Well, another piece of writing advice has come under scrutiny lately, so I’m here to explain the meaning behind “write what you know.”
“Write what you know” really means “write what you understand.”
Many people interpret “write what you know” to mean “write about what you have experienced for yourself,” but that’s obviously silly advice. If everyone followed it, libraries would be much, much smaller. Writing is about using your imagination to explore worlds of possibilities. Bits and pieces of your personal history will of course come into play, but they should always be presented in new and interesting ways. Otherwise, writers would be too bored to actually finish their stories.
When people you think you should probably trust tell you to “write what you know,” they aren’t telling you to fictionalise your own memoir. They’re telling you to write about the things that you understand.
A novel may be a great series of lies, but there must be truth at the centre of it all and that truth is a direct result of, and in correlation to, the author’s understanding of their subject matter.
For an author, this means a couple of things:
You should always be able to empathise with your characters. You should be able to tap into your emotions, your passions, your relationships to inform their emotions, their passions, their relationships.
If you’re writing a scene about two people walking along the Seine at midnight unable to admit their true feelings for each other, you don’t need to have traveled to Paris or walked along the Seine or talked about the moon on the water when really all you wanted to say was that the same moonlight was making the other person look very pretty that night.
What you need is to know what it is to take a walk in a place that is romantic no matter if romance is taking place there, to have wanted to say something but been too afraid to say it, to be filled with hope and fear and misery and joy all at the same time.
You should always be able to feel the heart of the scene, instead of simply imagining it.
If you can’t put yourself directly into your character’s shoes, they’ll wind up saying or doing something that won’t quite ring true.
You should always be both interested in and knowledgable about the topics and settings that find their way into your stories.
You don’t have to be an archaeologist to write an Indiana Jones novel, but a healthy fascination with people like T.E. Lawrence, Roy Chapman Andrews, and Gertrude Bell should probably come into play.
You should always not only be knowledgable about the topic you’re writing about, but care for it. You should be able to understand why Indy says “it belongs in a museum!!” You should understand why your characters feel passionate about whatever they’re engaging in, because you share some of that passion. (Even if you wouldn’t dream of digging around in a desert yourself.)
It’s okay if you don’t know very much about a topic when you first get an idea for a book, but after doing some research about it, you should connect to the material in some way.
As long as you’re interested in a topic or place, you’re not breaking the “write what you know” rule by taking the time to understand something you hadn’t when you first imagined your story.
What’s more: write the kind of story you enjoy reading.
That sounds a little obvious, but people try to write stories they wouldn’t actually enjoy reading themselves all of the time.
If you love reading YA fantasy novels, but feel compelled to write the next Great Literary American Novel, you’re not writing the sort of story you’re familiar with–that you’re passionate about–and that will show on every single page. Those are two very different sort of books. If you love reading YA, exclusively read YA, but try to write the GLAN, you’re not writing what you know. You’re probably not even writing something you truly care about.
And if you find the story you’re writing dull and uninteresting, any reader will probably feel the same way.
If someone has read your work and says something along the lines of “you should stick to writing what you know…”
What they’re really saying is that something isn’t resonating as true. That somehow, it doesn’t feel quite real. That they don’t think the characters’ emotional reactions are what they’d be in real life. Or that Indiana Jones is supposed to be a renowned archaeologist, but he doesn’t seem to know much about archaeology???
When they say this, they’re not telling you to go get a degree in archaeology or that in order to write that romantic scene, you must fall in love with someone, walk along the Seine with them, and then write what about what you felt in that moment.
They’re letting you know that there is a disconnect somewhere between you and the writing. That they can tell you haven’t put enough of yourself in this story. That the circles don’t overlap as much as they should in the venn diagram between theknowledge, emotions, and interests the story requires and the knowledge you possess, the emotions you’ve felt, and the interests you invest in.
When somebody says “write what you know,” ask yourself:
if you’ve really done enough research on this topic–if you actually want to write about this topic enough to do the required research
if there’s another emotional well you can draw from to understand how a character might be feeling, how they might react to a circumstance
if this book is one that you yourself would pick up from a library shelf.
