Oh, it’s going to be one of those posts. I’m going to drop a chest nut on you.
I’ve brought this up before on the blog: “Write what you know.” It’s a mainstay of writing advice. What isn’t a mainstay of that advice is the reason behind the advice(I’ve never seen presented).
So that’s what we’ve got today. The reason behind the “write what you know” advice.
Okay. Now that you’ve stopped hyperventilating from excitement, keep reading.
So the reasoning behind the advice is simple, we’re trying to fill the page with honesty. That honest moment; being alone in a crowded coffee shop, or that moment when two people connect and form an unbreakable friendship. That honest feeling; the realization that the universe is too big for you, or how excited your pet is to see you when you come home from work lets all the shit from the day fall off your shoulders. Whatever you honestly know and have experienced coating the page so readers can connect with your story.
I’m going to pull back the curtain so you can see backstage of my writing. SPOILER ALERT: If you’re a fan of my other writing, and don’t want the whole thing dissected then skip to the salutation. For those of you that remain here’s some honesty for you: For a good chunk of my life, and I’m talking a solid 25 years, I’ve felt alone, like I didn’t belong, it’s something that I struggle with even now. I joke, but it really is true, that I was raised to be an outsider by a family of outsiders. So if you look at my writing it’s all, and I mean every story I’ve written, is about being alone, feeling isolated, struggling to find a place to fit. That’s the emotion I know the most, and that’s the emotional truth I put onto the page.
Now, that write what you know advice doesn’t have to consume the entirety of your stories like mine does. In the examples above I mention that pet whose enthusiasm to see you makes life easier to bear. That is an emotional truth itself, and you can use it in your writing. I would like to express the emotional truth is not the same as actual truth, so you can apply the knowledge of that moment and relationship to a married/dating couple. It’s still fiction writing after all. You see just because you haven’t experienced a specific thing, let’s say divorce, doesn’t mean you haven’t felt alone, or betrayed, and can apply it to the character in your story that is getting divorced.
The important thing to remember is the honest emotions you’ve experienced and apply those to your writing. The problems arise when you try to write about an emotion you haven’t experienced. Don’t be discouraged, every day you get to run through, roughly, 16 hours of emotions, eventually you’ll have enough for a whole saga of novels.
Until next time: Be yourself, be well. Write yourself, write well.