Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday's Thought: Writing What You Do Know or Don't Know?



"Write what you know" is a saying for writers that means we should write what we already have knowledge about or have experienced. For example, someone who may have had to put their child up for adoption before obviously could write about the topic, since they have lived through the emotions themselves. Or if you have a degree in history, then the historical fiction genre would probably best suit you.

I believe writing what you know is not a bad idea. That's what I am doing by writing fiction in the young adult genre, since I'm able to see clearly from the perspective of a teen today (because, well, I am one). But what about the freedom of writing to learn - not just writing from experienced situations, but writing to learn about a certain topic or situation? Writing is an adventure - you can explore places you have never been before, learn about things you've never quite understood, and put yourselves in someone else's shoes for a change.


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What is your opinion of the advice "write what you know"?
Do you write to explore, or write to share what you already know?
Do you think fiction seems more real if the author writes what he/she has experienced?

12 comments:

  1. What is your opinion of the advice "write what you know"?
    I think its true because it's easier for the writer to write what he/she knows without going through a lot of research and planning. Of course, that's just my opinion...

    Do you write to explore, or write to share what you already know?
    Both really. Because they're both fun to do in their own way, but I would prefer to share what I know. Makes it much more simplier to do.

    Do you think fiction seems more real if the author writes what he/she has experienced?
    Yes, I do. That way it won't seem fake if the writer describes something that isn't true.

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  2. Nice topic to explore, Tessa. Writing what you know is certainly easiest. And if you've experienced what you're character is experiencing, it brings a good edginess to the story. Sometimes when I'm reading a good book, I wonder if the author may have experienced that problem or situation because they have told it so well. I think that as storytellers, we don't have to live every situation in real life to relive them in our pretend. Experiences--like grief, sadness, great joy, surprise--blend into other similar experiences and we can easily slip into our character's shoes and express those feelings through her journey.

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  3. I agree with you!
    I think we can write to learn something, but I also agree with writting what you know.
    When I have an inspiration for a history, I stop to read about it before writting. For exemple, if one of my characters is going to be a doctor, I read about doctor´s experiences. And I always learn something good!
    We should write about a new thing for us, but study it before!
    It´s a pleasure to comment in your blog!
    God bless you!
    Kisses (or in portuguese "beijos")
    Rebeca (@araujorebeca)
    Rio de Janeiro,Brazil

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  4. I agree with all of you. Writing what you know helps make the story seem more genuine. And if it was a painful experience in your past, then perhaps you can go through the healing process with God as your main character does, also.

    But, since I am an actress, I also love writing to explore. Writing and acting are very similar - you go through your character's emotions, put yourself in his/her shoes. Similarly to writing, acting is more real if you and your character share more things in common.

    What I like to do is weave the two together - take the same emotions that I have been through in the past to connect with my character and what she is going through. Sure, you may not have been in the same situation before, however you can use part of yourself and past experiences similar to what she is going through in order to make the scene/story seem more real.

    Thanks everyone for your comments!

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  5. Yes the best writers, the successful ones, really know the genre and subject that they are writing. Authors such as Tolkein and JK Rowling have developed their own worlds with maps and rules etc, so they definitely write what they know and look how successful they were! :O)

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  6. Well, I think you HAVE to write what you know, because otherwise...well, how would you write it? But part of the fun is researching stuff beforehand.

    For my ship story, I didn't know really anything about ships...I'm still learning. But I got some books and took a sailing class at camp :)

    So...yes, I say write what you know. But also try to learn more.

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  7. Well, of course you have to write what you know, but I guess my point is do you write what you know (ex: a situation you've experienced, a topic you already have a knowledge about etc.) or do you write to learn, researching everything beforehand.

    I may write a longer post exploring this subject next week since I am getting various responses. =)

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  8. If we always wrote what we knew, there'd be no fantasy genre. I suppose you could argue since GOd isn't walkin around in a physical body, there'd be no Christian literature either.

    I think you should write what you feel. For example a woman who gave a child up for adoption could probably write a very convincing story about the death of a child. Because there's the feelign of loss, and the impossibility of seeing the child again.

    I also think if we wrote only what we knew, most of us would be good only for one story. Or we'd have to constantly be moving all over the world/country, switching professions, etc. Although I do that anyhow. lol.

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  9. "I also think if we wrote only what we knew, most of us would be good only for one story. Or we'd have to constantly be moving all over the world/country, switching professions, etc."

    That's also one thing I was trying to take into consideration, lol. The stories you write can't all be the same... there has to be some variety.

    Thanks for your comment, Claire! =)

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  10. Interesting thought for the day! I like to write from what I know, but I also like how you put it 'writing is an adventure.' After reading your post, I like the idea of a mixture of the two. Maybe something a little bit familiar, but a topic you would like to explore more. :) Great post!

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  11. I think writing is a mixture of writing what you know and what you don't know. Obviously, it's helpful if you have experience in a certain genre; but you can't know everything about your plot from firsthand experience. For example, I'm writing a male MC right now; I certainly don't know what it's like being a guy because I'm a girl. This is where research comes into play and not necessarily "book" research. It's about observation and study.

    Also, fantasy authors can't know their topics from experience because there's no such things as vampires and werewolves and faeries. But there IS such a thing as love and the disappointment. For these emotions, we can draw upon personal experience.

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