- Email me
- Nail Your Novel: books
- FAQ: I’m a new writer: which book should I read first?
- My writing process: the picture tour
- Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and how you can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence
- Reviews of Nail Your Novel
- Who’s tweeting about Nail Your Novel …
- Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel
- Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart: Nail Your Novel
- Who am I?
Posts Tagged know
What does this phrase mean, ‘write what you know’? New writers are often baffled by it, and feel their creativity has been stomped on. Most of us have a regular life with average troubles and jobs that aren’t the stuff of stories. And we want to write fiction to escape, explore, expand – so how do we do it?
Find your people in fiction
Great stories come from great characters. We might know a few people in real life with traits that are good story fodder, but not suitable wholesale. Most writers get inspired by characters they meet on the page – and especially in fiction.
In the UK at the moment there’s a scandal about an eccentric disc jockey and charity worker. He died a year ago and now we’re stunned to hear he’s accused of indecent acts. An often heard remark is ‘how could someone who did such immense good also do such evil’? Read some literature, though, and you’ll know – very well – how it is possible for remarkable people to have extreme sides.
More than any other written medium, novels can give us a person stripped bare, scrutinised in three dimensions. We see how they behave with their friends, family, strangers, people they think will never see them again. We can peek at what goes through their heads when they’re on their own. That’s a level of honesty you don’t even get in historical texts or biography. And you certainly don’t get that access to the people you rub along with in real life.
Reading fiction gives you characters you’re curious to understand, and that can guide who you’re interested to write.
Some novels are written about normal, domestic lives. But many more are about characters in danger, or on the edges of society, or realms of the extreme and extraordinary. Have all those writers had racy, perilous lives? Most have not; their natural habitat is usually a desk, like you and me. (Or if they have been adventurers, the chances are they don’t do the writing too.)
Ghostwriters, historical novelists, crime writers, fantasy and science fiction novelists are the living proof that you don’t have to have to write what you have personally experienced. But what these writers are good at is thorough research, led by genuine interest, so they can inhabit these environments as though they were real.
Write what you know – don’t let this stuffy phrase smother your imagination. Novels are not created by your daily life, but your inner life.
You’re interested in certain kinds of people? That’s who you ‘know’, on a writing level. You’re interested in certain kinds of story, settings or time periods? There’s what you know – or can know – well enough to write about.
Thanks for the pic H Koppdelaney
What feeds your writing and how different is it from your life? Are there other pieces of writing advice you’d like to take a hammer to? Share in the comments!
authors, beginnings, biography, books, characters, deepen your story, disc jockey, fiction, having ideas, how to write a novel, inspiration, know, knowing, life reading, literature, My Memories of a Future Life, novels, plots, publishing, reading fiction, real life, Roz Morris, where do you get ideas, Write what you know, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart
I post 4 to 5 useful writing links per day… and other stuffMy Tweets
- 2 days to get 7-novel box set – the band is about to split May 21, 2015
- ‘An expectant silence, a connection to something greater’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Kathryn Craft May 20, 2015
- How to think like a novelist – with help from Station Eleven and Emily St John Mandel May 17, 2015
- I write because… I’m totally unsuited to anything else – interview at Chris Hill’s blog May 17, 2015
- ‘His voice brought me back to where I began’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Joni Rodgers May 13, 2015
- Help – my characters are all too similar! 5 tips to make them distinct May 10, 2015
- ‘An anxious, urgent sound: the music of chance’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Jim Ruland May 6, 2015
Sign up for my newsletter
See what I did there…