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Hi Susan, Do You Always Have to Write About What You Know?



Here’s something new I thought I’d launch on TWL, my response to questions I get sent from aspiring writers.  I’m calling it Hi Susan so if you have a question about anything writing related whether it be fiction or non-fiction just leave a comment or you can send it to me via writerslifeblog@gmail.com.

The first question I’m responding it was sent to me from Teri and she asked if writers should only write stories on topics they have knowledge about

That’s a great question and it’s actually one of the first things I read about when I was an aspiring writer. The author (can’t remember who it was), said you should always write about what you know or what you have experience with.

I followed their advice and decided one thing I knew a lot about was growing up as an only child. And yes, that idea eventually became my book, The One and Only.

A couple of years later I thought, wait a minute, if I’m going to write books for the rest of my life I’m going to run out of things I know about. Going against that author’s advice and feeling good that I was now doing something that had no rules, I decided to break it. I wrote mysteries featuring characters who were cops and private eyes and set stories in places I’d never been.

So it answer your question, Teri, no, you don’t always have to write about something you have knowledge of. I think as long as you attach the emotions that go along with something then that comes across to the reader as you knowing a lot about the topic/experince.

For example, you don’t necessarily need to have been chased by bad guys with guns drawn to know how scary that would be. All you need to do is remember back to a time you felt fear. Remember what your body was experiencing (heart racing, palms sweating) and what you were thinking (how is this going to end, will I be okay?) and have your character experience the same thing.

So if you’re ever at a loss to figure out how a character would feel and think in a certain situation, illness, accident, whatever, just think about what emotions are attached to it, think back to the time you’ve had the same emotion and project that onto your character and you’ll have the reader not only convinced but hooked too.

(And if you need expert advice about a career or a location etc. Check out professional associations and even writer’s groups because I’ve had lots of luck finding people who are more than willing to give me information I’ve needed for stories).

There’s a whole world out there to write about so never limit yourself.

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