Write what you know (it’s more than you think)

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.
sign off 1 (3)

4 thoughts on “Write what you know (it’s more than you think)

  1. Tan M Butler says:

    Exactly, the beauty with creating new worlds and characters is that you get to say what goes where and who says what and from a logical point of view that can only come from your view on how we all interact with one another in the environment we currently are in. I may not have experience in writing a mystical world about dragons and wizards but I apply logic and reason to every action and it’ll be believable to the reader.

  2. Zoie says:

    I love this post! “Write what you know” is one of the first pieces of writing advice I got as a child as well, and instead of limiting my writing to what I know, I decided to look at the piece of advice differently — it was more of a challenge for me to continue exploring new experiences and stepping out of my comfort zone in order to enhance my knowledge of the world and the people in it, and thus the complexity of my writing. 😊 This is why I view simply living life as the best way to enhance your writing, because everything you learn is something you can add in your writing.

    I enjoyed reading this post! 😋❤️

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