Tuesday, January 31, 2012


One of the things I find thrilling about being a part of this wonderful online writing community is the ability to connect with writers from all over the world. Social media and technology has evolved to the point where disparate people, who live continents apart, remain connected by a few types on a keyboard. I find this amazing.

You see, I grew up in the military. Technically, my father was in the Airforce. But for all the military brats out there reading this post, you know exactly what I mean. We were as much a part of the military as our parents. We shopped at the commissary, went to the movies, got our hair cut, went to school, and lived—On-base.

A military base is a city in itself. It is an insular community with own societal rules and behaviors. However, it was bursting with people from different traditions and ethnicities, quite different from the culturally homogenous environment many of the adults grew up in. Tolerance and acceptance of racial and cultural differences by us kids was the norm, because it’s difficult to hate what you understand: friendship and family.

We were all part of the same community. Yet, we were also different from the kids who lived in the cities the bases were located in due to our transient lifestyle. Two years, three at the most, then it was time for the goodbyes and inevitable broken promises to stay in touch with the friends I’d made, and pack up my belongings and ship out. I moved ten times before I turned eighteen: Missouri, California, Colorado, Spain, Kansas, Maryland, Guam, Louisiana, back to Kansas where I graduated from high school. Then, to California where I went to college while my parents eventually were shipped to New York, then retired in my father’s home state of Louisiana (we also traveled to Korea, Philippines, Okinawa, Japan, Canada and Mexico).

At the new base, I’d have to make new friends. It was pretty easy, because I’d done it so often, but also a difficult adjustment. Relationships were formed, but they didn’t stick. You never knew when you’d be separated. Going to a new school meant adapting to a new cultural environment. Going to school off-base meant pure culture shock. I adapted by learning how to pick up the speech patterns, dialects, and mannerisms of the kids around me. I still do. If I’m speaking with someone who has an accent, I unconsciously pick it up. I found that it was easier for me to be accepted by a new crowd if I blended in.

I share all this to explain how my life experiences have influenced my writing. I enjoy developing characters that have distinct voices based on the cultures they grew up in. A character that grew up in rural Louisiana speaks and sees the world differently from a character from urban California. Yet their basic desires remain the same, for the most part. Still, there are differences, and it’s those differences that make the characters unique—flavorful, like BB-Q chicken vs. jerked chicken, which are totally different from baked chicken. All of which are still delicious in their own ways.

It’s these life experiences based on our communities and cultures which make us individuals. One of the things we understand as writers is the need to find our character’s Voice, which should be as distinct and beautiful from one another as we writers are from each other. The same goes for style, or maybe they’re interchangeable. It’s something I’m fascinated by, and I’d like to learn about how culture influences other writers.

So, please pop back in the future as for some very special guest posts from writers who share how they receive inspiration from their life experiences and their communities. It should be exciting.


  1. As a granddaughter of someone in the Air Force, I find this so interesting. I've always wondered what it would be like to live on a base. I used to live next to one, but never in one. I can't wait to add my post into the mix. :-)

  2. Nice blog post. I liked getting an insight into your personality and life. I also wish I had some of the experience you did to make my characters more unique.

  3. Kate, I can't wait to read your post. Very excited:)

    E.B., I enjoyed moving as a child. I always knew I'd have a new adventure in a couple of years, but I also envy my children who have grown up in the same small town with the same group of friends. I think it's all perspective. We each have experiences that shape us and our writing. It's tapping into what makes us unique and different that makes us individuals.

  4. Social media and technology has evolved to the point where disparate people, who live continents apart, remain connected by a few types on a keyboard. I find this amazing.

    I could not have put it in better terms.

    I know I've already said this, but this is a wonderful, amazing and utterly admirable project, Angie :)


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