Should Writers Only Write What They Know? | Writing Fiction

What really started me out writing stories and poetry was “Composition Class” in primary school. As early as the age of six, I had to write essays (called compositions sometimes) based on pictures or a topic. It would start with a first line sometimes, and sometimes it would be titled something like “A Day at The Beach” or “The Dog.” This required critical and creative thinking from very early on for me, and often I would slip into daydreams about different things…writing in my head so to speak. During my last year of primary school, I really had to perfect my essays as it was a core part of our exams for high school entry. I even had extra after school lessons to broaden my knowledge and understanding of how 2-3 page stories work. Introduction, body, climax, etc.

One piece of advice I got from a teacher around that time(age 10) was to write what I know. I believed that, and I applied that but I also believed that it wasn’t meant to be taken so literally. Most of my essays were based on fantasy ideas, rings with superpowers, kids with superhuman strengths. I had neither of those, so where did that come from? Which brings me to my next question…”Should writers only write what they know?”

My simple answer, pertaining to my own experiences as a content creator is no. But there’s more to it than just no. It’s understanding how to utilize what you know and add to it.

I’m inserting a disclaimer here as usual that I am no scholar or established author, just a person who writes with a take on writing what you know.

If we were to confine everything that we know only into our stories, it probably wouldn’t work out too well. As writers, we do have an audience to write for and we shouldn’t treat them poorly. Readers need to feel, and most writers can provide that but can we really provide a dynamic visual for our readers if we don’t tap into our creativity? To me, writing is an art, similar to painting, although painting is very complex to a person like me. But the creative similarities are there.

For instance, many authors create epic works of fiction. To name a few, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, Rick Riordan and many more. Their works are related to the fantasy or adventure genre. What this means is that these writers really tapped into a special place of creativity. Rowling didn’t attend a wizardry school and neither did Tolkien meet elves or dwarfs to get familiar enough to write about them.

Do I write what I know? Yes, my past experiences has taught me a lot about emotions, feelings. And whatever genre or story you tell, the portraying of an emotion is there, jealously, anger, love, lust, happiness, pain, rejection. These are things we know and write about better as time goes by. There are still emotions that I can’t perfectly pen out on paper and it’s because I’ve never had that particular situation to deal with so I don’t write it. But when it comes to imagination, world building, character profiling….let your creative juices flow. Just let go.

As a writer, I don’t know everything. I don’t know most of my characters when I get an idea for a book or where the story is going. Recently I had a little struggle with writing about a cold climate place that I have never been to. Is it doable? Sure it is. The research & plotting part of your novel or story is very critical and should be given adequate time to brainstorm and develop before even beginning to write chapter one.

Do you have any struggles in your writing process? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by!

xo Kat