Write What You Know! But don’t be afraid. You know more than you think you do. ;-)

It is said that we should ‘write what we know’, and in my mind that is the only way to write. But don’t despair if you haven’t lived an exciting life in the ‘big city’ and want to write about it in your novel!

On hearing those four small words I have seen peoples  faces fill with dread. This short phrase can be misleading, build walls and barriers as well as impose limitations on the imagination and breed uncertainty.

The good news for all writers is that we all know a lot more than we think we do. Funny, it took  years for me to realise that ‘nugget of gold’!

What we ‘know’ isn’t just what we see around us. Our everyday material life we live. It is so much more…  

For instance, we all know what scares us and what being frightened feels like. How we react if we touch something hot or smell something rancid and it’s that we have to draw upon to make our stories believable to others. Your fear of the dark, pain and the unknown are other people’s fears too. You know what prompts these feelings just as much as other primal emotions of happiness, sadness, anger. These are a range of feelings that as a writer or a reader we all share. Remember that when you are penning a story as it will make the written word of the emotions and reactions of the characters real to your readers too. We all feel more than just emotions… Think of our other senses. What do you hear? What do you see? What’s it like to the touch?

Everyone knows what it feels like to have the sun on your back, to sit in front of a nice warm fire and feel snuggled, warm, safe; to fall over and scrape your knee – you probably did that hundreds of times as a child. You know how you and have seen others react to a loud bang! You know what your body does when you touch something hot.  Or what reaction you have when when you put something tart in your mouth. By sharing those sensations the reader will immediately know how your character reacts too.  For example, Daisy put a slice of lemon in her mouth and pulled a sour face. We don’t even need to add, she recoiled and cringed at the tangy taste because we can imagine it!

So, do you see by drawing upon what you and everyone else knows you’ve instantly created a rapport between you, your reader and your character and this trigger in turn will help share emotions. 

Now, you can move on. You will begin to realise that the situations that you are writing about,‘know’, does not necessarily have to happen where it actually happened. This experience could happen anywhere you want – even in another time or fictional world. Now is the time for you to filter your knowledge into your imagination.

Create a character that people will remember whether they will love, hate or feel indifferent towards. Give them a look, a trait, a catch-phrase that is unforgettable – for instance, do you remember Kojak the big, bald, hard-nosed detective with a lollipop addiction who constantly said, ‘Who Loves Ya Baby’? See what I mean?

To make characters in stories in the past or the future come a live use research to find out the fashion, transport, technology of the time for instance. Research is another form of knowing! Now you need to know how to make them real today.

Remember that people are people, no matter where or when they live(d). They will all have experienced love, hate and curiosity, just like you. Even if your characters are from another planet, live on another galaxy, or exist in some futuristic land in your story, you are going to have to give them traits that your readers can identify with here and now so the story will work.

So, taking what you have and what you know from your own personal experiences and research you can now make-believe.

A tip: Remember the 5, W, H rule of the investigative, interviewer -  Who, When, Where, What, How – you can’t go wrong. ;-)  

A story’s success is only waiting to be shaped by your imagination.

Now what are you waiting for?




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