“Write What You Know”
This was one of the first pieces of advice I received when I began writing. My first thought was: “Who on earth wants to read about insurance?” You see, I’m an insurance adjuster by day. Then I began to think of my other jobs that I’ve worked and got really depressed. Really? I don’t want to write about being a medic, nursing assistant, nor even being a secretary. That’s boring to me. Then, I thought about what I love to read. I love mysteries and thrillers with a tinge of romance. But, I’m not a cop, detective and certainly not a serial killer. How can I write what I love to read when I’m none of those things?
Then the light bulb went on in my head. Write what you know. Not intellectually. Emotionally. I know what it’s like to look into another’s eyes and have my mind blank out due to the attraction. I know what it’s like to stumble over my words when I’m hit with sudden amnesia and have no idea who I am. I know what it’s like to have my heart speed up and feel a million butterflies dancing around my stomach due to the excitement of meeting that special someone.
Emotions that everyone has felt, one time or another in their lives, is what connects our readers to our stories. Is it important to get the police jargon correct in my story? Yes. Is it correct, for me, to understand the thought process of psychopaths? Yes. However, for that information I ask around, take classes, read books. In essence, we research for the factual information to bring reality to our stories.
But, and this is the most important, it is the emotions that draw in the reader. I know what draws me to mysteries are the puzzles. How is that connected? Why does he do that? What really gets me in the thrillers is the fear. The moment I gasp and catch that breath in my throat and I barely hold back the gasp. The moment I jump in shock. The sigh I breathe when I realize it’s not real or when I realize who did it. Those are the moments that I remember most.
Write what you know.
Do you know the feeling of being so happy that your head feels like it’s in the clouds and tears pour from your eyes?
What about feeling so alone that life is like being in a dark cave with too many tunnels and no flashlight to figure out where to go?
What about being so proud that your chest literally expands and your back straightens?
Do you know the feeling of being so sad, it feels as if someone has dropped a two ton book on your chest and you can barely breathe? The ache in your heart is so strong, you truly feel like it’s breaking?
What about being so surprised you jump up and down and your mind just can’t wrap around what is happening?
Do you know what it’s like to be so frustrated and angry that although you’re not a violent person, your deepest wish is to have a punching bag nearby so you can hit it over and over?
If you know any of the above, then write what you know. Take these emotions and put them in your story. Heighten them. Decrease them. Tap them. It will make your character’s stronger. It will keep your reader’s turning the pages until they can barely keep their eyes open at three a.m., because they just absolutely must find out if this character will survive and how will they survive.
The emotions will connect you to your readers. And one day, when you’re published. It’ll be these emotions that your fans will come up to you and say: “I escaped into your story at a time in my life when I really needed to escape.” That’s one heck of a compliment.
The best part of all of this is that no human has existed that hasn’t experienced at least one of the above emotions in their life. So, no excuses! Sit down, put your hands on your keyboard. Then, write what you know.