Sometimes things happen in your life that you can never forget. They might be good or bad depending on the situation. Other times, you may only be an observer to the incident. That was the case for me way back in high school. And in a roundabout way, that incident became part of my first book.
I was taking an elective class near the back of the school where those types of classes were generally held. Woodshop was another class only a few doors over from mine. Before and after classes, the students would hang around the front of the rooms during passing periods for a quick chat. On this particular day I overheard several of the male students giving another student, who happened to be a Vietnamese immigrant, a hard time. They were basically accusing him of doing too good a job on his woodshop project.
Apparently the projects were going to be graded on a curve, so the 100% mark would be based off of the best project. The problem for the other boys was the Vietnamese student had set the bar too high. They felt like he should tone down his project a bit, so theirs wouldn’t be affected by the curve as much. The other student listened to what they had to say uncomfortably; probably wondering what he did wrong and what he should do about the pressure they were putting on him.
Now I wasn’t particularly the model student of right and wrong myself at that age. But I remember thinking, even then, how strange it was. He was a target because he was too good. He wanted to put his best foot forward. That made the others look bad, so in their minds he should drop the bar and become mediocre like them. It seemed wrong to me then and still seems that way to me now. I wish I’d spoken up for him back then. But I was young and my ability to stand up for others was not as defined yet.
Fast forward to my first book, The Lin Wu Chronicles. A very similar incident occurs. It was based off that particular incident and becomes the key ingredient in one of Lin Wu’s conflicts.
Writing is basically an accumulation of experiences from our own lives. We incorporate them from the things we’ve witnessed or lived through. In other cases, we may learn about them through research and reading. It’s OK to put them in your writing. Sometimes doing so brings them to a full conclusion. I didn’t stand up for that boy all those years ago. But in a roundabout way, his story is still told through Lin Wu.
He might not remember the incident now, or even care about it. But his struggle became Lin’s struggle to a degree. His strive for excellence is mirrored by my character. His conflict for choosing to be excellent is also mirrored. Sometimes the drive to your best becomes your biggest advisory. It’s odd. but true. Sometimes it’s all about envy.