Write What You Know or Some Reasonable Facsimile
by Sophia Kimble
In honor of this being November 1st....the first day of NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month) where you write a novel in a month, I thought I'd give a little tip to help you through the month.
“Write what you know.”
You’ve probably heard that before if you’ve read anything on
how to write a novel. I know I had when I opened my first document and stared
at the blank page before me, pondering what I would write. But quite frankly, I
like to think I know a lot of stuff, so just what was I going to write about?
I’ve always had a love of the paranormal, both in reading
and real life. I soak up those shows on the supernatural like a dehydrated woman
with a glass of water in the Saharan Desert. I pour through novels with any
kind of spookiness going on, so I knew I wanted to write about something
otherworldly, but what?
While the majority of people have not experienced anything
of the supernatural variety, they have seen, read, or heard of stories that
happened to someone. Even if you haven’t personally experienced anything,
somewhere in your subconscious is an experience, either real or imagined, you
can tweak, change, and alter to make your own.
Have you ever been scared because you heard strange clunks
and bangs upstairs that had no apparent source? Like the time it sounded like my cat was jumping from the counter onto the hardwood,
except she was curled up next to me. Was there a logical
explanation for the strange noises? Probably. It was only one degree outside, so
my rational brain tells my spooky side it’s the difference in the heat of the
house and the cold outside causing the house to make these noises, but…
The prone to Stephen King-ism side of me, was already turning
it into a scene in my next book.
I think when all those people tell a writer to “write what
you know” they don’t necessarily mean write things exactly as you know them.
Draw on your experiences:
*How you felt when you heard that inexplicable noise. (Frozen
in place, gaze glued to the ceiling, listening intently for any other strange
noises, checking to see if the cat is concerned.)
*What your body did when you watched that slasher movie when
the soundtrack ratcheted up to DEFCON one as the stupid girl just had to look
under the bed and you knew something bad would happen. (Pulled the blanket up
to your chin, knees drawn up to your chest, heart pounding.)
* What happened after you read that Stephen King novel. (Avoided
stepping on the drain in the shower for months, looked into storm drains while
walking down the street, and developed an irrational fear of clowns.)
*How you reacted when you were alone in the house and felt
someone watching you. (Goosebumps raced across your skin, your throat tightened
and you imagined ghost-like fingers wrapped around your neck, squeezing if you
You get the idea. Take all the experiences and remember how
you felt, what your body did physically, how it affected you long term. Weave
these traits and reactions into your characters. This will make them fully
realized, three dimensional characters that readers can relate to because they’ve
also either personally experienced something paranormal/strange or have done it
via proxy (movies, books, ect.) and they’ll remember what they felt.
Cheat them of this whole experience through your characters
and they won’t be very forgiving.
If you write otherworldly novels, be sure to give the reader
WHAT THEY KNOW and they’ll love you for it, and keep coming back for more.
But remember, whatever you do, write something...it can always be tweaked, added to, changed later.
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