Writing what you know

One of the first things a would-be-author is told is to “write what you know.”  I would like to go on record as saying that’s ridiculous.

Don’t misunderstand me.  There are some things an author must know.  For instance, I find it very difficult to write from a man’s perspective.  I’m not a man.  I doubt I ever will be.  I find it much easier to write from a woman’s perspective since that’s the one I’m the most familiar with.  It’s how I think, therefore easier for me to write.

In Ghost Mountain, I try to describe Devils Tower in a way that the monolith comes to life for people who have never seen it.  That required some research and a few trips to Hulett, Wyoming.  The victim in the book is shot and I try to describe the smell and the sound, even the feel of pulling the trigger.

I’ve never actually shot the type of weapon described, however.  I’ve also never used a plastic bottle as a silencer.  By asking questions of people in law enforcement and people who know a lot more about handguns than I do.  They say it can work.  I believe them.

I’ve never had a murderer call me up, so I don’t know what kind of fear that would inspire.  But I can imagine.

And that’s where the fun part happens.  In my mundane existence, I’m an empty-nester who is trying to adjust to my baby growing up and heading to college.  I’m a web designer who works out of my home in the country.  There’s not much excitement in my day-to-day world.  If I only wrote about what I knew, there wouldn’t be much there.

So my advice to anyone trying to write is this: Write what you’re comfortable with and research the rest.  What you can’t research, make convincing within the world you’ve created.  You’ll have a great story.



Filed under writing

7 responses to “Writing what you know

  1. I agree with this whole heatedly.I write what I know for my characters but when it comes locales or occupations I am not afraid of googling or asking friends who do know.

  2. Now there’s the voice of reason.
    A lot of writers want to forget or avoid what they know, and the choose a genre totally unrelated to their personal life experiences.
    Wendy Reis Editing

  3. I was told to ‘write what I know’ in a creative writing class once. I’ve always wondered what the heck fantasy authors were supposed to do. Sadly, physics does not support magic, so I just have to muddle along the best I know how. 🙂

  4. Put another way: Know what you write.
    Writing is not so different than acting—an actor or actress often pulls from personal experience to make a scene work. Ever wonder how an actor can seemingly cry on cue in front of a camera? They pull from a personal experience, usually something traumatic that might not have any connection to the scene, that brought them to tears.
    Doesn’t mean that, in order for me to write from the perspective of a serial killer, I have to become one to make it believable. But I can draw on the fact that, as a child, I was a loner and had a rich imagination. Throw in a fictional fixation on reading true crime pulp—the bloodier the better—and you can parlay that into the makings of a serial killer and research the rest. I’m sure there is a ton of stuff on the net about actual serial killers.

  5. Pingback: Another Great Blog to Bookmark! « Bertram's Blog

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