Write What You Know

Howdy!

The other day I read a blog post about writing misconceptions. One of the top ones was “write what you know”. The author of the blog called out whoever originally said that, and I totally agreed. I mean if you’re to take it literally, you should have had more ridiculous adventures than Indiana Jones.

Not everyone has taken down corrupt governments as a teen, or fought in intergalactic space battles, or journeyed across the lush rolling hills of a fantasy world. Unfortunately. And while I have personally never done about 98.9999% of the things I write about, there’s a few things I do know.

I know about people. I know about loving adventures. I know about friends. I know about the good and the bad in the world. I know about family. I know about betrayal. I know about faith.

The point is, you don’t have to know how to fly a futuristic space craft. You don’t have to have experienced the life of Ancient Rome.

Write what you do know.

Do you know what it takes to be a friend?

Do you know how hard it is to profess your faith, even if it is just to someone on the street in casual conversation?

Do you know what it’s like to stand by family no matter what?

Do you know what it’s like to absolutely hate or love someone?

Those are things you need in your stories.

And if you don’t know something, be open to figuring it out.

Even if it’s a simple as getting on a rollercoaster to experience it for yourself before you write it. Or the million other crazy things writers will do in the name of “research”. 😛

Have I ever done something completely crazy in order to write a book? Not yet. But I have plans to crawl around inside old aircraft. I have plans to learn martial arts. I have plans to hike up a volcano. I have plans to ride a dogsled and see the Northern Lights.

The point is. Don’t lock yourself up in a room behind the computer or a pen and rely on the magic Google machine to figure it out for you. Get out into the world. Talk to strangers. Run down a sidewalk. Go B.A.S.E. jumping. (I’m kidding. Only do that if you want to. I’ll hold your stuff for you.)

Need landscape or culture ideas? Plan a trip.

Read new books. Read something that’s not in your genre.

Get outside your comfort zone.

If you don’t know how to push yourself, how will you know how to push your characters?


Talk to me! What common writing advice do you struggle with? Ever done something crazy in the name of research?

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10 thoughts on “Write What You Know

  1. I read that blog too! And I agree with you. I believe most people misunderstand that advice. I have a sneaking suspicion it was never meant to apply to circumstances or setting, but to emotional themes. Because writers are smart: they can describe settings they’ve never been in and put themselves in bizarre circumstances. That’s part of our gift. But emotional truths come across flat if you’ve never experienced them. You have to write with the emotional depth you have experienced. The beautiful thing is, like you said, so many emotional themes transcend culture and circumstances. I have met people from across the world who have nothing in common with me, yet we have experienced the same emotional pain in different ways.

    That’s my opinion, anyway. Write what you know emotionally, but by all means, apply it to a plot and setting you’ve never experienced.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Love the way you put it! Definitely agree. It really wasn’t until I had read that blog post that I really was able to articulate what I thought when confronted with that piece of advice. Yeah, people don’t really change and aren’t really different no matter what fantastical setting you put them in. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you here … while it’s not always possible to ‘write what you know,’ people are people no matter what the galaxy. Therefore, if, for instance, you lost your grandfather, you can write about your character losing a loved one better, having experienced the emotions. You haven’t just read about grief and loss and such. You KNOW. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Well said! While there are things I have done in the name of research, such as wandering through old castles, watching sword fighting demos and my endless visits to Leeds Armoury. There are so many things I’d still like to do and plan on doing, for my own delight and perhaps for the purposes of research. Like you, Claire, I know people, emotions, I’m an observer of life as well and while I may be quiet at times, it doesn’t mean I’m not listening intently! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooh, wish I could go to castles for research!! 🙂 Sadly we don’t have too many of those in west Texas. 😛

      I definitely eavesdrop and watch people any time I’m out and about. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Definitely agree with you! And it’s always a good idea to get out and explore as part of research for writing a book. I haven’t done anything too crazy yet, but who knows. Although jumping out of planes is not something I’d personally want to experience, even if I make my characters do it. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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