Back on the third of June, Miss Rosemary posted a blog entry entitled Write What You Know. I’m here, not to counter it exactly, but to expand upon it. I know, it’s taken me a lifetime getting this posted, but life exploded, and let me tell you… the hunt for the article I got this from was a nightmare. I give full credit to Ms. Holly Lisle, who has taught me so many things over my years trying to write seriously. Her site, wisdom, and encouragement has been with me since I was a sophomore in high school, and I appreciate everything that she’s offered the writing community.
Write what you know. Seriously. It’s absolutely critical that you draw from your own experience when you’re writing. It makes your characters, settings, senses, and story so much more believable when there’s a human connection and experience linked to it. I would never tell anyone to abandon writing what they know. That would be ignorant and stupid.
What I do want to say is that: what you know is incredibly limited. I don’t care who you are, you can’t possibly know everything to muddle through certain parts of writing. You don’t have to have been a corrupt general of the US Army to write about a corrupt general of the US Army. One of the many amazing things I love about writing is that it forces you to learn, to research, to better yourself intellectually to take that leap into believable fiction.
Combine your experiences with research. If you aren’t willing to research, you’re going to look stupid. You’ll end up showing a 14th century Scottish Highland woman drinking coffee one morning as she stands looking out of her door. We don’t want that ridiculosity, do we?
‘Ridiculosity’ is a word. I penciled it into the dictionary myself. You’re welcome.
In any case, a writer’s job is not just to write, but to give the reader a sense of reality beyond their own. (Holly Lisle even suggests reading quantum physics books to build a better system of magic. I’m not quite so gung-ho, but you get the idea. =P) Read fiction and non-fiction. Science, history, and philosophy. Religion, romance, plays, and poetry.
Read and research so that writing what you don’t know once again falls into the realm of writing what you do know.