Category Archives: Emily Godhand

Wrap-up: Writing from Experience

Thank you, our dear readers, for reading our posts this month. In case you missed one:

Leaving Books Behind by Greg Little

Gaining Experience from the Past: A Guest Post by Shannon Fox

The Unconscious Autobiography by Leigh Galbreath

A Game of Horns by Mary

Be Your Own Biggest Fan by Frank Morin

Stress After Iraq by Matt Jones

Two Must-Knows About Your Inner Muse by Ace Jordan

The Origins of Smooth: A Guest Post by Joy Johnson

Kilts and Coffee with Petra by Guy Anthony De Marco

The Dark Side of My Brain by Kim May

The Fantasy Librarian by Colette

Scientist or Writer? Why Not Both! by Nathan Barra

They Want to Kill Me… by Ace Jordyn

“Dear NSA Agent” by E. Godhand

Sorry, Past Me by Mary

Be Messy and Explore New Ideas: A Guest Post from Hamilton Perez

Life in the Cosmic Fishbowl by Evan Braun

Cultivating the Fungus by Travis Heerman

Tomorrow, we’ll have a brand new interview with Fictorian Frank Morin. Don’t miss it!

“Dear NSA Agent…”

I am not a criminal, I swear.

I’ve just experienced a life with a unique set of events and fields of study that, if one were given enough the correct motivation (and a healthy dose of limited moral inhibitions), the particular set of skills learned could be misapplied to one’s advantage. Fortunately, I’m in a position where the best use of these skills is writing realistic stories where the only people affected or hurt are characters.

There’s always that old writing advice of “write what you know”, but if that’s all writers did, there’d be a lot of the same old. I always liked to interpret it broader: “use what you know to help flesh out your story”.

It does help to have first hand experience with things, but in order to tell characters who know how to break locks, I don’t have to be a master locksmith. To tell characters who know how to use medicines or poisons, I don’t have to be a professional assassin. To describe characters who must infiltrate or use stealth to escape, I don’t have to be a scout or a ninja.

But having a familiarity with these concepts, and the feelings and logistics that surround them, can certainly be used in the stories to provide a more authentic experience.

So how do my characters know how to pick locks, poison, or sneak around? Because someone who was obviously not a good friend once told me to have an interesting life.

Back in middle school, I was your typical latch-key kid. I’d come home off the bus, pick up the mail, and let myself into the apartment. But on more than a couple occasions I forgot my key. Easy enough fix, you can use your student ID to let yourself in (seriously, use the deadbolts). But another time, the deadbolt was locked for some reason, which meant I wasn’t going in through the front door without property damage (and I didn’t have a drill handy anyway).

But I could climb over the balcony. Turns out that door was locked, too. With some bobby pins, tweezers, paper clips, for some reason the metal file on nail clippers, and a rudimentary knowledge of tumblers, I was able to get in.

Another time in gym class, someone decided to put their lock on my locker to keep me from getting my things. I got in, and kept their lock so they could never lock up their things until their parents bought them a new one. When they confronted me on it, it was already in the trash and I could honestly say I didn’t know what happened to it.

“Why would I have your lock? That’s a weird question to ask, did you give it to me somehow?”

Getting gently vicious at the middle-school gym. Add in another skill-set for my characters to learn.

Now, poison…I don’t have a story for poison. I’ve never poisoned anyone without it being a written order from a doctor for a dose low enough to be within the therapeutic range for the purpose of providing medical treatment. So, any medicine, really. Morphine. Chemotherapy.

I liked studying toxicology in the library, hoping one day to help people with overdoses after some friends got into drugs, and drinking was a problem within the community.

There was a greater job market and more marketable skills in medicine, so I learned more about medicines through the certification to be a pharmacy technician and then getting my nursing license. But with those studies comes the knowledge of the “Therapeutic Index”, and the difference between the toxic dose and the lethal dose. The “dose makes the poison” as the saying goes, and the dose that affects the body varies based on the mode of delivery.

Does the liver filter out most of it? Can you add in another substrate that will tie up the cells in the liver that detox the blood, thus leaving the chemical within the system to build up to lethal doses?

