It angers me when I read that writers should stick to what they know. Why the heck do I even bother inventing worlds and creating characters for then? This ‘what’ that I know feels a tad claustrophobic, so I say nay! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve traveled and met people, but I’ve never been a part of the New American Order (the zealous army in Rebel, my dystopian young adult thriller) and I hope to never meet a living and breathing Gargoyle (yes, my WiP series, Wanderlust, scares the shit out of me).
And mostly, what I think I should get from this erroneous quote is this: Don’t write what you know, because your stories will become boring, but write WHO you know. And who better to base your newly created characters on than yourself – or who you think you are? It can be anything, from a nasty habit of biting your nails to something you like to eat, which reminds me…
I went shopping with my sister at an Asian food store and as soon as we got there, I went straight to the candy aisle and looked for the treat that’s been my favorite ever since I can remember: Chinese HAW FLAKES. I don’t know if it’s the packaging (you’ve got to work for them suckers) or the bitter-tangy-sweet thin disks of exotic goodness, but once I’ve opened one, I can go through many disks in an hour or two, depending on whether I’ve had a good lunch or not.
So as I watch my provision of haw flakes slowly diminishing by the second, I get this flash: What if my character Quim from Land in Abyss has this kinda cute and peculiar thing for haw flakes? What if he can’t get enough and needs them like cigarettes? Oh, I can definitely understand THAT habit.
Happy writing, everyone 🙂
June 17th, 2011 at 2:17 pm
I do like your “write WHO you know Idea”, but I’ve never had a problem with “write what you know” because I’ve applied it more to. . emotions, passions, feelings, and the like, rather than the actual happenings. Otherwise, I’d never be able to write a decent fantastical piece! (Unless dreams count? I do have some very vivid dreams).
June 17th, 2011 at 2:21 pm
Me too, my dreams are SO MUCH BETTER than my real life.
June 18th, 2011 at 10:08 pm
It’s the richness of writing with a certain ‘truth’ that makes a story feel genuine and allows the reader to connect. Great post!
June 19th, 2011 at 2:11 am
Yes, it’s great when characters speak to you especially about habits that help form their personalities! If might be details that never end up in the ms but even just as part of their profile helps make them 3-D!