Monday, 4 April 2011

Write what you like.

Monday, 4 April 2011 09:48 am
staticsan: (Default)
I came across an interesting link this morning, courtesy of Twitter. It was an article by an artist about how to go on being creative.  It coves a lot of ground, but there are two things I particularly took away from it this morning: Write What You Know Like and Read What You Want To Write (Like).

For a long time, novice writers looking for a genre are told to look at what they know, and then write about that. This works well for "how-to" books. After all, if you were reading to learn about cabinet making, you'd want the author to have actually done cabinet making. This can work in fiction, too. A police murder-mystery will probably benefit from the author having  been a police detective. So how does that work if you're describing a trek across a wilderness on horses yet you can't ride one yourself? That's where research comes in. Dig a bit deeper in most advice given to writers and you will always find the advice "research". But isn't that at odds with the mantra "write what you know"?

That's where Write What You Like comes in. What do I want to write? I want to write fantasy adventures with realistic characters. Often horse-riding. Usually with swords and magic. Basically, stuff I don't have direct experience with. But I like to read it. So that's what I write. And yes, I research things like combat details and how far a man can normally ride a horse in a day. I don't have to get it 100% right; just right enough. And whatever else, good characters will trump an unrealistic setting any day. 

Wait: how do I know that? Because I read what I want to write. My favourite authors are ones who do enough research to make the world coherent, and then craft realistic characters in it. Some of the world-building needs hand-waving -- which often happens in a fantasy setting and even that is sometimes lampshaded. But you know what? I don't care. Often the hand-waving becomes an essential part of the world, making it a richer place. And a richer setting makes for a better place to write a story.

Here's the link for the full article:

www.austinkleon.com/2011/03/30/how-to-steal-like-an-artist-and-9-other-things-nobody-told-me/

 

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