Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thanks, and -- writing tip

Question: Thanks for the info on pronouns. That was just what I needed. Since you seem to be a "good guesser" what do you think it means when someone says, "Write what you know." That, too, is a comment I've been getting in my writers' group. It's a generalization. I am the youngest there and the only one who isn't university trained. Are they trying to tell me I'm ignorant? Do you think that's it?

Answer: Glad to know the pronoun tip was a good one. I don't think university training is necessary to be a good writer. I DO think one has to have SOME kind of training, and since you were my student at WD I know you have some and your writing skills are honed. So my best guess on that one is that they believe you need to use more of your life experiences. Sure, you're not "old", but you are more than 30 and have had many life experiences from which to draw. If memory serves you joined the military at 18, got training as a nurse on the GI Bill, married a lawyer at 27, and have two children.

I think a lot of writers, even famous ones, draw on their real life experiences. For instance, we all know that Dick Francis grew up with horses and was a professional jockey for a long time. Most of his books contain either horses, or jockeys, or both and that’s no surprise. But the stories center on mystery and human issues, often om life and death, not horse-races. That's the background and basing background on what you know helps give your work a sense of authority.

But it goes much deeper than that. The first was about a jockey who lost the use of his hand (Francis suffered a hand injury that ended his riding career). One is about a pilot trying to make it back in a damaged plane (Francis was a bomber pilot in WWII), another about a writer who cares for his wife, a victim of polio (When they were young, Francis’s wife had polio), one about a famous man man who inherits a gold mine (Francis is famous and owns or once owned a gold mine), one was about an artist who painted in acrylics (Francis paints in acrylics, an interest he developed as therapy for the injured hand), and two about a jockey who rides for a very classy middle-aged princess (Francis once rode horses owned by the Queen of England's Mother).

No, one shouldn't be limited to writing ONLY about what you know, but using a background you know well can certainly lend authenticity to the rest of the story

1 comment:

  1. Writing (or thinking) about what I know is usually the starting point from which I day-dream all sorts of what-might-have-happeneds. In real life I go into a bank. In my make-believe life, what if robbers burst into the bank while I'm standing in line? What if the most droop-dead gorgeous woman in the world walks into the bank? What if my ex comes in? What if the lady in front of me drops her bag and an automatic falls out? I could go on all day, but in any of these instances, a confrontation begins, a conversation, threats, challenges, discussions; on and on.
    My nemesis is my outdoor lounge chair. I say it's my nemesis because I go out there to lie back and relax, but all too frequently I start thinking about something. Perhaps just something, perhaps about my current project, and a whole new situation comes up. Conversations, confrontations, a cleve remark (?) and I have to get up, run upstairs and get back to work at the computer. At my age that ain't easy.