression .

    He stops for a moment to the convenience store downstairs, enjoying the air conditioning that is on the inside. Runs a hand on the counter of fruit, a color palette that would make the envy of Giotto, feeling the anger and frustration slip away from him to the sound of gusts of
    fresh air.”

    • Jacqueline R

      Great post! I loved your descriptions of how hot and sweaty he was. I really felt it.

    • Davide Aleo

      Thanks Jacqueline! I`m glad and proud of it!

  2. R.w. Foster

    Hope this works:

    A large dark shape plummeted to the ground in front of me. I leaped backward instinctively. Lightning flashed rapidly, illuminating the newcomer in staccato bursts. It was one of the largest demons I had ever seen. It was crouched in front of me, black wings furled over its massive muscled back. It had four long, thick arms, the lower two of which were planted on the ground and two hugely muscled legs, coiled and ready to launch it into action. It had long and sharp looking horns sticking out of its skull-like head. An elongated, heavy tail swished back and forth like a cat’s. It watched me with glowing silvery orange eyes, licking its face occasionally. Its wings unfurled and began to lazily flap, stirring up a surprisingly pleasant breeze. The wings were black near the demon’s shoulders and gradually faded to red near the primary feathers. There was a stripe of yellow at delineating the covert feathers. Keeping its eyes on me, the demon slowly raised one of its arms from the ground, carefully moved it forward, and then lowered it. This movement was followed promptly by a matching step forward by its opposite leg. ‘This thing is stalking me,’ I thought
    with wonder.

    Trying to show that I wouldn’t be intimidated, I twirled my sword before me, then snapped it down to my right. Outwardly, I was bold, ready to fight. Inwardly, I was nervous and scared as hell. The demon lowered its body, ready to pounce. I dropped my right foot behind me, turning to that I would present a
    smaller target and so that I could put more power behind my first swing. I
    brought my sword up into my left hand and gripped it lightly, yet firmly. The
    demon took another slow step forward, this time moving the opposite arm and leg from last time.

    The demon launched into its attack. My swinging sword was tore from my
    grasp. Sword flew in one direction, I in another. I rolled a few feet, and
    lunged upright. The demon was on me in an instant, ripping and clawing at my
    flesh. I frantically threw up my forearms and knees to block its unrelenting
    assault. After four frantic minutes, I saw an opening and took ruthless
    advantage. It swung both of its right arms at my head. I ducked under the upper fist, blocked the lower one with my forearms and launched my right knee up into its jaw, staggering the monster. It roared in frustration and swung both its left arms. I landed in a crouch. When both left fists whistled through the air
    over my head, I slammed my left elbow into its right knee. The demon’s knee
    buckled as it bellowed in pain. It crashed to the ground. I rose to my feet and raced for my sword.

    I reached it, and took it gladly into my hands once more. I turned to the demon, ready to resume the battle on more equal terms. Moving faster that I thought possible, the demon charged. When it reached me, I found myself lifted in the air. The demon had each of my limbs in one of its colossal hands. It roared in my face and then flung me. I flew on a short, hard trajectory and crashed into a wall. My skull bounced against it, sending sparkles of light shooting across my sight. The impact knocked the wind from me and caused my vision to go blurry. My ears rang, and I felt nauseous. I wasn’t sure of where I was, or what had happened to me. I slowly pushed myself upright and saw two four-armed demons charging at me. I tried to get to my feet, but couldn’t seem to get my limbs to work together. The demon yanked me up and slammed me against
    the wall again. It began to batter me with its free fists. My body twitched and
    swung from the thud of its fists. It was interesting: I was able to feel the impacts, but I felt no pain.

    The demon flung me away from it again. My flight was once more short, and remarkably, pleasant. The landing, a lot less so. Fortunately, the jarring landing served to clear the cobwebs from my mind. I rolled to my feet just as the demon landed hard where I had just been lying. Instinct had me rocketing my fist up to explode against its jaw as I shoved my feet against the ground to provide extra force. The demon’s head snapped back, and it crashed to the ground. Pain raced up from my damaged hand, grabbed a dance partner in my shoulder and did the tango in my skull to the tune of a throbbing headache. I tasted copper in my mouth and spat to one side. Blood and a tooth hit the ground.

