Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Feet on the Ground, Head in the Clouds

Someone once said, I think it was Mark Twain though I have also heard something similar attributed to Jane Austen, “Write what you know”.

I understand the reasoning for this advice. The things you know are easier to describe, easier to bring to life with words. Making a character live in a real city you are not familiar with or describing the taste you have never experienced would be difficult to pull off with any depth. However I have trouble buying into this notion completely. Sorry, Ms. Austen and Mr. Twain, but I disagree to an extent.

With DARK CORNERS I took a lot from real life. Obviously not everything, but there is a fair portion of the story I can back up with real life experiences. For this type of story I think the advice works because with this type of tale, psychological mystery with paranormal element, one foot has to stay firmly grounded in reality.

However, as I dive deeper into the world of PNR with the GUARDIAN TRILOGY I find there is less and less I can draw on from my own life and the more my imagination takes over launching me on these journeys into the unknown. I believe when writing PNR what you know is the appetizer, but imagination becomes the entree. There is something very free about being able to bring to life everything that lives in your head and create from nothing until it comes to life.

Do you write what you know or let your imagination run wild?

Photo by Kim


C.G. Powell said...

Yes to both questions...I write what I know and let my imagination run wild with it.

Elizabeth Sharp said...

Same as christine. I lay my foundation in what I know (most my stories start in Illinois, and characters often have experiences/backgrounds somehow tied to my life. BUt once the groundwork is laid, my imagination takes over. Occasionally I'll stumble to real places, and I definitely am visual so I use pictures as inspiration. But I have to say the bulk of my writing is imagination.

Unknown said...

I write what I know, but I wouldn't be able to write paranormal without a great deal of my imagination joining in. And the race of people in my first series, Aeveren, are entirely a creation of my own. Real life sets up the basics, and then I run with it from there. :)

Anonymous said...

I think everything has to start with a grain of what I know, but I don't like to stay in my comfort zone. To branch out into other avenues that I have no experience with is a challenge that I enjoy.

V.K. Tremain said...

I agree with the above as well. I like to start out with something concrete, a fact, or a basis of knowledge that I am confident in, then take it a step further. I like it when you can read something and it makes you think, "hmmm, maybe that could happen".

Pamela Mason said...

I've twisted something we all know and let my imagination run with it.

Chrysoula Tzavelas said...

I like to know what I write. So I always end up doing a lot of research and working out details that are totally irrelevant to the plot.

Anonymous said...

I think writers take the "Write what you know" advice too literally, and that's how we end up with so many heroines that are (or were) English majors.

I believe what they actually meant was to write truthfully. This gives you the latitude to write about YOUR world YOUR way while giving you guidance on presenting it in a way your readers will appreciate and trust.

Liz Schulte's Blog said...

I completely agree!

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