They say to “write what you know.” I must say that I found this to be true when I sat down to write my novel. I didn’t live the lives of any of my characters, but their thoughts and experiences were somehow known to me. When either what happened to them or by them happened to someone I know or to me, the writing was the easiest. And thank the Lord for the Internet. When I didn’t know enough about something, with a few clicks of my mouse, the information was at my beck and call.
You know, if I think about it too hard, how does “write what you know” work for science fiction writers? I guess I shouldn’t think too hard.
Woven into my story are things I love, found amusing, or even horrifying. I now listen to people in a different way than before. If a turn-of-phrase is well done, I steal . . . er, borrow it. People’s stories resonate with me differently as well. As I listen, I wonder if it would work in a book. For example, I heard from a friend that Chinese immigrants brought over to work on the Transcontinental Railroad were also used to clear poison oak from fields. Can you imagine! They must have been miserable and covered in a blistering rash. While not enough for a novel, it would add an interesting element to a story about the taming of the West.
One of the nicest things that came out of writing a book was learning how to listen to the world with a writer’s hat on. I read with a different outlook as well. When the author’s words sing to me, I am envious of their talent and study the words to figure out how they strung them together so beautifully. When the writing falls flat, I initially get annoyed, and then wonder how it could be better.
Of course, not all good writing is based on real experiences. A writer needs a vivid imagination and time to stare into space with a blank look on their face. It is amazing how many good ideas came to me when I looked like someone spaced out on drugs.