Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Write What You Know, But...

In the writing world, there's this simple statement we're all supposed to follow:

Write What You Know

So, since what I know from personal experience is probably pretty boring to the rest of the world, I took what I knew and I embellished it, added to it, and fictionalized it.  What came out became Accidental Death.

I took the wild imaginings of the wife of a city manager and put them on paper. And I had some wild imaginings. Especially after one of Hubs' acquaintances died of a heart attack.  Thus Jillian and Scott's backstory came to life. 

When a local man was found dead in his garage from an apparent suicide, I began to wonder how easy it would be to commit a murder in a town where the police weren't that well trained and weren't exactly inclined to investigate crimes.  And thus the plot was born.

When my own neighbor almost accidentally killed me, my daughter, and Kira cat, by allowing her guests to run their RV all morning next to my house where the tailpipe was pointed toward my less-than-sealed laundry room - a piece of the pie fell into place.  (Fun day.  Lucky for me, I noticed I was getting woozy and that the house stank of exhaust.)

And the book that would eventually become Accidental Death was born.  

This is the book that comes closest to 'write what you know', but...

Everything I knew has been changed to suit the fiction.  None of the residents of Serenity are based on the residents of the town where I lived.  I took pieces from all the people I've ever met where their pieces might fit into this scenario.  I used snatches from this person and bits from that, added some stuff, twisted some stuff, and created the characters that populate my book.

Because that's what writing fiction is.  It's making stuff up in your head and putting it down.  Otherwise it's memoir.  Or loosely veiled non-fiction - which is totally not my style.  (Despite the one agent who wrote across a rejection letter years ago - for a totally different book - that I ought to write non-fiction and if I did he'd be happy to look at it.)

Oh, and Jillian is not me.  And Scott is not Hubs.  I played with real bits from us to make them more real, but in the end, they're their own people and so are we.

How much of your favorite writers do you suspect is in their writing?  Or do you think it's like Alfred Hitchcock, who had cameos in the movies he made?  (Stephen King does it, too, but Hitchcock did it first.)


  1. I've had people who know me well and read my books accuse me of "writing myself" into a couple of characters. Uhm...nope. Just taking what I know and extrapolating that knowledge into the characters.

    That said, I still want to do a TeeSprings tee shirt that says: Warning: I'm a WRITER. Anything you say and do may appear in one of my books. *bwahahaha*

  2. OH! And yeah. ACCIDENTAL DEATH is awesome!

  3. Interesting. I can see why "write what you know" is the norm, but then how to you write about living in outer space, magic or vampires & shifters etc? It's your imagination, your ability to tell a story & the research you do that makes you a writer, not your humdrum day to day life. It's nice to drop in bits & pieces of yourself, and like you say, draw from situations you've faced, butt it wouldn't be much of a book if it was just "I woke up, got out of bed, showered, went to work, came home, eat dinner, watched TV, went to bed, fell asleep". Thank goodness you survived the near-gassing.