Trouble in Paradise…or Dying in Paradise?

Photo by Kevin Bidwell on
Susan Violante
Managing Editor

I can’t remember how many times I have been told to write about what you know. In fact, I can’t remember how many times I have advised the same thing to others either! What I forget to specify is that this advice not only applicable when writing nonfiction, but it is especially applicable when writing fiction! When writing fiction, sometimes we believe that it must be based on an area of expertise. For example, If I am a police officer, I should write a crime mystery, a lawyer should write a legal thriller, a military officer should write a war novel, etc. But that is not the only “knowing” an author can base their writing on.  Authors can also pull together awesome stories out of their own lives. This is so true that I am entertaining an idea taken from my recent trip to Maui.  Below is a step by step on how I am doing this:

  • Choose life episode. – I am choosing the ocean kayak adventure me and my husband went on during our recent Maui vacation…the one where we almost died along with four other couples, due to the guide’s negligence. (yeah, this really happened to me last week!)
  • Choose setting or settings – Current times, Austin, TX and Maui, HI
  • List main Characters, ME, my husband, and Heroes who saved us.
  • Develop main characteristics of main characters: Name, description, personalities, background, backstories…etc.
  • Create a story line or board.
  • Decide how to present the story…third person, first person?
  • Begin writing the first draft!

At this point, I still don’t know if it will be a short story or a novel. All I know is that I am making a fictionalized tale out of something that happened to me. That may mean that it will be a creation in my mind and the events will happen as they actually did. Or maybe the event will happen totally different. It could be a mix of reality with creativity. I might even omit the fact that it is based on true events. All those things, for me, will resolve once I sit down and write. Right now, I am wondering where I should start…. How about:

Susan gasped, as she surfaced from the almost tsunami size wave, desperately pulling down her choking lifejacket. For a moment she considered taking it off, but immediately remembers that she can’t swim. The smell of the ocean overwhelmed her, the taste of the ocean now in her respiratory track burned within her. She turned around looking for her husband, when she found herself under another wave. Surprisingly, she came out of it alive, although suffocating in salty water. She opened her eyes to see a wall of water rising in front of her again. She puts her fingers on the snap button of the lifejacket ready to cut it loose… ’God, thank you for letting me die in such a beautiful place…’

For the title, I am thinking Trouble in Paradise, or Dying in Paradise. I am also still debating whether to leave it as a short story or make it into a novel. What do you think I should do?

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