I have to admit, I was stumped about the theme for my blog post. For some reason, ideas evaded me until I spoke to my mom about my latest story. I have to give her credit for this topic. Her comment, which spurred my thinking, was I incorporated traits and interests from me into my character which would make my character seem more realistic or three dimensional as opposed to flat. She also had joked the context left no doubt that I was familiar with the topics I discussed.
Her comments led me to thinking: have you ever read a story that has inaccurate information? Has the author set the story within a city with which you are intimately familiar and found important details incorrect? Maybe your occupation gives you particular knowledge about the subject discussed in the story, and the author makes assumptions that are grossly wrong?
As authors, we need to give our readers credit. Not only are they intelligent, but they are demanding. They want to be drawn into our story, lost in the scene and the characters. They want vivid, accurate detail. They want characters that jump off the page, characters with whom they can laugh and cry. We do ourselves and our readers a disservice when we try to gloss over details because we arenít familiar with the topic about which we are writing. Even worse, we write about something we have just general knowledge and leave gaping holes through which the proverbial Mac truck can be driven. You should have fear of this as your readers will call you on it every time, and they will hesitate to pick up another story that youíve written.
Iím not saying that you can never write about things youíve never experienced or places youíve never been. Lots of authors write police procedurals or courtroom dramas without having ever been a police officer or an attorney. How do they accomplish writing successful and enthralling stories? They do copious amounts of research, and they interview and question the experts. Talk with friends and friends of friends. You will be surprised at their varied interests and occupations. If there are writing groups in your area, take advantage of them. Most are typically a diverse group, who are willing to share their knowledge. Those authors who donít know a subject, but wish to write on it, educate themselves so thoroughly about the topic it is as if they become experts about it. They learn it inside and out.
Another good way to learn about things which you donít know is to read what other authors have written. If you have your heart set on writing historical romance, read authors who write in the time period where your interests lie. Then, do research online and at the library to learn about what people did for entertainment, how people in that time period dressed, what was proper behavior for a lady, etc. Again, this is where research will pay off: you donít want your female character lighting an oil lamp if they werenít in existence yet or drawing water for a hot bath if indoor plumbing had yet to be implemented.
If you have a story idea jiggling around in your brain, give it the time and attention it deserves. If it is worth writing, it is worth writing well. Donít expect to write a major novel without conducting any research or without fact-checking references. For example, it wouldnít be good to reference the American Civil War and note that it occurred in the 1830s. Nor would it be good to have your character cocking the hammer on his Glock pistol when the Glock is hammerless.
Next: Passion. Donít expect to write while keeping your emotions locked in the closet. You need them to bring your story and characters to life. Pour your passions and your heart into your characters. For some, this may be difficult and taxing. It can be painful and bring on tears. Donít tread cautiously in these areas, go at them with gusto. Your readers will appreciate your efforts as you will have written an extraordinary character with whom they can relate. As I mentioned before, you want a character that is three dimensional and complex. Someone who has faults and foibles. How many perfect people do you know? Yep, thought so. Therefore, how many perfect characters should you have?
One way to help with this is to take note of the things you experience when you feel emotional. Are your eyes red and puffy after crying? Are you exhausted, physically and mentally drained? Donít forget to include you other senses when describing emotion. As writers, we sometime rely too much on sight and forget about taste and scent. For instance, at a funeral your characterís nose might itch with the sweet perfume wafting from the floral bouquets surrounding the casket. That sweetness could be in direct contrast to foul stench of death. The vibrant life of blooming flowers in opposition with the bleak coldness of death.
Iíve focused on discussing abstract concepts thus far. Letís take a look at more specific examples in my story, Tumbling in Time. The story is set in the future, so I had leeway with locations, characters, and technology. Even with that, I tried to be true to my setting. For instance: San Diego. Iíve spent time in Gaslamp Quarter; Iíve stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel; Iíve attended conferences at The Convention Center. It was easy for me to visualize the area where I had been. When I had questions or wanted to make sure I had details correct, I headed to the internet.
The heroine in Tumbling in Time is meteorology student Tasha Hutchinson. For as long as I can remember, Iíve been fascinated with tornadoes. Iíve never experienced one, but I watched numerous television shows and documentaries about them. Tasha is tough; she had a rough start to life and as such learned to do things on her own at an early age. In the story, she isnít afraid of the unknown and faces it head on. She wants Arikk to recognize and to be proud of the abilities sheís developed. Tasha gets herself into trouble later in the story. She desperately wants to help the good guys, but doesnít have the training or weaponry. Her heart wins out over her head, and she runs into trouble. (I think this is where I need to confess that my heart has a tendency to lead more than my head!) Sheís a very giving person, putting others ahead of herself. Iíve conveyed this description to show some of the layers that compose Tasha. These contribute to making her a whole, rounded person. Perhaps you as the reader can relate to some of these.
When you think of ďWrite What You KnowĒ, donít think of it in a limiting sense. Instead, think of it as being thorough and complete. Never be satisfied until youíve written an emotionally fulfilling yet accurate and detailed story. Your readers will be grateful.
Denise Wyant enjoys writing romance and urban fantasy stories where the good guys win and love conquers anything obstacles in its path. She makes her home in Maryland with her Himalayan cat, Willow (her other cat, Sidney, is on permanent vacation with the grandparents). When not crafting works of fiction or laboring at her job, she enjoys caramel lattes, cycling, and lazy Saturday mornings. She can be found at http://denisewyant.wordpress.com/
Tasha Hutchinson, a meteorology student at a suburban Kansas University, looks forward to tornadoes but not for the same reason as her fellow classmates. She uses the storms to travel through time to visit with and fight various demons with her crush, Arikk. She has fallen hard for the stubborn wizard. Arikk better be careful Ė if Tasha has her way, they will be sharing more than platonic kisses.
As an immortal wizard with unique parentage, Arikk is blessed with all sorts of special abilities. He serves as a high ranking sentinel with the Guardian Peacekeepers, a demanding organization devoted to maintaining peace and justice through space and time. While Arikk has fun with Tasha Ė his Sunshine Ė he knows his life is too dangerous for them to be anything more than friends.
Will Tasha, a fragile human, survive the battles with otherworldly creatures? Will she be successful in winning the heart of her wizard?
Buy ĎTumbling in Timeí at Amazon.