• What Is Your Strangest Writing Experience?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 17 comments

    This week we’re pleased to introduce our newest writing coach and consultant, Caro Clark. Caro comes to us from New Orleans, where she moved to pursue an MSW from Tulane after earning an MFA from the University of New Hampshire.

    To learn more about Caro, read this Q&A, and if you’re interested in working with her, let’s discuss during your free writing consult.

    My favorite question from these staff Q&As is “What is your strangest writing experience?” Caro’s response is a particularly good one:

    “One time I wrote a piece of fiction about a man from a remote seaside town who I gave the occupation of being a fisherman. Five years later, I met and dated that very person with that very name, first and last. In the story he died at sea. In real life, we broke up.”

    What is your strangest writing experience? Let us know in the comments below.


    I have plenty of weird ones to choose from, but I think here’s mine:

    For a while I fussed and futzed with a novel set in the factory in which I worked about twenty years ago. The characters were my real co-workers, with their names slightly altered and some fictitious biographical details. What stayed the same were their speech patterns, physical makeup, and what I understood to be their wants and needs.

    But memory is fallible, and my memory is egregiously so. After twenty years, I imagined, the fiction was pretty far off the mark of the nonfiction.

    I also believed I’d never see any of them again; we had no reason to keep in touch, and we live a thousand miles — and worlds apart — from each other.

    Plus many of the guys I’m writing about were already near retirement age, having worked at the plant for upwards of twenty, and a few upwards of thirty, years. It’s an uncomfortable life in many ways, between the manual labor, the dark and dirty and dusty conditions, and, for far too many of them, the excess of drinking and smoking in an effort to cope. Several of them have died, including two of my main characters, both dead now for more than a decade.

    I’ll spare the details, partly because they make up such a large part of the nonfiction book I’m now working on (crossover!), but a little over a year ago I was reunited with two others of these former co-workers, both of them also main characters of the novel.

    (Maybe I have too many main characters…?)

    It was bizarre. It was as if two of my characters had jumped off the page and walked into reality; I had to remind myself that they had started as real people before they became my fictionalized creations. I could barely make words when they both asked “How ya doin’?” as if it were the beginning of just another 6:00 a.m. shift at the factory.

    Time has done a number on them. But, except perhaps for pace, the way they move hasn’t changed in two decades. And their speech patterns, and even their specific verbal tics, are exactly as I remembered, and almost exactly how I depict them in the novel.

    I worked with these guys during my formative late teens and early twenties, so I suppose it’s no surprise that they made such a lasting impact. Without getting into too much detail, their lives were much different than what I knew my life would become, and, partly because of that, I was fascinated by them.

    I wasn’t even an aspiring writer at the time, but somehow, even then, I understood that I was filing them away for future use in some capacity. (That’s one definition of “privilege,” by the way.)

    I haven’t written a word of that novel since I saw them a year ago. This is mostly because I almost immediately began work on the memoir I’m writing, but I also wonder if the psychic jolt from seeing them again — these old men who started as real people to me, then became my fictionalized characters, and then became real again, if only briefly — threw me for such a loop that I need to sit on the experience for a while before I return to their fictional versions.

    And that, my dear friends, is my strangest writing experience.

    It didn’t even involve writing! But in an oblique way, it did. Anyway, one might argue that as writers, every experience we have is a writing experience.

    Your turn: What is your strangest writing experience?


    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and has written for books for the Dallas Morning News, the Iowa ReviewElectric Literature, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a writing project you’d like help with or an idea to get off the ground, check out our coaching, editing, and publication services.

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    Barbara Mealer

    I guess my strangest was meeting a person who was the living person to a character in one of my books (Not yet published). Like my character, his name was Steve and he rode a nice Harley Road King. He is a big man with a smile and what I call laughing eyes and was somewhere around 30 to 35 years old. He was always making jokes and laughing. The job he said he did was security, but he could disappear and you not see him as if he blended into the background within seconds of walking away from you.… Read more »

    Wm HULTS

    After years of classes finding out if I should publish successfully I’d only get one dollar per book.

    david lemke

    I had a very long and profound dream that I was on a very distant planet. There was a huge tower so tall it extended into space and was wide enough for us to fly our spacecraft inside it down an elevator shaft. This became the inspiration for a sf novel series, “The Cult of Devay”

    Barbara Mealer

    David, I had written the book already and them met this man named Steve, which is the name I gave the character in the book, who was in security (body guard) which is what my guy was doing. It was the strangest things as I was doing a first edit on the book at the time. This was during my year and a half traveling on a motorcycle. We met at Oregon dunes and went to Hell’s canyon then back to the coast to Fort Desperation, then back east to Utah. He was a fun guy to ride with and… Read more »

    Marie Hammerling

    The strangest writing experience was when someone on social media whom I have never met except through the website hooked into my subconscious and suddenly my writer’s block broke. I could write again.

    Marie Hammerling

    It was nothing specific. I used to follow this person on social media and stopped. He had a unique look and strange behavior. I don’t know what happened. It was as if he was riding on my shoulder dictating several stories. Wierdest most bizarre thing I ever encountered.


    I was writing a children’s picture book called, “Owls Can’t Sing,” when I learned of the death of someone I loved dearly. I asked him and the universe to send me a sign in the form of an owl (I was thinking a picture, word, trinket etc.) Shortly after asking for an owl sign, I was sitting in my living room writing a query letter for my picture book. It was the middle of the afternoon in February when I heard a tapping on my glass doors and there looking up at me was an owl! I almost fainted. Then… Read more »


    Thanks so much! It’s not online. It’s in Chicken Soup For The Soul Angels and Miracles.


    I should like to read that!

    j j

    Writing during a tornado.

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