|Write What You Know!||| Print ||
|Written by Christine Redding|
|Saturday, 01 October 2011 14:13|
Write what you know: write from your own life experiences.
Yes, yes, you've heard it before... And writing teachers hear the excuses...
But you want to write fantasy... You want to make it up as you go, you want to fly your dream, soar with imagination and creativity! What's to know? How can you know a fantasy world from your own life experience?
If you are writing fantasy to elude this old truth of writing, forget it!
If you are writing fantasy so you don't have to do real research, or have others judging you, who know more than you do about the real world, forget it.
If you want to write fantasy because you are... well... lazy... really--forget it!
Writing fantasy means creating a world so different and original that the reader marvels and delights and most of all, believes! So, must also be similar enough to the real world that readers can relate to it. It must have its own internal logic and rationality: all the odd-shaped pieces must fit together, and the whole picture come together without gaping holes that the reader cannot leap. Everything you say your characters are, or do, you have to be able to back up with consistant and believable reason and design.
Which is not to say, that you have to write out all you know. In fact, you shouldn't. The point is, you have to know. You have to have it all thought out, worked through, all the logic tested and confirmed in your own mind. When you know what you are writing about, your writing gains depth and shadows, contrast and mystery: it becomes real to the reader, who becomes immersed in your world, and not merely reading.
I'm too young, too inexperienced in the real world! Yet, you know what it is to be you, or someone like you. You have seen, from your own particular perspective, parents, teachers, siblings, peers... You have dealt with Authority, you have felt happiness and sadness, you've lived through hot days and cold ones, you have walked too far, worked too hard... You know what these things feel like! You know what life is like from your own perspective.
"Writing what you know" means incorporating your own experiences, feelings, sensations, thought-processes.
It is how you work truth into your writing, even of fantasy or speculative fiction. It is how you get past what your head has to say, and down to what your body, heart and soul have to express. It is how you reach a reader on all those levels, too.
The other side, of course, is to stay away from writing what you don't know. Don't try to write about a world you don't know, a profession, an event in history, a gender, an age... You will not know to incorporate the small truths about such matters, the details that the will make your tale ring true. So--don't go there--unless you have done significant homework. In another word: research!
But I hate doing research! That is probably because most of what you have considered 'doing research' meant tedious excursions through libraries, or eye-burning sessions with search-engines. I know I hated it when I asked a question, and some adult who could have fed my immediate hunger to know, blew me off with, "Go look it up!"
But here is a grand truth about what research can be: many doors and conversations are opened with the simple statement: "Hello, I am a writer, and I am working on a project... " Ask with sincerity and courtesy, and you will be astonished who will respond helpfully, even eagerly.
This is not to suggest you never have to 'look it up.' Sometimes, you will have to do your homework before approaching someone you want to talk with you. You can't go to an expert in a topic and expect them to educate you in the basics you need, just to understand the answers to your real questions. They will look at you blankly and then say something along the lines of... Look it up! And then they will walk away from what will likely be your only opportunity to interest them in your project. Being prepared isn't just professional, it is courtesy.
The most important research a writer does is walking around in the world, eyes wide open, looking outward: To a writer, all of life is research: everything you see, do, experience--it all goes into your kit of things to write about. Every face you see, every personality you deal with, every moment you are alert and experiencing, goes into your kit.
Every writer is a witness to life and humanity, giving testimony, prosecuting, defending, and judging, and serving as courtroom reporter. Thes readers are spectators in that courtroom, seeing through the eyes of all the rest: a jury, coming to their own conclusions.
"A writer -- and, I believe, generally all persons -- must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 November 2011 08:29|