Monday, 4 February 2013

Writing Fiction - WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

Write what you know .... I have asked myself many times, what does this really mean?

It seems obvious ... If I know about sport, my character could be in training for the Commonwealth Games.   If I am a computer programmer, I could set my novel in a technical environment. But that could be boring. I might well want to escape into a different world.

In any case, why write what I already know and get bored, when I could imagine and research what I want to write about, when I need to. I don't have to know it before hand.

Also, how can I write what I know about, when I really want to create something from the imagination?

How can I write fiction from fact?


Fiction is not all imaginary. If it was, the reader would not be able to identify with it at all ... and maybe we wouldn't be able to write it either. I am not sure it is at all possible to write absolutely everything from the imagination.

It must be a combination of both reality as well as imagination, in order to create fiction. Different genres require different amounts and levels of reality, fact, and imagination. For instance, Literary Fiction requires much more reality than Fantasy.

Therefore, some aspects of fiction has got to be from our own experience...something everyday...something we recognise, something we see as real. That "something", could be about love, or eating, or revenge, or struggling.

If we put the REAL, with something IMAGINARY, it becomes our work of fiction, that is more likely to keep the reader's interest.

Something imaginary, could be a character, or a place, a situation.

So if I create an imaginary character - like a woman with 5 arms and one very large eye, and call her SuperEye, and set her world on a different planet, and she absorbed metal, instead of eating food, sooner or later, I would have to make her do something that I know about, in order to write a whole story or novel that would be understandable  - to me, as well as my readers. It is also vital that this story keeps the reader's interest too.

So in order to create a story worth reading, my weird character Super Eye, would have to do things that were completely normal in the world of the reader. Super Eye might have human emotions like anger, fear, love. She would have some kind of flaw, like the inability to smell. Or the need to control her environment. And/or have something that satisfies her just as if she were human. That way, the reader has something to identify with, and become interested in the character and the plot, and continue reading, hopefully to the end.

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW, has the advantage of not having to research too many things before starting to write, as well as the writer having an in depth knowledge, maybe from personal experience, which would be an advantage in writing convincing fiction.


  1. This is so right, Marylin! People often don't realise they are doing it, either. I know I don't! And it's a good trick, what you said about merging reality with imagination, I will use that when I create characters in future I think!

  2. Hi S J Menary - I've seen many an argument on writer's forums about this topic - People say ... "Why should I write what I know ...I don't anyway because I create different worlds."

    But something has to be from the world of the reader, otherwise s/he couldn't possibly identify with anything in it. e.g. emotions, which are very important to humans, would have to be replaced by the unknown ...