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Posted by on Jun 10, 2015 in Find Ideas, Writing Fiction | 3 comments

A Writer’s Life: Turning Life Experiences Into Ideas For Writing

Mad eyesA writer faces a computer screen.

What do they write?

Do they tap into some life experience they have had? We don’t all lead interesting lives… or do we?

We might think we need to be born with a life filled with regular incredible happenings, one adventure after another, to find ideas for writing, but that’s not true.

If only we could all be Leonardo De Vincis, Jim Morrisons, Mahatma Gandhis, Marco Polos or Julius Caesars, we would not have to think about what to write; but our ordinary lives are full, eventful lives which can serve us. Our experiences are different from others’ lives, and we can use them to build stories.

So here we are, sat in front of this computer screen, forced to think….

How do I find my story?

Maybe different authors have different techniques. Some maybe have loose ideas, written in a little black book, that over time they develop into bigger and better ideas. Some write carefully worded outlines.

From my point of view, I write short stories. To some extent my stories are indirectly autobiographical; my life has not been a smooth journey, but had many setbacks along the way.

I don’t think I consciously draw a line between real events and the fiction I write. I doubtless draw from my experiences, good or bad.

I was born in a “dormitory town” called Reading, not famous for much, apart from a huge Rock Festival, and for the fact that Oscar Wilde was sent to prison there and wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol. My family then moved to a farm in the country, in Sussex, not too far from London.

I was sent aged eight, to a boarding school, so I would spend long periods away from my family. Imagine having regular prison sentences imposed upon you, as a child. At some of the schools I attended, there were psychotic teachers and cruel, nasty children.

I used to count the days when I could be reunited with my family. I became a recluse in the art room and painting was my salvation. I had a teacher who encouraged me to paint and introduced me to various artists, including Kandinsky. I went from austere, harsh boarding schools to Art College, a very different environment.

Later on in my life I moved to a remote village in Austria. It was not far from Vienna, but a very oppressive and strange environment.

I thought I should try writing a book. I launched into it…nothing came of it.

I do many creative activities, painting as well as writing music. Writing lay dormant, put to one side. Then later, living in Paris at this point in time, via an advert, I made contact with a man called Alan Clark, who had a literary magazine called Rat Mort (dead rat). I submitted four short stories for this magazine. Encouraged by Alan, I began to write more and more short stories, and developed a style…

The first story I contributed was called Flawless. It is about a man who has led an ideal life, and it is supposed to get better, as he is about to ask the love of his life to marry him. As he asks for Julia’s hand in marriage, a beautiful insect flies into his mouth and he is forced to swallow it. Following this, he develops a terrible skin disease, which doctors find hard to explain. Julia leaves him and much to his pain and anguish, agrees to marry his fraudulent younger brother. Sirius, the main character’s mind is in torment. He arrives at the wedding with an axe in hand, seeking revenge. At the point when he is about to murder his brother at the church altar, the insect exits his mouth and his skin is restored to its natural state.

Why I came up with this idea, it is hard to say. Was I the victim of an insect entering my mouth? This I cannot say… however, perhaps I have traumas of being horribly betrayed.

Some of my stories derive from reading obscure newspaper articles. Another story, Duke came about having seen a newspaper article that talked about a man who assumed the identity of an aristocrat, but, like my Duke, was nothing more than a fraud.

Newspapers can be a great source of inspiration for a writer. Obscure stories, eye catching headlines, tragedy filled lives, fakes, frauds, abominable characters, they are all there.


FODFrontCoverMed.jpg.opt221x331o0,0s221x331Francis H Powell recently published Flight of Destiny, a book of short stories. (Find out more here.)

Born in 1961, in Reading, England, Powell studied Art, receiving a degree in painting and an MA in printmaking. In 1995, he moved to Austria, teaching English as a foreign language while pursuing his varied artistic interests and adding music and writing.

He currently lives in Paris, songwriting, doing concerts, and writing both prose and poetry.

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  1. That is one of my points…we are not all blessed with dramatic, interesting lives, so we have to search for sources…as writers…Writers like painters…should be constantly looking around…picking up on people’s conversations. This morning on the metro there was a busker…doing blues…he was doing his own material…it was all about him having no family…nobody in his life…one of his lines was…”I want to die, I don’t know why” Little incidents like this are really interesting…as well as sad in this case…

  2. Thanks for your guest post, Francis – you’ve certainly had an interesting life! But it’s true that even a dull life can give us ideas for writing (which is just as well in my case!) Good luck with Flight of Destiny.

    • I’ve read Francis Powell’s work. He’s great! Original and interesting. BIG recommendation!

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