I recently found this ticket stub from a performance of Will Rogers Follies that I attended with my wife and her family in 1992. If you’ve read my novel Amiga, that play may be familiar to you:
“Please,” Warren spat out. “The only time he was even in the same room with Trump was at a performance of Will Rogers Follies on Broadway. That was back when Trump started dating Marla Maples.”
Yes, I was in the same theater as Donald Trump. No, I’m not discussing his politics here. (You can find my opinions about his presidency elsewhere on this site.) I’m telling this story as an example of how you can use your personal experiences in your writing.
My wife and I went to New York for her grandmother’s 80th birthday. Her family treated us to a Broadway musical, the first one I ever saw on Broadway. They took us to Will Rogers Follies at the Palace Theater. We arrived early and situated ourselves in our orchestra seats. We looked ahead several rows, and we saw a large, boisterous man in a sharp black business suit with a bunch of other people. One of my wife’s family members whispered, “That’s Donald Trump. He’s here to watch his fiancee Marla Maples perform.” I didn’t think of walking up to introduce myself and ask for an autograph. He was just a celebrity who recently slipped from A list to B list because of his financial woes and messy divorce. The idea he would become president wasn’t on anyone’s radar. I just mentally filed that sighting away as just another interesting experience.
Until I decided to write a novel set during the 2016 presidential election and realized it is an interesting tidbit to slip in.
I find ways to weave personal experiences into my books. Amiga also has scenes based on when I was robbed at gunpoint at Carl’s Jr. An awkward company meeting I attended after a merger shows up in Offline. My novel The Remainders has a tribute to a teacher who helped me in my writing career.
Personal anecdotes like these can add to your story. By reliving these experiences, you discover details that enrich your narrative. People you’ve met can be the starting point for characters. Using your experiences and insights, you can make the story uniquely your own.
Each of us has a well of experience we can draw upon. Look at the things you’ve seen and done, whether they are small everyday occurrences or a chance encounter with a celebrity, and see how you can use them to enrich your writing.