Thursday, January 17, 2013

Write What You Know?

It makes sense. I mean, it'd be easy for me to write about a thirty-something-year-old stay-at-home mom in the Rocky Mountains who homeschools and well...writes. But who wants to read about that? Seriously.

I really don't think that's what this common piece of advice means, though. Trust me, J.K. Rowling hasn't flown on a dragon, and Orson Scott Card hasn't battled alien life forms. At least not to my knowledge. 

But haven't we all loved, lost, cried, dreamed, fought? Not to the point of having to kill a fellow teenager in an arena on live TV--but we can build on our own experiences to enrich the lives of our characters and how they will react to what's thrown at them.

And isn't all fiction fiction? It's not real. Yet when we utilize things we've seen and bring in a taste of what we know, it feels real. I may not know what it feels like to kiss the prince, but I sure remember how nervous I was with my first kiss...and I can use that for sure.

Write about what you feel and experience, what interests you and what you imagine. Because this is what you know. :)

Confession: the MC in my current WIP drinks coffee and I don't, lol. For you coffee drinkers out there, what's a good coffee for a 17-year-old girl to order regularly at a local coffee shop? Because no one understands me quite like you do.

26 comments:

Kyra Lennon said...

Haha, I love coffee, but when I go into those trendy coffee shops, I usually stare blankly at the board and eventually, calmly order a latte!

T. Drecker said...

Don't know if this helps, but my 16 yr.old son is a cappuccino fan.

DRC said...

Stephen King is a good example of 'writing what you know'. Most of his characters are writers. It's what he knows...lol

mmm...good coffee. I like a latte personally but for a 17 year old girl there's also flavoured coffees such as praline, caramel, chocolate and the likes. I'm sure the sweetness would be good for youngsters :)

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wonderful video - seriously sweet. I don't drink coffee either . . but I remember being 20something and getting a mocha with my friends - extra chocolate made it the best.

I love your post on writing about what your interested in, and using what you know from real life experiences . . . I've never wielded a sword outside of fencing club, but I can imagine that a battle isn't as pretty as practice . . .and my character finds that out.

ilima said...

Kyra-Haha. I think I would be the same way. It looks so intimidating. :)

Tonja-Yes, that helps. Thank you.

DRC-Ooh. Praline. That sounds yummy.

Tyrean-It's a cute video, isn't it? And if we can't write from our imaginations or about what interest us, what's the point, right?

Kathryn Purdie said...

This is one of my favorite songs EVER. My husband even recorded a version of himself singing it for our anniversary. <3

Great advice. I think about this a lot since I write fantasy and obviously haven't experienced the surreal things my characters have--but I feel I do understand the kinds of tests they endure, how they feel stretched to the end of their capacity. Like you, I definitely think I write what I know in that way.

Emily said...

Yes! You are right. We CAN write what we know and still right about dust storms on Mars. Am I right?

:)

Also, all of my characters drink coffee even though I don't. There's just SOMETHING about coffee shops.

jaybird said...

Believe it or not, I didn't start drinking coffee until after my kids were born. Can't believe it now, that I used to live a coffee free existence, LOL

My niece is sixteen and she always orders the same thing, a grande, skinny, vanilla latte.

J. A. Bennett said...

I've never had coffee either, but I agree that writing the emotions you know is counts. :)

ilima said...

Kathryn-I had no idea you loved this song. Although I do remember something about Jason recording something for you. :) What do you mean you've never slept in a tree before??? ;)

Emily-Really epic dust storms that go on and on while wearing sexy aspirators. :) I hear you on the coffee shop thing.

Jaybird-Omigosh. I'm totally using your niece's drink in my book, lol. So do you just go up to the counter and say, "I'll take a grande, skinny vanilla latte."???

Jennie-Yes, because we all experience so much to draw from, right?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sorry, I don't do the coffee thing.
We can only go on the emotional experience sometimes. Because I haven't flown a spaceship or teleported outside of my dreams!

Jack said...

Yes. I mean if we wrote what we saw daily or did...no one would ever get to go on adventures. Readers or writers.

Robin said...

Well put. And on the coffee note, I've been reading a lot of YA books where the MC drinks iced lattes (but maybe then you would want to avoid those? and do a drink that is just like your character???)

Robin said...

Well put. And on the coffee note, I've been reading a lot of YA books where the MC drinks iced lattes (but maybe then you would want to avoid those? and do a drink that is just like your character???)

ilima said...

Alex-This makes me wonder what it'd be like to write from the POV of someone not human. Haha.

Jack-Yep. Thank goodness for imaginations.

Robin-Oh gosh, another aspect of coffee drinking I hadn't thought of. *help* ;)

Jenny S. Morris said...

Sweet coffees, like a mocha frappuccino or a caramel macchiato.

And I think if we build our foundation of our writing on the things we do know. A close bond with a sister or the things we remember of our grandparent. How it felt to grow up poor. All these little things that make us who we are. Once we have the things we do know as our foundation we can start adding all the things only our imagination can experience.

Johanna Garth said...

Exactly, write what you know isn't always about experience as much as it is about emotion.

And for your 17 year old character, I'd go with some sort of sugary latte because they have less caffeine and kids love sugar. Like a mocha-caramel latte. I could see my daughter drinking that in (gulp) 6 years!

Shallee said...

Afraid I can't help you out on the coffee. But this is so true! I often go back to experiences where I felt a similar emotion to what my character is feeling to get in the right mindset.

ilima said...

Jenny-Thank you. Those sound yummy.

Johanna-Emotions...yes. And that makes sense about sugary coffees.

Shallee-Yep. That what makes stories feel so real.

Angela Cothran said...

Maybe you should switch her to cocoa or herbal tea :)

Bonnee Crawford said...

I tend to find myself writing characters who are the same ages as me, and go through situations that bring out certain emotions in them; things that I've felt for myself. If everyone only wrote what they knew, we wouldn't have awesome books like Harry Potter, with the magic and the dragons and the spells and whatever that don't exist. So this is a good explanation of the term 'write what you know' for anyone who was confused! I couldn't agree more :)

ilima said...

Angie-:)

Bonnee-All of my MC's are 17-years-old. Must've been a favorite year for me. :)

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Ha! I'm a non-coffee drinker too. Yes all fiction is fiction and we use both experiences we've had and heard about to create a world that will draw potential readers.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Mmm, well said!!!

Nicole said...

I'm not a coffee drinker either. I think you nailed it on the true meaning of "write what you know," though.

ilima said...

Sheena-kay-Maybe we should start a non-coffee drinker writers club. Haha.

Michelle-Thanks!

Nicole-Thanks for stopping by.