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Writing From Experience


I feel like I've brought this up before, because I probably have. I find the subject of 'writing what you know' has so many different angles you can look at it from. It makes for awesome discussion topic amongst writers.

Personally, there are some things I'll write that I've never experienced first hand. Death, killing someone, driving and crying, riding a dragon, etc. Some things you know enough, have seen enough, heard enough, and can guess enough to pull off writing. Likewise, there are some things I just won't write, because I feel like they cross the line and step into the realm of Can't Pull This Off.

Like kissing. Falling in love (as in, legit love). A first-person novel where the MC's parents get a divorce. There are just some things I'm waiting to experience (like love) or some I don't know enough about to actually write realistically. At least, not as far as my MC, since I'm in his/her head.

Sometimes third person helps. Sometimes not. Sometimes lots of research is the ticket. Sometimes not even that is quiet enough. I think it really depends on how much you can imagine (dragons, mythical creatures, killing someone, etc.) and how much you can research to pull something off realistically that you hope to never experience (divorce, a drinking problem). There's a balance. While there's no doubt that a scene written from your own experiences and emotions might way outshine a similar scene written from research and imaginings, I think if you think you can pull it off, and there's a good chance it'll work, you should try.

My question to you is, how picky are you about writing only about what you know? Where do you make exceptions? Have you ever written something and felt like you didn't pull it off, or had someone tell you you aren't pulling it off?

Just something to muse this Thursday. 

Best Part of Today: Lots of new words in my novel. 
Currently Craving: Pineapple.
Music Pick: "Whisper" by Evanescence
I'm Reading: "The Seer and the Sword" by Victoria Hanley
WATM: Blink (46,277 words)

12 epic comments:

It's funny, because I completely agree with the whole "writing what you know" thing, yet I don't do it.

Most of my characters' family/romantic/friendship situations are the complete oppisite of mine. For instance, I'm writing about a girl who has two older siblings that she is always overshadowed by. Her parents hardly give her the time of day. She's got one best friend. She's rich and extremely uptight and has issues getting close to people because she has a Big Secret and she is always pretending to be someone she's not.

That is literally the opposite of me. I'm daddy's little girl, super close with all of my siblings. I'm anti-uptight. Really open and out there, easy to get along with. And definitely not rich. Yet, I could never write a character like that. Maybe that's a bad sign. Maybe that's telling me that I don't like myself very much :O Just kidding.

But, my point is, I enjoy exploring the realms of things I've never experienced before. Especially the whole love aspect and the passionate kisses. The dysfunctional families. Death. I'm a strange child.


There is actually very little I won't write. I'm eery on romance, but I've experienced first or second-hand a lot of the bad family stuff. Not that my family is awful. I love them. But I could, say, write a kid going through a divorce.

And fantasy stuff, no one can really experience, so my account can't be worse than anyone else's.

And of course, I would NEVER want to experience drugs/drinking addictions/death, but those are always fun (Er... not fun. You know what I mean.) to write.

But anyway.
This is a good post. And a good topic, like you said. *likes*


Writing what you know doesn't necessarily mean writing what you've experienced. Otherwise fantasy and sci-fi and such wouldn't exist. XD But those of us writing those genres now ARE writing what we know, because we've read other fantasy and science fiction, and we have a general knowledge of how those worlds work. And this comment was going to make sense, but now it isn't anymore. Because I was also going to mention how I've never liked the saying "write what you know", because of how so many writers, including me, don't. We write what we can imagine. And I don't know about you, but I can imagine quite a bit. I haven't really written any romance yet, so I can't say how well my imagination serves me on that front, but it's done pretty well on death scenes. Many...many death scenes. Or more often, my characters having to kill someone else traumatically. ...MAN, I'm mean to them. o_O

Anyway. There's my load of jumbled thoughts in no coherent order. I doubt there's anything in there worth considering, since I really don't know what I'm talking about now. XD


I don't remember which writer said this, or even his/her exact quote, I just know it went something like this: the writer knows things, and so does the heart, and so does the imagination.

