Limited life experience doesn’t mean lack of things to observe and learn from and write about. Whatever the circumstances, a writer looks for the core experience – and a way to use it.
I have CFS. I don’t get out much, and when I do, the energy runs out quickly. This doesn’t mean life passes me by, but it does mean that my personal experiences can sometimes be very tiny – and still overwhelming.
There’s no point, for me, to going through them if I don’t get something I can use in my writing.
I have recently developed a new and alarming symptom, several attacks of heart-pounding, gut-grinding anxiety. Completely out of the blue. I remember way back in the past exactly two cases of ‘highway hypnosis’ and the feeling that you can’t possibly keep driving – but there is nothing you can do about it. In both cases I was driving too late, in the dark, on unfamiliar roads. The circumstances had me driving awake, but very tired, having to get somewhere in a limited timeframe.
It happened again on a trip I took recently, and it seems to be happening more. And yes, I’ll discuss it with the doctor in my life when I have time for it.
Information about panic – on the net
One of the recent times I headed for the internet, and came up with the comforting information that, if you’re sure it isn’t a stroke or a heart-attack, it is unlikely to kill you. And even if the fear is intense, you can try all the self-calming methods you already know – and they will help some – not to get rid of the attack, but to do something and not feel you have completely lost control of your body. And to get through the experience.
Writing fear – to evoke fear in the reader
What I find interesting is that, now that I write, even in the throes of some of the most extreme physical panic I’ve ever felt, I was still evaluating the feeling and asking myself where I might use it.
I kept telling myself that this intense emotion might be the exact thing I need for a tiny – but crucial – part of a scene I’m writing. And I made sure to catalogue the sensations, and try to remember as much as possible, because visceral fear, like pain, cannot be reproduced, only recalled. This is generally a good thing – we’d have no human race, for example, if mothers didn’t forget a lot of the actual pain of having children – one child replacement for every couple isn’t enough to ensure survival for a species (not all couples are fertile, not all individuals mate, not all children survive to child-bearing age, and mothers still die in childbirth or of complications afterward).
So even as I was going through horrible feelings, here I am now trying to record them – preferably in a unique way – so I can write later in such a way as to drag a reader through a gut-level EXPERIENCE of fear in some completely fictional scene. And reminding myself that if a character panics, the reader doesn’t have to – so I have to EVOKE panic in a reader, not tell about it in my characters.
I don’t know why – but that did help.