Friday, June 26, 2015
Writing What You Know
It's been said that you should "write what you know". I think a lot of writers do that, myself included.
We write to explain the past, the things that made us who we are today, the choices and decisions that have helped shape our lives.
A person that grows up in a volatile home setting might write characters in the same situation because that's all they know, while a person who grew up on a lavish horse farm in Kentucky might choose to solely write about Kentucky horse country. It's easy to get lost in the familiar but it's also important for a writer to broaden their horizons and step out of their comfort zones, lest we become repetitive and boring.
I like to think of myself as an observant people-watcher. I'm constantly wondering what makes people tick. That includes a few of my favorite authors.
One of my favorite authors, who mainly writes young adult romance novels, always seems to write characters that have strained relationships with their parents. You can't help but wonder, is this what she (the author) knows? Does she herself have a broken relationship with her parents that cause her to write the way she does?
Another author I like, who writes both young and new adult romance, always writes the same basic plot. I don't even have to open her latest novel to tell you that one of her main characters comes from money and privilege while that character's love interest comes from the 'wrong side of the tracks'; a child of either a drug addict or some other kind of lowlife. And the male character is always very possessive and clingy, which the author must find romantic. (I on the other hand see these as major red flags, but maybe that's just me). I can't help but wonder if this is the story of her life, with slight variations in each of her books.
I myself like to write female characters that are intelligent with a sharp sense of humor that aren't the stereotypical poster girl for beauty because that's how I see myself. I never saw myself as attractive in high school, and I still have bad days but now I see that there are all types of beautiful, not just the kind on the cover of Vogue.
I also have a tendency to set my novels in places that are familiar to me: Green Bay, Brookfield, Milwaukee, Marquette. I know these places like the back of my hand. But I've also reached out and expanded sub-settings to cities I've never been to.
Researching subjects and places for my writing is fun and I learn so much. If you would have asked me how I felt about doing research for a paper in high school I'd have sighed and groaned at how boring it was. I guess it's different when you can pick and choose what you wish to learn.
Someday I'd love to branch out beyond Paranormal Romance for Young Adults. I'd love to explore the Horror genre more and also branch out into New Adult Romance (either paranormal or regular).
It's kind of scare to deviate away from what you know but I think it's important to try new things. Not just in writing, but in all aspects of your life.
Let's say every morning you wake up and have two eggs, wheat toast, and a cup of coffee for breakfast. What's the worst that could happen if one day you wake up and decide to forgo your usual routine and have French toast and tea instead? Who knows, you just might like it better than the same old thing you've been eating (or writing as the case may be) everyday.
Just a little food for thought...
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