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Sunday, 16 August 2009

What Do You Know?

Write what you know is the advice we are given. I'm not sure we should adhere rigidly to this. It is true that we can write with confidence about the things we are familiar with, but it can also feel restricting. Of course we can do research. Then we know about something new and can apply that knowledge to our writing. But what about a shot in the dark?

I wrote a story in a setting that I was unfamiliar with. I'd probably seen a film set there, read a book or two in that location. But it wasn't somewhere I knew. I allowed my imagination to fill in the gaps and created my own setting. Unique, if not completely accurate. But so what? I didn't ever state where it was supposed to be. It's my place. Things took place there that I don't have first-hand experience of either, but the story won a competition. So the characters, plot and setting must have worked well, despite my fumbling in the dark.

So I remain a bit confused about the notion of wriitng what you know. It worries me that writers restrict their minds when planning a new story. If I develop a suddden interest in the Australian outback, even though I have no knowledge of it, I might plough into a story set there. My ideas will come from the smattering of information I possess, plus a tiny bit of research. I still won't know the Outback will I? But my story could still work well.

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