Posts Tagged ‘write what you know’

January 10, 2014 8:45 am

Writing Tips: Write What You Know

Write what you know. Sound familiar? If you’ve ever taken a writing course, it’s probably one of the first lessons you learned. But what does it really mean? And how do you inject “what you know” into each and every piece of writing so that your stories ring true for your readers? Here are a few tips to get you started.

write what you know

Don’t stick to the truth

You’re still writing fiction, after all. A lot of new writers get nervous they haven’t had enough life experiences to write an interesting story. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Writing what you know doesn’t mean you have to only write about exciting life experiences. That’s where imagination comes in!

In fact, focusing on personal experience can be harmful to your writing. It runs the risk of turning your story into a diary – and reading someone else’s diary is, well, weird. And usually more boring than you would think. When you try to stick only to the truth, you tend to forget about the storytelling. I had one writing teacher who couldn’t write about a life event for at least 10 years; that’s how long it took him to get the necessary distance to write about the event more objectively.

What do you know?

Here’s a quick list of some things you might know about that could make for great literature:

  • Your job. Why not pull a Stephen King and write a novel about a writer writing a novel?
  • Your city
  • Your quirky neighbor
  • Your parents
  • Your hobbies
  • Your emotions
  • Your fears

You have inside information on some of these areas that no one else does. It’s those little details that will push your readers to suspend their disbelief and truly lose themselves in your story.

Focus on emotion

Pay extra attention to the last two on the above list: Your emotions and your fears. Take some time to explore what you really think, feel, hope, and desire. Be objective! When you begin to understand those emotions, you can start giving them to your characters. After all, it’s emotion that makes a story funny, sad, dramatic, or exciting. It’s also your best resource – use it!

Of course, some fabulous works of fiction are based on pure imagination. In writing, there’s an exception to every rule! As a writer, it is your prerogative to decide what to make up out of thin air, and what to take from your reality. Have fun!