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Write What You Know

Have you ever heard the old adage: WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW?

Taken literally this would mean the end of fiction as we know it; and our judicial system would grind to a halt stymied with a plethora of libel suits. What a boring, gray dull world that would be. However, a writer should, less literally, write what she or he knows. [And I’m talking fiction here, ‘cause fiction is what I do. Well actually I’m a paralegal by trade, writer by wiring, so I guess I do both and the non-fiction pays better, but I don’t love it. I love the fiction. Let’s stick to that.]

Writing “what you know” adds layers to a world that only exists in your own imagination making it real for the reader too. I shall explain. Let’s say you’re writing a science fiction fantasy about a prince kidnapped by a midwife who overheard the dastardly uncle planning to assassinate the just born babe.

Said prince, having no idea he is a prince, grows up to become a kingdom-wide renowned dragonslayer who is then commissioned by the sitting king (said dastardly uncle) to hunt a dragon. I sincerely doubt you as the writer have any first-hand experience with any of those facts [if you do, I apologize, and suggest you maybe seek medical attention of the white jacketed variety]. But that’s not to say you can’t add elements of your own experiences to your writing.

The meadow where a key fight scene takes place could actually be the park near your childhood home where your parents took you for picnics. Remember how the flowers moved in the summer breeze; or the way the sun felt shining on your face with the grass under your feet?

The ass-hat that cut you out in traffic this morning and made you spill the precious life blood of coffee? Yeah, she’s dragon fodder. And guaranteed you’re going to enjoy every second of her demise.

WARNING: I strongly recommend never inserting any former lovers in any story, ever, even as victims. Or if you do so, keep it to yourself; make sure the name isn’t similar; and the description is completely different. I mean the only person in the entirety of the world that ever knows that dragon just chewed up, digested, and pooped out Paul/Paula is you! The little warning at the beginning of the book about similarities to real people being a thing of coincidence – that needs to be true to avoid those aforementioned lawsuits. Plus current lovers tend to get their panties in a bunch over such things.

I got stuck during editing of Fated Souls. The editor asked me to find a different way to lead into a major climactic moment that they wanted me to keep after cutting the lead-in to that moment. I paced, I cursed, and I considered inserting a dragon – then I had my light bulb moment.

Last summer my fiancé, my daughter and I were driving home from a day trip upstate and we got caught in an unexpected tropical storm that had blown in off the Atlantic Ocean. It was just our car on a flooded narrow strip of road alongside the Delaware River, with trees falling all around us. It was terrifying and awesome all at once. And that storm became my transition. I wrote what I knew and I got unstuck.

Write what you know. The world will be a less boring place. Just leave your lovers out of it.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


  1. Ha, ha, ha! Becky, I love this! I write time travel, and I can guarantee I've never had the clock go backward, much to my chagrin (or relief, given my mood for dealing with the inevitable tt mayhem). But I have given a few pain in the arse people their just deserts in my novels. Feed those dragons!


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