Knowledge and memory are okay, imagination is great, Google is primo, but hands-on experience is hands-down the best way to get real with your writing.
Most people know this, but how many writers live it? The best ones, I’m guessing. I’m a reticent person, a borderline introvert, and imagination is my favorite tool. All I have to do is travel to my own head. It’s great for inspiration, but when real-life details are needed, when knowledge, memory, and Internet search engines don’t quite cut it, it’s time to interact with the real world.
Sometimes all you have to do is seize an opportunity.
For example, friends wanted to show me their restaurant remodel before the grand opening. We started the tour through the dining area with its stunning textures and artwork. Then we checked out the brand new stainless steel kitchen and my inner eye—always tuned into my writing—popped open.
Coincidence or something else?
In a scene in my novel, my protagonist is locked into a restaurant walk-in freezer. When creating the scene in my imagination, the kitchen area looked similar to the one I was currently touring, but the freezer wasn’t quite like this one. I’d even Googled walk-in freezers, but looking at the one standing before me opened up a novel way to show how my protagonist couldn’t get out, even with an emergency button.
My friend shut me in and my chest tightened, goosebumps rose on my arms. Even though I knew I could punch the button and open the door, the feeling of what it would be like to be enclosed in an ice cold box unnerved me, if only for a few seconds.
Do you have examples of how getting out of your head and away from your desk has brought your scenes to life with real details and visceral emotions? I’d love to hear them.