Writing What You Know

Dystopian fiction

Now, for many who write, this is a no-brainer kind of statement. Yet, for some strange reason, that obvious truism is often ignored. When a writer heads into the worlds of fantasy, science fiction, dystopian fiction, or even more realistic worlds of fiction, too often what one knows is left at the curb. And the rationale? Well, it’s all about imagination!

I see too many writers struggle with their stories. They attempt to write about issues that are not their issues in hopes of having their book find a ready market. I also see many struggle with YA [young adult] stories because they are too far removed from the reality being lived by young people.

Now, writing about worlds that don’t exist does give an author freedom to be imaginative, to risk telling a story that needs to be told. There is a caveat. The characters need to be real with believable personalities. And, that can only happen when the author writes what is known because of having lived with and related to other humans in various activities and situations. The author ends up writing his or her story in disguise.


It seems rather obvious, doesn’t it? One can’t write about love if one hasn’t experienced it. One can’t write about loss unless one has lost. Well, technically one can, but the result would be far from being a story worth being read. I hate to say it, but there are a lot of stories out there that aren’t very good, not because the authors are poor writers, but because they keep themselves distant from their stories. What then becomes missing in the stories is the author. Dissociation has its cost when the author is outside of the story.

I have read stories with poor grammar and poor spelling, and was awed by the stories regardless. The authors were telling “real” stories. And that, in the end, is what counts the most.

2 thoughts on “Writing What You Know”

  1. I remember reading that “by the time one is 18, one has had all the life experience necessary to understand and appreciate anything in Shakespeare.” And I suspect that that’s true also for the writer and reader of naturist fiction at its best.

    1. I’m not sure of that, Allen. Having taught Shakespeare for almost twenty years in high schools, I didn’t find much appreciation in general. Some students, yes. The majority? At my age, I am still experiencing and learning the nuances of life that allow me to appreciate other literature better. Thanks for your words here.

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