And no, we didn’t plan to make this a set of 3 posts on the topic!
Writing what you know
Of course. That is important. That’s the basis of a good story. I would never dive into a story that has no ground in anything I know. I write about naturism because I know naturism. I write about people because I think I know people. At least a bunch of them.
The basis of each story is founded in knowledge about the main human traits that will appear in the story. Robert made a few good points in his post about that.
That is what Will wrote about last week. Holding back on a character because it doesn’t fit the common view isn’t the smart thing to do. If it is an interesting character and it needs some ‘tweaking’ to be acceptable or understandable, that’s the writer’s prerogative. I have written about Australian Aboriginals that don’t fit the exact and final bill either, but that doesn’t make them less valuable or wrong in my view. Just like Captain Barlo in Will’s new work-in-progress.
Writing what you don’t know
To tell you the truth: I love doing that. I attract that. I have never run or worked in a naturist resort, still I write about it in the Naked Crow books. I’ve never had the experience of running into dinosaurs and giant lizards, and again, in Naked Crow that happens.
This is where the don’t know plays the biggest part. It’s the diving into the subject. Learning about it. Figuring things out. I’m sure Will went into snooper-mode to learn a bit or two about sailing and the ropes. I love my aliens, no matter how they look. I can immerse myself in them, in their life, culture, planet, ways and language.
This is Neytiri. For you she may be Neytiri ‘from the Avatar film by James Cameron’. For me she is Neytiri Te Tskaha Moat’ite. Yes, that is her full name. When Avatar came out, I was sold and I had to know everything about it. The people who play in it but certainly the Na’vi from the planet Pandora. I knew nothing about them after seeing the film for the first time. The next day I saw it again and I knew so much more already. Half a year later I had mastered most of their language (it’s structure and grammar is fascinating!) and I was even teaching it to 7 people in Europe.
This is also how I approach the writing about things I don’t know. By touching and prodding them, by looking up information as I go. And I learn. I admit, most of the things I learn serve no purpose in the outside life, but you won’t believe what they do to my inner life.
And so, to end this post with a Na’vi greeting:
Oel kameie ngati a lukpen. I see/know/understand the naked you.
5 thoughts on “Writing what you don’t know.”
Grok the fullness!
As a cartoonist, I find it applies to us in the same way. Characters are created out of our imagination so too does the environment or settings of which our story takes place.
The beauty of it is that it’s fiction. Therefore, anything goes. If I need to create a profession of which I am not familiar with then a little research always helps. That, or I will ask someone with the knowledge required.
Absolutely. It is the learning about what it out there. And there is so much, and so many people know, and so many want to help you with their knowledge. Sometimes it feels as if we are doing THEM a favour to allow them to help us, seeing how eager they are, given the chance.
Thanks for making this a three-part sequence of posts, Paul! Well done, and great points.
This was too good to let it float by. 🙂