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WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW OR NOT?

January 20, 2021

            The debate about writing what you know or not comes up quite often. I’ve discussed it directly or indirectly here at Fred Central in numerous ways, but now is the time to address it directly.

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

            When writing your big lie, it’s always best to stick as close to the truth as possible.

            Why?

            Simple. The closer to the truth it is, the less likely you are to get real details wrong.

            This line is one used quite often in fiction, and it applies just as well in real life. When we write a fictional story, it is, after all, a big lie. It’s a made up story. If it’s not fantasy, in which the entire world is made up, it sticks to certain rules that one must know or adhere to for the story to come off as believable. If not, the reader is going to scoff at the page and likely put the book down. The reader is going to think the author doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

            Your big lie is busted.

            Therefore, when you construct your illusion of the truth, you need to get your facts straight. Following this philosophy, it’s much easier, and better, if you at least somewhat know what your talking about coming out of the gate.

            To save on time, effort and research, if at all possible, it’s best to start with writing something you know.

            Whether it be time, place, talent, profession, or whatever, the more you already know, the more realistic the lie is going to be. The better your story is going to be.

WRITE WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

            There’s a faction out there that’s of the philosophy that when you construct your big lie, it’s all about the research.

            Research research research.

            You should write about what you don’t know so that you challenge yourself, you force yourself to get better educated, to delve deep into the unknown, to learn new things, to adventure into new horizons.

            This way, you can craft a much better and mor exciting story because you’re picking up the energy of discovery and translating that to the page.

            Plus, you aren’t restricting your creative freedom to what little you know right now.

            A great philosophy if you have the time and money.

A PRACTICAL PERSPECTIVE

            As for right now, I personally own the luxury of having lived in a lot of places I can use for my thriller and icky bug novels. I have a wealth of ideas brimming over. I’m in no short supply. I’ve lived the places I want to write about. Therefore, my actual cost of research is minimal compared to someone more homebound and wanting to branch out.

            Would I want to write what I don’t know?

            Fat chance. I have so many ideas for places I already know, I probably won’t run out in my lifetime.

            What about you?

            For those of you with more limited travel or means, you have to follow either your inspiration or your limits.

            You can do either or both together.

            If you write what you know, all of your work can center around one location, the subject matter involving one occupation or hobby, or be from one genre.

            Or…

            If you want to write what you don’t know but are homebound or have no means of travel, you can challenge yourself and leave your inspiration open and travel through others.

            If you want to write about another location, time, occupation, or hobby, it boils down to a good internet connection, a good phone, library, and communication skills.

            For instance, do NOT get frustrated when you read the bibliography, final thoughts, or web site of some of these big-name authors who took six months to research a thriller. So and so author traveled to exotic locations, swam with the dolphins, went to remote Nepalese temples, trekked into the remote Amazon, bla bla bla just to write a few paragraphs of detail into their story.

            It’s nice if you can flaunt it.

            However…

            You don’t need to do that to get the nuances of your story.

            You can do the same thing with books, the internet, letters, phone calls, etc.

            Or, the most universal of all…

            Be vague.

SUMMARY

            Everyone has had some experience going somewhere or doing something. If you have a desire to write, whether you desire to write what you know, or challenge yourself to write what you don’t know, the means are out there for both.

If your inspiration takes you to unknown places for you, don’t be afraid to reach out. Once you get there, that mental trip may change your inspiration. Once you get the facts, you may decide that it wasn’t for you after all, especially when reality sets in. On the other hand, maybe the trip into the unknown inspires you even more.

            Then again, when you already HAVE the experience, the skill, the inspiration from something you’re familiar with, why not use it rather than let it go to waste? Don’t let someone talk you into forging a new path you don’t need to take.

            Whatever you decide, don’t let either writing what you know or don’t know become a roadblock.

            Happy writing!

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