Why NOT to Write about What You Know
But first I want to remind you that the Submission window for Issue 5 is February 1 - March 1, 2018. So read our Submission Guidelines and please submit something!
I'll start with one or more questions. I have heard and read that we MUST start out by writing ‘about something we know.’ I get why people say this. You have to start somewhere and to get going, why not write about your family dog or the fact that the mail has been late three times this week. But like most such sage words of advice, I’m not sure it always does or even should work that way. Consider J. K. Rowling. She was a young single mother and what did she start out writing about? Not the difficulties of child-rearing or the Scottish weather or problems with men – no, she started right off devising, I personally believe, amazing stories about magic and wizardry. And where did that come from?
Another example of a technique to start you out that seems to apply only to style, but in my case helped me with content as well, is one that my English Comp Professor employed. The idea was to take a well-respected author, such as Thoreau, and try to write exactly in his style, that is to pretend you're him and you're out there in the woods observing and thinking just as you imagine he did when he was there. This sounds nutty and I certainly thought so at the time, but it worked better than I thought. So pretty soon I wasn’t just writing a bit like Thoreau, I was also thinking a bit like him. And then somehow, starting then and continuing till this day, I 'fell' off the chair and started writing in my own style, even my own 'voice.' But ‘voice’ is another topic for another day. Or is it??
What do you think? Do you think we MUST start out writing about something we know on a personal level? Or are there other, maybe even more effective, ways to get started with plot or description or style and, once started, to keep going? And what about the function of the imagination? Where did J.K. Rowling come up with such strange and amazing places and creatures, not to mention stories? And if we say, from her imagination, what on earth is that?