Monday, September 7, 2009

Write what you know . . . .Elisabeth Rose

What do you know? You might say,” Not much” but everyone knows lots of things and not just about their profession.

Beginning writers are constantly told to write about what they know. The obvious assumption is that means, “I’m a school teacher, electrician, brain surgeon, I’ll write about school teaching, electrical wiring, brain surgery.” Fine. You need that inside info to make your settings and characters work lives sound authentic. Thorough research is essential and with the internet relatively easy these days.

But you know so much more than facts and figures. We all do.

Unless you want to write a technical manual or a history of one of the above, you’ll need to add some emotion. In fact lots of emotion. And we all know about emotion.
We’ve all cried our hearts out when we were dumped by the love of our lives. We’ve all been so angry we were speechless, we’ve all laughed till our stomachs ached, been so overwhelmed with happiness we’ve cried, been grief stricken, been in pain of one sort or another even if only stubbing a toe or jamming a finger in a drawer. We’ve all been so bitterly disappointed we thought we wouldn’t survive another day, been so excited we couldn’t sleep, been worried sick, been sick, or woken in a cold sweat from a nightmare.

We’ve all experienced all these emotions to varying degrees. Use them. Remember how it felt when your best friend went to a party you weren’t invited to or when someone gave you a gift that took your breath away it was so perfect. Remember it all and use it in your writing.

What do you know?


I.J. Parnham said...

I like that response to the 'write what you know' piece of advice, which would of course, if followed, instantly wipe out science-fiction, fantasy, horror, westerns, murder mysteries...

If you've ever been in love, you can write a romance. If you've ever been angry, you can write a revenge thriller. If you've ever been happy, you can write a comedy... it's the emotions that count, not the minor things like having first-hand experience of captaining a starship or casting magic spells to defeat zombie armies. You can do the research to find out how to do that, but it's the feelings inside that add real authenticity!

Christine Bush said...

If I only wrote what I KNOW, I'd be out of material pretty soon on. Writing what I FEEL is probably the basis of a good story. But then I add writing what I WANT to know, and that opens up the new world to new research, information, adventures. It keeps things (including me) from being boring. And then I add writing what I'd like to IMAGINE feeling. This includes asking others about their feelings and reactions to things I haven't yet experienced (or for THEIR perspective, like a man's view of love). I love the imagination factor. So the circle keeps getting wider and wider, and the ideas multiply. This keeps me from ever being bored with my WIP, and also from the panic and paralization of looking at a blank page!

Sandy Cody said...

Wonderful post - and a good reminder of what writing is all about. I think sometimes we can get too caught up in the rules of writing that we forget the really important things.

Thanks for the reminder.

Beate Boeker said...

I so enjoyed this, Lis! Thank you for giving me a new "defense" when I don't write "what I know" - and I love Ian's answer too. Right on!

Jane Myers Perrine said...

I just attended a worksho in which the speaker's message was "romance+emotion". Very interesting post. Thank you.