Aaah yes, that fabulous piece of advice telling you to stick with what you know so as to maintain authenticity in your writing. I think it’s pretty good advice. After all, you can’t really write about something in a believable fashion unless you know something about it, right?
It’s a great piece of advice, but it is often taken so literally that people stiffle themselves to the point that they can no longer write.
Do you really think I’ve been in an abusive relationship? That I’ve been trapped in naked in a play cage with no quick way out? That I’ve enjoyed threesomes or sensual phone sex with my girlfriend (as a dude)? Do you really think Ileandra is a vampire? That she drinks blood to survive? Or do you believe that she dressed as a clown, walked into a church and opened fire during a funeral?
These are all things we’ve written about and while some of they may be true (you decide which things) some of them aren’t. But I hope you have no real way of telling because there is authenticity in the writing.
Despite never having done many of those things we inject authenticity through writing what we know.
Let me explain.
I’m currently waiting for responses to ‘Slippers & Chains‘. There has been a little news in that regard but nothing I can share yet. But it’s left me gnashing my teeth and checking my email every couple of hours (yes, I realise that’s a goal I’m failing miserably).
Those feelings leading me to do those things are irritation, frustration and impatience. I know them pretty well.
…How do you think Karen felt trapped in that play cage knowing that Dan’s parents were on the way? I’ll bet she felt all those things and, because I know what they feel like, I can inject those mental and physical feelings into my writing.
Never mind that I’ve never been beaten by a partner, I know what it feels like to be scared, so I can use that feeling to make you believe that I have. Or that the character I’m writing about is (or was) in real peril.
I’m sure Ileandra has never needed to drink blood to survive but she sure as hell understands longing and lust.
“Yeah, fine,” I hear you say, “but what about things that you can’t experience, like the weather in ancient times, or space travel.?
Fine, I say. Maybe we can’t experience those things ourselves, but there are plenty of other people who have. WE can talk to them. We can use their experiences to enrich our writing. People blog about all the time. There are entire magazines devoted to it. So why can’t I pick and choose the bits I need from those to do what I need?
More specific to current works, if I need to know more about a particular BDSM aspect there are lots of people in my life for me to ask. There is no shortage of people willing to share knowledge and experiences. And, if they want paying at all, some of them want no more than a cup of coffee while they chat to you.
“Yeah, I’ll give you that, but what about the things you can’t get? Like weather patterns in ancient times, or languages from old civilisations?”
As writers, we’re tasked to report truth, yes, but we’re also tasked to entertain. We have to leave something for our imagination to work on otherwise really, what are we good for? And where’s the fun? For anything that you can’t draw on real experience, the power of the mind is a wonderful thing. And, believe it or not, it uses your experiences to help you anyway.
Ileandra’s working on another Egyptian sequence right now. Beyond Googling and Wiki and travel blogs, she’s never been anywhere near the country. But she’s been to a beach before, meaning she knows what sand feels like. A geology degree curtsey of Da Shared Brain tells her what limestone looks and feels like. What fish tastes like. What dirty air smells like. What cinnamon, cumin and saffron smell and taste like.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Yes. Write what you know, but occasionally step back to realise that you know a hell of a lot more than you think you do.