I’ve heard it a few times, but mostly from people repeating what they’ve heard other people say. And for the longest while, I thought it to be true.
It’s one of those things that people just hear and accept. Usually those things either seems logical, or they’re so far fetched that someone would have to be crazy to repeat them if they weren’t true, therefore, they must be true.
But sometimes the truth is obscured by the repetition of falsehoods to the point of those falsehoods becoming pseudo-facts.
The one I’m talking about is that oft repeated rule of writing, “write what you know.”
You see, it’s never as easy as that. If you write only what you know, you’re wasting your time.
In truth, if you are to take that to heart, you immediately limit yourself in possible subject matter. You may be a veritable wealth of information, but much of what you know may be of little or no interest to readers.
And then there’s this …
Additionally, even if you find yourself writing about something you know that would be of interest, an occasion might present itself where you find you’re in need of some device or other to further the plot, or deepen interest in some character that needs more focus, or even just to hinge the entire plot twist on.
Again, if you write only what you know, you limit the possibilities of what that device might be.
Now, it could be that the best possible subject for you to write on is among your stored up knowledge, or it could be that the perfect device to augment your story is sitting right there on a shelf in your brain quite ready to hand.
But it might also be that there is something better out there, and you’re going to ignore that possibility because you’re only looking amongst the things you know and know well.
Time to do a little research?
But here’s a better plan. Take the time to look around at all the things you don’t know well. Visit the library, ask questions of people, watch and see how things work and why.
And then, seek that perfect subject for your next story, look outside the box of your own mind for those cleverest of devices and choose not just the most known to you, but the best possible ones available. Isn’t your story worth the best?
Well, then comes the fun part. Find out all you can about the thing or things you’ve chosen for inclusion. Give those things a home in your mind. Make them part of the repertoire of your thoughts and knowledge.
And then write your story with the fresh eyes that your reader may well be bringing to the pages you create. And dress that story with the devices you choose like they were new clothes from a mail order catalogue that were picked out just for this occasion.
A new way of thinking …
In short, cast aside the idea that you should, “write what you know,” and instead, embrace the idea that you should “know what you write.” This, this allows you to use the entire world as your resource, and not just the cache on the shores of the tiny island of your own personal knowledge.