One of the first things I remember hearing upon taking the path to publication is "write what you know." The first thought I had was that I could only write about Ohio where I've lived for over 33 years. I wonder how many other new writers are plagued by that statement. I have a dear friend whose husband tells her the reason she isn't published is that she's not writing what she knows. Maybe he's right, but most likely he's incorrect.
Writing what one knows doesn't mean where you live, what you eat, what you wear, or all the ordinary things one does each and every day. What it means is giving your characters feelings and emotions which make them come to life with your words. In order to do that, a writer must tap into his or her past experiences and dig deep to remember the emotions, the sights, the sounds, the tastes...everything they felt at a given moment in time. It requires quiet introspection, visualization, and truly "getting to know oneself." Many will recall wonderful, happy moments...other will recall painful, deep hurt.
Rachel Ballon, the author of BREATHING LIFE INTO YOUR CHARACTERS, leads the reader into a series of "free writing" exercises which tap into these memories. I'd highly recommend it for anyone who is seeking a way to create better, bigger than life, characters.
Anyone can come up with a good story idea. But in order to write that story in a way to grab an editor, agent, and reader's attention, the key ingredient is characterization. In order to do this, you need to write emotionally...in other words, write what you know!
I'd love to hear from readers on this one. In your favorite books, what made them stand out for you? Was it the actual plot, or how the characters handled the situation? Have you ever read a book where you didn't care about the characters or if they achieved their goal?