Write What You Know

Most of us have heard this advice and thought, “But what I know is boring,” or “What I know has already been written.”

Here’s the thing.

“Write what you know” is not about me writing a story about a woman who got pregnant at 17, married at 18, had some more kids, and divorced before she was 21 (though it might make for a damn good story).

“Write what you know” really should be “Write what emotion you know.”

What's Your Story

When I got pregnant at 17, I was scared. Not the “I just watched a scary movie and now I need the lights on” scared, but the deep in your bones, life-changing, all alone scared that doesn’t go away no matter how many lights we leave on. I now know that scared intimately. I can apply that scared to my characters in high stake situations.

That type of scared is the scared that I apply to Katia Billings, a twenty-something emergency worker who finds remains of a woman in a dune on Buxton Beach. An EMS worker finding a body isn’t where my knowledge of this kind of scared comes in. It is when she realizes the body is that of her ex-girlfriend’s mother, a woman who has treated her like a second daughter, that I pull from that knowledge of deep in your bones, life changing, all alone scared that I felt when I was 17.

My challenge to you is to allow yourself to remember and feel the hard emotions. What character have you created who can be brought more to life by applying that emotion? Put him or her in a situation and put the emotion in his or her gut. What happens next will determine the story you write.

2 thoughts on “Write What You Know

  1. When we write from a place of emotion, those emotions reach our audience and pull them into the book. I agree with you that writing what you know is like pooling your resources together to form a story that feels authentic, even if you’ve never been in that situation before.

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