There’s a reason they make doctors take the “First, do no harm” oath, ‘cause oh, man, could we ever.
…also, people who took anatomy or who have hunted know how to dissect.
So. There’s that.

Horror writers, am I right? We’re fun folk. I get invited to so many parties.  Someone please invite me to a party. I swear I’m charming and won’t bring up dissection again.

Stealth I learned from having to navigate the school, my home, the neighborhood, and the woods.

School because I didn’t make many friends, and if people noticed me it often didn’t end well. Where were the exits? How do you make a distraction? How do you blend into a crowd?

Home because …because.

Neighborhood because I often house-sat with my friend, and she’d often take long walks at night past curfew. I didn’t want her to go alone, so I’d go with her. We’d wander around the neighborhood and hide from passing cars or people.

Woods because I was involved with a search and rescue team. We were looking for people as a group, so obviously we wanted them to know we were coming, in case they wanted to be found.

…Did you know people who don’t want to be found hide in trees? So that’s what I used the night we had a squadron-wide bottle rocket war by the lake one summer.

We took turns ‘defending’ and ‘attacking’ a trailer hooked up with a security camera.
When my team, Bravo,  was on ‘defend’, I snuck out to go scout out where Alpha was and what their plans were.

They didn’t expect to find me in the trees. Humans don’t usually have predators above them, so they rarely look up. To start, I was wearing overalls and a t-shirt over my swimsuit. The overalls made noise, so I took them off and kept the swimsuit bottoms. Black stands out at night, and dark blue is a much more natural color, so one of the boys lent me his shirt that I tied at my waist to avoid swishing or catching.  I had a flashlight nestled in my chest to not only hold it but keep the noise down from it swinging.

I learned their plans, took off my boots to hide the noise, and took the dirt path back to the trailer to warn my team. Because Bravo was prepared, we could successfully defend. Like having me fire bottle rockets from the trees. They really weren’t expecting that.

When it came time for Bravo to attack, we had already defended, so we learned where the security cameras were and what their range was. We definitely got the better end of that coin toss.

The rule was, defending team started out inside, and we waited 15 minutes to give people time to spread out and get far enough away. I hid in the bushes and avoided the guards, then covered the cameras with my old shirt and overalls by staying just out of range. Sent out a rocket for my team to come out of hiding.

Alpha rushed outside to defend against the ambush, and with the majority of their forces distracted, I got inside and ducked past the guards. Got on the speaker: This is our castle now, and I am its Queen.
Because of all of these experiences, I can describe not only the logistics of what goes into less than reputable character actions, but the feelings they might have as they do so, whether the first time, or after it’s become second nature.

So think of what things in your life might not immediately translate into something you could put on a resume, but you still might be able to use in your story.

Turning Experiences into Method Acting

A Guest Post from Emily Godhand

Back in February of this year I was able to attend to Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s “SuperStars Writing Seminar” on a scholarship from Wattpad. This was a seminar to “teach you the business of being a writer” and boasted many instructors well known in the industry. I was given the opportunity to learn from individuals such as Jody Lynn Nye, Todd McCaffrey, James A. Owen, and Kevin and Rebecca themselves. And those are just the people I had the great fortune of meeting!

When I first learned I was picked for the scholarship, I was beyond excited to the point of being in actual disbelief. I felt like I had been eating a chocolate bar named Wattpad and was enjoying something pleasant and made me happy, and then suddenly I was holding a shiny golden ticket in my hand. But as happy as I was, I was so nervous I thought maybe it was a set up to a middle school joke come back to haunt me. You know the kind where someone said something positive and then laughed at you for actually believing it? That can’t just have been me, right?

Sometimes I can turn pretense into an art form and act full of grace and charm, when internally I’m screaming and shivering like a naked chihuahua about to piss itself. Factor in that crowds and hotels greatly trigger my PTSD, and I was ready to curl up in the corner, hug my knees, and rock back and forth until the world made sense again.

Within this internal cesspool of doubt and insecurity, and amidst schoolyard worries of “Will the other kids like me?” and “What if I’m not prepared enough? or worse, “What if they don’t like my story?!”, I did have those sickly feelings of hope and anticipation that this was going to be something wonderful at best, and at worst, great fodder for your writing.


