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Old 10-15-2012, 04:17 PM   #16
crich70
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Arthur Hailey is a good example of an author doing research to get things right I think. Certainly he wrote some good books where the setting itself seemed to be an actual character.
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Old 10-15-2012, 11:56 PM   #17
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I agree. "Write what you know" is needlessly limiting.
"Write what you know" is overly presuming!
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Old 10-16-2012, 12:10 AM   #18
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As for Stephen King, I was on business trip late 2000 deep behind Boston MA; and when we shuttled small roads with a rental car, surrounded by local autumn, suddenly it flashed in my mind 'There be witches?' and I asked automatically my colleague if he had read Stephen King. I really don't know if New England is different but it felt something I had read/seen already.

As for writing about absolute professions, it sometimes feels odd to see true people who will take their experience with them and at the same time realize that I will never write about that with any depth, how ever I try to research.
Say, I like old aircraft and have a reasonable amount of WWII aerial warfare books and talked with some veterans about subject but I never will capture into text the true moment in 3-D airspace when 'hours and hours of boredom punctuated into seconds of sheer terror'(whoever that wrote).
I was in the military, and have read a vast amount about military history, yet I never fought in the US Civil War, but I can write about it.

What you do is be sure what you do say is true and don't pretend to have been there. You don't have to. No one that reads your work will have been there themselves.

And finally, in some ways all wars, all soldiers are the same.

Like a recent movie said "you are always trying to get home."

That's a universal truth.

Last edited by frahse; 10-18-2012 at 04:04 AM.
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Old 10-16-2012, 07:37 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by frahse View Post
I was in the military, and have read a vast amount about military history, yet I never fought in the US Civil War, but I can write about it.

What you do is be sure what do you say is true and don't pretend to have been there. You don't have to. No one that reads your work will have been there themselves.

And finally, in some ways all wars, all soldiers are the same.

Like a recent movie said "you are always trying to get home."

That's a universal truth.
That's probably true. I remember reading somewhere that there is a letter (probably in a museum somewhere) in which a Roman soldier was writing home about the conflict he was in and it sounded much like a letter that a soldier from WWI or WWII might have written. The main difference being the language in which the letter was written. Man is man no matter what time period his story is set in. Some things are just universal.
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Old 10-16-2012, 10:56 AM   #20
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As I mentioned in another thread where this came up recently, here's my take:

"Write what you know" is a prompt for writers who are blocked, or are struggling to find a topic, or are stumped on how to flesh out a scene.
It is a REMINDER to draw on your own knowledge as a source, freeing you up from having to figure out or make up, or research every concept or image.

It is NOT supposed to be a limiter, as in "ONLY write what you know." That would be, I maintain, some of the worst advice you could get as a writer and would stifle the imagination.

As a limiter, I agree that "know what you write" would be the better advice.

"Write what you know" = a prompt to get the creative juices flowing by reminding you that you DO already have stuff in your head to write about.

"Know what you write" = a caution that if you're going to write about what you don't know, do the research, put in the effort and make it sound believable.

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Old 10-16-2012, 01:19 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frahse View Post
I was in the military, and have read a vast amount about military history, yet I never fought in the US Civil War, but I can write about it.

What you do is be sure what do you say is true and don't pretend to have been there. You don't have to. No one that reads your work will have been there themselves.

And finally, in some ways all wars, all soldiers are the same.

Like a recent movie said "you are always trying to get home."

That's a universal truth.
Agreed. I only find a certain block in front of finding the 100% correct and certain feeling and thus I am asking for impossible; how many works of war would we have? Like you said, perhaps from universal viewpoint of war it is the same; siblings shooting each other in Gettysburg or pilot perspiring cold in complicated machine about to be decimated.
I also was in military up north and remember complaining, frozen, 'only thing we miss here is to be shot at'.
The 1990 movie 'Memphis Belle' is kinda romanticized but I still like its 'carry me home' spirit.
BTW cool avatar, is that re-enactment? Don't see re-enactments here too much.
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:55 AM   #22
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I agree with a lot of what has been said. I also take "write what you know" to mean put your own spin on things based on your own unique experiences and point of view. You could give a hundred people a very specific topic and incident to write about, and if they all wrote from their perspective, you'd get a hundred very different stories.
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Old 10-18-2012, 04:26 AM   #23
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PainMike

Thanks.
The avatar is a painting of Thomas Jonathan Jackson. Commonly known as General Stonewall Jackson. He is a hero of mine, a great soldier in every respect. I also admire greatly the Northern General Sherman. He wasn't the soldier Stonewall was but he knew war for what it is.
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Old 10-20-2012, 02:54 AM   #24
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Don't make up a lot of crap and expect people to buy it.

