write, wrote, have written
Writers live in the past.
We have to.
If our dialogue is going to ring true we must listen to hours of conversations between real people, then recall those words later, at the keyboard.
To put a reader in a setting we must know that place, even if it is a place we’ve never visited, or a place we’ve created in the clouds. Either way, the sensory clues will be the same. Sights, smells, sounds—all things the writer experiences and files away to call upon when she opens her work-in-progress.
The plot springs from something that happened to the writer, or happened to someone he knew, or it’s something he read about. The finished story might not resemble the original spark in any way, but it certainly didn’t pop out of nowhere, unattached to the human condition.
Emotion. The hardest thing to put into our manuscripts, the shadows of our past we don’t want to examine. Even if the reason for the character’s emotion is vastly different than the circumstances the writer faced, it’s painful to put ourselves in that space. To be that raw. And then spill it on the page.
People cherish truth.
The best writers will time-travel to get it for them.