I've always loved this because it brings a new meaning to the words "write what you know". You can experience, you can imagine, and you can feel. In terms of experience, you have first hand knowledge of something. When it comes to imagination, you're playing a guessing game or you're bouncing off research, or your faking it until you make it. But feeling, this is the most important part. I think we all have the capacity to understand someone elses pain, or happiness, or love, etc. We probably cannot understand it the way the person experiencing it does, but we can understand it in our own way by breaking it down in ways we're familiar with.

My point is that when I come against a situation or experience that is foreign or new, I try to break it down in ways I can understand it. I try see what a person experiencing that situation would feel, what they would do. I pull on my own experience (even though it might be limited in some cases), my own emotions, to put myself in that person's shoes, and then in that person's experience.


@Gabbi I totally know what you mean! And I usually end up doing the same. Most of my MCs are in family/life situations that I've never been in. I'm not sure why I'm drawn to write like that.

Thanks for reading!

@Constance I agree with everything in your comment, and I like it a lot. *HUGS*

@Andre That actually DID make sense, and as usual you manage to break down something I'm trying to say and say it a whole lot better... even though you think it's incoherent. :P *likes* Awesome comment.

@Brittany I LOVE that quote, and I love everything you said. It's so true! I think I will lift the guilt from now on about writing things I haven't experienced because it is like what you said... feeling is the most important part.

I love it.

Thanks for reading!


I keep being late to parties, and it makes me sad. =(

Anyway, I'm totally kind of worrying about this right now. Because I'm plotting Book 2, which has more romance--LOTS more romance. Like, Plot B is actually a love story with elements that move the epic, overarching story forward. I'm trying really hard to make it more important than that and minimize the romance, but it's really not happening for me. =/

Being a love story...there's falling in love, and there's *whispers/significant look* kissing. Let's talk about two things Amanda's never experienced, lol. I have a good imagination for falling in love--like Brittany said, it's a feeling we can break down into things we understand. I know all about the forms of non-romantic love, and I've obviously had school-girl crushes(who hasn't? Unless you're a man--those are school-boy crushes.), so I can work with that. But...ugh.

Do I have to describe the kissing? Can't I just...glaze over it and move on to the killing? Killing is more fun. I feel like a psychopath saying this, but my main storyline in Book 2 has slavery, hate, guilt, racism, murder, and just general physical & psychological awfulness, and I'm so much happier with it. O_o


@Amanda YES. YES, I agree 100% with every single thing you said. XD


@Brittany Oh my goodness, that is an AMAZING quote. I. Love. It. *goes to write that down*

@Amanda *pats back* I understand. When I started out my last book, Gumiho, it wasn't a paranormal romance. But by the end... Ugh. *shakes head* I'm definitely going to try and tone down the romance and up the actual plot when I rewrite/edit.


@Amanda I understand exactly where you're coming from! I feel like there should have been a kiss in my latest completion, but for some reason it's SO MUCH HARDER to attempt to write than killing or dragons or something fun like that. O_O *pats on the back also* I'm sure you'll do well!


I feel so weird. I have, uh, relationshiop issues. I don't believe in "true love" or any of that crap. I'm like a dude when it comes to commitments (I think I spelled that wrong :0) I completely shy away from them, but for some reason ll of my books end up having an excessive amount of romance. Perhaps I don't have a gory enough mind....but my friends would argue with that.

Sometimes I just wish I had a plot where my girl just spends her whole life killing people with awesome weapons. What I wouldn't give to have a girl who wields a mace.


Blanket statement: I think killing may be more fun b/c it's so technical, it's not about feelings as much. ALSO--you can make a pretty good estimate that at least 99% of your readers HAVE NOT killed someone. That makes your description of murderous things, from your imagination(I hope), as good a guess as theirs as to what it's like. BUT, it's a good estimation that at least 50% of your potential readers(being generous to us inexperienced writers) HAVE experienced a kiss, and will know it if you've described it wrong or unbelievably. It's a lot more nerve-wracking.

In other news, I fixed my love story subplot so it's a lot more vital and tragic just in Book 2, and I'm a lot happier with life. ^_^


@Amanda You've totally got it. Barely any of us writers/readers have actually killed, so we all can get away with writing and reading it slightly unrealistically. While kisses... I just don't want to go there. So I don't. I've never written a kiss scene. >.<

And I'm so happy for you!!


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