Writers hear that all the time: “It’s all material!” The statement is intended as an encouragement in the face of difficult circumstances. The point is that for writers, even bad days can be beneficial, because you can use the experience—the emotions, the frustrations, the odd events that come your way—as the basis for stories that you write later.
Indeed, the idea that it’s all material lines up well with another proverb that writers often quote: “Write what you know.” In other words, your prose will be more believable if you write about things that you have actually experienced. So…the more you experience (even the bad stuff), the more grist you have for the mill.
In the Goliath Code series, you will find a lot of scenes that reflect real-world experiences—some good, some bad, some just weird! Many women endure working with family physicians who just don’t understand their medical issues—especially male physicians. It can be frustrating, even enraging, and you see that dynamic play out between Sera and Dr. Reinkann in book three. In the opening chapters of Children of the Third, Sera doesn’t yet know what her father’s Goliath Code procedure has done to her, but she knows something is not right. The well-intentioned doctor believes it’s all in her head…with devastating consequences.
There is a scene in Prophet that had its origin in the city of Venice. Many years ago, we were on a tour bus that arrived in the famous city, and we were looking forward to boarding a gondola and floating along the famous canals. But as the tour bus pulled into a huge parking lot, I saw a smartly uniformed attendant waving at our bus, directing us to stop. Instead of slowing down, the bus driver (who was also our tour guide) drove straight at the man, who finally leapt out of the way at the last second. We were all shocked, and I yelled at the driver, “Hey! Didn’t you see that guy telling you to stop!?!” The driver shrugged in response: “It’s a scam.” I shook my head in disbelief. “Wait!” I said. “He has a uniform! He’s a parking attendant!” The driver shook his head. “No, he’s not. He’s a scam artist who targets tourists. There are no parking attendants here.”
Many years later, that fake parking attendant would become a US Marshal outside the Facility, demanding ten zons for an entrance fee. Thankfully, Eli Preston is our tour guide.
It’s all material at a more serious level, too. As a career infantry officer, I’ve been in battle and in many live-fire training exercises. Suzanne graciously lets me have a crack at writing some of the military scenes in the Goliath Code books, and I ty to write them from the point of view of someone actually in the battle. Within the prose, I attempt to convey the confusion, the loss of direction, and the shock of battle. I include the little details—the smell of gunpowder, the delay between seeing an explosion and hearing it, the odd feeling that time stands still when someone’s shooting at you.
Our spiritual experiences are material, too. Suzanne grew up in a Mormon home but later became disenchanted with what she was taught. As a young adult, she left the LDS church and became a determined atheist—skeptical of all religion. She read a lot of books that reinforced her unbelief and her contempt for Christianity. Her attitudes from those years are reflected in the heart of young Seraphina Donner. Likewise, when Suzanne came face to face with the gospel many years later, she was simultaneously attracted to it and skeptical. The struggles that Sera (and Tammy and Yashi) experience in the third book were born from Suzanne’s own encounters with Christ and His Word.
It’s all material! From the M1 tank’s contaminated final drives in The Goliath Code to Sera’s near hysterical fear of the ocean in Children of the Third, Suzanne formed her ideas from her own real-world experiences—good, bad, and weird!