Sarah Walton speaks about drawing on her own life material in her novel The Silk Pavilion, using emotions from lived experiences, and real life exercises to get into the psyche of her characters.
The Silk Pavilion was an especially intense emotional writing experience, but Sarah reminds us that a writer puts aspects of themselves and their emotions in all their characters – even the horrible Miguel. Sarah roleplayed as Miguel with a writing group. She acted and spoke like him to truly get inside his head. Although she had nothing in common with him, she tuned into emotions he felt that she also has experienced, for example anxiety or rage.
The protagonist Lucy is informed by Sarah’s lived experiences with therapy. In fact, Sarah creates a fictional version of her therapist in The Silk Pavilion (with their blessing, of course). Like Lucy, Sarah is a victim of abuse, so she was able to draw from her emotions – particularly feelings of shame and pain – to create Lucy. To Sarah, using your own life material isn’t necessarily about providing a character with your own experiences, it’s about connecting to them through shared emotion.
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