Archive | November, 2011

Write What You Love, Not What You Know

14 Nov

So, when’s the last time you walked around a corner and bumped into a vampire? And then staked the bastard through the heart? Never? Yeah, me either.

But I write about stuff like that all the time. I don’t write about brushing my teeth or sticking contacts into my eye. Not even when it really, really hurts. You know, unless my characters forget to put in their contacts, and as a result fail to hit the heart of the vampire, leading to their almost-exsanguination.

There is a reason for this. Writing is about creating something new out of real things, like buying one of those little plastic capsule things that turns into a spongy dinosaur when you soak it. When I hear people say, “write what you know”, two things go through my mind. 1: The person talking to me is probably not a writer. 2: What they really mean is write convincingly.

Convincing someone that there might be a shambling zombie scratching at their door through the sheer power of your words is kind of amazing (and pretty devious). And it requires your writing to be so consuming that they don’t put your book down in a huff and say something like: “Bitch, please. I know I put up my anti-zombie storm windows.” Or whatever.

How do you do this? Well, there’s a few things. One is that you should commit all the way to whatever your worldbuilding is. That means consistency, no matter how crazy the rules are. If you want to write about werewolves, that’s cool. But make sure that you think about how they change. Once a month, only on the full moon? Whenever they want, but they have to on the full moon? And if you write about zombies, you better think about how they can shamble along so stupidly one minute, and be tearing a human into 6 pieces in the next.

That is what it really means to write what you know. But you shouldn’t be writing anything unless it’s what you love.

Which, um, is why I still have about three papers to write.