Amelia Robinson

Hey there! I'm a student at the University of Kentucky and an aspiring writer. This blog serves as an outlet for all the things I want to talk about that are writing-related. I'll post some of my writing, too, for your enjoyment and critique. Thank you for stopping by! If you'd like to know more about me, feel free to visit here!

The "Write What You Know" Conundrum

Sunday, April 14, 2013

When I was younger, and just fooled around with this whole "writing" thing, I was always told to write what I knew.  This came from famous authors (who had no relevance to my eight-year-old life, but that were "big" people) as well as from my own father, who is a banker and decidedly the most non-fiction person I've ever met.

As an eight-year-old, I thought this was the stupidest advice I'd ever heard.  And I had a whole rant about it, too.  Why on earth would you write about stuff you knew if you were writing fiction?  See, as a kid, I'd always thought that it was a rule that applied to the world you lived in.  I took it to mean that I had to write about the third grade and food I didn't like and other non-important eight-year-old things.

I held onto this mentality for a frighteningly long time.  Basically until I got into high school.  While I can't tell you the moment at which my way of thinking changed, I can just say that it did, and that it started with high school bringing a raft of new experiences.  These experiences ranged from "character building" to "might need therapist," but they taught me something vital as a writer: it is good to write what you know.  I found myself putting things inspired by my own experiences into my stories and it gave them a flavor and connection that they had previously lacked.

On the other hand... dum dum DUMMM.

There's this one scene in my current WIP that was directly inspired by something that happened to me.  It involves a friend being late and canceling and other such nonsense, and it fit beautifully to my story.  But given my personal connection to the scene, I'm afraid of my friend(s) reading it in a bookstore somewhere and going, "That's what she thought about that?"  Even though I came out of being stood up with no hard feelings, my main character gets herself into a snarl of emotional turmoil.  I don't want my friend thinking that was how I felt about it, because the circumstances were eerily similar to what happened between us.

By writing what I know, I may be setting myself up for this kind of awkward discussion.  And this has been happening more and more, which made me realize that my current WIP is much, much more personal a story than I had originally intended.  My main character is going through a character transformation much like how I am now.  But I don't have cool powers, and I'm not being ruthlessly hunted.  (Thank goodness.)

While this conundrum is unlikely to be resolved in any satisfying way, I will happily admit that taking from my own experiences in life has added much flavor and depth to my writing, and has given me a taste for life that leaves me craving more.

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