And make sure there’s a core of truth within those all those lies.
Summary : He had planned everything for both of them, including a newly born romantic side.
“Yeah, I have the wine bottle.”
It was hard to see where you were both going, but the firm grip on your hand was like a guide in a secret forest, full of fantasy.
The summer had granted both of you a cool evening, with a soft breeze and no sweat. You were grateful to be able to go out without melting like snow and your boyfriend was slowly walking toward the secret place he had told you about. This date was a total surprise and you could almost see the happiness paint itself on your significant other’s face, signalling he was enjoying your little adventure.
I could fall in love with a cruel desert that kills without passion, a canyon full of scorpions, one thousand blinding arctic storms, a century sealed in a cave, a river of molten salt flowing down my throat. But never with you.
BECAUSE THERES NOT ENOUGH HUNK LOVE IN THIS FANDOM
HE’S SO DAMN SMART LIKE EVERYONE REFERS TO PIDGE AS THE SMART ONE BUT I DONT SEE PIDGE BUILDING A GEIGER COUNTER FOR AN ELEMENT THAT DOESNT EXIST ON EARTH
LIKE HE KNEW IMMEDIATELY THAT THOSE FRAUNHOFER LINES WERE AN ELEMENT AND HES LIKE HANG ON LET ME JUST BUILD A GEIGER COUNTER FOR SOMETHING NOT FROM EARTH WITH SOME THINGS FROM OUR BACKPACKS AND THIS RUNDOWN SHACK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT LIKE ITS NO BIG DEAL
HE’S SO PASSIONATE ABOUT WHAT HE BELIEVES IN LIKE WHEN THEY WERE GOING TO SAVE THE BALMERIANS AND HE WAS IN SUCH A RUSH TO GET THERE BECAUSE HE WANTED TO HELP SO BAD
HS INSTINCTS ARE SO AMAZING LIKE HE KNEW THAT NYMA AND ROLO WERE UP TO NO GOOD. HE JUST KNOWS
HES SO STRONG? LIKE ITS CANON THAT HE IS STRONGER THAN SHIRO. HE HAS PROBABLY CLOSE TO OLYMPIC LEVEL STRENGTH
HES SO CARING AND ALL AROUND GOOD HUMAN BEING AND SO PATIENT WITH EVERYONE
HE HAS HAD MORE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT THAN ANYONE ELSE ON SCREEN.
HE WANTS TO HELP EVERYONE HE IS JUST SO GOOD
I LOVE HUNK SO MUCH
FEEL FREE TO ADD MORE BECAUSE WANT TO SPREAD THE HUNK LOVE
do you think Hux would be conflicted if Kylo’s eyes changed from brown to yellow?
because the change would mean that Kylo has become stronger with the dark side, that he’s achieving his destiny of becoming just as strong as Vader, of being more powerful than any pitiful Jedi has ever been
Kylo would revel in his dark prowess and Hux would be so proud of his knight for being unmatched in power, because he loves Kylo and he knows how strong he’s become
but when Hux thinks of Kylo as his lover and not just his knight, he can’t help but be afraid
because the change also means that Kylo’s soft brown eyes have ceased to exist, which means Hux no longer finds warmth or comfort in Kylo’s eyes after a nightmare or after a difficult day where he feels like he should give up, no more staring deep into Kylo’s eyes to see the little lost boy behind them who’s begging not to be hurt anymore and just to be loved because, now, there’s only a tormented and broken soul who used to be human, now a monster, now unrecognisable to Hux’s eyes
because not only do the yellow eyes take Kylo’s soft brown eyes away, they also destroy everything that once made Kylo Ren the one Hux wanted to cling on to like an oasis in a desert–his softness, the deep-rooted passion he felt for Hux, his deadpan wit, his ability to make Hux feel like the king of everything
At the beginning of this summer, I was talking to my friend about this certain book I had been dying to read since I learned of its existence, that is, Diane Duanes’s first novel The Door into Fire, in which she does some cool things with gender and sexuality. Why not just buy it online? Zoe asked. Oh, it’s just one of those things, I told her. I don’t want to buy it, I want to find it by chance in some random used bookstore, like fate. Something I was sure would never actually happen.
