18 May 2013

Sometimes – Write what you DON’T know

I’m sure I’ve stated before I don’t always agree with the older adages of writing advice that are bandied about to newer writers. There are many that you look at and go “What the heck does THAT mean?” when you read them.  While these comments are designed to help the new writer, they don’t always give the full details of what they mean.

Take for instance this option: Write what you know.

Now let’s think about this adage. Unless a fantasy author is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism or holds a PhD in historical swords, I seriously doubt that they are versed in the proper battle techniques with a bladed weapon. No matter what the movies show, it doesn’t translate to the page that easily.

So I’d like to offer an adjustment to the adage we have here: Write what you understand.

Now this makes things more interesting. A housewife might understand the nosy neighbor more than she understands the international spy. Then again, they may be married to a member of the joint chiefs of the United States, too.  This doesn’t mean that they can’t research the item they want until they reach an understanding that will allow them to put a believable character on the page.

The important part of what I’m trying to say is that you have to make your story believable. Your words have to make the reader wanting to turn the page. If a details is so glaringly wrong that it ruins that experience, then you’ve struck an issue. This is one reason why we have readers before a story or book reaches the rest of the world. They can poke and prod the story for bits that throw them off and give you the chance to rewrite them.

For some writers, their greatest fun is when they have to research something for a character. No, they aren’t weird. They are learning. As writers, we should never stop learning. We become the world’s knowledge repository, because we have to know about a multitude of things, even if we can’t perform those acts ourselves.

Yeah, I just overwhelmed the brain, didn’t I?

I’m not suggesting you’re to become a brainiac, nerd, or representative of the know-it-all society. It takes a special kind of person to be so disturbed. Nope, I just want you to learn enough to make your story believable when people pick up the book or magazine to read it.

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