Bronwyn Green

The Corner of Quirky & Kinky


There’s that old writers’ adage: write what you know. I have mixed feelings about this advice.

It’s true, I set a lot of stories in Michigan, because I know the area fairly well, and it means that I’ll be less likely to screw up certain things. But, I’ve also set stories in the UK. I haven’t been there, (yet) but  google is an amazing thing. I can find pretty much all the info I need, and I can email friends for the rest.

But what about other things? Like writing people whose personalities, and careers, and lives are vastly different from mine? If I wrote strictly what I know, there would be a lot of stories out there about potty training multiple children at once, or making hideously ugly bridesmaids dresses, or cleaning up cat puke, or trying to organize my life. No one wants to read that.

Well, happily, I know a lot of people who are vastly different than me, and they’re usually willing to answer questions. I’m also not afraid to do research on people – particularly their jobs. When I can, I prefer the research in the form of asking questions an actual person who has the experience I’m looking to convey. Although, a word of warning…sometimes this can happen. o.O

All this said, I think the “write what you know” advice is less about the details – you can learn all that stuff – and more about writing what you know in terms of emotional truth. I don’t think you need to have been in an abusive relationship to write from the perspective of a person who’s experienced that–nor do you need to have gone through the pain of losing someone you love to write effectively about that.  You don’t need to have experienced what it’s like to be a high school student in a new town, or how it feels to fall in love, but you do need to be able to connect with the idea and the feeling so thoroughly that you can convey the truth of those situations and emotions to the readers. Without being able to completely immerse yourself in the character you’re trying to bring to life, it’s difficult to really know that character. And if you don’t really know that character, the reader won’t either. And that doesn’t make a satisfying read for anyone.

Check out the other bloggers takes on this topic by clicking their names.







0 thoughts on “Write What You Know – Agree or Disagree?

  1. I was unaware of the Bill thing – OH MY GOSH! That story is amazing! And writing about Michigan is awesome. I find a lot of the books I read are set in Maine. Which is annoying. I’ll pick up a book and think “please don’t be set in Maine, please don’t be set in Maine” and look at the back cover “set in Maine…” and yell “GODDAMNIT” loudly in the library.

    1. Bronwyn says:

      I’m dying about Maine. Forever more when I see a book set in Maine, I will think of you and giggle. 😀 Bill…that poor bastard.

  2. Gwen Cease says:

    I love the Bill story. So awesome . . . . poor guy. The book I’m working on now is kinda set in Michigan. You’ll see, it’s complicated. and I agree with you, emotional truth is all that matters.

    1. Bronwyn says:

      I think emotional truth is the biggest component – as long as the author isn’t totally off base with the details. 🙂

  3. Jess Jarman says:

    Bill is awesome and such a good sport, eh.

    Excellent point about knowing your characters. So very true – you need to know them so your readers can. 🙂

    1. Bronwyn says:

      Oh Bill…that dude deserves a medal! LOL

  4. Kris Norris says:

    I love the emotional ‘write what you know’. And yes, there’s a reason all my stories are pretty much Washington State. Or northern Canada. Because research is hard, people 😉

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