Five words: plausible worldviews and transferable skill-sets. Intrigued? Read on.
Emma Newman is undeniably an epic talent, and her wave is about to break on your beach with her newest, the astounding Planetfall. She wanted to come by and talk about a piece of advice with which she disagrees — that ol’ classic, WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. So, without further ado:
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If you’ve read anything about how to write, you’ve probably stumbled across the old chestnut “write what you know.” Being someone of fine taste and refinement, seeing as you’re here at Chuck’s place, you’ve probably also figured out for yourself that this advice is thin at best and downright untrue at its worst.
You could say “hey, it doesn’t have to be taken literally – ‘what you know’ can incorporate emotional experiences that can be applied to new situations, not just intellectual experiences, and you’d be right. But what I want to talk about here, is how you can approach a gulf between your own experience and that of your character.
The easy way first
Let’s get these out of the way. If you want to write about something you don’t know, there’s good old bookish research (which can only take you so far – especially in some areas of SFF) and there’s talking to people. With regards to the latter, it can be hard to find someone who fits the bill completely, so it may be that you need to speak to several people. This also helps to reduce the chance of repeating mistakes and churning out trope-ridden material.
What about things that don’t exist?
What can you read or who can you talk to if the job or experience you want to explore in your writing doesn’t exist – either because it is too fantastical or hasn’t been invented yet? Or what if it is only experienced by people you have no hope of being able to talk to?
(Click on the title for the rest of the piece.)