Turning personal tragedy into fiction

03 Mar
Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

A wounded deer leaps the highest.
– Emily Dickinson

We all have personal tragedies in our life, whether it is losing a family member or close friend to disease, “natural” disaster, unnatural disaster such as war, accident or murder. Unfortunately these are now all part of living. We may also be carrying emotional baggage from our past. Sometimes these life tragedies can dig deep within our psyche. But, we writers have a bonus here to help us heal. We can write about it.

If memoir or personal essay is too personal, then  we can fictionalize the tragedy. Let me give you an example. As a child I was bullied by a teacher, a nun. So I’ve taken that experience, changed it to much worse and have a character in my most recent Beyond mystery loosely based on this nun. But I haven’t written fact. Instead I did the “what if:? scenario. What if one of my main characters was assaulted by a nun as a child and the nun surfaces in her adult life? How does she deal with it?

And the nun, what could be her story? Why is she the way she is. In my real life, I have no idea, so I fabricated a background of childhood torment and how does this affect the nun as an adult? The timeline for the story is different as my Beyond books are set in the late 1990s. And of course, the name of the nun is different. For one thing, in the late 1990s nuns weren’t using saint names, but their own names. So I made up a “real” name for this nun character

You can get the picture. Don’t write your story (unless it is memoir) but fabricate it into a fictional story that is part of your plot.

You may come up with something very creative and there may be a bonus – it might help you work through this piece of baggage you have been carrying around, often buried so deep you don’t realize it.

It’s worth a try.

On a recent personal note, I am dealing with a personal tragedy – a close friend died of lung cancer last month. She was only 51. Her memorial is Saturday afternoon. After that, I will need to follow my own advice.


Sharon A. Crawford

If you click on the book cover at the top it will take you to my publisher’s page about my books and my background.


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