When writing stories, much of my inspiration comes from my own experience or from the people around me. My aunt has been a wealth of information because of her experience abroad as well as my grandparents who are from North Korea and fled to South Korea during the war. Their experiences are so far removed from mine that every time they tell me a bit of story here and there, I store it up and put it away for later when I can take it back out and study it further. This has been the case for many of the stories I submit for school and for the short stories which I have been working on for the MIT Open Course. One story was inspired by one of the many stories that my aunt told me when she went to live and study in America. She first went to live and study in a small town in Wisconsin. The choice was deliberate. Her parents were afraid that if she went to a big city like New York or L.A., she would naturally gravitate towards other Korean students. This would defeat the purpose of her learning English and having the chance to speak English every day. She lived there for one year with a lovely homestay family who had a daughter, Eva, who was the same age as my aunt. They became good friends and Eva introduced her to many new friends in the neighborhood and in town. The trouble occurred when one of her new classmates invited everyone to her birthday party except my aunt. This became the conflict in my story.
The Professor teaching the MIT course says that if we write only about our own experiences and what we know, then it would be very limiting as our characters would always be our age, our ethnicity, our gender…etc. Therefore, I made a lot of conscious changes so that though I was basing my story on my aunt’s experience, it would still be a work of fiction and something that I could call my own.
The course also talks about various kinds of truth that there are in the story. There is physical truth which is the truth we have gained from physical experience. This is easier for the reader to believe in or understand because most of us have experienced the same physical truths. Then there is the emotional truth which the writer must build his/her story upon. This must be done well for if the reader cannot believe in the emotional truth in the story, it falls apart. I think this was the hardest part of the story. As I didn’t really have my own experience to draw from, I took what I could from my aunt’s experience and imagined the rest. I hope that readers find my emotional truth ‘believable’.