Monday, September 29, 2014

Writing What You Know

One piece of advice beginning writers are often given is to write what you know. This is great advice if you live an adventurous life, have traveled extensively, or are in a profession such as first responder, anything in the medical field, a pilot, work in finance etc. But what if you are a bit timid when it comes to doing adventurous things or work in a humdrum office job where the most exciting thing that happens is when the office gets a new copy machine?

I'm not saying this is true in my case. (Okay, it is. I admit I'm not at all adventurous. I'm always worried about something bad happening like breaking a leg or worse.) So how do I go about writing about things I know nothing about?

I take my research on the road to learn how to do some of the things my characters need to know. I've taken a gun safety course and gone to a shooting range where with the help of an instructor, I learned how to load and shoot various types of pistols from a .22 all the way up to Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum. I've gone to seminars given by medical examiners, police officers, and a crime scene technician. My nephew is a firefighter for the city we live in. His girlfriend is a paramedic. While I haven't done it yet, both have offered to arrange a ride along with them to observe a typical shift. My sister is a registered nurse so I often pick her brain when it comes to medical questions. Of course, there's always research books and the internet. One just has to be careful to verify any information taken from the internet.

You can write what you know even if you know nothing about the profession etc. when you first start your novel. Pick the brains of family, friends, or attend seminars/classes offered on the subject you need to know more about. It's amazing how helpful people are when you express an interest in what they do whether it be their profession or how they enjoy their leisure time.

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