Last week was very busy, so I didn't get to follow up on this post as quickly as I planned. (Today is going to be even worse, as I have to stay so late at work a co-worker will have to bring Alex here. I'm not even sure I'll get home before his bedtime; my husband will have to pick him up.) That actually worked out for the best, since another writer commented on this post when it uploaded to my Facebook feed. Both Elizabeth and Ann said that life experience helps make your fiction seem real. Barbara reminded us how imagination and listening to others can help us write about others who don't share our life experiences. Patty Jansen, a fellow OWW writer, pointed out that you don't need just life experiences, but also perspective on them so you can "distill them into a character." (Patty, I hope you don't mind me quoting you here.)
If I had to summarize what I think about life experiences affecting your writing, I'd say everyday life provides you with the details to make your fiction seem real, while extraordinary events are the ones that challenge you and make you grow, just as they do for your own characters.
I'd love to say more, but it's back to the lab mines for me.