Write What You Know

What’s Playing on the iPod right now: “Words I Never Said” – Lupe Fiasco
What I am reading now: “Look Again” – Lisa Scottoline

Since I’ve started this writing journey, the one piece of advice I get the most it “write what you know”.  What does that mean actually?  Is it referring to occupations?  If the writer is an attorney like John Grisham or Pamela Samuels-Young then  your character is also an attorney.  Or could it be as simple as a situation that your character faces?

In my novel, “Moment of Truth”, Adrienne has a three-year old son with sickle-cell anemia.  His disease requires doctor’s visits and one scary emergency room stay.  Now everyone has been to  the doctor’s office and the hospital and I thought I did a decent job of describing the scene and emotions.  That is until real life intervened.

One night my nephew was rushed to the emergency room.  He spent two weeks in ICU and even more time in a regular room.  During my frequent visits to the hospital, I found myself taking mental snapshots of sights and sounds.    I catalogued smells and noted the presence of machine and watched hospital personnel.  This was the type of thing I needed to enhance my own story.   My own personal experience could be used by my character.  But I must admit I felt guilty about it.  While I was focused on my nephew’s recovery and being a source of comfort to my sister, I was thinking about my book.

My former editor allowed me to unburden myself.  When I told her my dilemma she said, “You are a writer!  All of your experiences are fodder for your craft.  You should use all of your feelings and experiences to fuel  your manuscripts.”  Her words resonated with my artist self and confirmed something I knew all along.  In order to create these well-rounded characters and make believable worlds, the artist has to  use everything within them.

Write what you know is an adage to explore the world and embrace it to breathe life into a story.



Posted on July 18, 2011, in Writing Life and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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