If you have a specific expertise in something, use that to give your book realism. If you are writing about something you don't know about, do the damn research.

As an example: I know about horses. If I'm writing a scene with horses, I know exactly what the horse can do, how it moves, how it smells, how it will react in verious situations. I don't have to lecture the reader about horses, it's obvious.

On the other hand, I don't drive and know nothing about car engines. If I attempted to write a scene with a car engine, it's likely to be "he connected the shiny thing to the round thing and twiddled a knobbly thing". So my choice is either not writing scenes that involve more driving than "He ignored the red light as he raced after the grey car" or I can get an expert to supervise my technical car scenes.
People who write books on relationships should read this.
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Old 10-20-2012, 03:03 AM   #25
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Quote:
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I agree with a lot of what has been said. I also take "write what you know" to mean put your own spin on things based on your own unique experiences and point of view. You could give a hundred people a very specific topic and incident to write about, and if they all wrote from their perspective, you'd get a hundred very different stories.
There was a Disney film about art that illustrated that point very well. Four of the studio's artists (back in the 50's-60's) went out on their day off and painted a tree and though they were all looking at the same tree each of them came up with a different painting.
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Old 10-29-2012, 06:09 PM   #26
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I'm reminded of a scene in a "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" episode called "Explorers."

Commander Sisko (a space station commander)
is flying a solar-sail powered lightship between two alien star systems, with his son, Jake, an aspiring writer.

Jake has asked his father to critique a story he wrote about a Maquis resistance fighter. Sisko says he likes it, but...
"In some places, you're writing about things you haven't actually experienced...at least I hope you haven't. Unless you've run off and joined the Maquis without telling me."

I am flabbergasted that the TV writer could put that kind of criticism in that character's mouth.
Of all people, a TV writer writing about flying a lightship between alien star systems should appreciate that "write what you know" does not mean "limit your writing to those things you have personally experienced."

Grr!
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Old 10-29-2012, 06:40 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by ApK View Post
I'm reminded of a scene in a "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" episode called "Explorers."

Commander Sisko (a space station commander)
is flying a solar-sail powered lightship between two alien star systems, with his son, Jake, an aspiring writer.

Jake has asked his father to critique a story he wrote about a Maquis resistance fighter. Sisko says he likes it, but...
"In some places, you're writing about things you haven't actually experienced...at least I hope you haven't. Unless you've run off and joined the Maquis without telling me."

I am flabbergasted that the TV writer could put that kind of criticism in that character's mouth.
Of all people, a TV writer writing about flying a lightship between alien star systems should appreciate that "write what you know" does not mean "limit your writing to those things you have personally experienced."

Grr!
Perhaps it was meant as an inside joke?
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Old 11-01-2012, 07:13 AM   #28
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This Goodreads quote of the day popped up in my mailbox just now and I thought of this thread.


Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time.
- Howard Nemerov
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Old 11-02-2012, 06:01 AM   #29
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Of all people, a TV writer writing about flying a lightship between alien star systems should appreciate that "write what you know" does not mean "limit your writing to those things you have personally experienced."

Grr!
Let this be a terrible warning to all writers! When you insert a joke, some people will insist on taking it seriously :-)

You're not alone. The whole business of literary criticism is littered with unwarranted deep analysis. Reading commentary on Shakespeare, I sometimes want to take the writer by the throat a la The Simpsons and shout "D'oh! It's just a PUN. A JOKE. Geddit?!!"
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Old 11-02-2012, 08:26 AM   #30
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Let this be a terrible warning to all writers! When you insert a joke, some people will insist on taking it seriously :-)

You're not alone. The whole business of literary criticism is littered with unwarranted deep analysis. Reading commentary on Shakespeare, I sometimes want to take the writer by the throat a la The Simpsons and shout "D'oh! It's just a PUN. A JOKE. Geddit?!!"
Meh. Jokes should be funny.

Inside jokes should be MISSED by outsiders, not tick them off!
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