This week, Ladies and Gentlemen, give a warm welcome to Katie Sullivan, author of the blog D/A Dialogues! Today Katie joins us to talk about “write what you know”, so give a round of applause and a very big thank-you to Katie for taking time out of her busy schedule to write this for WBW! Take it away Katie:
Write what you know
It’s an adage most writers – and non-writers – hear: write what you know. It’s one of the rules – you know, the ones we are meant to break (but only after we know what they mean). Yet, even I, a consummate rule-breaker, adhere to that one rule more often than not.
I write what I know, most of the time. So do many other writers I know.
But how can that be, people (including the evil little voice in my head) ask. You write about time travel, Druids, and Irish myth. You haven’t lived any of those things.
Well, that’s not all that I write about. I also poke fun at sparkly vampires and have a giggle with zombies. I’ve even taken a stab at updating an Arthurian myth and given a nod to a not-so-scary haunted house. I once wrote a short story under the guise of a dog, and right now, I’m actively engaging my sleuthing skills in a dystopian future.
The people (and voice) pause.
I recently asked myself a question in an interview (it was a mirror interview, I was supposed to talk to myself): if you were in your characters’ shoes, what would you do differently?
Very little, I answered myself, because I wrote the book as a sort of escape for myself. What would I do if I were whisked through time, and confronted with pirates and revolutionaries and kings out of myth? I hope I would be brave enough to face it head-on and do what I needed to do to save the only family I ever knew.
What would I do if I were the peacekeeper in a small community, trying to keep itself together at the edges of what was once civilization? Probably just what my sleuth is doing – although I believe she is a better sleuth than I am (no matter how many Agatha Christie books I read, I am always surprised at the end). I grew up in a not-so-scary haunted house, so adding a touch more fantasy, and a bit of teenage angst to a story isn’t too far-fetched. I also know that vampires don’t sparkle, and the only way to survive a zombie apocalypse is to keep your sense of humor close by. And maybe carry a cricket bat.
How do I know these things? Well, everything I know about zombies, I learned from Simon Pegg and Jack Flacco. I also studied politics and history at University, and delved into a fair bit of a variety of religions and mythologies. I read voraciously, and research is one of the reasons I started writing. So, when my imagination sets to roaming, it tends to grab bits and pieces of these things I know to feather the nest of the world it is creating.
The imagination acts as great source material, and while I may not know a centuries-old druid in real life (don’t tell the character-in-my-head/blogging companion), I do know how I think he would react to this world (for the purposes of my blog) and how he would react to the duty of protecting the last of his kind. And I am certainly not alone in this.
Those writers who are lucky enough to envelope their reader into a world they have created, take that reader for a ride and make her forget, for even a moment, that she is sitting on the couch with a bit of paper or electronics in her hand, are doing their job, and have written exactly what they know.
~ Katie Sullivan is a mom, writer and wanna-be spy. She chats with the character-in-her-head, a Druid named D, at her blog, the D/A Dialogues. Her first book, Changelings: Into the Mist will be released on November 11, 2014.