One: Write What You Know

One: Write What You Know

A Lesson by Belator Books
"

If you don't know it, research it until you do.

"


"Write what you know... please."

In my high school English class our borderline-highbrow teacher would feelingly repeat the above phrase after giving each assignment. "I am thoroughly tired," he would continue, "Of reading of spacemen and dragons and soldiers and knights who are baseless shadows of what they could be."

Therein lies the juicy meat of this particular point: writing some slip-shod, ill-researched poor example of a book not only tortures the reader but flings a blot onto the face of Literature, itself. Well-read audiences groan upon reading tripe; their lament is not only for the wasted time but for the literary crime of ruining a character's potential with ignorant writing. When a writer knows the subject and characters of his/her book well, it shows. Likewise, even the most rudimentary readers can discern when said author is talking through their hat, or "writing by the seat of their pants". Even science-fiction writers (and fantasy writers) must research weaponry/scientific details and read voraciously of fellow and past writers' work in order that their book comes off with a measure of credence. Writing what you know is the main difference between a good book and a laughingly terrible one.

There are a variety of ways this can be accomplished; the easiest by far is personal experience. Writing your own story (or that of those close to you) allows one to grasp and pen accurate detail, correctly quoted responses to questions, the nuances of human expression and scenes can be thus painted with startlingly-familiar shades. My first fiction novel was based on the lives of real people, though mixed around a bit; pieces of the lives of one set of friends and family were selected and attached to those of others, well-spiced with carefully-researched details.

In many cases research can stand in where personal experience fails. For instance, I spent a solid month just counting out blocks from one location in my book to another, estimating--using different circumstances and Google Maps--just how long it would take the characters to get from point A to B, as well as discovering what state they'd arrive in. Some long-standing natives of the city mentioned were consulted and I was elated to find that the research I'd done was accurate. Said folks were also pivotal in providing local euphemisms to place the scene without having to constantly refer to the city's name.

Standing observation is the next method in line to aid in 'knowing' a scene or character, and by it have many good details enhanced past books. Such activity can be as simple as sitting on a park bench and watching folks walk by, taking note of their expressions, body language and clothes. This method is a bit more difficult than personal experience and research, as the observer/writer is left wondering about the lives of the people in the witnessed scene. A goodly amount of creative guessing is then needed in order to 'fill in the blanks', but that is part of the fun of writing and helps the observations notated translate into character personality, scene details and real actions.

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Comments

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Posted 3 Years Ago


Personally knowing the experience makes the writing real.

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Posted 3 Years Ago


Very good job. Well executed. To the point, but you can also connect with the readers.

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Posted 3 Years Ago


Very informative and I can relate to this kind of work!
I am learning from experiences through life and reading other people's works. I will look through this over and over again.

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Posted 3 Years Ago


I can relate to all this hard work of researching. I spent days at morgues and saw reels of footage that showed embalming methods before my book which was set in a funeral parlor. The research paid off substantially. And I am proud to report that the few people I allowed to read my work, couldn't sleep for a week. This would not have happened without research, research, and more research.

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Posted 3 Years Ago


Well said....got a lot as newbies

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Posted 3 Years Ago


awesome thanks

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Posted 3 Years Ago


Cool.

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Posted 3 Years Ago


This couldn't have been more true. i myself have realized the importance of correct details about the characters and set up. that draws the line between a writer who is there to stay and someone who thinks that anyone, including him/her-self could write.

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Posted 3 Years Ago


Great lesson. Thanks!

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Posted 3 Years Ago


So what do you suggest researching when writing fantasy stories?

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Belator Books
Belator Books

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About
The Styles are two fiction writers with day jobs. Married 17 years, 4 children and an organic garden. Twitter: @BelatorBooks & @writerlrstyles WordPress Blogs: www.lrstyles.wordpress.com www..