Thursday, June 2
Knowing What You Know: And Writing About It
Writers hear this all the time: Write what you know.
Does this mean if you're a graphic designer, you should only write about graphic designers? Doctors should only write about doctors? Third-grade teachers should only write about third-grade teachers?
Nope, because most people want to read about what they don't know, and if we never experience that same delight of discovery, how can we put it into our novels? It's our jobs as writers to make that unknown, feel known. To make what isn't possible feel real.
We can do this by using what we know, even if we know it in a way that's not the least bit story worthy.
I flipped on my bathroom light this morning, and in a buzzing flash, two light bulbs went out. The single remaining light turned my normally bright and cheery bathroom into something dim, dingy, and even a bit scary. Though I'd been awake for all of two minutes, I noticed how that change in light affected the mood of the room. (and then I thought of this post)
If I ever need to write a scene in which the quality of light creates a creepy mood, or use the simple act of a light bulb burning out to foreshadow, I'll know just how to describe it. Because I've seen it, and now I know it.
Every writer knows a lot. They know what a variety of emotions feel like, what all kinds of things look like, how people act in different situations. Maybe they've never been stranded on a desert island, but I bet at some point, they were left behind somewhere. That gem of feeling, the memory of that event, can be used to craft the bigger emotion needed for the desert island story. We can take what we know and expand on it.
Just like you use a character's past experiences to know how they'll react in a situation, use your own past experiences to understand what your characters are going through. If you're a graphic designer, use that knowledge of art, and beauty, and patterns and colors, or commercial aspects of a creative field. Look at the themes and generalities of what yo know and see what's usable for your stories.
You "know" more than you think you do.
(And the urge to end this with "and knowing is half the battle" is overwhelming)