Me to the concrete at the local playground: I like my skin just where it is, thank you.
Concrete back to me: Too bad, suckah!
Have you ever fallen so hard that it wasn't even embarrassing because you were too preoccupied with the pain? Don't try to write an adventure, thriller, or YA book if you haven't. You have to know pain to write in these genres. Genuine, catch-you-off-guard, hit-you-in-the-gut, scrape-off-your-favorite-layer-of-skin PAIN.
Last month I tried to start a YA book about an adrenaline junkie. I loved my character. He was everything you would not expect from a headrush addict, but it just wasn't quite working. I've been skydiving, rock-climbing, four-wheeling (without a helmet), and wake-boarding. I've been on a runaway mule (yes, I just said runaway mule. don't laugh. it's terrifying.). I know about adrenaline. I know about thrills. But I'm careful (usually) and I'm lucky.
As a person who uses a static line to jump from airplanes and a harness every time I rock-climb, I was ill qualified to write about PAIN...
Yesterday, I was grinding rails at the local skate part. Scratch that. I already confessed to it being a playground. And there was no skateboard. There was just me in my white and yellow Skechers on a sandy sidewalk. So actually:
I was playing with my 3-yr-old son, springing into a sprint on the sandbox sidewalk, when BAM! There was no way to describe my downward strike. I had time to think, What the heck just happened? and then I was lying with my arms under me, the ripping sting of tiny rocks embedded in my flesh. And a moment later, HUT! I'd lost my wind. It was nausea and suffocation both at once. I rolled over, my arms stiff with shock. I still couldn't breathe when my husband reached me.
"What hurts the most?" he asked me.
"Wind," I huffed, gaining enough breath for just one word. He told me his plan and then packed the kids into the car while I lay on the ground, revolving around electric pain as healing blood rushed to my wounds. My breath returned. The sting kept thumping with my heartbeat. I knew I would be fine.
My poor kids. Our park date came to a sudden end.
This is nothing like the injuries incurred by a thrill-seeker. And of course I've had far worse. Childbirth comes to mind (if you want to get closer to death than you've ever been before).
But I don't think I've had the wind knocked clear out of me since I was eleven, when I bruised my ribs over Danny-boy's head during a trampoline catastrophe. I'm absolutely positive I wouldn't have been able to write about it accurately before yesterday's accident.
My point? We need to experience life in order to write about it. Romances written by people who only dream of love are red apples in a green barrel. Readers know.
I'm not suggesting you go out looking for pain, heartache, and criminal opportunities (I'm pretty sure Ally Carter doesn't run heists in her spare time). I'm suggesting that you keep writing while taking time to LIVE.
Life happens when you leave the notebook/computer/charcoal at home and think about other things. It happens whether you plan for it or not, but more often when you don't. But it won't happen in front of a screen. So get up right now....
and you shouldn't be able to read the end of this sentence.
That's a good reader. Good luck!