Monday, July 2, 2012

Write What You Know

First of all before I start writing more about what I know.  Let me divide my writings for those of you that may think everything I write is based on my life experiences.  When I'm blogging on a daily basis with all of you reading, I am including writings pulled from some of my life experiences.  I am blogging and most of it is non fiction to you as the reader.  Let's make that clear.  Anonymous made a comment that everything I write is from my life experiences.  So I told her that she could choose to stay and read or go find another blog that will better suit her.  I write for me first and foremost.  And most of the time when I am blogging to all of you, it is non fiction and it is my opinion about everything.  We all have our own opinions and nobody can change it.  It's up to us to change ourselves.  Nobody else can do it for you.

But when I choose to post a blog of my poetry, STORY LINE STARTERS or for instance, The Glorious Money Tree novel or The Thief Who Wouldn't learn novel that I am writing or another type of Short Story like Alter Ego Meets Soul Mate, those are all fiction.  Unless I tell you otherwise that some of the poetry is non fiction.

Some of my poetry is also made up.  I'll let you know if it is.  And I have other poems about my Mother or other things that are non fiction.  I usually let you know then too.

But most of the time, I am blogging on here and it's non fiction and I'm expressing my opinion on things and telling real life stories and other stuff.  So if anyone reads and gets disgusted that everything I write about is from real life experiences, maybe they should be seriously looking for another blog.  I am not about to please Anonymous.  

But even in fiction, we are told so many times to write about what we know.  How can you write about something you know nothing of and expect to pull it off?  Can you honestly tell yourself that you can make it believable?  I'd never have my heroine be a doctor or lawyer as I wouldn't be able to pull it off.  That's why she is most of the time a writer, artist, blogger, knitter, etc.. 

All of my fiction has a bit of me in it somewhere, or maybe a little bit of my mother or some other person that has touched my life.  You will find that even more prominent writers pull stories from their life history too.  There is just no getting around it.  The author of the Stephanie Plum series has done it too.  robert Ludlum and other's have done it.  Baldacci?  I can't quite remember which writer it was, but at least one of them was either a doctor or lawyer in real life and all their stories were heavily based on medicine, etc....  I'll remember the writer's name later or maybe one of you can jog my memory.

However, if you use yourself as a basis, you can include character flaws you might not admit to in real life, and you can base your character’s reactions to an event on how you would react in the same position. The character will be more believable because it’s based on a real person – you.

To write what you know does not mean to only write about experiences you’ve actually had or people you’ve actually met. It means to use what you know about life, nature, and humanity and use it as the foundation for your stories.

Creativity and art and writing is about defining non fiction and fiction in unique ways.  Okay, so maybe you are an artist in real life and your character is one too.  You can still make her so different than you. Maybe you want her to be an alcoholic or something else that you are not.  As a fiction writer we can twist so many different elements into a story.

Maybe there's a base of my real life in there somewhere, but I will swear that I have never any of the conversations that happen in my stories.  I invent so much stuff.  Some of my characters have furniture and things I have never had.  I've never had to climb down a lighthouse and escape from a killer.

Below are some things I found on the web today.  All are some good hard facts that all fiction writers use to the best of our advantage.
It is true: you should write what you know, but you should also leave room in writing for the unknown, room to explore and discover new truths, ideas, and possibilities:
  • Write what you feel. Use your personal, emotional experiences and share them with the reader through characters you’ve invented. Emotional truths make a piece of fiction honest and compelling.
  • Write what you imagine. Let yourself explore a world of possibilities: fantastical beasts, mythical creatures, aliens, and strange, magical worlds.
  • Write what you experience. Every experience you’ve had can be translated to fiction. Remember your first day of school? Tweak that experience and give it to one of your characters, even if the character is an elf or an alien.
  • Write what interests you. You can write what you know after you’ve learned it. Conduct research about things that interest you and then use those things in your stories. Pull facts and ideas from history, current events, and textbooks.
  • Write what matters to you. It goes without saying that your work must matter to you. Write about what moves you, stirs your passion, fills you with joy or rage. If you’re invested in your project, it will come through in your writing and it will speak to higher truths.
Above all, just write what you know and you will be more believable.  People will want to read it more if you have written something believable instead of something far fetched.  

And above all that, write about things you love.  It will show in the long run.

So, I will blog and express my opinion as much as I want.  I do believe it is a free country with freedom of speech.  And remember that when I am blogging, it is non fiction and I'm just exercising my voice.

And if it's going to be fiction that I post on my blog some days, I will let you know.  I always do.  It comes up as STORY LINE STARTERS, The Glorious Money Tree, The Thief Who Wouldn't Learn and Alter Ego Meets Soul Mate.  That is what you have probably come to recognize as my fiction on this blog so far.

So, a daily blog post is going to be non fiction as always unless I tell you otherwise.  I'd rather be honest than dishonest and deceitful.

And for people like Anonymous who don't seem to like reading about real life stories and my opinions, maybe you should go somewhere else,  as I'm not about to change for you.  With me, what you see is what you get, unless I'm writing fiction.  I can have my characters do anything they want.  And even if there is a bit of real life in there somewhere, the characters are not me.  It's mainly just a foundation for the character to make her seem as real and convincing as possible.

An editor once told me that your novel starts out as a skeleton and then it's up to you to flesh out your characters.  We have to make them as real as possible so that our readers can relate to her, or to be compelled to read more about her.  Want to know her.

Look at Stephen King for instance.  I know for a fact that he has pulled so many things from real life, yet he's able to twist it and make it a story about something else.  He's probably used words that people have said and so many other things.  And then, remember he wrote a story that was loosely based on his accident.

And also, even though I blog and tell real life stories, I'm still never going to tell you all I know.  I'm not an open book, but you will get honesty with me.  And I won't tell an opinion that isn't mine.  I'm going to tell my opinion and how I view the world.  And people can like it or lump it.

But criticism is good.  Everyone can benefit and learn to grow as a writer from criticism.  Yes, all the lovely comments are nice too, but wouldn't you want to know if your writing had some faults?  It could be things that you could fix as a writer if you are willing to make some changes and sacrifices.  

Jennifer Jo Fay

Copyrighted July 2, 2012

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