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Adding Life Elements into Your Story

by Cara Putman

One of the things I love about writing is the ability to incorporate the things I love into my writing.

As a gal right out of college I headed to Washington, D.C., to launch my career in public policy. You see, there weren’t a lot of jobs in Nebraska for a girl with a degree in political science. That was all right with me though because I love D.C.

D.C. has an energy, ambition, and pace that appealed to me, the gal from smallish town Nebraska. And my parents acquiesced because the internship I’d landed was at a conservative non-profit that provided housing.

The Leadership Institute and Washington were the perfect places to start my career. But it was also a little lonely. I quickly made friends where I worked, but finding a good home church and community of friends outside work took more effort. Until I moved to Fairlington Village with my husband.

In Fairlington Village, we found a community – some of it ready made because many of our friends from work also owned condos or townhomes there. Ours was an end townhouse steps from a swimming pool and tennis courts. Even better we had friends within a couple blocks in just about any direction. We also could walk to neat shopping areas, the grocery store, Great Harvest, the post office, you name it. And when we got a puppy, it was a rare area where I felt safe being out any time of the day or night.

Sure, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but what made it so special was the people. So when some friends and I started brainstorming a novella collection set in Washington, D.C., I knew we had to model the community our characters lived in on Fairlington Village. I pulled on my man warm memories of our years there. Much like the community we modeled after it in Cherry Blossom Capers, our neighbors became a second family. Next door lived two middle-aged women who became grandmas to our oldest when she arrived. Across the parking lot lived an Air Force chaplain and his artist wife. I could go around the cul-de-sac and mention people who became special to us. Spontaneous BBQs and movie or game nights occurred frequently.

That’s one reason I had such fun writing Dying for Love in Cherry Blossom Capers. I was able to recapture some of that special feel in the neighborhood we created. Why does this matter to you? When you’re stuck in your writing, look for elements from your life that you can pull into your story. It may not be a location, but maybe it’s an experience, a job, a person you know well, a career. Incorporating elements that are important to you may provide just the spark to launch a new plot line. Or the research will inspire you with ideas and challenges to throw at your characters. Or maybe the details will be the precise one that brings the story to life for you.

And that is half the fun of writing…at least to me.

Cara Putman has written for Barbour’s Heartsong Presents, Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense, and wrote the Complete Idiots Guide to Business Law. She is an attorney, a wife, mom to four, homeschool teacher, occasional professor at Purdue, active at her church, and is crazy about God, her husband and her kids.

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