Write What I Know…Or Make It Up?
I used to read that way all the time. Then I started writing. And I started blogging. And I read a lot less. Then I started reading again. Only…this time…it was books about how to write.
How did it come to this? I don’t want empty praises like ‘wonderful, ‘great’, ‘loved it’. I want to hear the truth. But what good is ‘hated it’, ‘boring’, or ‘what was this supposed to be about?’
So…I turned to other books. You know the ones? The ones about writing. I wonder if writers make more money telling others how to write than they made writing fiction. Anyway, sooner or later, the author brings up a truism of writing that…for some reason…we have all heard about. But…how many have actually heard it.
Only…we are told…we don’t have to.
And then we get the comment that none of us…
…have ever been in a flying saucer,
…were on the beach to warn everyone when Columbus landed,
…watched wide-eyed Marco Polo in the Imperial Court
And what about the people who were there? How can we ever write about them? Will they always turn out to be born on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming?
What do I know about being rich?
How do I see things through the eyes of a guy?
How do I write with the wisdom of an elderly person?
So…I read a book. Well, several books on character development. And there seems to be three things about creating a character.
What do they look like and what do they do?
What do they think and feel?
Where did they come from and where are they going?
To understand what characters look like, and what do they do, I started stalking people. At least that’s what my husband calls it. I go set somewhere, places like the library, or a bench in the Mall, or a pizza place. Even though I can type faster than I write, I take my notebook, not my laptop. I watch people. I don’t follow people. I don’t interview them. I’ve been caught at it once.
Why do this?
I want to see real people, doing real, ordinary things.
When I read stories, I am often drawn on by the little things, someone fumbling for a light switch, or pulling their phone out of their purse, or buckling a child into their car seat.
Do I do all these things?
I remember them well enough to write them down when the time comes?
If I watch others, and write them down, might I remember them and add them to my stories, later?
So…is that writing what I know, or making it up?
I might share some of my notes.