Posted on 11/04/2021 at 09:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Authors are often encouraged to tap into their actual experiences to make their writing feel more vivid.

Sometimes that advice takes the form of suggesting they channel their past emotions to illustrate how a character is feeling that way, for a completely different reason.

In the case of author Nikki Barthelmess, it’s a little more concrete.

She encourages her fellow writers to use elements of their own life, but add the question “what if?” to the end.

For example, Barthelmess spent time in foster care and was humiliated when a classmate mocked her for it — so for one of her novels, she asked herself, “What if a child in foster care could hide their status?”

Read more on her suggestion to write what you know, then ask “what if?”, in Writer’s Digest.

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