Friday, August 31, 2007

Writing What You Know

I got a couple of good comments to my last blog, commenting on writing what we know. Can I tell you a secret, though -- that's not the point I was trying to make. My point was actually to listen to our critics, and by default the examples I used showed the authors writing what they knew.

I'm going to go totally against all conventional writing wisdom and make a statement: I don't necessarily believe in writing what you know. (Gasp! Yes, I'm a rebel.) I do believe in writing the emotions that we know. But if I only wrote according to my life's experiences, I could only write about florists, craft store employees, and mommies. That would be all.

What do I know about being a Japanese man during World War II? Absolutely nothing. How did I learn about it? Extensive research. And then I used that most powerful tool a writer has -- imagination.

I don't think there's anything wrong with writing outside of your area of knowledge. You just need to have the passion to do the research.

7 comments:

Annette Lyon said...

Reminds me of something I heard Julie Wright saying once: Instead of "write what you know" it should be "know what you write." Back to that old research thing again.

Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

Writing outside what you know does required truck loads of research and imagination. It's what makes the world go round. Very few writers have the dollars to jump off to a locale and bask in the normalcy of that area of the world in order to write a book that may or may not make enough money to pay for the trip.

Shanna Blythe said...

I couldn't agree more Tristi and Annette.

Jen said...

What I meant to convey with my comment was that the authors put a part of themselves-their emotions, their angst-into their stories. Certainly Hans Christian Andersen never really experienced being a mermaid! I think you & I are saying the same thing in different ways.

violetlady said...

What great advice. Thank you.

Tristi, I tagged you for a meme!

Tristi Pinkston said...

I dunno, Jen -- maybe he really was a mermaid. :)

Jen said...

*snort* You are a card!

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