Because new experiences can be a writer’s bread and butter.

And yet, writers have a certain reputation for being reclusive and introverted, withdrawn into a world of our own making where reality is just a thing for those without imagination. It’s true, writing is hard work that takes focus and some of us need our solitude to do that. The long nights fueled by IV drip caffeine. The sweat forming at your brow from the intensity of your thinking.  Putting ass-in-chair for hours to finish that latest chapter. The incredible amount of work we put into our writing to the point that we should probably eat something. Preferably every day. And maybe even two or three times if we can afford to be away from your keyboard that long. I’m sure for some of us (…me) our core muscles are neglected to the point we’ve melted into hunched monstrosities with T-rex arms, and we haven’t seen the blessed light of day such that we shriek and cower when some well-intentioned soul opens the curtain. ((…just me?))

When I sat down to write, and I would have trouble describing something, or conveying an emotion, I was always given the advice “write what you know”. Then felt frustrated because I didn’t think I knew anything except maybe what it’s like to hide within the tiny walls of my office with just the rats and ennui for company. …And maybe also some random, dated pop-culture references. If I needed to write about characters that were self-absorbed recluses with awkward social skills and crippling self-doubt I had that down. Because that’s all I’d ever know unless I faced my anxiety as much as was healthy and explored the world around me.  By not seeking out new experiences, especially challenging ones, I was limiting what I knew, and therefore limiting what I could write about.

I figured, I spend countless hours pretending to be individuals who face their fears and the unknown, so surely, truly, I could learn a little from method acting and borrow some of the character’s strength to be able to go to this seminar. And if I couldn’t and ended up numb and dumb with fear and anxiety? I write thrillers and horror stories. I could certainly make use of those feelings in my work.

I was fooling myself if I ever thought I could glean the secrets of the universe to translate onto pages by doing the same routine every day. I’m a human being first, and human beings tend to crave variety and novelty. Writing is hard enough, but it’s hard to write believably about things you haven’t seen or experienced.

When I needed to describe 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver, I put on some pants, left the house, and went to downtown Denver. I needed to know more than what it looked like, and I had the opportunity to learn. The pictures I found online were stunning, but photographers are known for getting the best shots of a place. It’d be the difference between your wedding photos and waking up to your partner in the morning. There’s a different type of beauty in authenticity.

2006-07-14-Denver_Skyline_MidnightWhat, it doesn’t always look like this?

The staged photos in the best light may not convey the actual feeling of being there: the noises, the smells, the weather, the conversations, the dress, the atmosphere. When I did go downtown, I witnessed a dirgesinger get heckled by buskers who broke into Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”. I got to speak to the buskers about their experiences and see how many artists were on the street. I couldn’t have done any of that from my house, and while it may not have made a significant difference in the overall plot of my story, those tiny details weren’t unnoticed by my readers, and contributed to their immersion in the story.

In that particular chapter there were several twists and turns and horror elements, but the realistic description of downtown Denver was what really hooked my readers. They also had comments on something else they liked, sure, but nearly every single person commented on the description of downtown Denver.

* The way you discuss Denver, it really comes to life and makes elements like the “prophet” even creepier.

* I love the way you describe Denver. You completely capture that downtown urban feel. The characters you create are all rich and vivid.

* I’ve never been to Denver. 16th Street sounds amazing.

* Sounds like a really neat downtown area, very artistically stimulating.

* Gotta say I loved the downtown scene, with the preacher and the singers. It kind of eased off the tension for a moment and painted a vivid picture of things that make the city unique.


Still, it’s one thing to do something as simple as go downtown in my own city and simply report what I found there. It’s another to use my own experiences and feelings to empathize with my character and convey what they are feeling, especially if they are painful or negative.

When I had to do this with my main character’s recovery from her trauma and the first month of her PTSD, it was like finding that mental storage closet where you had shoved all your memories. And as your hand hovers over the knob, you’re not sure if some musty linens are going to fall on your head, or if they’re going to have every crawling, putrid thing topple down with them.

It was probably the hardest thing I ever had to write because it felt like tearing open an infected wound to clean it. Yet I would say it is also probably the truest expression of my own voice since for the most part I just told how I felt and my own experiences, and put those words in my character’s mouth.

