Thursday, August 20, 2015

Write What You Know...or Not

So it seems there is a lot of debate about whether or not you should write what you know. Like the same kind of debate that surrounds whether or not writers block exists. I had an idea recently that made me stop and consider my position on writing what you know.

As you may have gathered, I live in a rural area. The nearest "big city" consists of 40,000 people. To get to any kind of actual big city, you have to drive 1-2 hours, depending on what you're looking for. I like to write about rural areas and farm kids and small town experiences. I wouldn't feel comfortable writing about someone living in a big city. I wouldn't know where to begin and I think it would be obvious in my writing. On the other hand, that's where research comes in. I could study up on it. If I was going to write about somebody living 100 years ago, rural or urban, I'd have to research it. It depends, I guess, on the amount of work you want to put in.

On the other hand, there could be a downside to writing what you know. For example, my most recent story involves a girl and a grain elevator and a boy she meets there. Obviously I got the idea when I started my new job. And I encountered a few people who were the inspiration for my characters. But I feel like there's always the chance that people would draw comparisons to real people. And I've felt that way about anything I've written. That's one of the reason why I stick to YA. I felt like if I tried to write about a married couple or someone with kids, people would automatically assume it was somehow based on real-life, no matter if it was fiction or not.

Maybe that's just me being paranoid. Because writers write about adults and adult situations all the time without it being based on anything real. Or maybe it is real and we just don't know. Maybe it all depends on how good of a writer you really are.