Friday, October 15, 2010

Writing What You Know

I've heard a lot about the debate of "writing what you know" vs. "writing what you can imagine" and I fall firmly into the camp of writing what I can imagine.


Well, primarily because I write fantasy and some of it is pretty frightening, as you will see in my next book - Summer's End. Do I want to be whisked into another world via a carnival where an evil magician is in control and creepy twins try to kill me? Let me think ... uh, yeah - I don't think so. I would lose what little control I am currently able to maintain over my bladder and that's not something anyone wants or needs to see.

What this boils down to is that writing only that which I had personally lived would be pretty limiting for me. Does that mean I object to this method for others? Of course not. What ever works, dude - as Nike is fond of saying: Just do it. Nothing annoys me more than being told what or how to do something, so I try to refrain from issuing edicts on methodology for others, although I do reserve the right to boss my kids around. Not only will society thank me later when my spawn have become productive members of society, it helps me manage stress; just sitting here and thinking about ordering one of them to clean the bathroom makes me feel better.

I'm always interested to hear how other writers feel about this issue, so chime in. I promise not to ask you to clean anything, but that'll be mostly because my kids have probably already taken care of it, under duress.




  1. If I write only what I know, I'll be very limited. To me, researching other times, other places, other customs is the key to discovering what I don't know. I think we could say write what you want to know because then you'll know it having researched the topic. Am I confused? Probably.

    Nice post, Kathi.

  2. Write what you know. For me this means emotions. I know anger. happiness, sadness and other things. I also know young people so when they're in my book they're something I know. The situations for my characters may be out there in some fantasy world but there is enough in there that are things I know. I think that goes for all fantasy authors where so often our stories focus on good versus evil. I think we've seen the faces of both.

  3. I write about what I can imagine since I also write fantasy. Even at 64 years old, I know nuttin' when it comes to many aspects of 21st century culture, literary trends, etc. I wouldn't dream of writing a YA or an adult book set in the here and now!

    JL, I do agree with you--we YA authors know a variety of emotions from the inside out, and we know about good vs evil, frequently by firsthand experience. Those are resources that all authors need to have and use.

    Thanks for the post, Kathi! I one hundred per cent agree that there isn't just one way of doing things. "Edicts" can just stifle creativity.

    Sherry Thompson