Fast forward to Monday, time: around 6, place: the Rock ‘N Roll Emporium (and used book store). My friends and I are reading each other hilarious excerpts from romance novels, laughing at titles that run along the lines of “Captive Desert Passion”. Zoe picks up a book off the shelf, calls out, “This one’s called The Door Into Fire.”
I scream. She screams. I tear the book from her hands and clutch it to my chest. I am laughing hysterically. Our other friend is baffled.
I just finished the book and was enraptured the whole way through, half pleased that it had surpassed my expectations and half delighted at everything to do with the story and characters. It also has one of the funniest introductions–sorry, overtures–to a book I have ever read. I was happy to see many of my favorite elements from Young Wizards contained in their predecessor (magic, entropy, mythology, plucky fire elemental companions…).
Now I just have to happen upon The Door Into Shadow somewhere…
“I could fall in love with a cruel desert that kills without passion, a canyon full of scorpions, one thousand blinding arctic storms, a century sealed in a cave, a river of molten salt flowing down my throat. But never with you.”
After Shikadai’s birth, Temari looks down at her tiny baby and remembers another small child, unloved and uncared for, and wonders if she can ever forgive herself for her brother’s childhood.
my first naruto fic in literally 7 years this is wild. Naturally it’s shikatema + sand sibs because FEELINGS
title from lullaby by sia
spring in Konoha, and the rains were just coming to their end, heralding the
arrival of bright blooms of flowers. It would be a relief for the small garden
of the Nara residence where Shikamaru and Temari now lived; as a gift upon her
marriage, her brother Gaara had given her several of his most beautiful
specimens of cacti, which they had planted together behind the home. Cacti
drown easily, and the spring showers had not been kind to them. Now that the
skies had cleared, Shikamaru routinely found himself glancing out the back of
the house, wondering if the delicate blossoms would ever return to the spiny plants.
Preparing a blog post on the passions as understood by Desert Fathers, I came across this list: interesting albeit a little overwhelming. I’m going to have to break out the dictionary to know how a few of them are defined.
A LIST OF THE PASSIONS
by Saint Peter of Damaskos
The passions are:
lack of understanding,
dearth of good actions,
lack of discrimination,
a conscienceless soul,
breaking of faith,
assent to evil,
bodily comfort beyond what is required,
sickness of soul,
weakness of intellect,
a reprehensible despondency,
disdain of God,
lack of faith,
poverty of faith,
fellowship in heresy,
ignorance of God,
denial of God,
the love of idols,
lack of progress,
the eating of unclean food,
love of popularity,
ignorance of beauty,
lack of compassion,
hatred of one’s brothers,
acceptance of bribes,
disdain of one’s neighbour,
making sport of others,
obfuscation of thoughts,
attraction to what is fleeting,
drowsiness of soul,
using foul language,
a stained soul,
license of tongue,
excessive love of order,
hardness of heart,
clinging to life,
lack of the fear of God,
scorn for one’s neighbour,
hatred of God,
a falling away from God in all things,
utter destruction – altogether 298 passions.
These, then, are the passions which I have found named in the Holy Scriptures. I have set them down in a single list, as I did at the beginning of my discourse with the various books I have used. I have not tried, nor would I have been able, to arrange them all in order; this would have been beyond my powers, for the reason given by St. John Klimakos: ‘If you seek understanding in wicked men, you will not find it.’ For all that the demons produce is disorderly. In common with the godless and the unjust, the demons have but one purpose: to destroy the souls of those who accept their evil counsel. Yet sometimes they actually help men to attain holiness. In such instances they are conquered by the patience and faith of those who put their trust in the Lord, and who through their good actions and resistance to evil thoughts counteract the demons and bring down curses upon them.
A LIST OF THE PASSIONS, Saint Peter of Damaskos
The Philokalia; The Complete Text compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, Volume Three