Write What You Know and The Problems With That Advice

Probably all aspiring writers have been told at one point or another to “write what you know”.  I only half-agree with this advice. After all, if you take it to the extreme and practically write your autobiography with a different name, then it would get boring to write fast.

I’m not saying to write about someone dying of thirst in the desert when you don’t even know what sand is (you probably do know what sand is). But add a bit of imagination to your story. Don’t just write about what you know. It’s fiction after all.

For instance, I’m just a normal (some will disagree on that word) person living in Maine. I go to school, eat chocolate and hang with friends. But the story I’m writing is about immortals who are at war with each other. So how am I writing what I know? Well, the majority of the story takes place in forests like the ones I spent my childhood in, and all the characters are versions of myself and other people in my life. The emotions they feel are like the emotions I’ve experienced first-hand and anything I put in my novel that might be inaccurate I look up online.

Of course I’m making up a lot of things (does anyone really know what it’s like to live for thousands of years? If you do, let me know) but a lot of the surroundings and details I’ve pulled from my own life.

So even though you should “write what you know” give yourself some creative freedom, even if you just add just enough to keep you writing. After all, if we just write “what we know” , whole genres (fantasy, historical fiction etc.) would disappear. So “write what you know” if you wish. Just don’t get bogged down in the details.

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