Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Write What You Know

Yes, I can already feel the disturbance in the force. It happens every time a writer gives out the advice "Write what you know."

Especially spec fic writers.

We've all felt some animosity, at least, for that piece of advice. But I had a lovely epiphany about this, even though I never thought I would ever give that piece of damn advice to anyone.

Are you ready for it? I mean, this is pretty ground-breaking *snicker snicker*.

Write what you know.

*cricket cricket*

Okay, let me explain. It doesn't mean you can only write things if you're an expert on the subject. In fact, those are the last people you want writing fiction 99% of the time. You need to write with what you know and not give a rat's ass about anything else, really. That's what lends real authenticity to a work of fiction.

For example: I don't know who the manuscript belonged to, but he let a dear friend of mine look it over. She did the standard editing things, I'm sure, but she also saw that his main conflict came from giant spiders--avicularia giganticus or horribilis or something like that. It was an avicularia.

Those that have seen an avicularia or know anything about them are probably laughing or shaking your heads right now. Those that aren't, I'll let you in on the joke:

Avicularia are the least threatening, frightening species of tarantula, like, ever. They're generally docile, good as pets, and they have pink feet. I don't mean pinkish like you'd expect a spider to look, but freaking PINK.

See? Now, I know this isn't about spiders, but the point is they're cute. Not many people would have been wise to that, but those that were would have been annoyed as hell. It's like a giant cocker spaniel coming after you. They're too cute to be really frightening. The most they'll do is lick you to death.

That's writing what you know, to one extent. You can't force that information, but if you know something that can add more logc and more realism to your story, use it. I know classical music and concert instruments inside and out. I can use some of that to my advantage in my books. Another friend of mine knows puppets better than anyone I've ever met. Another one knows all about Portland, Oregon, and another friend of mine is a little self-publishing encyclopedia/dictionary. All of these things can be used to their advantage, and we all have something like that. If my father ever tried a book, I know for a fact he could do something brilliant with modern mechanics or old cars--that's the kind of thing I've had to research.

And that's the other part. Somewhere in the recent past on Frances Pauli's Blog, she has a post on following tangents. She got an entire book series out of her last one (red cross dogs) and she also knows all about this wide variety of things, all from doing the research on a subject.

You need to research things that you enjoy learning about, because something in there will stick in you little writerly brain and pop up one day. Now, I'm not the best person to be saying this, but I'l make the resolution if you all will.

Make a list of things you want to know more about--at least ten things--and go through them, looking them over and up until you know them for sure. If that means you go take a Latin dancing class, then I'll probably be right there with you, because it's something I've always been interested in. I have next to no rhythm or dancing talent, but that won't stop me from learning about it.

The last thing I can tell you is specific to speculative fiction. You know your world and its laws, so you have to write them. You have to know your world,a nd I can't stress that enough: YOU HAVE TO KNOW YOUR WORLD!!! You have to be able, at a moment's notice, to cross-reference the uses of various things in your main character's supplies as an anti-venom for a dragon bite, or understand that dimension-bending engines have to have a particular and large fuel supply that may or may not always be present. That's also writing what you know.

Off to research...something...
Voss

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