Saturday, 1 June 2013
Writing what you know...or not
Our writing cannot help but be based on some part of our autobiographical background. It might be something that we have read, seen or had life experience of. When you write you have a web of identities. For me, mine are as a writer, a mother, a woman and an academic. Each intricate layer informs my narrative and my understanding behind the decisions I make. They make me the writer I am. I write fiction for young adults yet it is a long time since I have been one. My children are no longer teenagers, they have moved on but my writing is still embedded within teenage-dom. For me the important thing is not to restrict myself to one cultural moment. Unless of course the aim is relevant to the story - thinking of Dave Massey's Torn for example. My writing needs to be contingent and fluid reflecting the ever moving world around me while I create a fictional world that is familiar and recognisable, particularly as I write realist novels.
The important thing is not to be afraid. Believe in the world you create and your readers will too. It doesn't matter whether you are creating a realist world, a dystopian one or fantasy world, you need to understand exactly how it works. This means undertaking world building exercises alongside your character building ones. You need to understand not just what your world looks like but how the culture works within it for example.
If we only wrote about what we knew a lot of books would not be written. If you have a story that you love that is a based in a world that you believe in then get down and write it. Just make sure you do all the pre-writing work. If your idea is in an area you have no experience of, research it. Also do not be concerned about using autobiographical instances as the starting point for a story. It is what writers do. (Just a word of caution make sure you are not going to offend anyone if it is going to be obvious it is a story based on a certain person).
Here's a bit of Joni for a Saturday afternoon when all the work and words are not falling right.