Writing Basics: Write What You Know
June 10, 2010 | Written by admin
Ever read a bestselling novel in which
the hero was a construction worker?
It's a story-telling basic that writers
– even published authors – tend to forget. It's the reason
Stephen King's characters tend to be novelists. It's the reason we
haven't seen Khaled Hosseini stray too far from the Middle East. Or
Jeffrey Eugenides from Detroit. And it's the reason bestselling
authors rarely deviate from their chosen genre.
Write what you know.
It's almost silly how often I see a
proposal come through from a published author who suddenly
wants to take a stab at writing for teens. Or African Americans. Or
the thriller/adventure crowd. And yet that author has done nothing to
understand the basics (let alone the complexities) that surround
their new target market.
And if we're seeing this from published
authors, imagine the type of stuff we see from unpublished ones.
The goal of a novel, however
off-the-wall or hokey the plot may be, is to get the reader's buy-in.
With it, the reader is able to fully immerse themselves in the story
and, to some extent, believe in
what's happening. Without it, the reader spends his time
picking it apart, analyzing the details and scoffing at its overall
This is because when authors write
outside of their expertise, the sense of reality that should surround
their story starts to deteriorate. Readers begin to notice
inconsistencies and begin to question whether the author has ever
even seen the Eiffel Tower or heard an M-16 fire or ridden on
A story can only be as good as the
reality behind it, you see, and readers tend to be extremely educated
in their genre-of-choice.
So, if you're a homemaker, living in a
suburb of Cleveland with field experience in Nursing and a few Horse
Jumping trophies in your closet, it's probably not a good idea to
come to us with your idea for a nuclear warfare novel that takes an
ex-Marine and a young Mediterranean fisherman and turns them into
Israeli diplomats (not to mention best friends, of course).
Unless you've done a lot of research.