Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Write what you know VS Write what you want to know

I'm not going to spare you.
Not this time.
I'm bringing the much debated age-old debate right here for some new debating (*?*)

Write What You Know -  The Golden Advice. Coming down since the Jurassic Age or, whatever. If you're sensible and have your head on your shoulders, this is your motto. What makes this tick? Accuracy. If you write what you know, there's no chance of you going wrong with the facts (unless you're on the slightly deranged side). No wasting your time on research, 'cause, guess what? You already know!  
No chance of a reader from the south pole (in case your book is set in the south pole) shooting you a mail saying "Hello, I live here and there aren't were-kangaroos romancing us here!"and dedicating an online forum on how fake-tastic you are. Nope. Not a chance. You're golden. You're right. You're bought....

...right? 

Write What You Want To Know - Who does this?
--the ones with spunk
--the inquisitive bunch
--the ones on the adventurous side
--those who think research is cool
--and most importantly, like me, those of us whose lives aren't interesting/public-limelight-catching enough to fill a whole book (A book about me? Not happening, dude)


What do you get to do here?
--research (and it's double fun than it sounds)
--create a whole different world in your head (and I'm not only talking about lands of talking lions or fast cars. I'm talking about the world you live in. Only you get to make it your way. Fun, eh?)
--get to be in the shoes of people who couldn't be more different from you
--get to be in places you've never been to (in Breaking Away Ronni attends a number of raves. I haven't been to any of these parties, but I know so much about them now *nods*)
--writing what you want to know, but not exactly having the privilege to really do it, leaves you with more knowledge about...things (I guess - refer to previous point) 
--and, um, you know what, you get to have more fun (who wants to read your autobiography unless you've been pursued by a sex maniac on a road trip, embraced self-discovery atop a spaceship light years away from the earth or experienced an equally life-changing episode that can shoot up the best seller list? Not me, folks. Sorry *shrugs*)

At the end of the day, what matters is that you have a story  you have a gnawing urge to spit out of your system and characters --whether they are fang-licious or furi-licious, dancing robots or walking oranges, aspiring-Olympic-winners or the girl-next-door-- who are people (or *cough*things*cough*) your readers will want to know, or, to rewind back, an agent will like enough to rep you.

Which brings me back to ask you, to get something written, which school of thought do you follow: Do you write what you know or write what you don't know and want to know?

4 comments:

Sage said...

I like doing both. I also like researching until something becomes what I know. For example, I don't know anyone personally who has had a TBI (traumatic brain injury) but because I researched it to death for a character in a game, I felt like I knew it for Fireflies. When I feel like I do know something (an event, a feeling, etc.), I do feel more in control of my novel, this is for sure. I know that for DownLoad, I didn't know anything about guns (and the research had to wait 'til it was done because it was NaNo), and I felt the whole novel like I was just writing things that were going to be nitpicked to death. Nobody ever mentioned my spies being unrealistic, and I know the guns I ended up using for them were not only decent for the purposes they used them for, but personalized for each one.

I've heard of some people who have written real life experiences and been told that they sounded to farfetched. Isn't that crazy?

Bee said...

Sage-That's the fun thing about research, you end up knowing what you didn't know earlier simply 'cause you're writing a book about something you want to know!
Crazy, yes. Though they are actually the lucky ones..they have reason to blabber on :P

Becca Cooper said...

I mostly inhabit the Write What You Want to Know camp. Or the plain old Write What You Want camp. But I really do like research (although I don't usually do nearly as much as I should) and I think sticking to what I know would get very boring very fast.

Great post! :)

Kathy Bradey said...

I used to think I should write something that I didn't know squat about, eg. being a famous actress, a medical story etc. My family would always say... "Write about what you know!" (Which would inevitably produce an eye roll from me). However, I now think that you should write about what you know as in places, people etc. This adds more depth, authenticity to the story... hopefully :)

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