So here’s the story. I skied down a mountain. I turned one way. At the same time, another skier turned another way. We crashed into each other. And I broke my leg. So far, so commonplace. Similar injuries happen to 80 people each day in the area where I was skiing.
Of course, being a writer, the first thing my family and friends said was, “That’ll make a great story.” But let’s face it, a lot of the things that happen to us are only of interest to us. It’s the big challenge of writing if you’re the sort of writer who draws inspiration from their own life. How do you make that life interesting to other people?
I could go for the full on ER treatment, creating a story pulsing with the tension and drama of a medical emergency. I even have a narrative arc: the crash, the break, the ambulance ride, the x-rays, the operation, the rush to get home. I could lay on the heavy drama, with lots of twists and turns. Will the operation be as drastic as they claim? Will I be allowed to go home? If I took that approach, I’d go the fictional route, maybe thrown in a heart throb doctor to get the pulses racing.
Creating an Atmosphere
I could also take the atmospheric approach, drawing heavily on the five senses. The taste of an orange two days after an operation. The slithering sensation of the drain being removed. The dots that appeared in front of my eyes as the anaesthetic took hold. The sound of Anne of Green Gables soothing me to sleep. The sight of one of my old ski guides, appearing as a white vision above my bed as I was wheeled to x-ray.
Make Em Laugh
Humour is also a good route to take. Yes, I know what I said last week about humour in stories, but it does work really well in a personal essay. So I could talk about my Oompa Loompa leg, so called because of the orange surgical fluid they swabbed it with. Or my efforts to do rock and roll dances on my crutches. Or quips about how my hair would be grey by the time I reached the table to order my dinner. Though humour’s subjective, so I’d have to be careful.
Looks like I’ve plenty of options before me. That’s the privilege of the writer’s life. That ability to find the extraordinary within the ordinary and bring the world to life for readers.