I believe that stories are life. As I explain on my website, quality fiction has its basis in real life. Readers want to see characters, settings, and situations that seem believable, even if the genre is science fiction or fantasy. They want to identify with and even imagine themselves as one of the characters. And as an inspirational novelist, I want my books to reveal truth, to give readers a compelling story that may change their views about life.
But to be able to tell those compelling and believable stories, writers need to experience life. And everything we do, every place we go, every person we meet provides potential material for our stories. As I write this, I am fortunate to be sitting in the open-air lodge of an African safari camp, looking out over a wide valley with mountains in the background and a water hole down below. I’m watching for impala or kudu—maybe even elephant—to come drink. In the past two days, my husband and I have seen all of those, as well as zebra, giraffes, cape buffalo, a black rhino, a honey badger, and baboons.
Most authors will never have the opportunity to go to Africa. I never thought I would, but once we retired, we decided our savings would allow us to fulfill my husband’s lifelong dream of a safari, combined with a mission trip. (No way would I let him come to the Dark Continent without me!) I don’t know at this point if I will ever use this particular setting in a novel. I will write about the trip with hopes of selling an article to a magazine. But the people, the beauty, and the emotions provide experiences I can draw on for fictional stories, even if they are not set in Africa.
The same is true of a trip to the grocery store or to a child’s school, a vacation at the beach, or a visit with a neighbor. Many times, I have heard a friend tell about a childhood experience and I think, “I can use that in a novel someday.” And when I’m writing and need to create a character or “show” an emotional scene, I close my eyes and remember someone or something from my past that I can recast in a different situation. It helps me write a realistic scene.
As writers, everything we do becomes inspiration for telling our stories. So get out from behind that keyboard and go live your life. When you get back, you’ll be able to convey a more believable story.
Her debut novel, For Such a Moment, won the Books of Hope Contest. Thirsting for More, the second book in the series, was a finalist in the 2016 Selah Awards Contest. You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook page (Author Marie Wells Coutu), at her website (MarieWellsCoutu.com), or follow her on Twitter (@mwcoutu).
Marie retired after 15 years with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and she and her husband now divide their time between Florida and Iowa.