    • Jacqueline R

      Nice post! I loved how human the hero was. Most of the time heroes are pretty flat.

    • R.w. Foster

      Thanks. Glad you liked him.

  3. Laura W.

    I think everything we write comes from our own lives in some way. #3’s title kind of confused me, but reading the paragraph made me understand that she was basically saying to keep a diary. Diaries are not just good writing practice, but a mine of inspiration and expression. 🙂

    This is all good advice for general stuff and getting started, but I guess I was expecting something more specific, like how to deal with fictionalizing an actual event from your life. Good post, though!

  4. Karoline Kingley

    I especially agree with tip number two! It isn’t enough to just pay attention to the everyday, you have to experience it.

  5. Alicia Rades

    These are really great tips. Here’s my practice from what I experienced this morning:
    The alarm screams and my eyes shoot open in awareness. My husband’s body is lying next to me unmoving. Is he not hearing this God-awful noise that’s making the blood rise within my body in frustration? I despise this rude awakening. He’s still not moving. I nudge him, and he jolts. Groaning, he slowly pulls himself up from the bed and shuts off the alarm. Peace. Now I can get a few more minutes of rest.

    My husband climbs out of bed, and I hear him fumbling around the room as he slips on his clothes. I listen to his footsteps as he walks out into the living room, and there’s a click as he pulls on the string attached to the light above the fish tank.
    An unpleasant gleam of light shines into the bedroom. I pull the pillow over my head and try to fall back asleep, but without success, I wait until I hear the clatter of my husband setting his cereal bowl in the sink, the opening of the door, and the shift of the lock as he departs for work, my cue to get out of bed. I pull myself out of bed, somewhat more rested, and prepare for a long day.

  6. William Monette

    She blinked with her whole face and only lifted her glass with her left hand. The other hand was busy adding exclamatory power to whatever she was talking about or coiling up strands of her overly curled hair. She had a whine of a giggle that rose above the other guests and sounded neither happy nor sad.

    After sometime I found myself sitting next to her. I do not remember how she or how I got there. She smelled like expensive soap and cheap body spray. The scent went in through my nose but lingered somewhere beneath my eyes and a slight wetness could be felt welling up in them. Her hands, leathery from far too much sun and stiff from far too little sleep were knotting around my fingers like sweaty flesh wires. I couldn’t really move, nor did I want to. There was a charm about her. Someone so gone and lost that the story of their being could possibly be biblical.

    So I listened to her. Her voice was soft and distant like breeze-blessed wind chimes. She put strange emphasis on the middle of words as if she was missing those gears and was just grinding through them to get to the end. She ended virtually every sentence with a question but did not pause for breath to allow for a response. Watching her was dizzying–she breathed the therapeutic fire of whiskey and menthol and her head bobbed back and forth and side to side as if it was only held upon her shoulders through a loop-hole of gravity.

    And then she was asleep. Someone carried her off to bed and then no one said another word about her. She was a dissolved girl.

  7. Claire

    As she stepped into the diner, the first thing the hostess asked her was, “Are you meeting a friend?” She motioned with her head to the booth diagonally from the reception area where a man in a dark navy blue suit was seated, and her eyes followed.

    “I actually was stood up by one, so me joining him wouldn’t be a bad idea,” she answered, smiling.

    The hostess chuckled and escorted her to one of the corner two-seater booths at the back of the diner. Next thing you know, the waiter was taking her order. It was early, and she was hungry.

    She polished off the silver dollar pancakes on her plate in record time and felt satisfied. Sipping her second cup of coffee she began to look around at the people sitting at the tables. She put her cup down and propped her elbows on the table as she steepled her fingers, placing them under her chin.

    A middle-aged couple sitting at a table close to her booth, sat eating in complete silence looking at everything else but themselves. It reminded her of a line in a movie she had seen many years ago where a man and woman are having dinner, and he poses this question: “What kind of people just sit in a restaurant and don’t say one word to each other?” “Married people!” the woman blurts out happily. With this thought in mind, she categorizes this couple as such.

    As she sips her coffee, she notices the suited man she saw waiting to meet a friend heading in the direction of her booth.


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