Writers, do you write what you know?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past 24 hours.

Write what you know.

I’ve never really written what I know. I generally like to pen something as far removed from my life as possible. But when I really think about it, I realise that it’s just setting and certain character traits that are different. My characters always hold the same morals and ideals that I do. So maybe, indirectly, I am writing what I know.

Do you take inspiration from real life? Or does your writing come from the darkest corners of your mind?

I have some situations going on in life at the moment that I think would be great inspiration. An excellent venting tool too!

About Jodie @ Words Read & Written

Book blogger & aspiring author.
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65 Responses to Writers, do you write what you know?

  1. freds64 says:

    I would amend this to write what you love. I think a reader can tell whether you love what you write or are just going through the motions. I know for me, if I don’t have an interest in the subject, the writing will suffer. If I love it, then I’ll do the research to make sure I get it right. What I know falls into this because hopefully what I know covers my interests — the things I love.

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  2. kataar says:

    Hi Jodie, I meant to do this earlier in the week, but I wrote a response to your article on my blog, check it out! https://kataar.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/write-what-you-know-response-to-jodie-llewellyns-blog/

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  3. john freeter says:

    I don’t know shit, so I write about characters figuring “shit” out. It’s almost therapeutic, but it makes the whole goal thing that characters should have rather tricky.

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  4. I think writing what you know means infusing your books with realism via the little things. Hopes and fears, small situations, character traits and habits. We can write books in fantasy worlds or dystopian societies that still ring true if we can adapt what we know and have experienced into our characters world.

    But if someone does take the saying more literally, I’d say it’s their duty to know more.

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  5. Lukas says:

    I think that “writing what you know” is a good ideal towards which you might want to converge.

    Sometimes I start writing about something I don’t know – which, if I want to give my writing more depth, pushes me to find out more about that something. I go reading, talk to my friends ask questions on my Facebook.

    And often I end up knowing a little bit more.

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  6. I loved the Anne of Green Gables book series. I can’t remember if this scene was in the book, but it was certainly in the television series. After a rejection letter from a publisher, Gilbert advises Anne to write about what she knows. From that moment, her writing career takes a new path to success.

    My writing comes from my emotions and life experience.

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  7. pauljgies says:

    If I wrote what I knew, my writing would be dead boring. I don’t know what it’s like to visit a distant star system, battle wizards across time or learn how to be both a countess and a telepath. I don’t write what I know, but I know my characters because they let me write them.

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  8. kevsteph says:

    I like your point about writing as a tool for venting. I’ve done that many times myself. The downside to this is I now have novels that stretch into tens of thousands of pages. Just kidding on the last point. I do agree that writing is a great way to express negative feelings. It can even be a constructive one. Eric Clapton wrote “Wonderful Tonight” while livid at his wife. (She was taking a long time to get ready for a party.) If EC could write a love song while irate, think of what we writers can accomplish if we channel anger through our work.

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  9. fireflyin says:

    I’ve always disliked that phrase, but I think that’s only because it oversimplifies–criminally so–a very important concept. I think you can write about things you don’t know personally. You can write about the dissolution of a marriage and the hurt that arises out of the process even if you’ve never been married. But I think, then, if that’s the case, you should seriously consider researching it. Talk to someone(s) who’s gone through it. I think “write what you know” means to just… not talk out of your ass. 🙂

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  10. With a little research, it is easy to throw together a well written on just about any subject. I’ve found that my best writing has always been on topics I am passionate about or have some investment in. Interest in the subject being discussed is one of the biggest factors in writing with impact.

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  11. It’s tough writing what you don’t know, even just placing characters in a city/country you’ve never been to. It takes a lot of research to get it right, but it’s worth it, I reckon. You learn new things as you go along.

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  12. wow there is a lot of sound advice in these responses! I too am an aspiring writer, looking for this to become the occupation of the second half of my life. So far, I have written about what I know, and have also turned some of that experience into “how to” articles for LinkedIn. My dad has said there are enough stories in my life to write a book, so I have been using my blog to write about things that have happened to me, what i have learned, where I am going, and have been inspired to write a poem, first poem i have written in over 35 years!

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  13. I’d like to think I extrapolate from what I know–and if I don’t know I learn. 🙂

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  14. As someone else said, writing what you know is a bit limiting. I think all writers inject parts of themselves into their characters and their stories, but fiction is made-up, and what fun would it be to only write about the small part of the world–whether real or imagined–that you’ve experienced in person?

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