Write about what you know?

1 Mar

There seems to be a lot of advice about writing which centres on the advice that you should write about what you know. This is fine if you want to write a book about your hobby or attempt an autobiography, but that rather limits your potential market. Of course there are occasional exceptions to that rule, I was thinking of  ‘Zen and the Art of Mororcycle Maintenance’, but after that I am struggling.

If you are writing a crime novel or thriller you can stick to a gritty real-life format, such as the Police procedural novel, but this is more likely to involve research than personal experience. And if you have a leading character, and nearly all such books do, then they don’t have to be like you. My hero (anti-hero?) is a six foot two blond twenty five year old aristocratic athelete who is a serial seducer of women. There are very few points where we nearly meet, or would have met thirty five years ago. I suppose what remains of my hair is fair, but otherwise…..

Raymond Chandler offered a good piece of advice about what to do if the plot gets boring; have someone come into the room brandishing a gun. The trouble is that you can only do this a limited number of times in any one book.

As far as I can work out from my experience of writing the fiirst thing you do is get an idea, place it in a background you can write about convincingly, add events and then have your characters be proactive or reactive to these events and to other characters. So that’s easy then. Oh, except you need control of the plot and to judge the pacing well. Then you need to write for your market, to some extent.

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