“Write what you know.” I have heard that phrase several times this week. The simple sentence confines my imagination and the imagination of the reader in my opinion. I write fiction filled with the unknown, laced with some semblance of truth—my truth. In that sense I write what I know, but I don’t stop there.
I have always loved to research topics, any topic. My parent’s claim that my first word was why and I have been asking why, ever since. This element of my personality makes me a great researcher. If I don’t know about a topic you can be sure I am going to find out every detail before I write about it.
Currently, we have the world readily available—literally. I jump on the internet and type in any subject I want to explore and shazam, there it is. (This is where I will interject the disclaimer.) Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Find reliable sources, check, and double check your facts before you use the information in your story.
As I struggle with the known and the unknown, I think of several authors that were not confined by rules, authors that took their readers on a journey through space and time, expanding our minds and our imaginations. For example, did “write what you know” stop Ray Bradbury from writing The Martian Chronicles? No, and I am sure he never made it to Mars
Was J.K. Rowling a wizard, who at a young age went to a magical school for witchcraft where she developed her wizardry to defeat evil? I think not!
Then there is Diana Gabaldon, an American author born in 1952, who wrote one of the best know historical romance novels. Gabaldon’s series, Outlander written in 1991, takes place in 18th century Scotland. So, unless she possess a time travel machine, I’m guessing she did a lot of research on both the 18th century and Scotland before she began her journey.
The three authors’ I just mentioned, dared to deify the “write what you know” rule, and gave us some of the greatest science fiction, fantasy, and romance of our time. So let me end by saying again—write what you know, but don’t stop there! You could be the next Bradbury, Rowling, or Gabaldon to take us where no reader has gone before.
“The man that has no imagination has no wings.” —Muhammad Ali