This post was
provoked inspired by today’s #readwriterepeat prompt – worst writing advice.
Writers, especially those starting out, are so often told write what you know. And often, because writer’s are (often) pernickety folk, and most start out writing, and so hear this advice over and over, as teens, those four little words may be the most ridiculed in the writing world.
But when the advice is taken to heart, those well meaning writers produce thinly veiled autobiographies with no fewer than three references to that time Sam called Marnie a bitch in geography class.
Every other young writer who hears it responds with some variation of ‘screw that’ and goes about their business. Which is totally fine.
But, write what you know isn’t bad advice if you interpret it as write what you know about people.
You don’t have to have been to magic school to write the tale of a young witch off to the most dysfunctional, underfunded magic institute this side of Eastwick. You don’t have to have lived at the French court at the turn of the 17th century to write a salacious tell all from the POV of the head scullerymaid. You don’t have to have been to space and fought beside aliens against a human-run corporation trying to privatise the universe to tell that story.
What you do know (or should – it may take some study, introspection, and observation) is people. How they behave and act and react. What they say, and what they don’t, and how their bodies betray their true thoughts and emotions. Every story ever told is about people. Okay, yes, perhaps your characters are elves, or orcs, or vampires, or a race of very intelligent crickets in top hats but each of these creatures’ actions and reactions will be in dialogue with our own innate human-ness.
So keep a keen eye on those around you, their interactions, their words, their emotions, and write what you know.