This particular scene received the most praise out of all 60+ chapters (as of this writing).

* I can feel Annie’s sense of desperation to understand what happened, and her frustration at the world for wanting her to figure it out too fast.

*  I can really feel Annie’s confusion, distress, her anger and frustration. My favourite part by far was her speech to the psychiatrist. Although I really hated him, he was written well.

* The psychology of grief and trauma came across as very genuine. The feeling of loss over someone’s death rarely manifests itself directly, at least not until years after the event.

* I think anyone who reads this is going to be able to feel the pain Annie is going through right now, and the way you’ve described her trying to cope is heartbreaking. I think this is probably one of your best chapters as far as the use of language goes, and I feel bad for Annie’s mom too… Just trying to help but she has no idea how. 🙁

So, how did things go at the Superstars Writing Seminar? Next time you read a piece by me about a character finding acceptance and understanding with a group when she was afraid of rejection, you’ll know.

About the Author:Author
Emily Godhand is a paranormal thriller author who lives in a book fort in Denver, CO, with seven rats who revere her as their Queen.

As former psychiatric technician, she draws her inspirations from her work and the constant nightmares she’s had for 13 years. As such, her works tend to focus on an exploration of trauma, immortality, and human consciousness.

Read her latest work on Wattpad, where she is an Ambassador.


A guest post by Emily Godhand.


At the Superstars Writing Seminar, I had the pleasure of meeting Wattpad’s own Ashleigh Gardner, a friendly and charming woman who gave a great speech on what Wattpad could offer budding writers as well as professional writers.

What is Wattpad?

It would be an easy mistake to describe Wattpad as “just a reading and writing app”.

While as of January 2015 it does offer over 100 million uploads of stories in over 50 different languages contributed by Wattpadders, and is often used by mobile readers and writers (85% of traffic!), it does so much more than just enable you to read or write a story.

What  makes Wattpad so unique is the ability for readers to interact with those stories they love so much through in-line comments, and for writers to not only respond to the feedback, but to receive and post fan-made works of music, videos, and art.

What does Wattpad offer authors?

It would also be a mistake to describe Wattpad as a “publishing platform”.* Anyone over the age of 13 that has a working internet connection can post a story to share with the world. But Wattpad isn’t only useful for teenagers looking to get into writing, it offers many things to more established or professional-minded authors as well.

*though authors would be wise to take note of editors who state they prefer works that haven’t been seen on the internet.


Wattpad enables you to get your name out there and build a fanbase of people who recognize your name and works. This is truly especially if you are a young-adult writer, as most Wattpadders are under 30.


Receive real time feedback, even line-by-line commentary, on what readers enjoy or disliked about your works. Build excitement for your works and get them talking amongst each other, or people they know, especially on other social media.

Why wait for a review that may or may not talk about specifics, when you could learn what lines or characters or scenes are working (or not working) for people?

((A preference for this differs by author; some people don’t like others in their kitchen and that’s fine. You can ignore it!))


People look forward to your updates! If you have an update due, and your readers are expecting it, how can you justify disappointing them? If people are counting on you to write, you are more likely to glue butt to chair and get on it.

Connection with Fans

On that note, your readers and fans can comment their responses, questions, and comments in your stories, leave a message on your message board (‘wall’ like on Facebook’), or message you directly.

I never thought growing up that I’d ever be able to speak with the authors I loved reading, but here they are on Wattpad. I could send them a message at this moment or write a fan letter on their message board.  I remember one time I managed to track down this Indie author on Amazon and sent him a heart-felt message thanking him for his book, and how much it meant to me. I didn’t expect him to respond. But then…he did. And that means so much to readers.


But with that, you not only create this community of supportive readers, but also fellow writers who can provide support and feedback.

You’re going to love it. 🙂

Guest Writer Bio:

Emily GodhandEmily Godhand is a cross-genre author who lives in a book fort in Denver, CO, with seven rats who revere her as their Queen.

As former psychiatric technician, she draws her inspirations from her work and the constant nightmares she’s had for 13 years. As such, her works tend to focus on an exploration of trauma, immortality, and human consciousness.

Read her latest work on Wattpad, where she is an Ambassador.