Writers Guild Tip: Writing real life into fiction

Jan Marx

The following excerpt demonstrates how to take personal experiences and turn them into fiction. From Past Corpus to Past Emu to the third book in the series, Past Good Earth, Silo Adams moves from one adventure to another. She is often surprised by what happens next.

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Dear Sister,

We’re back home, well, in New Delhi. I hope all is well with you and your brood in Amarillo.

Spending time with Mother for the first time in six years was interesting. While we enjoyed ourselves and experienced Beijing to the fullest, it took me a while to warm up to, should I call her Ping as Chu does? This just wasn’t the mother I knew growing up.

By now you’ve probably heard about our incident with the dead body. (What is it with me that I keep experiencing dead bodies?) In more detail than what Jamie probably told you, we were on our way to the Great Wall. Mother and Chu had to teach, so Duke and I took a bus tour. Unfortunately the bus had fumes coming in so by the time we were out of the city I felt shaky and sick. Not wanting to bother Duke I chewed some gum and that helped, but not enough. We stopped at that cloisonné factory you visited. I could barely walk. The minute we entered through the door of the factory the metallic smell pierced my nostrils and I knew I had to get out of there.

Duke was concerned, but I insisted he take the tour. As soon as I reached the “American” toilet stall, breakfast came up along with all the strong coffee I’d sucked down. Thinking that would cure my illness I stepped outside the restroom hut. The air was full of fine rain, but for a while it made me feel better.

By the time the tour group returned, however, whatever was left in my stomach screamed “bathroom” again. While there I heard two women speaking in Mandarin. One of them screeched at the other. There was a thump and a groan, then running feet. Eventually I was able to stand and push the door open only to see a lump of body on the floor. You no doubt think that after three previous bodies another wouldn’t faze me. Well, it did. I stood there staring at the woman in jeans and a cotton shirt, but I was unable to call for help. Eventually one of the women on the tour came looking for me and she produced the best scream possible, bringing the busload of tourists to see what happened.