Thursday, October 20, 2011

Write What You Know?

Thinking about Thursday
*This blog repeat brought to you by Finals week*

Write what you know? 
You've heard this, right? I have never understood it. 
I write romantic suspense.
Emphasis on  suspense rather than romance, which you already know if you read my previous post.
To date, I have never been stalked by a serial killer, kidnapped,  shot at, or even used a firearm myself. My experience with bullets is limited to taking the picture above. I don't even like scary movies.

So, exactly, how am I suppose to write what I know? I mean, unless someone wants to read about me being viciously attacked by a sink of dirty dishes or the wild car chase to get my daughter to gymnastics. I don't know much!

This lead me to what I am thinking about today. How did you choose your genre? Or did it choose you? 

Mystery and suspense feel natural to me. But, my personality is far from dark and brooding. In everyday conversation, I am good at making people laugh. I struggle with bringing that humor to my stories.

When I was dreaming of being a writer as a child, I wanted to be Judy Blume. Now, I spend everyday in a room thick with teenage angst. But, I have no desire to write YA. I couldn't be surround by it all day then delve deeper in my writing time. 

At some point, I have to step away from what I know and escape into what I write.

So, what about you? Why do write what you write? Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?



Laura Pauling said...

I love kidlit, so that's why. I just finished my first YA first draft and I moved up because I tend to like more complicated plots and emotions. I find the world of kidlit very exciting.

And I take write what you know and write about the deeper emotions I have experienced. I haven't done half the stuff I write about. That's why I like research!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post my friend. I Write what I know, but sometimes that can be a bit challenging. I guess my genre chose me. Not 100% certain about that just yet.

Dawn Alexander said...

Laura and Mitzi! Thank you for stopping by!

I enjoy doing research, too. I have a friend who works for a law enforcement agency. He loves getting random phone calls that start with "So, if I were to kidnap someone..." at least, I am sure that deep sigh is really an expression of affection and not exasperation.

Alexander M Zoltai said...

Good Solid Post!

I think "Write what you know" is the rule for folks who are afraid of writing or those who do enough research. Researching makes you know. Some writers engage in real-life research, too.

I've used the virtual world, Second Life, for some of the research for my WIP...

Still, the actual reality of my story is something I could never experience...


By *writing* it and trusting my unconscious to supply the reality I can't live in.

Am I making any sense??

Going to go off now and publish a link to this post on Facebook and Twitter :-)

Dawn Alexander said...

Alexander, I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes you just have to trust your research and your instinct and keep writing.

Thank you so much for passing the link along. :)

Kimberly Menozzi said...

I write about emotions, first and foremost. My genre is contemporary fiction, and my first stories are set in Europe - because that's where I live now, and what I know best.

However, I think a hazard of advising "Write what you know" is that there's a certainty that people will take it literally.

I understand this edict to mean "Write what you understand - what you have experienced - which is universal". In other words, write about what you've lived, both physically and emotionally.

My current WiP is about a cycling race. I've never competed in one, but I can write about it, because I know how it feels to be pushed to my emotional and physical limits in one way or another. Enhance that, add in the research I've done, and there's a sense of realism that might not have been there if I hadn't dug deep in myself and put the emotion on the page.

And yes, as a writer, you have to trust your instinct and your research to take you where you've never been - and still get it right.

It's a wonderful profession, isn't it? ;)

Anne R. Allen said...

This is an interesting question for me, because I'm about to change genres from romantic suspense to straight mystery. As I was trying to make the decision where to take my next book, I saw the statistic that romance readers are mostly age 30-45, and mystery readers are mostly 45 and up. Maybe a little bit of cynicism creeps in as we age--it's more fun to kill the guys than explain bad behavior.

Unknown said...

Awesome post Dawn!

I've always taken the saying “write what you know” to be advice more directed at learning one’s craft, not necessarily choosing a genre, unless it’s speaking only to non-fiction writers. There is no way high fantasy (think LOTR – Star Wars) writers could “know” what they write (and look out if they do, chances are good that they aren’t human! LOL). But what they do undoubtedly know is their own imagination and how to use it. They know how to build entire worlds using carefully constructed words, and they know how to sneak skillfully placed hints into their character's dialog.

I write YA Scifi and Paranormal Romances, not because I’ve ever fallen in love with an alien or hunted evil fairies, but because that’s what I love, that’s what I know in my heart, and that’s what drives me to write.

The saying should read “write what you love,” because that is all we can really “know” as writers. We know what we’re passionate about… and then we write it down.

Jerrie Alexander said...

Great question Dawn! I'd have to go with write what you love.

I wrote a couple of contemporary romances in the beginning. The stories? Meh!

Something was missing. I read mostly romantic suspence with an occasional historical. When I realized I should write what made me happy I switched to romantic suspense.

Susan Macatee said...

Great post! I primarily set my romance stories during the American Civil War. I not only have a great interest in that period, but was a reenactor for nearly 10 years. But I also mix in paranormal elements, like time travel and even vampires into my Civil War stories.

The two latter genres come from my childhood years from watching shows like 'The Time Tunnel' and the daytime soap 'Dark Shadows'. You don't have to live through something to be able to write about it. Just read what others have written and learn all you can about your chosen genre.

Dawn Alexander said...

Great input, Ladies.

Candie~ You are exactly correctly "write what you love."

Jerrie~ I did the same thing. I read mostly suspense and tried writing contemporary romance and thought "why isn't this working?" Oh, yeah.

Susan~ It is supercool you were an reenactor. Your stories sound very interesting.