Thursday, 27 April 2017

"Write What You Know."

This is the some of the oldest advice given when it comes to writing. It holds true even though it might feel a bit limiting, especially if to a young and/or inexperienced writer. So let me explain how I've dealt with this.

Think about all the emotions you know. It's certain that you've experienced a huge range of feelings from euphoria right down to depression. Really explore those experiences. How did you move? How did other people understand your feelings or relate to you during that time? What were you thinking at that time? What made your emotion change?

Then there are age issues. You cannot change how old you are, but in my experience the way you think will not change so drastically despite the encroaching years. What does change are your reactions to certain situations. (I find myself thinking, "Oh hell, I sound just like my mother." more frequently than I wish.) But anyway, there are always older or younger people around who you can observe. Look at how they react in certain situations, how the respond to people of different age or status. Quiz them on their thoughts on a certain experience. I enjoyed doing this with my story Shark Nose.
Read it here.
Knowledge of certain jobs, places or circumstances can seem hard too gain too. The most revealing way of doing this is actually by putting yourself in that situation, embracing opportunity. If you a recent report from Greek Reporter, you will know that I suddenly found myself in the position of translator/reporter on live TV, earlier this month. I've also had a variety of jobs including but not limited to fishmonger, set builder for the BBC, costume designer,interior designer, factory worker, baker, cleaner, secretary, teacher, care assistant, bookseller, shop assistant, oh and of course writer. You don't have to do the job to get a feel for it though. Find another person who does it and subject them to an inquisition. Watch documentaries in the Internet where people are talking about their lives as a.... (I did this for a WIP about a taxidermist.)

For a fantasy author, worlds are a challenge all on their own, especially if you want to create another, non-existent planet. There are whole blogs on world-building you can follow but you can make it simpler too. Look around you and observe. Weeds growing on an old stone wall can become fairy land, a desert a barren planet. It is said that the Shire is inspired by certain areas of the Forest of Dean where Tolkien worked in the late1920s. Regions can become countries, follow the geography of a map but put in your own cities, swamps, forests and so on. Think about the climate you want to create and then research regions which have this climate. Of course, if you have the wherewithal, why not take a visit to the place you wish to write about. Neil Gaiman had tours of London's sewer system when researching Neverwhere, which just proves, nothing beats reality after all.

Characters are a challenge too. They require a little psychoanalysis and a lot of observation. Find a person who resembles your character in looks of personality or both and trim them to suit your purpose. It doesn't have to be someone you know or even a real person. Beth Cato says she drew inspiration for Mrs. Stout from British TV series 'Are You Being Served?''s Mrs. Slocombe in her bestselling Clockwork Dagger series.

Don't have a plot and want to be a writer? Use someone else's. Yes, I am serious. How many stories have been inspired by Mythology, Bible stories, the Classics or Fairy tales? (Ulysses by James Joyce, for one!) Take your favourite story, change the setting, give the characters new names, swap their genders or race and write it anew! You will find that you will probably just wander off on a tangent as you write and create something very much your own.

Finally and most simply, be inspired. You know an awful lot about all kinds of things and in the words of William Arthur Ward, “If you can imagine it, you can create it.”