Thursday, June 20, 2013

Write What You Know: Restraint or Release? (Pt 1)

Have you heard that phrase? Write what you know; what you have experience with.
Well, I never use to agree completely with that. The way I'd always heard it, it sounded like you were suppose to limit yourself to, well, only writing about what you know - and for some of us, that may be very little. When my dad heard I was writing a story set in Wyoming, he asked me, "Shouldn't you write in a setting you know?" See, I had never been to Wyoming, or anywhere out West, but as a writer, I felt I needed to branch out, stretch myself, write about things I wasn't as familiar with.

What I didn't realize is that phrase can be taken different ways - it can relate to all sorts of different things, not just your setting or what kind of job your main character has.

When I was in my young teens, I struggled with separation from my brothers. My oldest brother was off in college by the time I turned 12, and my other older brother was gone most of the time with his friends. I literally felt like an only child, and for a long time I dreamed of a better, closer relationship with them. Since I couldn't seem to have that, I began to create stories about brothers and sisters who were extremely close with each other, sort of a way to live vicariously.

However, when I went back to my stories a few years later, I wanted to gag. The relationships were not real. For those of you with siblings, you *know* - there is going to be fighting, irritation, and frustration, no matter how close you are. I had taken out all conflict from the sibling relationship and replaced it with ooey-gooey sap. I never intended for the stories to come out this way, but in the end the brother/sister dynamic reminded me more of a lover's relationship, not a sibling one. Not good.

I was writing about what I dreamed of and wanted, not of what I had.

I'm not saying that if you don't have a close relationship with your sibling you can't write about one. You do have to make sure you have a good perspective on that kind of relationship, though. Talk to other people who do have that relationship; observe how they act around their siblings, what they talk about, and take that plus the conflict you experience and tie it together. My writing in this area has greatly improved because I opened my mind to letting myself write about my own experience.

**Next time I will be writing about situations and circumstances. For instance, how do you write about tragedy you've never experienced?

No comments:

Post a Comment