Writing What You Know

Monday, April 12

I've often heard the phrase, "write what you know." Until recently, I didn't understand what that meant.

This "rule", when taken literally, would prove too limiting. After all, how many of us have been kidnapped, fought a dragon, flown to the moon, traveled back in time, or saved the world? Not many.

You don't need to experience something to write about it. The whole story does not have to be familiar to you. But, as a human being, there are some things you do know.

We all feel. You know what it's like to be furious, depressed, and euphoric. You can take this knowledge and use it to gage your character's reactions.
What's it like to lose a loved one? How did you feel?
If your character is going through the same ordeal, you can describe the pain and loss because you felt it.

In Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, the reader is given a glimpse of Phoenix, Arizona. This was something Meyer knew well, since she grew up there.
Granted, you don't have to live somewhere to write about it. But we can draw conclusions based on what we do know.
For example, I've never been to New York City. But I know what it's like to be in other cities, therefore I can assume its loud, busy, crowded, and vandalized.

For fantasy writers, writing what you know can seem impossible. You don't know what it's like to stand by a river in a fictional world. But you do know what a river is like. You know the feel of water, the gentle pull of the current, the muddy bottom. We can base our impossible worlds on things that we know from this one.

2 comment(s):

Margaret W. Friday, April 16, 2010  

I love how this advice comes through in "Little Women", particulary in the Winona Ryder film. It's so true, and I've come to discover that for myself as a writer as well.

Lashcraz1 Thursday, December 08, 2016  

The advice shared in this is worth full, it is said that writing is an art and the writer express their feeling in words. I understand it well, because I work on superior paper writing service review to share my feeling through words. Writer write about what he has experienced then it is not viable for the writer that he has experienced everything what he writes. Then writing tries to bend toward artificial things and interesting stories are developed.

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