On Writing What You Know

Hello, friends!

Write what you know.

I’ve heard that so many times in my life, it kinda drives me nuts. Do you know how bored I would be if I only wrote what I know? Sure, there would be cool things: an impressive amount of pop punk lyrics, random tidbits about Greek mythological figures (but mostly Medea), and more Harry Potter trivia than any one person needs. But there would also be spreadsheets, formulas I didn’t realize I still knew, and features of very specific appliance models.

I don’t wanna write what I know. That would become a chore very, very quickly.

However, I am guilty of bastardizing what I know. I have a knack for taking something in my life (be it something that happened to me or something I observed), upping the stakes, and turning it into a story. I’ve done this…a lot.

Prime examples:

I turned a night at the beach with a friend, discussing love and failed relationships (among, um, other things), into first a ten-minute play about two friends hooking up at the beach shortly before one character’s wedding. Then I wrote a short story of the events immediately leading up to the ten-minute play. Then I turned that into a full-length play spanning years. And now I’m developing “Beached” as a collection of shorts revolving around these two friends and their mixed-up relationship. I got all of that from one night with a friend.

One night in college, I was watching Hercules with some friends. I was struck by the scene where a powerless Herc looks out on the world with Meg, watching the destruction as the sun rises. And from that moment was born the first scene I ever wrote about Kita: where she stands with a man she loves, looking over her kingdom, as the future looms uncertainly; however, Kita has a secret that will ensure her success. This scene didn’t even make it into the first draft, but that scene transformed into a whole other world, and Kita’s story now involves so many others.

I have another short story set in an abandoned shopping mall that examines an old romance; I had a high school romance that involved lots of romping around the local mall. I got stuck on a ride at Disneyland and turned it into a story set in the bowels of a theme park. My mother told me my abuela left me a sewing machine, and I wrote about a woman who inherits a sewing machine she can’t bear to use or abandon.

I. Bastardize. Everything.

So, write what you know, if you want to. Bastardize what you know. Take one detail and change everything else about the circumstances. Write what you don’t know and use that as a chance to learn! 

Basically: Don’t constrain yourself. Write whatever the hell you want.

What I wrote this week: Draft 4, Kita’s arc.

What I read this week: Creating Character Arcs by KM Weiland; The Stone Sky by NK Jemisin.

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