Write What You Know
The first thing they say when you tell them you want to be a famous writer—after they quit laughing—is to write what you know. Because J.K. Rowling went to witch school, Tolkien lived in Middle Earth, Shakespeare was depressed in Denmark, and Agatha Christie repeatedly murdered Colonel Mustard in the library with a trowel.
I’m not a big believer in rules but I have to admit this one contains a seed of truth. I write about googly-eyed ghosts, cauldron-stirring witches, and treacherous critters of every description. My challenge is to make these elements and the world surrounding seem plausible enough that readers suspend their disbelief and go with me on whatever adventure I send my unsuspecting protagonist.
My first book, Just Like Gravity, is about reincarnation. When I shared a scene of which I was particularly proud with my critique group, one of my critique buddies completely missed the skillfully developed haunting atmosphere, the subtle character development woven flawlessly into the unfolding plot.
“There were no black swans in Scotland in 1609,” she said, looking at me over the black rims of her glasses with a cold eye.
My over-swollen head lost pressure with a whoosh.
Of course, she was correct. Black swans didn’t make their way to Scotland until the nineteenth century. Oh, I can tell you all about black swans in Scotland––Now.
How can I ask readers to believe in reincarnation, ghosts, and ancient curses if I can’t even get the flora and fauna of my setting right?
As well as being accurate with factual details, I love to write and read about normal, everyday situations and people dropped into a fantasy or supernatural setting. For me as a reader, that little bit of normalcy connects me to the story and helps me identify with the characters even if they are dealing with other events I find a little hard to believe. When the main character’s bra strap breaks just as she meets the new in-laws, I can empathize even if this takes place on the planet Zark where dragons shapeshift into cats, and spaghetti monsters roam the radioactive deserts.
So let’s paraphrase that old rule: Write what you dream, what you imagine, what you love—but do your research.
Or maybe it’s just me. Do historical or factual inaccuracies spoil a book for you? What is the drop-dead, toss-the-book-out, most awful jarring inaccuracy you’ve ever seen? You don’t need to cite chapter and verse (or author and title), but leave a comment with the general idea.
By the way, for a fresh dose of creepy, crawly spooks and mysterious caverns beneath enchanted castles, stay tuned to my blog at Sorchia’s Universe (http://www.sorchiadubois.com).
New Release this fall from The Wild Rose Press and Sorchia DuBois —Zoraida Grey and the Family Stones. Find out how many Scottish witches it takes to get rid of one pesky small town fortuneteller.
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