Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Writing What You Know

Writing What You Know
by Theresa Meyers of Blue Moon Communications

Writers are often encouraged to write what they know. But sometimes that advice may seem more detrimental than constructive, especially if you are writing a genre that you have no way of getting practical experience in, such as paranormal or erotica. Let's face it most of us aren't like to go out there and try drinking blood just because we want to write about vampires. The good news is you don't have to.

The advice is actually still sound. Making it work for you is really all about how you look at and apply the adage.

Even in paranormals full of were creatures, shape shifters, faeries and the like, we can still apply what we know. We know feelings. We know how we would react if someone threatened a loved one, betrayed us or challenged us. We know how it feels to be sad, angry, elated, loved. We know how to make decisions and how to figure out what the consequences might logically be for those choices. All of this applies directly to our characters no matter what genre you write in.

When writing description, think about the character. Put yourself in his or her shoes. Don't just describe the scene. Describe it as if you were your character. His or her experiences, past, occupation, gender and so much more about who they uniquely are will color how they see a scene and how they judge that experience. For instance, it rains heavily, flooding the streets. A woman might stare up at her roof and notices the drip and thinks, "Oh, no, how am I ever going to hire someone to repair that?" A man might look up at that same leak and think "Where's a pan?" (she's thinking long term solutions and options, he's thinking short term and what can be done right this minute.) The child might think "Hey, maybe I won't have school tomorrow." and the roof repair guy is thinking "This is great. Maybe my phone will ring with work." Everyone experiences the storm differently. So will your character.

Even with seemingly stock characters, there's more than meets the eye to their way of seeing the world. In my latest book from Silhouette Nocturne, Salvation of the Damned, I have a vampire. Now I could have made him like every other stock vampire you've likely met, but, since he was my hero, I wanted him to be a little different.

Raphael doesn't have any problem with drinking blood or sacrificing mortals as necessary to stave off the virus that threatens to kill off all vampires. What he does have a problem with is his past. He once fell in love with someone he allowed to be sacrificed to save his kind. He's never forgotten it and has sworn never to repeat it. (By not falling in love, he thinks he's solved this.) But when he comes up against a woman who is the reincarnation of his lost love, he knows he's in the same place all over again, forced to make the same horrible decision.

For any other vampire it would have been a no-brainer, sacrifice the human, we all live. For Raphael it's all tangled up in his past, his thousand years of hellish half-existence afterward and his vows to himself not to repeat it. It just means more than a simple decision to him because he can't just die to escape it. He's immortal, so he knows he's going to live with the consequences of his actions forever.

Do you see how much more it impacts him?

I've never been a vampire. I never plan on being one. But I can still take what I know of the human experience, of life, loss, love, pain, hope and use what I know to make my characters real for my readers. So can you.

Don't get stuck thinking about what you can't write or don't know. Take what you do know and write.

Check out Theresa's book at http://ebooks.eharlequin.com/5B56074A-750A-44AC-BA1A-91BAF74FF317/10/126/en/ContentDetails.htm?ID=CD5ECBC6-DA95-4F70-A392-F07EFEF95032

Kim Watters

1 comment:

Judith Leger said...

Great insight,Theresa! Thanks for sharing.

You novel sounds great. I'm going to have check it out!