Guest post: What if I Can’t Write What I Know? by Susannah Ailene Martin

21 Apr

Shannon, here, with two announcements and an introduction before the lovely Susannah Ailene Martin takes over.

Return Novel reviewed Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy, stating, “Who will stay up after dark? Readers who value solid character development and realistic motivations in their supernatural romance series.” Read the full thing here or check out the novel by clicking here.

If you want to see what readers think of the sequel, you’re in luck. Endless Reading reviewed Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2 of the The Timely Death Trilogy this week. She stated, “Thompson did an awesome job of creating scenes that left the reader breathless and heart pounding as though they were at the forefront and head of battle.” Click here to read the entire review or click here to go to Amazon.

Susannah Ailene Martin is writing for ShannonAThompson.com today, and her post is below, but here is an excerpt from her “About Me” page, so you can get to know this writer a little bit first: “I am mostly interested in creating fiction novels in the long run, but you will more than likely not see any fiction in this blog. My writing covers a wide range of genres, but usually I stick to Sci-fi and fantasy. I’m a big fan of “fractured fairy tales” and Greek Mythology.”

Now, for Susannah Ailene Martin. Check out her website by clicking here

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What if I Can’t Write What I Know? by Susannah Ailene Martin

One of the most often repeated pieces of advice for writers is, “Write what you know.” Okay, that’s great… if I’m writing about a white, middle class, homeschooled girl who’s never had a boyfriend. The problem with writing what you know is that, unless you’re writing your own autobiography, it’s not always possible. In fact, most of the time, it’s not possible. The path of the writer, especially the fiction writer, is to write what you don’t know.

So how do you do that? Here are four tips to help you write what you don’t know.

1. Read.

What if you’ve never been to the African Savannah, but you want to write a book on the life of meerkats? No problem. The first thing you’re going to have to do is hit the books. Read a book that tells you all about meerkats, and then read five more. This tip also pertains to writing in different genres. If you’ve never read a fantasy book, you’re going to have a hard time writing one. For the writer, reading is not only fun; it can be helpful for you as well. Through reading, you can immerse yourself in a whole different world. That way, you can learn to write about something that you have never experienced.

By the way, this tip isn’t exclusive to books. Looking on the internet for articles on subjects for your writing is a good idea too.

2. Watch.

Some people are more visual than others. If you’re one of those people, you have to see it before you can write it. We can’t go back in time and watch a battle during World War II (and most of us wouldn’t want to), but we can watch a movie or documentary that shows what happened during one of those battles. When I was writing my first book, I needed to write a kissing scene between two characters and I don’t have much experience (I’m homeschooled. Shut up). To remedy this, I went to YouTube and searched for kissing scenes.

This advice doesn’t just apply to watching movies and videos. One of the greatest tools in the writer’s tool box is people watching. Yes, it can get a little uncomfortable, and doing this might cause people to stare at you, but sometimes there’s no better option than going to the mall and watching people from the food court. Just don’t follow anyone around. That’s creepy.

3. Do.

Obviously, there are things you just can’t do, but in some cases, when you need to write a certain scene, going out and doing the thing in the scene can help you get a feel for what it’s like. If you’re writing a scene where your characters are in the woods, go camping. If your characters are trying to hail a cab in New York City, go do it. Admittedly, this tip can be a bit cost prohibitive.

You don’t necessarily need to do exactly the thing you’re writing about. Going back to my previous example of a battle in World War II, if you go out and play paint ball or laser tag, you can start to understand what it might feel like to be fighting in close quarters.

4. Ask

If you’ve never been skydiving, but you’ve have a friend who has, ask them about it. Don’t be afraid to dig in deep. Remember that whenever you ask someone about their experience, you want to try and make sure that the experience is recent. After a while, people tend to forget important little details, and that could get you in trouble with readers who are experienced in what you’re writing about.

Those are my four tips for writing what you don’t know. Whenever you’re using these tips, remember to keep a notebook and writing utensil handy. Doing these things won’t be very helpful if you forget what you’ve learned.

What about you? Do you have any tips of your own for writing what you don’t know?

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7 Responses to “Guest post: What if I Can’t Write What I Know? by Susannah Ailene Martin”

  1. Charles Yallowitz April 21, 2014 at 7:03 am #

    Great advice. People watching is one of my favorite tools along with people listening. It’s amazing what people will talk about in public.

  2. Manface April 21, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    Great post. I can’t agree more with people watching. As a writer, one’s goal is to create characters that are every bit as fleshy and alive as their real life models. And the only way to learn about people is to observe them in their natural habitats. I think that once one really has a handle on how people behave and how they respond to a broad assortment of stimuli—and clearly this behavior is driven and motivated by characteristics—one can start to almost begin to simply imagine what it would be like to be in situations that are foreign. One can live vicariously through his or her characters. The trick is to really understand people as they are in the world. One must understand reality before creating fiction.

  3. Susannah Ailene Martin April 21, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    Reblogged this on Susannah Ailene Martin and commented:
    Thank you Shannon for giving me a chance to contribute to your amazing blog. I had a good time writing this, and I hope people find my advice helpful.

    • Shannon A Thompson April 27, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

      I am so glad to have been able to share your words on my blog! Thank you.
      ~SAT

  4. Sarah April 26, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    I won’t tell you anything new, but it’s the same in any other field.
    You would think experience teaches us at least anything, but that’s so rare.
    Feel free to disagree but the world changes, and we have no control over it.
    E.g., imagine Obama had any balls to put Putin to his place, but it seems like it’s not happening, welcome third world war.
    A very deep post, thanks!
    Sarah http://phyto-renew350i.com/

  5. angel7090695001 May 18, 2014 at 7:24 am #

    A nice little post. When I come across something I don’t know I either hit the books or hit the internet.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. April Ketchup | Shannon A Thompson - April 29, 2014

    […] What if I Can’t Write What I Know: Written by Susannah Ailene Martin, this post explains how writers can get over the hurdle of researching for a novel. My stats spiked when I shared her post, which is a perfect example of why we should connect with one another through blogs and other kinds of social media. […]

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